For the early part of the season, when the Leafs were still planted in the playoff picture and the Oilers began to return to their rightful place at the bottom of the standings, there was plenty of debate over which team was truly on the right track to winning (seriously) again. Two popular Canadian clubs, two large fan-bases, and perhaps two of the most meticulous groups of bloggers and internet-y fans in the hockey world.
The answer seemed pretty simple: give me the Leafs and their upswing (or so it seemed) with Burke over that joker Tambellini any day of the week. Tambellini is perhaps the biggest disaster to ever happen to the Oilers, and despite his stable of top picks, he’s done ultimately nothing of his own accord to help that team. Burke, I guess, is helping the Leafs or something.
Despite the fact that the Oilers have potential superstars in the Nuge, Hall, Eberle, and whoever they draft 2nd or 3rd this year, many believed that the Leafs were in better hands and would break out of the slump sooner; perhaps even this season.
Now, at the end of the season, the Leafs are a measly 5 points ahead of the Oilers and while both clubs present glaring holes in their lineups, which ones are the easiest to cover? I don’t watch the Oilers a whole lot, but the word on the street is that they should draft a potentially elite defenceman in the draft this season, and they have goaltending issues to address. Of course Toronto has the goaltending problem as well, and outside of that I’m not sure what they can or will do to improve in the off-season.
I suppose the question I’m asking is this: excluding management (both could probably be fired within a couple seasons anyway), which team is in the better situation?
It may be seen as a meaningless debate, but a) we have time on our hands these days, and b) measuring against other basement-dwelling teams like the Leafs gives fans somewhat of a clearer set of expectations going forward. Are either of these teams playoff-worthy next season? Is it way too early to speculate? And if it’s too early to speculate on the Leafs, but not-so-much the Oilers, what does that say about Toronto?
It’s just a quick thought I had this morning when reflecting on the argument from earlier this season. Now that it seems everyone is on a level playing field, the answers don’t seem as obvious.