The Oilers won five Stanley Cups in a seven-year span from 1984-1990, but the last of those titles came two years before Taylor Hall was even born.
Hall represents Edmonton’s hope for a return to its championship past, as selecting the talented young forward with the first overall pick was the silver lining to the black cloud that was Edmonton’s 2009-10 season.
The Oilers finished dead last in the league, missing the playoffs for a fourth-straight year since their improbable run to the finals in 2006. That streak isn’t likely to end this season, but at least Hall does give Edmonton a reason to hope that the worst may be over.
2009-10 Record: 27-47-8, 62 points (5th Northwest Division; 15th Western Conference; did not qualify for playoffs)
Bruins record vs. Oilers: Boston leads the all-time series 40-17-6-0, with the Bruins winning the last eight meetings. The Oilers haven’t beaten Boston since Oct. 17, 2000. The Bruins won the lone meeting last year 2-0 on Oct. 31 in Boston as Tuukka Rask made 19 saves for the shutout and Blake Wheeler and Vladimir Sobotka each had a goal and an assist.
When to watch: The Bruins go to Edmonton on Sunday, Feb. 27; the Oilers do not come to Boston this season.
Familiar faces: New Oilers heavyweight Steve MacIntyre spent one season in the Bruins organization, playing for Providence in 2007-08. Defenseman Ryan Whitney hails from Scituate, Mass. and played at Boston University, while forward Colin McDonald is from New Haven, Conn. and played at Providence College. Fellow forward Fernando Pisani, an unrestricted free agent who has yet to be re-signed, also played at Providence College.
Key additions: F Taylor Hall (draft); D Kurtis Foster (free agent); D Jim Vandermeer (trade with Phoenix); F Colin Fraser (trade with Chicago); F Steve MacIntyre (free agent); F Gregory Stewart (free agent); F Ben Ondrus (free agent); F Alexandre Giroux (free agent); F Brad Moran (free agent); G Martin Gerber (free agent); D Shawn Belle (free agent)
Key losses: F Robert Nilsson (buyout); F Ethan Moreau (waived, claimed by Columbus); F Patrick O’Sullivan (trade with Phoenix)
Burning question: Did the Oilers make the right choice by taking Hall over Tyler Seguin?
The Taylor vs. Tyler debate raged all spring, with Edmonton not tipping its hand until the last moment when they called Hall’s name with the first pick in the draft. Hall had the backing of most scouts and draft experts, but it was far from a unanimous opinion, as many saw Seguin as worthy of being taken No. 1. Seguin, a natural center, might also have fit Edmonton’s needs better as the Oilers already have several highly-regarded young wingers coming up in their system. But Hall’s knack for coming up big when it matters most and impressive showing in back-to-back Memorial Cup runs was too much for Edmonton to pass up. Of course, Hall also had some of the best talent assembled on one junior team surrounding him in Windsor. How will he fare when he has to try to elevate the worst team in the NHL? And while Seguin can ease into the NHL a bit easier as he joins a team that’s already a playoff squad, how will Hall handle the expectations of a hockey-mad city expecting him to be the savior leading the Oilers to a new golden age?
2010-11 outlook: After such a poor season, it should come as no surprise that wholesale changes have been made in Edmonton this offseason. Pat Quinn was removed as coach, bumped into an advisory role in the front office while associate coach Tom Renney took over as head coach. Captain Ethan Moreau and top defenseman Sheldon Souray were placed on waivers. Moreau was claimed by Columbus, while Souray, who was limited to 37 games last year by a concussion and a broken hand and has two years remaining on a five-year, $27-million deal, cleared waivers and remains Edmonton property. The Oilers are still trying to move him, and they could also be looking at a change in goal. Veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, who has three more years left at $3.75 million a season, played just 18 games last year because of back problems, and his future is uncertain as he faces drunk-driving charges. The Oilers signed Martin Gerber to a two-way deal as insurance. Edmonton will be counting on a youth movement to inject some life in the franchise, with Hall, Magnus Paajjarvi-Svensson and Jordan Eberle the new building blocks joining holdovers Dustin Penner (32-31-63), Sam Gagner (15-26-41) and Gilbert Brule (17-20-37).
Did you know? Hall is the first No. 1 overall pick the Oilers have ever selected. Their previous highest pick was No. 4 in 1994, when they chose forward Jason Bonsignore. One of the biggest busts in draft history, Bonsignore managed just three goals and 13 assists in 79 career games over four seasons with Edmonton and Tampa Bay. The Oilers can only hope that Hall works out just a little bit better.
Next: We’ll head over to Minnesota to check out the rebuilding project under way with the Wild on Tuesday.
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