Wednesday night is the biggest game of the last decade of Oilers hockey, which is a redundant statement because every game over the last month has been the biggest game of the season.
But in the grand scheme of things, when we look back on this version of the Edmonton Oilers in 5 years time, just how big is the outcome of this game?
There are many different views on this one, so let’s start with the obvious:
It’s a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a chance to become one of the final 4 teams competing for the ultimate prize. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many years are left in your “window”, these opportunities don’t come along very often and when you are given a chance, you need to take it.
That’s completely true. Players go their whole careers without getting a chance like this current Oilers team is getting. Teams that should be dynasty’s by this point rarely get this opportunity (staring right at you Washington). The Oilers have a chance to kick-off what most of the hockey world sees as the next modern dynasty, right now with a trip to the conference finals and maybe further than that.
But when I say that out loud, a part of my brain moves to a completely different point of view, which is the following:
This team is so young, so raw and there is no doubt in any sane person’s mind that this team will go on some incredible runs over the next decade, with teams that will be more high-powered then the one Oilers fans are currently watching. So isn’t the experience of getting to play in a high pressured game 7 already a win?
I mean, if they do come out on top, that’s incredible and they’ll have, more or less, a 25% chance at a Stanley Cup ring. But if they lose, and they look back at a series that saw them have two games more-or-less ripped away from them by poor calls, and are eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by an incredibly experienced team from Anaheim. Doesnt that come with more than enough positives?
The cliche phrase thrown around the hockey world around this time of year is “there are no moral victories in the playoffs”, but when you consider everything with this Oilers squad, isn’t every game they’ve played up until this point been a moral victory?
They lose 7-0 in San Jose and take away a great lesson on not being able to have off nights in April. Then they follow it up with a win to take a series lead and learn that momentum doesn’t carry from game to game in the playoffs, and they have the ability to bounce back from any sort of defeat.
They get massively outplayed in 3 consecutive games against Anaheim but learn that the best team doesn’t always win on any given night in the playoffs, and you can be on either side of that. Then they learn that no lead is safe, ever, when it comes to hockey in early May, but show once again that they can put anything behind them and bounce back with a 7-1 demolition of their Southern California counterparts.
When you look back at everything that this team has gone through during these playoffs, the experiences gained and what they’ve accomplished is more than I ever could have predicted at the start of this season, which brings me to my conclusion:
If would be great for them to win this game tomorrow night, and I’ll be rooting for them like crazy for that to happen, but when we look back on this team in 10 years, a loss on Wednesday in the Honda Center could shape their future in ways a win tomorrow simply couldn’t.