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Tencer's Blog: Year in Review

Dan Tencer looks back on the past 365 days in Oil Country

Friday, 31.12.2010 / 1:00 PM / Blogs
By Dan Tencer
The Oilers' prized trio of rookie forwards -- Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall & Jordan Eberle -- have helped usher in a new era in Edmonton.
Here's an amazing statistic that I dug up yesterday: the Edmonton Oilers had 16 wins and 36 points on December 31, 2009 and sat 29th in the NHL standings. The Edmonton Oilers have 12 wins and 31 points on December 31, 2010 and sit 28th in the NHL standings. It seems almost crazy to think that the team was actually in a better position from a wins and points standpoint a year ago relative to where they are now.

Think about how much more hope for the future there is today as compared to a year ago, how much more positive the energy around the team is. I'm not sure about anybody else, but the hockey gods can take their four wins and five points...I'll take the team on December 31, 2010 all day long over the team on December 31, 2009. How did we get here? Let's take a look back.

THE FALL TO 30TH PLACE

Already in 29th position in the NHL standings and comfortably in the NHL draft lottery sweepstakes, the Oilers fell to 30th for good by the end January. It was the first time in the storied history of the franchise that this had happened. The team did not win a game in the month of January, going 0-10-2 in 12 games. Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow, the month was capped by a 6-1 loss to the Flames in Calgary on "Hockey Day in Canada".

KATZ SPEAKS OUT

Obviously frustrated by the poor performance of his team, and overcome by the inevitable restructuring of the hockey operations side of his franchise, team owner Daryl Katz decided to speak for the first time since purchasing the club in 2008.

Speaking exclusively to Oilers Radio Network analyst Bob Stauffer on Februrary 11, Katz was the first in the Oilers organization to utter the word "rebuild". He spoke of the importance of building through the draft in order to create a sustainable winner. He gave GM Steve Tambellini a public declaration of carte blanche to make any necessary changes and pleaded with fans for patience while the team entered into what might be a very promising, but difficult time in its history.

SOURAY DROPS A BOMBSHELL


Just hours after the 82nd game of the season had concluded, Sportsnet.ca published an article written by Mark Spector that vividly detailed Sheldon Souray's displeasure with the management of the team and his demand for a trade.

Souray made accusations relating to the handling of past injuries by the team medical staff and management, suggesting that his time in Edmonton had been sour from the start. After signing a five-year, $27M contract in the summer of 2007, Souray turned his back on the team that gave him his richest contract ever and put an end to his time with the Oilers.

Over the next months, Tambellini would attempt by any means to rid the franchise of Souray, including placing the disgruntled blueliner on waivers twice. With no takers, save for those teams wishing to dump equally unattractive contracts in exchange, Souray was eventually loaned to the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

ROCKIN' ROD RETIRES

The only voice the NHL's Edmonton Oilers had ever known decided that 37 seasons and more than 3,500 games was enough as Rod Phillips announced his retirement on May 28. It was decided that Rod would broadcast 10 final games as part of a "Rod's Classics" farewell tour during the 2010-11 NHL season. After an extensive search over the course of the off-season, long time Alaska Aces broadcaster Jack Michaels earned a call-up from the ECHL and was hired as the team's new radio play-by-play voice.

THE PICK

Taylor Hall dons an Oilers jersey for the first time following his first overall selection at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Just days prior to the NHL Entry Draft, Steve Tambellini announced that Tom Renney would take over from Pat Quinn as head coach of the club. With the rebuild about to begin, Tambellini and the Oilers felt it best to hand the reigns to the coach that they envisioned being with the club long term.

Renney would later assemble a staff that includes former NHL players Steve Smith & Kelly Buchberger and former Swiss National Team bench boss Ralph Krueger. Just days following the draft, Tambellini put his captain Ethan Moreau on waivers with the knowledge that Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets would claim him.

After 11 seasons with the Oilers, the last 3 as captain, it was time for the leadership structure of the team to change. But, those events, while massive occurrences in most off-seasons, paled in comparison to June 25th.

On a warm day in Los Angeles, California, Steve Tambellini stepped to the podium at the Staples Center with the 1st overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. It was the first time in franchise history that such a pick had been held, and the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin debate had raged inside and outside of the organization for months.

With the eyes of the hockey world on him, Tambellini selected Windsor Spitfires standout Taylor Hall, the back-to-back Memorial Cup champion and MVP. That selection kicked off a draft that included 10 other players, pioneered by Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor.

OIL CHANGE KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR

Notable departed players: Lubomir Visnovsky, Steve Staios, Denis Grebeshkov, Ethan Moreau, Patrick O'Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, Fernando Pisani, Mike Comrie, Ryan Potulny, Marc Pouliot and Ryan Stone.

Notable acquired players: Ryan Whitney, Ryan Jones, Colin Fraser, Kurtis Foster, Steve MacIntyre, Shawn Belle and Martin Gerber.

YOUTH IS SERVED

Through 36 games of the 2010-11 NHL season the Edmonton Oilers have seen 6 different players (Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, O'Marra and Peckham) score their 1st NHL goals.

As of today, the Oilers active roster is the youngest on average of any NHL team. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are both in the thick of the Calder Trophy race, defenseman Theo Peckham has emerged as a feared blueline force, and Devan Dubnyk carries a .915 SV% through 12 appearances. Hall and Eberle flank Sam Gagner on the team's 1st line, with Hall leading the team in goals with 12.

Click here to listen to Dan Tencer's full Year in Review special for 630 CHED.
INSIDE THE OILERS