Back in December, Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish got a little heated while trying to defend the woeful Oilers. Less than a week later head coach Dallas Eakins was fired. Edmonton didn’t see an immediate or dramatic uptick once Todd Nelson took over as the team’s bench boss, but they have an opportunity to finish on a high note thanks to their current 5-1-1 stretch.
“First and foremost, it’s a pride thing, so it doesn’t matter where you are in the standings, losing is never fun. There are a lot of guys playing for contracts, playing for a lot of different things,” goaltender Richard Bachman noted to the Edmonton Journal. “We want to show people we are coming together as a team and that we are trending in the right direction.”
Bachman, along with fellow Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth, is among those that are scheduled to test the unrestricted free agent waters this summer. There certainly are plenty of players on Edmonton playing for contracts or trying to make a strong impression to help themselves ahead of the 2015 training camp. Beyond that though, as Bachman said, there’s also a need for Edmonton to prove that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. That breaking up this core isn’t the franchise’s only possible path to success.
Not that they can accomplish that with a handful of strong weeks at the end of the season. The Oilers have struggled for far too long to get the benefit of the doubt by going on a winning streak long after they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. Still, the Oilers seem upbeat and perhaps that’s a start.
“I feel that the atmosphere in the dressing room has changed since I was last in here,” defenseman Brandon Davidson said, who was previously summoned in December. “That’s a big part of it. Guys are having fun doing things the right way.
“We don’t have a playoff, but for us, this is everything, especially for most of us going into next year.”
Whether or not this is a sign of things to come for Edmonton in 2015-16, one thing we can say is that this hot streak has hurt their chances of winning the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
“I’m sure there’s a whole group of fans hoping for us to lose, but we’re having fun winning,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. “Game 1 or Game 75, it is still fun to go out there and win — and we’re playing good teams, teams that have full lineups and teams that are chasing playoff spots. … I know I’m having a really good time with (Miller and Anton Lander). We play hard and we play with energy.”
Contrast that with where he was three months ago when he wondering what he did wrong after watching yet another one of his coaches get fired. Or against captain Andrew Ference calling out his teammates over their lack of pride.
Maybe times have changed. Then again…
In Edmonton, Yakupov’s future seems bright again