TULSA, OK – The Tulsa Oilers enter their fourth season in the ECHL in 2017 with their third head coach since entering the league in 2014. Jason Christie, who earned the title of winningest head coach in ECHL history in 2015, departed Tulsa for the head coaching position in Jacksonville in May.
Head Coach: Rob Murray
– 10th year head coach, first with Tulsa
– Overall head coaching record: 348-253-72
Last Season: 27-37-6-2, 62 points (Out of Playoffs)
One of the things Oilers fans have become accustomed to in recent seasons is how the team has been very strong to start the season, but unable to sustain the winning momentum needed to push the team into the post season. This was certainly true of 2016-17 for the Tulsa Oilers.
The season began with a win streak that saw Tulsa in the win column six times before they surrendered a loss. Once the Christmas holidays came and went, the team was slowing down, and by the time the final full month of the season started, any realistic hopes of making the playoffs had evaporated, leaving the Oilers without a second straight playoff berth.
Key departures due to call-ups were to blame, and players who were “passengers”, according to former head coach Christie, were the root cause of the collapse of the Oilers last season. In particular, the loss of rookie goaltender Jamie Phillips late in the season nailed shut any hope the Oilers had in making the ECHL postseason.
• Tulsa will once again be breaking in a new coach: Rob Murray, who coached the now-defunct Alaska Aces, becomes the third head coach for the Oilers since entering the ECHL in 2014, replacing Jason Christie, who resigned shortly after the end of last season.
• Four players return to Tulsa: Adam Pleskach, Chris Joyaux, Dennis Brown and Eric Drapluk will return in an Oilers sweater this season with Pleskach on the brink of attaining ECHL veteran classification this year.
Sustaining momentum is the name of the game. The Oilers were the hottest team in the ECHL at the beginning of the season last year. They had the best record out of 28 teams through the holidays, but it all fell apart by the time the ECHL All Star Game came around in January.
It will be incumbent on the Oilers, in a rebuilding/transitional season, to have the talent to sustain any accumulated momentum they gain early on if they have any hope of postseason glory.
• Joey Sides: Ten-year professional, played last season in Scotland. Has experience in Colorado, Rapid City, Wichita and Reading. Scored 11 goals and 24 assists in Dundee (EIHL) last season.
• Adam Pleskach: The fan favorite begins his fifth year in Oilers blue this season. Last year, the Beausjour, Manitoba native scored 13 goals and 13 assists in a season interrupted by injury and a one-game stint in the AHL with Manitoba (AHL). Pleskach will attain veteran status in 2017-18.
• Vladimir Nikiforov: Nikiforov has already made his mark in an Oilers sweater this season, scoring two goals in the Oilers come-from-behind 5-2 victory in preseason action against Wichita last weekend. He brings experience and a scoring threat for the Oilers.
Blocked and Reported
• Dan DeSalvo: One of the architects of the Oilers early success last season, DeSalvo departed the Oilers permanently in November of last season for Manitoba, where he scored 40 points on 18 goals and 22 assists for the Moose last season. He signed with Hartford for 2017-18.
• Jamie Phillips: Arguably one of the best goalies to guard the Oilers cage in a number of years, Phillips was the backstop for a very successful first half last season. As of this writing he is unsigned in any league. As an Oiler, he posted 19 wins and 10 losses with a 2.63 goals against average in 29 games.
It’s real simple. They have to sustain winning momentum this season. Not easy in a rebuild season, but possible. No AHL affiliate will help.