Here’s another book proposal, in full. (This one’s about hockey.)

Rebuild City: The Edmonton Oilers, 2006–?

OVERVIEW

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. PROLOGUE: RACE TO THE BOTTOM (2007–2010): Following a surprise underdog run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the most competitive Oilers team in more than a decade is dismantled, and quickly plummets to the bottom of the standings. But after a fourth straight year of missing the playoffs, and a dead-last, franchise-worst performance, in 2009–10, a new promise approaches: the #1 pick in the 2010 NHL draft. The only question is: Which of the two franchise players up for grabs will the team bet its future on?
  2. HALLWAYS (2010–11): The Oilers’ rebuild officially begins. The team opens the season with a new coach (Tom Renney), a new captain (Shawn Horcoff), and three dynamic new rookies at the helm: Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and 2010 #1 pick Taylor Hall. So committed to the rebuild are they, in fact, that TSN commissions a TV documentary, Oil Change, about their sure-to-be-forthcoming turnaround. Alas, without an NHL-calibre defense core, or proper support for their young wingers, the Oilers skid their way to a second consecutive year dead last in the NHL — and a second consecutive #1 draft pick.
  3. NUUUUUUUGE (2011–12): Two-way centreman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins becomes the second cornerstone piece of the rebuild, and he, like Hall, is thrown directly into heavy NHL duty, alongside a rash of other “grit” signings meant to bulk the team up. But the Oilers still can’t find their balance. And after two more consecutive years of failure (this year rising slightly to 29th overall), someone’s head has to roll. Goodbye, Coach Renney. And hello to an unprecedented third consecutive first-overall draft pick.
  4. YAK CITY (2012–13): The lockout-shortened season, in which the Oilers briefly flirt with a playoff spot before dropping back to 25th place, is buoyed by two more glimmers of hope: drafting Russian sniper Nail Yakupov at #1 overall, and somehow convincing highly coveted free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz to sign in Edmonton rather than every other city in the league. The core of the rebuild appears to be nearing completion. However, frustration is once again building among the fanbase, as it’s becoming clear that the upper tier of management — stacked with former Oilers greats like Kevin Lowe and new general manager Craig MacTavish — has yet to pay any kind of price for the team’s failures. The team’s owner, Daryl Katz, brought these men in to enforce a winning culture. But is there any chance the old boys’ club is actually part of the problem?
  5. CHOP WOOD, CARRY WATER (2013–14): Chaos continues in the Oilers’ offseason, as the team once again fires its head coach, Ralph Krueger, after just a half-season on the job, and replaces him with the brooding Dallas Eakins. Meanwhile, the team makes even larger waves around the city as the glitzy new downtown arena Katz sold Edmonton City Council on in early 2013 — at a steep cost to the taxpayers — moves ever closer to shovels in the ground. Without a #1 overall pick for the first time since 2009, the Oilers draft, at long last, a defenseman (Darnell Nurse). They also continue to shed former staples of the lineup, be it through trade (Ales Hemsky, captain Shawn Horcoff) or retirement (fan favourite Ryan Smyth). By the time the team limps to a 28th-place finish, not a single player from the 2006 Stanley Cup Final run is still on the roster.
  6. “THERE’S BLOOD ALL OVER MY HANDS” (2014–15): By this point, hope has given way to fatigue for even the most devoted Oilers fans. The word “rebuild” has become a running joke. The line-up remains top heavy, with a solid core in Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins, but still little in the way of secondary scoring or veteran depth. The defense is weak. The goaltending is worse. When Eakins, too, is fired as head coach that December — triggering the hiring of the team’s fifth coach in six years — nobody is surprised. The team’s rebuild has now taken so long that even the Oil Change documentary crew decides to pack it in after four seasons, their redemptive narrative arc left incomplete. The pain feels as though it will never end, and then a miracle happens: the 28th-place Oilers beat ridiculous odds and win the draft lottery, thus securing the #1 pick for the fourth time in six years. Their reward? A generational prospect, touted for years as the next Wayne Gretzky, named Connor McDavid. On a dime, absolutely everything is different for Edmonton.
  7. McJESUS RISING (2015–16): Or is it? At first, it feels as though a real changing of the guard is in the air. Much of the old boys’ club is flushed out of management, and replaced by some top-notch hires from around the league, including coach Todd McLellan and general manager Peter Chiarelli. But the team once again runs into heavy injury trouble early in the season, most soul-crushingly when the 18-year-old McDavid crashes into the boards and breaks his collarbone after just a dozen games in an Oilers sweater, keeping him out of service for half of the year. The team’s point totals improve, and McDavid nevertheless establishes himself as already one of the most exciting players in the league, but their place in the standings do not. The Oilers finish in territory that is depressingly familiar: 29th overall.
  8. PLAYOFFS OR BUST (2016–17): We close by following the team through the upcoming season. The Oilers finally make their debut at Rogers Place, the $600-million rink and concert facility that has literally changed the face of downtown Edmonton. This year aims to mark the beginning of a true new era in Oilers hockey, with a state-of-the-art arena and a healthy Connor McDavid (widely thought to be named the team’s new captain) leading the charge. But it’s also the end of another one, as Chiarelli decides to trade away Taylor Hall — the team’s original saviour, now with six seasons of NHL hockey under his belt — in the offseason to address the team’s ongoing defensive woes. It’s a year where, truly, anything could happen. Will the Oilers’ potential finally comes to fruition, returning the team to the playoffs and thereby avoiding setting a new NHL record for failure? Or let’s say the team stays in the league’s basement for an eleventh straight year. At that point, whose head is even left to roll?

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