Call me unimpressed

Robin Brownlee
January 06 2009 07:53AM

I laughed out loud when Sportsnet play-by-play man Kevin Quinn tipped us off during the third period of the Edmonton Oilers life-and-death struggle with the New York Islanders that "It doesn't get any easier on this homestand."

No, Kevin, it doesn't get any easier -- the Islanders are the laughing stocks of the NHL. They arrived at Rexall Place Monday having lost 12 straight games on the road and sitting dead-last in NHL overall standings.

Then, they lost captain and leading scorer Doug Weight during the morning skate. So, no, it really doesn't get any easier. Of course, that's not exactly what Quinn meant.

So how is it that the Oilers, who already gassed two points in losses to the hopeless Florida Panthers and inept Ottawa Senators, needed fluke goals by Kyle Brodziak and Jason Strudwick in the second period on the way to a 3-2 win to avoid making it three times they've soiled the sheets?

Because this is a team, regardless of post-game spin, that has no clue about the intensity and fortitude needed to be a consistent winner and a legitimate playoff contender in the Western Conference.

That's how.

Hero act

"They played as good as anybody against us," coach Craig MacTavish said after his team pulled a fast one. "Especially early. They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn't handle the pressure very well."

You'd think after blowing off those games against the Panthers and sad-sack Senators, who also came to town with 12 straight road losses before beating the Oilers 3-2 Dec. 30, MacT's men would have been motivated to come out like a house on fire against the Islanders.

But, down 2-0, they were in danger of falling back to .500 at home until they got lucky -- Brodziak banked a puck off Brendan Witt's skate behind Joey MacDonald and Strudwick made it 2-2 when Zack Stortini's pass bounced in off his skate.

Good for the fourth-liners, who've carried more than their fair share of the workload in recent games, but getting outplayed early before winning it on Andrew Cogliano's 12th goal of the season is inexcusable.

The Oilers talked the talk in the morning, but they damn sure didn't walk the walk when the puck dropped.

Not good enough

Serve up the same mistake-filled slop against the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday or the San Jose Sharks Friday and the 19-16-3 Oilers will be back under .500 at home.

Hell, try that against anybody but the feeble Islanders and it's a loss. Playing down to the level of inferior competition as the Oilers too often do is not the sign of a team ready to contend.

"We collected ourselves after the first period and played a pretty workmanlike second and third," offered MacTavish.

"We had a line that was playing a real simple game that got a lot done tonight. That's a good lesson for everybody. It doesn't have to be pretty all the time."

This is not a good team. Tell yourself otherwise if you must, but be prepared to be disappointed.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 jayoilfan
January 06 2009, 08:15AM
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I totally agree Robin, a very sloppy, unimpressive win. They won because they just happened to get lucky bounces more than the islanders. Just were is the intensity you need to win games. I didn't see it last night. Hopefully they find some for Wed or Fri.

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#2 Milli
January 06 2009, 08:23AM
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You know how in college football, the good team wins this game by like 75 points???? Well, the mighty oil seem to always gas these games, I kept expecting the isles to tie it and we where a post away from OT. Seems to me Cole Cogs and the 4th are about the only forwards in sync. And this is really not the same team without Hemmer. Any update on how long he is gonna be out? Will they make a call up if it's gonna be a week or more?

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#3 The Towel Boy
January 06 2009, 08:39AM
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Robin, do you have any ideas why the team looks so good in theory...but then looks like ass on the ice most nights? Is it coaching? Do they need two or three personnel changes in the lineup?

It just seems to me that they're not playing to their full potential...and I wonder if it's a compete level thing that the players just aren't willing to give...or if it's something more...something coaching related.

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#4 Zamboni Driver
January 06 2009, 08:44AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

Robin, do you have any ideas why the team looks so good in theory…but then looks like ass on the ice most nights? Is it coaching? Do they need two or three personnel changes in the lineup? It just seems to me that they’re not playing to their full potential…and I wonder if it’s a compete level thing that the players just aren’t willing to give…or if it’s something more…something coaching related.

I actually think Robin says it well, "This is not a good team."

On paper or otherwise. One great player, two pretty good defensemen (not great, and both too expensive IMO), two young guys with potential, and....uhhh....uhmmmmm....oh yeah, a guy who played with Crosby in junior and....uhhhmm...that other guy.

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#5 Ender the Dragon
January 06 2009, 08:50AM
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Milli wrote:

You know how in college football, the good team wins this game by like 75 points?

Interesting point. When was the last time the Oilers played an obviously inferior team (cutting the games available for review drastically right there) and then went out there and handed them the spanking they deserve, beating them by at least 3 points? Can anyone remember one of those? Not me; I'm thinking you may have to go back two or three seasons to find and example of the Oilers playing dominant when they should. This is traditionally a team where no win is ever taken for granted. Sure, it makes it twice as nice when they go out and beat the Detroits and San Joses of the world, but just once I'd like to see them take on someone like this year's Atlanta or St. Louis and just go out there and destroy them. Why can't they ever do that?

