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Oilers’ great expectations fall short

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about the Edmonton Oilers' first round loss to the Winnipeg Jets
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‘Great Expectations’ has already been taken as a book title, but perhaps the Edmonton Oilers can use it as a subtitle to their reflections on an abbreviated 2020-21 National Hockey League season.

With the best player in the world in their lineup, and perhaps the second-best player in the NHL skating beside him, the Oilers were not expected to be swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round. The Jets are a quality team, and the Oilers were certainly not assured of victory, but to lose four in a row was not showing up in anyone’s crystal ball.

So now Connor McDavid, closing in on his prime, has been shunted to the playoff sidelines in Round 1 four consecutive years. Edmontonians have had the Great Gretzky and now McDavid leading their NHL franchise, and today they’re wondering why McDavid can’t produce Stanley Cups as 99 did back in the 1980s. For one thing, Gretzky’s supporting cast was far superior to the one currently aiding McDavid and his superstar sidekick, Leon Draisaitl. If Gretzky was resting on the bench, the likes of Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey could take over, and dominate. Today’s Oilers have McDavid, Draisaitl and a plethora of ‘pretty goods” — Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse — but no obvious Hall-of-Famers.

Expectations were high for the Oilers this year after a second-place finish in the North Division (35-19-2), a solid nine points better than the Jets. But the better-balanced Winnipeg team got exceptional goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck and used overtime magic (the last three wins were in OT) to send McDavid and Co. scurrying to the GolfNow website.

General manager Ken Holland has a busy summer ahead of him as he attempts to fill in some of the holes on the roster. He will have salary cap space on his side, and he knows what he’s doing, as evidenced by his Stanley Cup history in Detroit. The Wings won two Stanley Cups in the late 1990s, after three or four “disappointments,” said Holland, and he told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Journal that those disappointments in Detroit are similar to what the Oilers have been going through lately.

Meanwhile, the Jets are currently playing in the Canadian division championship and the managerial wheels are turning in Edmonton, determined to find a talented supporting cast for McDavid and turn those great expectations into positive results.

  • Patti Dawn Swansson, on Twitter: “In the end, the Winnipeg Jets out-Connored the Edmonton Oilers. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was the deciding factor in the playoff sweep, and Kyle Connor scored the winning goal in triple OT in Game 4, after Connor McDavid coughed up the puck.”
  • Headline on “Ha-Ha Clinton Dix is trying out for the Texans, and that’s no laughing matter.”
  • RJ Currie of “New Detroit Lions bench boss, Dan Campbell, told team ownership he wants a pet lion roaming at practice to motivate the team. Another statement from the coach to give us paws.”
  • Headline in “‘We’re So Screwed,’ Says Detroit Lions Fan After Seeing They Got Matched Up Against Other Teams Again”
  • Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, via Twitter, after miraculously no one was hurt when two small planes collided over Denver: “Meanwhile, every year at least one major-league baseball player misses half the season after injuring himself with a can opener or dental floss.”
  • Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Bigger cloud over NFL offseason: Aaron Rodgers wanting divorce from Green Bay? Or Deshaun Watson legal mess in Houston? Close call.”
  • Ron Green Jr., of Global Golf Post, on Phil Mickelson’s tenuous lead going into the final round of the PGA: “Mickelson started the final round one stroke ahead of Brooks Koepka and two ahead of Louis Oosthuizen, the equivalent of being tailgated at 150 mph.”
  • Swansson again, on TNT signing Wayne Gretzky to a $3 million contract to serve as an analyst next year: “Memo to TNT: Gretzky is known as The Great One, not The Glib One.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, on Twitter, after a fan dumped popcorn on Washington’s Russell Westbrook: “The fan has been identified as Orville Redenbacher.”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “In a TMZ video, Aaron Rodgers is in Hawaii wearing a man-bun and singing and playing guitar to movie stars. Somewhere the ghost of Johnny Unitas just shed a single, broken-hearted tear.”
  • RJ Currie again: “LeBron James was once fined $5,000 for flopping against the Pacers. That was one minute, seven seconds pay he never got back.”
  • From “Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson to release video catalogue of cheating pitchers. Next week news: Josh Donaldson’s lifeless body found submerged in trashcan of liquid horse steroids.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.