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There has been no greater disappointment in the NHL this season than the pathetic showing put forward by the Edmonton Oilers organization. It has been a collective effort from everybody involved, from the general manager that seems to thinks he is building a team in 2002, to the coach that has not figured out how to fix his team’s garbage special teams, to the owner that put all of these people in power, to the players on the ice.
They all own it.
This is a team that entered the season with the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup. it is now positioned near the bottom of the standings and already has virtually no chance to make the playoffs with still a quarter of the season left to be played.
They may have been a little overrated at the start of the year, but there was almost nobody that saw this sort of season coming.
Following their loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon, their sixth loss in a row and eighth in the past 10 games, the Oilers now find themselves with the third-worst record in the NHL and are only six points ahead of the Coyotes when it comes to having the worst record in the league.
For a team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at the top of its lineup it is an inexcusable waste of young talent. In the case of McDavid, it is a waste of MVP talent. Generational talent.
Only three teams in the history of the league has ever missed the playoffs with the reigning league MVP on its roster.
The Edmonton Oilers are not only going to do join them, they are going to miss the playoffs by miles.
With an MVP that has a cap hit of less than a million dollars in a salary cap league.
[Related: Connor McDavid could author one of the NHL’s greatest wasted seasons]
What this raging dumpster fire of a season has done is put the Oilers in a great position to do the only type of winning they’ve become accustomed to over the past decade — the NHL Draft Lottery.
Entering play on Sunday the Oilers would have the third-best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick with a 10.5 percent chance winning. That would give them the opportunity to select Swedish phenom defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, a prospect that is pretty much the exact player they need.
Those odds are … somewhat favorable, and high enough to probably drive hockey fans that are tired of watching the Oilers waste these picks insane.
Let’s revisit this history, just in case you’ve forgotten:
Between 2010 and 2015 the Oilers picked first overall four times in six years, landing picks that brought them Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and McDavid. That includes a run between 2010 and 2012 where they picked first overall three consecutive years. In the years between 2012 and 2015 they picked seventh (Darnel Nurse) and third (Draisaitl). Four No. 1 picks in six years is a run unlike anything we had ever seen in the history of the NHL draft.
And they didn’t always need to finish with the worst record to get there. It was the perfect combination of being a lousy organization and getting some fantastic luck.
When they won the draft lottery in 2010 to get Hall the Oilers won it with the worst record in the league.
The next season (the Nugent-Hopkins pick) the Oilers again finished with the worst record in the league and were able to maintain that pick when the New Jersey Devils won the lottery and moved up four spots from No. 8 to No. 4 (this was when winning the draft lottery meant you could only move up four spots). The Devils winning that draft lottery would turn out to be significant for the Oilers down the line because the Devils used that pick to select defenseman Adam Larsson. In the summer of 2016 the Oilers traded Hall to the Devils in a one-for-one swap for … Adam Larsson.
The next year they won the draft lottery to move up from the second spot to the top pick where they selected Nail Yakupov.
In 2015, they finished with the third-worst record and won the Connor McDavid lottery.
So, in other words, it’s happened before. There is nothing stopping it from happening again.
The closest we ever came to a draft pick run like the Oilers have had was when the Quebec Nordiques picked first overall three years in a row between 1989 and 1991. That was before the draft lottery was put into place and the team with the worst record just simply picked first.
Even though none of the players the Nordiques picked first overall (Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros) won a championship with the team, those picks helped set the stage for what would become two Stanley Cup winning teams. Sundin was eventually traded for Wendel Clark, who was later traded for Claude Lemieux. Nolan was traded for Sandis Ozolinsh, one of the most productive defensemen in the league and a member of the 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. The Eric Lindros trade … well … that trade turned out to be historic.
The expansion Ottawa Senators had a run of three No. 1 overall picks in four years between 1993 and 1996 when they picked Alexandre Daigle, Bryan Berard and Chris Phillips. Daigle turned out to be a bust and Berard was traded (for a package that included Wade Redden, a long-time staple on the Senators’ blue line), but Phillips played more than 1,100 games in Ottawa over 17 seasons. Starting in 1996, the year of the third and final No. 1 pick, the Senators went on an 11-year run where they made the playoffs every year (with Redden and Phillips playing significant roles). It never resulted in a championship, but they made the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Final once.
What’s so maddening about the Oilers, even as a completely neutral observer, is how they have completely wasted this draft pick bounty.
It’s certainly possible they could come back next season and be decent. When you have Connor McDavid that chance always exists. But he can’t do it alone, and we have to trust an organization that has made the playoffs three times in 16 years (and only once in 12 years) can figure out what the hell it is doing.
Especially when it has a proven track record of, again, wasting the talent it has been lucky enough to get.
Yakupov simply did not work out, not really anything anybody can do about that. Arguing that he was a bad pick would be 20/20 hindsight. Sometimes picks just don’t work out and there weren’t many people arguing against his selection at the time.
But after that it’s a story of waste.
Hall, one of the best left wingers in the league and a player that has a pretty compelling MVP argument this season (he won’t win, but there is an argument to be made), was traded for an okay-but-nothing-special defenseman.
Don’t be shocked if Nugent-Hopkins, another talented and productive player that probably gets underrated because he’s been stuck on a lousy team for his entire career, gets moved in a similar deal in the next year or two.
They traded another of their top forwards, Jordan Eberle, for a lesser player in Ryan Strome that will not ever come close to matching Eberle’s production.
They signed Milan Lucic and Kris Russell for a combined $10 million per season for at least the next … four years?!
They managed to get one playoff appearance out of McDavid’s entry level contract, and as I said a couple months ago, the front office that could not build a competitive team around him making the league minimum now has to figure out a way to build a competitive team around him while he is making $12 million per year (with Leon Draisaitl riding shotgun making $8 million per year).
At this point their reward for all of this incompetence could be anything from an 8.5 percent chance (fifth worst record) to an 18 percent chance (if they should happen to collapse enough to finish with the worst record — and I’m not betting against that) to land one of the best defense prospects to enter the NHL in years. Those odds are way too high. Those odds are too much in their favor. They do not deserve odds that high.
If their is some sort of just and loving draft lottery deity floating around in the hockey world it will not allow this to happen. It can not happen.
For the sake of Rasmus Dahlin’s career.
For the sake of hockey fans outside of Edmonton.
Heck, just for my own personal sanity, the Edmonton freaking Oilers can not be rewarded with another top draft pick. Especially one that could be this good at a position where they have a desperate need.
Somebody else — literally, anybody else — needs to get the chance to make something out of Rasmus Dahlin.
Anybody but the Edmonton Oilers.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.