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The Edmonton Oilers organization has repeatedly squandered its talent, sometimes because it couldn’t afford that talent, sometimes because it couldn’t keep it happy here in Edmonton, but most recently because the organization lacked the managerial competence to hold on to the right players.

Today we’re going to deal with that last aspect of the sad tale of how Edmonton has let go of all too many OK-to-great NHL players, as we ponder the question: Will the Oilers finally get it right this time with its current talented group.

Broberg was a breakout performer along with Russian winger Vasily Podkolzin, who had eight goals and went to Vancouver 10th in 2019.

Swedish winger Lucas Raymond, who was only 16 then but on their No. 1 line, just went fourth overall to Detroit, and the multi-talented Alexis Lafreniere, went first overall to the New York Rangers in October.

Podkolzin and Raymond are back for this world juniors. Lafreniere is not.

Broberg won’t double-dip and stick around for Oilers training camp when the world juniors are over here Jan. 6. They want the teenager to concentrate on his game back home. They love Broberg’s upside but have a full complement of D — Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson and Frolunda’s Theodor Lennstrom, a veteran on a one-year contract who plays with more pace than Joel Persson — to battle for the seventh and eighth D slots.

“I talked to Philip a week ago and I told him he will go back to Skelleftea until the end of their season and then come back to Edmonton or Bakersfield once they’re done,” said Oilers GM Ken Holland.

“We had a long discussion about what was best for me and the future,” said Broberg. “I think I played really well for the training camp for the (August) playoffs and was looking for a spot on the team but I respect their (Oilers) decision and I’ll go back develop more and I’ll be ready for the NHL when I come back. We have a strong team. I believe we can win it all.”

Not only do the Oilers have high end NHL talent in Connor McDavid Jersey, Leon Draisaitl Jersey, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jersey and Darnell Nurse Jersey, they have in the last few years put together an impressive prospect base, both in terms of players who are already gaining ground in the NHL and with prospects soon to do so.

The team’s young NHLers include Kailer Yamamoto Jersey, Ethan Bear Jersey and Caleb Jones Jersey, with those with a decent chance of making the NHL in the next handful of years including Philip Broberg Jersey, Evan Bouchard Jersey, Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie, Dmitri Samorukov, Ryan McLeod Jersey, Tyler Benson Jersey, William Lagesson Jersey, Carter Savoie and Michael Kesselring. Jesse Puljujarvi Jersey is also in the mix.

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It’s easily the most talented group of under-25 players in Edmonton since the early 1980. That famous group competed for Stanley Cups until then owner Peter Pocklington sold and traded them off, one by one, because he couldn’t afford them. This trading away off of veteran stars continued until the Collective Bargaining Agreement of 2005 and the city’s boom economy in that same era changed the economic formula here.

Yet, maddeningly, the franchise was still unable to hold on to top talent, largely because of managerial incompetence during the Decade of Darkness.

In previous deaces, a few buddings stars and vital role players slipped through Edmonton’s fingers, such as Walt Poddubny in 1981 and Shaun Van Allen, Martin Gelinas Jersey, Kirk Matlby, Niro Satan and Martin Rucinsky in the 1990s. But from 2008 to 2019, it seemed like every year the Oilers found a way to shed a useful young veteran player from the roster, often getting little back in return.

The Decade of Darkness commenced in February 2007 when the organization traded off its final big star over a money issue, with Ryan Smyth Jersey leaving for New York, a move that was arguably wise cap management in the moment but came back to haunt the team, as Smyth managed to continue to play well in the NHL.

After that came a series of iffy trades that meant for years Edmonton had a missing middle, a lack of useful vets in their NHL primes between the ages of 23 and 29.

June 2008
Oilers trade Matt Greene, 25, and Jarret Stoll Jersey, 26, for Lubo Visnovsky. Stoll and Greene would go on to play seven solid seasons in LA, winning two Cups. Stoll was a third line centre, Greene a bottom pairing d-man.

July 2008
Oilers trade Raffi Torres Jersey, 26, for Gilbert Brule. Torres would have four more productive NHL seasons as a third line winger.

