After an Oilers Cup Final Heartbreak, What’s The Plan Now?

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The days after hurt as much as the night of. Just like in 2006, a Cinderella story from the city of Edmonton ended in Do-Or-Die sadness. There’s still a lot to be proud of with this team. If you’d told me back in November when they were the second worst team in the league, they’d force Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals after facing a 3-0 series deficit, and with a rookie coach, I’d think you were drunk. Thinking about both the highs and lows is part of being a fan. I couldn’t believe how loud the visiting Oilers fans in the arena were when the Canadian national anthem was being sung. The unity in our passion for this run was something else. I kept my TV on and watched the entire Florida Panthers organization lift the Stanley Cup. You have to be a good sport, too. Congrats to them on a great season and final series. I’m also not against Matthew Tkachuk throwing jabs at the Oilers. I’m glad he cherishes his Battle Of Alberta days, and rivalries are always good for Hockey. Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe trophy as Playoff MVP and became the first recipient on the losing team since Jean-Sebastien Giguere with the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim in 2003. If you look up the picture of Giguere accepting his Conn Smythe, it may’ve been a professional gesture, but he wasn’t happy. McDavid would’ve had the same look on his face if he came out. Giguere said in an interview that he felt it may’ve been a better look for McDavid if he did accept the trophy. He instead chose to be with his deflated teammates; he clearly didn’t share the same sentiment. Before Connor, it was the likes of J.S. as well as Reggie Leach for the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976 with the greatest Conn Smythe performances in losing efforts. Leach may not have felt as bad since he’d already won the Cup the year before. The Playoff MVP crown is an honor, for sure. But every player prefers that second trophy coming out on the ice. When Leon Draisaitl gave his post-game presser, you could tell he’d just finished bawling his eyes out. It’s so damn hard, man. I’ve just learned after typing this that he was playing through a broken rib on top of his broken finger, while McDavid was playing through an abdominal injury that likely requires surgery. Warriors, absolute warriors. They’re not the only great players to lose their first Cup Final. I’m more than confident they’ll be back at it sooner rather than later. How long it takes them to heal up may signal a slow start to next season. But if this season taught us anything, it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. Again, they’ve come a long way, and we’re proud of them for it. But it also means that expectations for the future are now skyrocketing. They have to build off of this past season, not take steps back. This could be their most important summer in a long time. The keys to the offseason are…

Management Change: Ken Holland’s contract as GM has expired. We’ve all figured that he would not return after his last year ended. According to Darren Dreger, he’s either moving on to another job or retiring. There was talk in the regular season of Mark Hunter perhaps taking on the position. He has a history with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. Whoever the new guy is, he’ll have a hefty amount of RFAs and UFAs to sort out. Holland was sympathetic towards the comradery that McDavid and Draisaitl had with some people in the locker room. But the new GM may not be as attached to those people. You can’t move on from everybody, they can run a few things back, but it is a business. Some friends will need to find new homes in a salary cap league, and it makes you feel worse for some of them with the Game 7 loss. Depending on who stays and goes, it’ll be tough to replicate their historic penalty kill.

Coaching Staff: Before Game 7, Kris Knoblauch alluded to it being his last game as head coach. It is technically true, as he currently doesn’t have a contract, and it was an early-season coaching change that brought him in. I really don’t want the almost yearly bench boss carousel to continue, but most new GMs want to put their own people in place when they take over. It was, however, Jeff Jackson’s idea to bring in Knoblauch and Paul Coffey when Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson were fired. I hope he’ll want those two back and that the new GM will share that sentiment. After how the team finished their season, why change a good thing?

Bouch/Drai Money: Evan Bouchard and Leon Draisaitl will have new contracts, not this summer, but next. It’s better to try and get the pen ink on those blank cheques sooner rather than later. It’s no secret that both of them will receive much bigger paydays. Frank Seravalli recently spoke with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now saying he heard that Leon was interested in re-signing with Edmonton long term. We, the fans, don’t know what is said in meetings between team owners and player agents. But Frank speculated that the Oilers could be paying McDavid, Draisaitl, and Bouchard up to $40M altogether. Pay them what they want because they’ve earned it, then figure out who they need to sacrifice in order to keep them. There were rumors swirling around that if Edmonton lost the Vancouver series, they might’ve had to consider moving on from Draisaitl. First of all, shame on Oilers media for giving an already paranoid fanbase something else to freak out over during a Playoff run. Second, I think a lot of people underestimate the “Ride Or Die” bond between 97 and 29. As I said earlier, the NHL is a business. Some things behind the scenes are out of our control, and Leon isn’t going to randomly reveal every single detail to the public. However, quotes from him, such as “I love sharing the ice with him, he’s just a really special person” or “We’ve got the best fans in the league, it’s not even close in my books” don’t give me the impression that he wants to leave.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Stephen Vani

Oilers fan in Toronto. Staying up past my bedtime for Western games since the mid 2000s.

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