Five Year Plan Works For Oil Kings

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Five-year plan works for Oil Kings

Hockey history shows five-year plans work. Especially in Edmonton.

The Edmonton Oilers joined the National Hockey League in 1979 and won their first Stanley Cup in 1984.

The Edmonton Oil Kings, who are owned by the Oilers, began modern franchise history with an expansion team in 2007.

Oil Kings general manager Bob Green and his staff are now enjoying the fruits of their labour and offer a piece of advice, which could apply to current Oilers fans.

Have patience. Stick with the plan. This year, the Oil Kings are one of the hottest teams in the Western Hockey League, currently ranked No. 9 by the Canadian Hockey League.

"It’s nice to be recognized by others as having a good team and that we are improving, but we still have to win games to have success. The rankings won’t get us to the Memorial Cup," said Green.

The Oil Kings host the U.S. Division-leading Tri-City Americans at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Rexall Place. It could be the WHL champion-ship dress rehearsal.

The Oil Kings are right on schedule: This is Year 5.

Perhaps, then, the Oilers – who have their dressing room just down the hall from the Oil Kings – can learn from the young team. Fans, too.

For many, the Oilers’ five-year plan started three years ago when GM Steve Tambellini ushered in a new coaching staff.

Now in year No. 3 of the plan, the Oilers are struggling, but certainly injuries are a factor. Still, the third year of a rebuild should show some kind of improvement, shouldn’t it? Some-thing better than an 18-26-1-3 record after 48 games?

Not necessarily. The Oil Kings had a rough third year, winning only 16 hockey games. But it did pay dividends.

"It gave the young guys we had a lot of ice time," said Green.

The Oil Kings also got the second-overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft and chose forward Curtis Lazar, who has 13 goals and 10 assists in his rookie season.

The 45-point season cost head coach Steve Pleau and assistant coach Rocky Thompson their jobs. Yet, there was a strong sense of optimism to begin the fourth year based on the core group of players.

Green brought Derek Laxdal in as head coach and Steve Hamilton as an assistant for the 2010-11 season and they steered the Oil Kings to a playoff berth, where they lost in the first round.

Now, Green has his team exactly where he thought they would be.

"We thought we would have a team that could compete after five years," said Green.

As the team heads into the most crucial part of its season, only time will tell if the Oil Kings match what the Oilers did in their first five years.

Major junior hockey is certainly more cyclical than professional hockey. Yet, perhaps once a blueprint is in place, changes can be made when they need to be.

Green says with the success of the team this year, he can look to the future and working on improving every day.

"Because our success this year will mainly be based on how we do in the playoffs," said Green.

Cam Tait

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