If you are a long suffering Oilers fan, you are truly on cloud nine when it comes to the team’s performance this year.
Last season, the Tulsa Oilers were a league joke. A team who by and large was a guaranteed win if you played them, and watching the team play was somewhat akin to watching 20 clowns emerge from a Volkwagon Beetle or a root canal. The players had no drive and no desire to play for or as a team. They had a brand-spanking new arena, filled it with nearly 17,000 people and tanked their home opener, which unfortunately was a harbinger for things to come. BAD things.
This season, it’s way different. WAY WAAAY different.
At this point last season the Tulsa Oilers were on the fast track to being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before 2008 had come to a close. Indeed, before Thanksgiving night the Oilers record a year ago was an abysmal 4-9-1 with only 9 points and dead last in the standings. Then-Coach Dan Hodge was hearing the opening “aria” of the fat lady, and for the fans it was another year of reinforcing their image as the Chicago Cubs of the Central Hockey League.
It’s cliché’d, but it bears mentioning all the same: What a difference a year makes.
This season the tune is very different. The Oilers as of this writing are 11-3-0 with 22 points in the standings and first place. A quick ciphering tells us that in just 14 games the Oilers won 11. Last season it took 36 games for Tulsa to post its 11th victory. They are a perfect 7-0-0 at the BOK Center and are currently riding a seven-game wins streak, begun on the road two weeks ago. Tulsa is also on pace to equal their longest historical win streak this weekend should they win their next game against the Missouri Mavericks, a team that the Oilers had to beat in the final minute of the game.
Coach Bruce Ramsay is being credited with breathing new life into the Oilers franchise. He has taken basically a brand new team and turned them into winners. There are no prima donna players who are inclined to play to advance their resumes by looking like Wayne Gretzky playing for a high school team on his squad…he wanted self-starters and team players who used all 60 minutes and all 3 periods to find ways to win.
The game, shockingly enough, started being played for the full sixty minutes. Oilers players played hockey from the opening face off through the final seconds of the period. The jaws of the fans dropped as they watched their team pursue the puck all the way down the length of the rink and fire the disc seemingly at will. The team’s toughness is not an overstated quantity, as they aren’t a team of goons but it is clear that they are not a team that is the league doormat. Finally, the goaltending is solid. Ramsay chose wisely when selecting the men who guard the cage for Tulsa. The saves they make are not necessarily highlight reel saves, but they do instill confidence in the rest of the team that should the puck get close the man in the mask will take care of it.
All of those factors put together have Oilers fans expressing something they have not felt in many years: hope. It’s all of a sudden fun for the fans to go to hockey games again. It’s too early to compare the teams year to year, but a remarkable turnaround like this has more than a few fans thinking the glory years may be closer than they think. Caution is wisely abundant in the BOK Center, but fans are anticipating more wins than losses when the Tulsa Oilers take the ice these days.
Fans of hockey in Tulsa have deserved a winning team for some time. Now they have it, and it’s time that the rest of the Oil Capitol sees what the buzz in the BOK Center is nowadays. Tickets for this weekend’s home games, featuring games against the Missouri Mavericks…a team that has former Tulsa scoring ace Jeff Christian and a good portion of the players from the now-defunct Oklahoma City Blazers on the roster…and the defending champion Texas Brahmas can be purchased at the BOK Center box office and all Reasors locations.
The honors for the Tulsa Oilers keep pouring in.
Tulsa forward T.J. Caig took the CHL Performance of the Week award for the week of November 9th-15th where he scored a pair of goals in each of the games that week, all of which were wins for the Oilers. Moreover, he is one goal (12) behind the league’s top goal scorer, Ryan Held of Mississippi who has 13.
The award comes just a week-and-a half after his partner Rob Hisey and Oilers goalie Kevin Armstrong who took the Player and Goaltender of the week.