Oiler’s Rebuild

After another disappointing season for the Oilers, my wife has decided to give an outsiders take on the teams rebuilding efforts.

Oilers Rebuild – I don’t get it.

I’m not a hockey expert. I catch the game every so often and watch the Oil Change series, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I grew up in the 80s watching the Oiler’s glory years. So naturally, I will always support the Oilers, but I’m not sure that I support the Oiler’s Rebuild.

Generally, long term projects tend to be avoided. The reason is simple: the longer the project, the more uncontrollable factors there are to deal with and the more likely a project is to fail. In my opinion, the Oiler’s rebuild project is no different.

First, the lack of resources (people) often plagues long term projects. Projects often lose momentum when key resources are lost or new ones are gained. This is common on projects that last 3-5 years and people move on for various reasons. I see this as an issue for the rebuild as well. Oiler’s Management continuously refer to players (ex. Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi) as ‘pieces of the puzzle’. But what happens if those players get hurt and we lose a piece of the puzzle? Eventually you can’t make the puzzle. My point is not that the Oilers will never be better, but that resources/players are not static. They get traded, injured, quit, etc. So, how do you rebuild if you don’t know what pieces you’re going to have to work with at any given time? They didn’t know that how many people they would lose to injury or trades this year. How can they plan for 3 years down the road?

Secondly, changes in technology or external factors affect long term projects. What was the right way of doing things at one time, is not always the right way today. Hockey is no different. The game of hockey is evolving every year – the rules, the players, the techniques, the skill, right down to the ice they skate on…it’s all evolving. Would Wayne Gretzky be the player he was in the 80s in today’s hockey? It’s tough to say since the game and its players are different now than they were 20 years ago. Having stated that, what are the Oilers ‘rebuilding’ to match up to? I see the goal as a moving target. So, how do you assess what you need when you don’t where you, the game and your opposition is headed?

Finally, how do you know when the rebuild is done? How do you measure its progress and success? One might argue that making the playoffs means that the ‘rebuild’ is working. But in 2006, the Oilers made the playoffs and didn’t need a rebuild. Many teams have attempted the ‘rebuild’ , some successful (Pittsburgh, Chicago) but the majority have failed (Atlanta, St. Louis, Florida, Columbus, etc). So what made some of them successful over others? How do you know it wasn’t just a fluke? If we do make the playoffs in a year, then why can’t we just attribute it to work of the players and coaches rather than some complex rebuild formula?

Like I said earlier, I’m not hockey expert. There may be intricacies of a ‘rebuild’ that I fail to understand. But as it stands right now, I just don’t get it.


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