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The Oilers will keep their AHL farm team in Bakersfield, like the Flames in Stockton and Vancouver in Utica, N.Y., rather than move them for the 2020-21 season to their own respective cities since it wasn’t economically feasible. Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg have their affiliates in Canada already.

“In terms of size of the roster, most of this is media speculation. We haven’t had a general managers’ call on that number,” Oilers GM Ken Holland said of the increase to 26 players. “My stance is give me the transition rules and we’ll live by them. We want our farm teams in the U.S for various reasons.

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“Certainly, with the border situation and health concerns in the provinces with regards to quarantining, a taxi squad would be beneficial.”

The Oilers have 17 forwards on one-way contracts, including Patrick Russell Jersey and Alan Quine Jersey, and farm winger Tyler Benson Jersey, currently on loan to a Swiss team, is certainly in the mix but on a two-way deal. On defence, an increased roster would help Bouchard, playing in Sweden on loan. Obviously, the Oilers are up against the $81.5 million cap ceiling, so they’re not sure how adding players would work.

“There could be a lot of games in a short period of time, but for every positive there’s a negative. We don’t want players just sitting around. We’d rather they play in Bakersfield because they’ll only be playing games within their division and busing in and out for road games,” said Holland, with the AHL possibly going to a 44-game schedule starting Feb. 5 and ending in May.

If you’re in Bakersfield, you could be there for the long haul. No look-sees.

“Having our farm team in Edmonton doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. You have to fly them across the country (if there was a Canadian AHL division) and you’ve got hotel rooms to pay for. There’s more expense, and the COVID concern,” he said. “That said, recalling somebody from Bakersfield could be tough with the quarantine.”

But Bouchard may not see Bakersfield again.

“At some point, we have to see what he can do,” said Holland.

The Oilers have to get players back from Europe and the U.S. in the next two weeks for quarantine issues if camp were to open Jan. 3. Where they skate with the world junior championships taking over Rogers Place and the Downtown Community Arena is a question. TSN’s Jason Gregor tweeted they might use NAIT.

At the Team Canada camp, coach Andre Tourigny said Holloway, the Oil’s first pick this year, is “so powerful, strong, strong on the puck. His skating is outstanding. His effort is always there. He brings a lot of intangibles,” reported Mark Masters of TSN.

Tourigny had Holloway on a line with Alex Newhook and Jakob Pelletier and praised their performance, along with the line of Connor McMichael, Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens, reported Steven Ellis of The Hockey News.

As for Savoie, University of Denver head coached David Carle raved about the forward and fellow Edmonton-area recruit Mike Benning in a Denver Post article. “They’ve got ice in their veins. They love the game of hockey. They’re gamers. They want to be on the ice in big moments. They know when to move the puck, where to be on the ice offensive. It’s really impressive and it gives our bench, our team, a lot of confidence when they’re out there.”

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Lavoie, Savoie and Holloway are part of an Oilers prospect group at forward that includes Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod Jersey, Kirill Maksimov, Tyler Tullio, and Cooper Marody Jersey. It’s hard to imagine there aren’t three or four future NHLers in this bunch, along with a first or second line player or two in this group.

This kind of prospect depth at forward is a welcome change.

The Oilers haven’t covered themselves in glory in terms of drafting and development in recent years, but it looks like Edmonton has now assembled it’s top group of forward prospects since 2010, when the organizational prospect rankings had Taylor Hall Jersey on top, Jordan Eberle Jersey second, then promising Magnus Paajarvi, third, Curtis Hamilton, sixth, Tyler Pitlick, seventh, Linus Omark, eighth, Anton Lander Jersey, ninth, Ryan Martindale, 13th, and Chris VandeVelde, 14th.

At that time, there was a great deal of hope around big forwards like Hamilton, Pitlick, Martindale and VandeVelde, while Omark was part of the HOPE crew, along with Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle.

The worst group of prospect forwards during Edmonton’s Decade of Darkness-plus?

My vote goes to 2013 group of Jujhar Khaira Jersey, Toni Rajala, Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Mark Arcobello and Tyler Pitlick, though the 2012 group, headed up by Nail Yakupov Jersey, is in the running.