The major consensus right now is that the Oilers need to initiate a major rebuild and load up on draft picks and young talent, taking the long road to success. Rich Winter believes this to be in the neighbourhood of seven years long.
The Detroit Red Wings and their 20 year rebuild called, and they said hi.
The other school of thought believes that the Oilers have already been rebuilding since the end of the 2006 Cup Run and that the Oilers are on the cusp of drafting and signing all the right players to make the team competitive for a few years.
The Edmonton Oilers and their 13 game losing streak called and said hello.
Now, I'm of the belief the Oilers need to commit to a true rebuild, but let's play the devil's advocate for a second.
Suppose GM Steve Tambellini was right! Suppose that the Oilers' dismal season was a result of ill-timed injuries, bad luck, and sheer chance. Who among those injured players had a major role in the Oilers' lack of success this season?
Immediately, one would think of the concussions of Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios, the shoulder injuries of Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff (unofficial), and the myriad of pathogens afflicting the Oilers, from swine flu to mononucleosis.
Now, if the Oilers really were good enough to make the playoffs this year, they certainly weren't built to compete in the long run.
I make this statement with absolute certainty because a team that cannot withstand the onslaught of injuries has not the depth to withstand the toll of time. Injuries are one of the primary considerations a team has to make. Furthermore, the salary cap has become an inhibition to success in Edmonton, whereas its initial purpose was to keep small markets like Edmonton in business.
In an age of Katz ownership and post-2006-Cup-Run spending sprees, the Oilers have lost their soul and vision. They have forgotten the years of scraping by when the EIG owned and managed the team. They forgot what it was like to find a goldmine in a veteran role player and to celebrate the deeds of this unsung hero with cult status rather than overpayment.
In a retooling session, their first goal should not be to sign Jaromir Jagr.
A team with an established standard of excellence—not one that can barely reach the eighth spot—will sign performance players to shore up its top six.
The Oilers have no playoff standard of excellence to speak of since Messier left town, so signing Jagr would be nothing but a publicity stunt.
Rebuilding is not a surefire way to build a competitive team, but it is by far the strategy with the best track record.
In order to get similar results by simply retooling, the Oilers will have to do everything in their power not to fall into the folly of their past few years: This mistake was always believing that the team was better than it was.
Perhaps it's good that the team has suffered this year.
Perhaps in the future, the Oilers will not be satisfied with good.
Retooling or rebuilding, the Oilers' end goal shouldn't stop short of legendary.
They'll know they can be happy with the team the day they win the cup.
Anything short of a cup win means that the team can further be improved.
Heartland of Hockey is nothing but a moving target until the Oilers realize that the kind of team they want to build and maintain is the same kind of team they forgot how to build when Oilers lost in seven games to Carolina.
No cup? Not good enough.
Rebuild or retool?
Does it really matter?