1. The Oilers have been in the middle of a long rebuild, and have picked at the top of the draft over and over again with seemingly no change in the team's fortunes. What's the temperature of Oilers fans these days - does it seem like the team still has a ways to go, or are there just a few problem positions that still need to be fixed?
Oilers fans are a patient, yet passionate bunch. Rightfully, they expected the team to at least be competitive this year. This is the first year where the temperature has really risen to an uncomfortable level. For the first time since the Oilers have gone to the Stanley Cup Finals in '06, the sellout streak was broken. Fans have hurled their sweaters on the ice, there's been a full on call for (President of Hockey Operations) Kevin Lowe's job in some circles, and finally, finally some general anger from the public has surfaced. It seems that the team could become competitive with about four or five simple moves, but management either A) doesn't know how to execute them, or B) is too damn stubborn to realize that signing marginal hockey players won't win hockey games.
2. The Oilers owner, Daryl Katz, recently wrote a letter to fans urging them to be patient. Considering the Oilers have been at the bottom of the league for the past few years already, how did that go over in Edmonton?
It went over like a lead balloon. The fans are sick of being patient, and I'm one of them. It's been eight long years since this team's made the playoffs. That's no small feat. Even the Panthers and Maple Leafs can luck into a playoff spot every now and again. How difficult is it to make the playoffs once or twice a decade in a league where more than half the teams are allowed in? Katz had the audacity to actually say that it's "only year four of the rebuild". I'm not lying, he really said that.
In other words, no sir, I don't like it.
3. It looks like Edmonton will be racing Buffalo for the #1 pick. Should they win the lottery, who would Oilers fans like to see the team draft #1 overall?
First off, if the Oilers win the fourth draft lottery in five years, I want you to point and laugh. That's flat out embarrassing, and it deserves a large amount of ridicule. I don't want them to keep the pick, but if the Oilers have to pick one, they should take Aaron Ekblad. Have you seen the Oilers defence? This is the defence that yielded 59 shots to San Jose on Thursday, and 41 to Boston on Saturday. That's 100 shots in two games. That's absurd. I'd rather deal the pick with a player (or two) to acquire a top talent on defence, because the Oilers needed it some time ago. Those top talents are tough to come by, and you might spend a little more than you'd like to, but it's way past time to start winning.
4. As a hockey fan, how have you survived such a long rebuild? Have any advice for Sabres fans who are still at the beginning of what could be a multi-year process?
Realize that you did nothing wrong to earn this soul-crushing feeling of defeat. Rather, the ineptitude of those you trusted to steer your ship safely into harbor have instead capsized it after ramming it into an iceberg the size of a small continent due to their own stupidity and lack of hockey knowledge. At least, that's what we've got here with the Oilers after eight years of dumb. I hope your rebuild is a little bit smoother than the mess we've been forced to trudge through.
At the beginning of your rebuild, try to take comfort in watching young guys grow and mature into the future top guns you hope them to be. Pray your management isn't full of idiots. Hopefully with Tim Murray in town, he surrounds himself with a lot of knowledgeable hockey people. Demand accountability. Also, learn to laugh and look for individual success stories. Ales Hemsky is all but gone from Edmonton, so when he ends up in San Jose or Chicago, I'll have someone to root for during the postseason. I'm rooting hard for Linus Omark, I'm saying that without a smidge of irony or sarcasm.
Thanks to Jeff Chapman from The Copper & Blue for taking the time to answer some questions.