Although it wasn’t totally unexpected, the Tulsa Oilers remained silent through the ECHL trade deadline on March 10th. The team has been depleted of late mainly due to the fire sale at the trade deadline that the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL executed in the later weeks of February.
The timing of that fire sale couldn’t have been worse because, as has been documented in this volume, the Oilers hit a very decent stride coming through the month of February, emerging as a playoff contender after grinding through the first half of the regular season near the middle of the ECHL Western Conference standings.
In all, five players departed Tulsa for the American Hockey League in the last two weeks. Three players under contract to the Moose: Brennan Serville, Ben Walker, and Axel Blomqvist all saw action in Manitoba in the last week and as of this writing Serville and Walker have returned.
Just before the end of the Oilers’ successful February home stand, Emerson Clark was loaned to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, and in 13 games with the Wolves, the 23-year old Whitby, Ontario native has a goal and an assist as well as 40 penalty minutes. Most recently, Dan DeSalvo was signed to a professional tryout (PTO) with Manitoba, and notched an assist in his first game as a Moose.
The call-ups had their down side for the Oilers who have suffered six straight losses as February faded and March dawned. More disturbing is the fact that Tulsa has gone without points in those losses, meaning all of the games have been lost in regulation, which just makes it that much more demoralizing.
As a result, the Oilers have dropped from sixth in the conference standings to eighth, which is the dreaded “bubble” position, and for fans of the team who have seen the Oilers mathematically eliminated a number of times over the years it could be said affirmatively that the Oiler Nation is in the “low sweat” stage with under twenty games to play.
As it works out, the Oilers are just a point ahead of Quad City after the Mallards notched a victory last weekend. So, the gap is about as narrow as it can be between 8th place and 9th place. They are chasing the Colorado Eagles as they have a four-point lead on the Oilers and hold the first tiebreaker in total wins.
Indeed, this has been a season of adjustment for the Oiler faithful in the world of affiliation, mainly because in the 20+ preceding seasons they were used to seeing players signed in the fall and remain until spring, and this is a new experience across the board.
This, of course, adds to the drama as the number of regular season games dwindle down.
The lack of a trade at the deadline points to one thing. Head coach Jason Christie is anticipating that the parent AHL club will discharge called up players back to Tulsa for the playoff run. The Jets are NOT in the NHL playoff picture and neither are the Moose so it stands to reason that they will return their players as that season ends.
Hopefully that was a gamble that will pay off. Since the winningest coach in ECHL history is behind the bench in Tulsa, the man rolling the dice is certainly capable of making that call.