When most of us think Oilers vs Flyers hockey, we look back to the 1980s, and more specifically the 1985 and 1987 Stanley Cup Finals. The Oilers were in the hay day of their dynasty. With Gretzky, Kurri, Fuhr, Messier and Coffey, they were virtually impossible to beat. Many will say that if that dynasty never happened -- if only a few pieces fell in different directions -- that the Flyers of the 80s under Mike Keenan could've been a dynasty themselves.
But it didn't, and our Cup drought continues (also of note: The Copper & Blue has a fantastic piece up today about the '87 Flyers). For the present day Edmonton Oilers, those days probably seem like a distant memory.
Many of us thought the Flyers went through a terrible stretch in mid-November and December. Oilers fans will tell you that's nothing. Edmonton won just their first game of 2010 on Monday night, and it came against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes. Today, they're the worst team in the NHL with just 40 points, they're tied with Toronto for last place in goal differential with a -45 mark, they're 29th in the league in goals against per game with 3.37, and they're also 29th on the penalty kill.
That's just scratching the surface.
Let's go back to Copper & Blue for a quick, succinct summary on the Oilers' woes. In a post detailing what they may have to look forward to with the first pick in the '10 Draft, which they inevitably believe they will get, they give us this:
I don't believe in tanking and I don't believe in the Dive for Five. To quote an American coach of some repute, you play to win the game.
But let's face it, it's gonna happen with or without the Oilers' cooperation. The Oilers stink, and they may stink at historical levels. They may '93 Senators stink. That sort of stink doesn't wash off easy. On this, the day when the Carolina Hurricanes have finally relegated the Oilers to the basement in which they belong, it's worth asking ourselves if our inevitable lottery pick will be Patrick Kane turning around the Blackhawks, or Alexei Yashin.
Their problems may not be solved by one player, but as those Blackhawks have proven, one player can be the impetus for success. In the meantime, the Oilers are not one player away from a turn around. They have no answer in goal thanks to an injury to Nikolai Khabibulin, are generally terrible on defense, and they're second to last in the league in goals scored.
But hey, what are stats to say they're bad? After a win-less January, they're undefeated in February thus far. Things are looking up in Edmonton...
Tonight's game thread will be up at 9 PM Eastern in advance of the 9:30 PM puck drop. LATE NIGHT HOCKEY!