Their slogan this year is "The Other Oil in Town" but perhaps they should update that with "The Winning Oil in Town". While their NHL parent club follows up a horrendous 2009-10 with an even worse 2010-11, the Edmonton Oil Kings are not only competitive this year, they're the hottest team in the entire WHL.
After Friday night's 4-2 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings, Edmonton has climbed up into sole possession of 6th place in the WHL's Eastern Conference. The Oil Kings are currently 8-2 in their last ten games, a mark equaled only by Saskatoon and Tri-City and both of those teams are considered contenders this year.
Since mid- November, the Kings have won 12 of 16 games and picked up 25 of a possible 32 points in the same span.
Several players are riding hot streaks including Michael St. Croix, Dylan Wruck (above), Jordan Hickmott and T.J. Foster. Despite having missed defencemen Mark Pysyk, Griffin Reinhart and Marek Hrbas and forward Kristians Pelss to U20 and U17 camps and tournaments, the team continues to win.
The WHL recently released their "Top 10 Plays of the 1st Half" and the Oil Kings feature prominently thanks to an outstanding individual effort:
Thankfully, the winning is having the desired affect at the gate as attendance seems to be slowly improving. Some of that might have to do with the holiday season and the time off from school for many young families and students but when once figures showed a -25% in sales, that has risen to about -15% or about 750 people per game as compared to last year. Considering the founders club package has since expired, that's not a horrible drop and it's good to see the slow rise in attendance in light of that fact.
Edmonton's coaching staff deserves a boatload of respect for the way they have been able to turn this near-last place ship around in just half a season. Sure, players are a year older and wiser but the work Derek Laxdal and Steve Hamilton has to be given consideration as an early candidate for post season hardware.
Credit where it's due: Recent Oil Kings commercials have featured a mention of the opposition - Dallas prospect Scott Glennie, for example, was mentioned in radio adds promoting the New Year's Eve game against Brandon. That's been a constant sore spot for both Dean and I and so we're very glad to hear the change and the marketing department should be acknowledged.
Suffice to say that when mid-March comes around and the Edmonton Oilers are 20 points back of the playoffs, fans will be hungry for some post season action. Thankfully, this year they are more than likely going to get it as the Oil Kings are headed back to the playoffs and right now would have to be considered a team that no one would want to play.
(All Photos: Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)