During an episode of 31 Thoughts the Podcast, former Edmonton Oiler, Andrew Ference was on the show and leveled the 2013-15 teams he captained.
The nearly hour-long show was, to say the least, a damning testimonial to the 2013-15 Oilers teams that struggled with young draft pick stars like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The team had a terrible win/loss record during that time and not many years later, both Hall and Eberle were traded despite being what many believed the future core of the franchise.
Brought in as a free agent, the veteran defenseman from Sherwood Park — a hamlet located just minutes outside of the city of Edmonton — Ference was excited to come home and play for the team he grew up watching. He was bringing with him a winning mentality and hard-working demeanor having been part of a Bruins team that won a Stanley Cup not many years before. What he found when he arrived was disappointing.
The Oilers were in the midst of building a team based on four first overall draft picks that included highly-talented forwards. Unfortunately, the young team was more concerned about partying and the nightlife scene in Edmonton than they were working hard or winning. “You had a group of players that talked about how they wanted to make the playoffs, and talked about how sick they were of losing, and then by Game No. 3 after losing 6-1, they’re straight out to the bar to three in the morning, lighting up the nightlife scene in Edmonton,” Ference said.
Saying that his voice would only carry so much weight with a team of youngsters who mocked the idea of working hard in practice, Ference said, "It was to the point where it was ridiculous where the lifestyle was way more important than actually playing the game and making the playoffs.” He suggested, then coach Dallas Eakins was made a scapegoat and basically run out of town when the Oilers failed to win games.
Ference added, “You could have had any kind of defence or any kind of system, if you go on a Western swing and your guys are out every single night until 5 a.m., you’re not going to win too many games.”
Ference also leveled the city of Edmonton itself for being so quick to jump on the players for every mistake — suggesting it was a very hard place to play. The fans are always looking for their next whipping boy and it's still going on today, that whipping boy being Milan Lucic.
Ference did admit that while it was disappointing, he wasn't surprised that the youngsters didn't listen to the leadership he was trying to provide. Ference was not even close to one of the more skilled players on the team and those young guys knew that he wasn't going to outlast them. Why listen to a guy who the team was in no way building around?
What This Means
There were always rumors things in Edmonton around that time were messy. While Ference didn't name names, his testimony has to point at players like Hall, Eberle and Justin Schultz who were potential stars but traded at their peaks in mind-boggling moves. If their behavior was cancerous, it explains a little bit more as to why those trades went down in the first place.
Certainly, it's not a good look for the organization and it must have been bad if a homegrown talent like Ference was happy enough to throw the team under the bus.