Since the Northwest Division was created during the 1998-99 season, the Edmonton Oilers have had just one really bad season---2006-07. The team finished in last place, with a record of 32-43-4. The only barely comparable performance during that time span was the Northwest's inaugural year in which Edmonton finished 33-37-12(ties). Every other season was a success, with both a winning record and a playoff appearance.
In fact, the Oilers have been an extremely successful team throughout their nearly 30-year history. I'm sure everyone knows how great the 1980s were, when guys like Gretzky, Coffey, Kurri, Messier and Fuhr were on the roster and holding Cups above their heads with alarming frequency. The team made a Cup Finals appearance as recently as 2005-06 (featuring current Avalanche winger Ryan Smyth). Sure, there have been some so-so years, with records around .500 or so here and there, but since 1979-80, the Oilers have suffered just six truly rotten seasons. In their first year, Edmonton was 28-39-12. Between 1992 and 1996, the team didn't win more than 30 games in a season. Those brief periods aside, the Oilers have one of the most storied histories of any team currently in the NHL.
Unfortunately for them, they appear to be falling deeper into a funk similar to that which plagued them through the middle of last decade. After Ryan Smyth was traded, the team lost 18 out of 20 games to end the season, including a stretch of 12 straight losses. This season has picked up in similar fashion. Edmonton's record of 5-10-0 is good enough for last place in the Northwest Division, last place in the Western Conference and last place in the entire NHL. Only Phoenix has as few points (10), but that team has only played 12 games so far.
Deadmonton (as I've grown fond of calling them) comes into Denver tonight looking to turn their ill fortunes around. They've lost three games in a row and have by far the worst power play in the entire league (6.7%).
Standing in their way is a completely revamped and recreated Colorado Avalanche team that is starting to resemble the all-star teams of old. They are 7-1-0 at home. Their record of 9-5-0 is second place in the Northwest Division and tied for third in the West (with Columbus!). The Avs can rely on any of their four offensive lines for scoring, as was proven in a win over Pittsburgh on November 1st. The defense is finally starting to gel consistently and the goalie tandem of Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj, which failed to work in conjunction last season, is now resulting in strong play by both netminders. The Colorado penalty kill is reliable. The power play is improving. The fire in the eyes of young players like Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny is contagious. There are good things going on in Denver these days, and the Avalanche look poised to reclaim their traditional spot atop the standings in both the Northwest and the West as a whole.
Edmonton, on the other hand, looks bound for heartache and another dark period in their storied, magical history.
The game starts at 7:30 PM Mountain time, 9:30 Eastern. The thread last game was a riot, and I'm sure this one could prove just as entertaining. But I need your help to make it so. I'll be here live blogging away, and encourage you to join in with your sense of humor and your hockey knowledge ready.