How the Canadian Finals Rodeo will no longer impede the Oilers’ progress
By: Brendan Munro
With the Connor McDavid era underway, Oilers fans can feel hopeful that the ship will be righted after an excruciating 10 years adrift.
It’s been a long decade for the Oil. For context, the Greek epic hero Odysseus spent just as long wandering the seas aimlessly before managing to blindly stumble home, and his redemption made for a best-selling story. Just imagine how amazing it will be to tell the tale to your children of your years lost riding with the good ship Oilers as they battled untold monsters and lost countless crew members while you generally stumbled around the deck in a drunken haze, constantly hoping that home was just over the horizon.
Overshadowed by the sparkly new building opening, the McDavid captaincy, the Gretzky hire and the first two wins of the season against the Flames, was the quiet but important fact that the Oilers will never again have to share space with the season-busting Canadian Finals Rodeo. The CFR will be held in Edmonton for the final time this year – at Rexall Place – and will then be moving permanently to Saskatoon, SK.
Much like the circus coming to town in St. Louis each year, the annual Rodeo at Rexall Place meant a four-to-seven-game road trip for the Oilers, which they needed to survive in order to keep any hope of a competitive season alive. Needless to say, they seldom did.
The CFR roadtrip, which took place each season in mid-November, typically saw the Oilers battling to overcome a rocky start to the season upon their departure. By the time of their return, it was usually time to start focusing on the NHL draft lottery. In other words, the rodeo marked the end of the season in terms of playoff contention.
For proof, take a look at the last few seasons.
With the exception of 2009, the Oilers left home as an under-performing team and returned as a broken, defeated team.
The one that really stands out to me is 2011, where Edmonton rode a great home-stand at the start of the season to a 7-1-2 record but posted four losses on the CFR roadtrip and continued to slide throughout the month of November upon their return home.
I remember talking with a friend about his gut feeling that the rodeo has bucked the Oilers nascent season for their entire overlapping histories. It’s fair to say that the Oil have been terrible in the last 10 years with or without the help of the season-crushing November CFR road trip, but has it always been the case? Let’s take a look.
Going back to their last successful campaign, the vaunted 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Oilers started the season with a 5-6-1 record and managed four wins out of seven games on the roadtrip. That will go down as their best CFR roadtrip of the 21st century.
Prior to that, the Oilers failed to return from the rodeo road trip in better shape than they left on the vast majority of occasions. Stretching back to the 1991-92 season, the Oilers have had sub .500 rodeo road trips on all but five occasions, with the most successful iterations reaching a high water mark of three wins in 2002 and 2004.
Road trips are tough, and the Oilers have been bad for a long time, but I, for one, am glad to see this additional scheduling boost to their ineptitude summarily swept aside. So, happy trails CFR rodeo. Have fun in Saskatchewan.
Featured Image Credit: Shaughn Butts-Postmedia