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Former Oilers Shining: Oilers Fault or Just Bad Luck?

It's not uncommon for players to move on from a team and find better success elsewhere. Sometimes a fresh start, a new coach or new surroundings can be enough to spark a player. Sometimes all it takes is a bit more experience and aging. Sometimes it's the former team that stifles the player and getting out from under the issue leads to a blossoming career.

Something is happening with a number of former Oilers and not all fans are finding they are liking what they see.

Bob Stauffer spoke at length with NHL Network's Mike Johnson on the topic and a fellow writer of mine at thehockeywriters.com Marcy Di Michele had a very interesting take on the topic. I thought it was a great piece and liked the idea. My take is below. I've also added a player I felt was a real loss to the Oilers in Andrew Cogliano.

Photo By Lisa Gansky


My Take:

It's a shame when we can't be happy for the success of others. That's like getting divorced or breaking up with an ex and then hoping they stay miserable long after you and they had your time in the sun. You should be happy, they should be happy and life goes on. The same goes for former players on your favorite sports teams. If someone leaves and they find success, good for them.

Still, seeing someone find success when they couldn't with your franchise doesn't mean it doesn't hurt a little from time to time or that the Oilers are to blame. The following players seem to be the focus of most who have a take on the topic. 

I think, more than anything, timing played the largest factor to each players changes of fortune.

Justin Schultz

The first, and probably loudest example, is Justin Schultz. Not only did he move on from the Oilers, but he went to a Stanley Cup winning team in Pittsburgh, got resigned and is now tearing it up this season. He's doing so on a very reasonable one-year contract. This one stings for many Oilers fans who boo and have a hard time watching Schultz excel, simply because Schultz could have been successful here if only deployed in the right way.

Schultz became part of the Oilers organization after a free agency bidding war. He opted not to return to Anaheim, chose Edmonton over a plethora of teams and was highly-touted as a winning "get" for Edmonton. The only problem was, he never came to be the player that everyone expected. That wasn't really his fault.

Most of this stems from the fact that he was placed by the Oilers in a role that he wasn't suited. In Pittsburgh, Schultz is a third-pairing blueliner and he's played that way. The Oilers popped him on their first or second pair and hoped he'd solve all their problems on defense. That's because they had no one better. Schultz still has deficiencies in his game, they just get covered properly when deployed in the right situations.

In Edmonton, every mistake — even the ones he still makes in Pittsburgh — were exponentially worse because he made them against the best of the best in the NHL. When you're a third-pairing defenseman (like he is with the Pens), mistakes against bottom-six forwards don't always wind up in the back of your net. Against the teams highest quality of competition, they often do.

We're about to find out if Schultz's game has really changed because he'll be taking on a larger role in the absence of recently injured Kris Letang. If he continues to do well, it will be nice to see.

Sam Gagner



How can you not love what's happening with Sam Gagner right now? You'd have to be heartless not to be happy for his success. Gagner was not only steps away from potentially being out of the NHL, but he took a position in Columbus on the bottom line hoping for one more opportunity to prove he had what it took to be in the NHL.

Gagner was drafted sixth overall by the Oilers in 2007. He was pushed immediately into the NHL as an 18-year-old and it wasn't his lack of size, speed or skill that stunted his growth. He simply wasn't prepared for what was going to be asked of him.

Despite this fact, Gagner still found success in his rookie year. He had 49 points (the most he over put together as an Oiler) and found lightning in a bottle on the latest incarnation of the "kid line" alongside Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano. After that, things went downhill.

Sure, Ganger had some very shining moments (including an 8-point performance against the Blackhawks), but when Gagner finally moved on, it was time and for not much return. He bounced around the NHL and AHL in Arizona, Philadelphia and finally Columbus. The Blue Jackets signing wasn't a sure thing, but they took a chance in the right role, he's excelling.

Gagner now has 21 points in 26 games and 12 of those points are goals. He's playing on the third line most nights, but he's getting power play time and important pressure situations in which to show his stuff. It's been a perfect fit.

This one isn't as painful for Oiler fans because a few teams gave up on Gagner before he found success. But, Edmonton perhaps could have used a decent third-line center this season and Gagner was definitely available.

Devan Dubnyk




Again, you have to feel good for Dubnyk's success. He was another player who almost found himself wondering if he was going to keep employment in the NHL and wound up shining in Minnesota where he is now one of the NHL's best goaltenders.

Dubnyk at one time was Edmonton's new first-string goaltender. He was a long-time prospect who was turning into something special. Then, and he'll be the first to admit it, Dubnyk forgot how to play the net. The Oilers gave him a number of opportunities, but he simply couldn't find his game.

When he was traded to Nashville for Matt Hendricks, it was seen as a pretty good deal for Edmonton. Not long after Dubnyk went to the Preds, he left and then coach Barry Trotz was kind, but clearly frustrated with the tendencies of the goalie he'd acquired. A lot of this may have been on Edmonton, who potentially goalie coached the success out of Dubnyk and sent him onward.

Dubnyk bounced to Montreal and Arizona and finally found himself in Minnesota. Since arriving there, he's been a different player. He's been one of the best goalies in the league. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but not as bitter now that Edmonton seems to have found a strong starter in Cam Talbot.

Despite Dubnyk being the one player Edmonton may have mis-coached, he hasn't had a single bad word to say about the Oilers and it makes his success even more gratifying for fans who wanted him to do well.

Andrew Cogliano


Frankly, it's impossible to dislike Andrew Cogliano. He's the NHL's current ironman streak leader having not missed a game in his career. He was an exciting player to watch, scored multiple late-game and overtime goals for the Oilers and shined in Anaheim after Edmonton tossed him aside.

Cogliano was never a first-line player. He probably wasn't a second-line center either. That didn't stop the Oilers from trying him there and it was mainly because they had no other options. When your team isn't good, players get slotted in the wrong places and this described Cogliano's time in Edmonton to a tee.

He's gone on to become one of Anaheim's best depth forwards.

Whose Fault Is It?


There is one thing many of these examples all have one thing in common. They were played in Edmonton well out of position. I don't believe it was because the Oilers wanted to, but had to.

Of course, for every Gagner, Cogliano, Schultz or Dubnyk, there is a Nail Yakupov, Jeff Petry or others who have struggled in other locations. Some have done well, but at a high cost to their new team. Not all players who leave an organization find the grass is greener on the other side and not all teams who take on these players hit a home run.

For some reason, it seems to happen in Edmonton more than most that players move on and do fairly well. At least it feels that way. Hard to say, but when your team struggles, the success found by former players has a bit of sting to it.

All that said, I don't think this is Edmonton's fault more than it was a set of circumstances that led to the improper deployment of players. In the end, you have to be proud for other players who find success elsewhere. It's the nature of the beast that it will happen and these players are likely all pretty good guys doing what they can in their current situations.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




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3 Responses to "Former Oilers Shining: Oilers Fault or Just Bad Luck?"

  1. Are you responding to Marcy Di Michele -http://thehockeywriters.com/do-the-oilers-ruin-players/, or is this a bit of "borrowing" someone else's ideas?

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    1. Little bit of both. Bob Stauffer and Mike Johnson spoke at length about the topic yesterday and Marcy is a fellow hockeywriters contributor and I thought she had a great take on it. My take is what you're reading. Hard not to write a piece like this without a bit of carry-over. I've added a link to her piece as well. Just for clarification. If she has an issue, I'll gladly remove it.

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