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#6 RobinB
January 06 2009, 08:51AM
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@ The Towel Boy: It's coaching. It's leadership. It's commitment by the players etc etc. When a team performs as inconsistently as this one does, there isn't any aspect that shouldn't be looked at.

No matter how much talent a team does or doesn't have, one thing fans should expect is a consistent effort. Some nights you get beat because you just aren't good enough. Some nights you beat teams with the same talent level because you work harder. Some nights you'll lose to a superior team no matter how hard you work because they're just, well, better.

You never know what you're going to get with the Oilers and that, 38 games into a season, isn't good enough. Wild swings in level of commitment and effort are a fatal flaw.

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#7 chaz
January 06 2009, 08:56AM
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That's a good question Towel Boy, and I think at the heart of the Fire or Keep Mac T debate. My opinion is that this team is underachieving and coming out flat way too often. I persoanlly blame Mac T for that. It's is job to have them play with heart right from the start.

With that in mind though, is it Mac T's fault that he had to recently throw a guy like Liam Reddox on the first line, or is that a management blunder? I like the kid, but I think an organization is in serious trouble if he's on your first line, injuries or not. They definitly didn't deserve 2 points last night, and are lucky to be where there are in the standings almost halfway into the season.

It may be personnel, coaching, management or a bit of each. Either way I'm frustraed by the lack of action to rectify the problem(s). Maybe if Mac T hadn't promised to compete for the divisional title, I would accept another year of rebuilding, but seeing that he did I expect them to try and live up to those words.

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#8 Jordon
January 06 2009, 08:59AM
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The way this team plays down to the level of the competition, they would barely squeak out a win versus Kazakhstan.

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#9 The Towel Boy
January 06 2009, 09:04AM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

...One great player, two pretty good defensemen (not great, and both too expensive IMO...

I dunno ZD...I'd say Souray and Vish are two players on the team that are consistently earning their pay. Lubo's 5.6 mil cap hit and Souray's 5.4 cap hit fall nicely in line with their stats to date.

D Lubomir Visnovsky 38GP 6G 18A 24P +8 D Sheldon Souray 37GP 12G 16A 28P +2

Both are in the top 15 defenseman in the league in points. I'd say the money's worth it.

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#10 rindog
January 06 2009, 09:05AM
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@ RobinB:

So, what would be the first step YOU would take if YOU were in charge?

How do we go about making this team better in terms of coaching, leadership and commitment by players?

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#11 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 09:17AM
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Sounds like RobinB has been reading my posts - one by one the king wears no clothes campaign will become reality - oilers are 0.500 with the overtime adjustment - not good enough - this team needs more grit, more hit and more spit - the goals will follow and the W's as well - no sweat - no reward.

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#12 blade
January 06 2009, 09:18AM
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Your attitude sucks almost as much as your blogs. At least Wanye is funny, sometimes.

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#13 RobinB
January 06 2009, 09:23AM
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@ Deep Oil: I try to read them . . .

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#14 Zamboni Driver
January 06 2009, 09:23AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

Zamboni Driver wrote: …One great player, two pretty good defensemen (not great, and both too expensive IMO… I dunno ZD…I’d say Souray and Vish are two players on the team that are consistently earning their pay. Lubo’s 5.6 mil cap hit and Souray’s 5.4 cap hit fall nicely in line with their stats to date. D Lubomir Visnovsky 38GP 6G 18A 24P +8 D Sheldon Souray 37GP 12G 16A 28P +2 Both are in the top 15 in the league in points. I’d say the money’s worth it.

I guess I figure that 'cap hit' is something for the Oilers braintrust to figure out, but in this case you're probably right.

I was talking about the $7 mil and $6.25 mil actual pay cheques. That's a whack of dough, for to me, 'good' okay, 'very good' d-men.

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#15 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 09:28AM
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@ rindog: Look in the mirror and ask myself how I signed Penner, Horcoff, Pisani, Nillson, to overpaid multi year contracts that no other GM would want.

Sad - as most fans were looking at the Burke/Lowe controversy instead of the actual raise (overpayment) that Penner received. Soap Opera vs substance.

Ask as GM that I am willing to wait for lightning in bottle again for Cogliano and Gagner - buck stops at KLOWE for handcuffing his cap and staying with a coach that has been here TOO long - MACT would get another job - just that his best before date here has passed here.

Mirror, mirro on the wall - why do I have to overpay to land any talent here in the copper and blue..... and then the talent takes a powder....

Hard work sells better in this town than lazy players that won't sacrifice for the W.

Oilers need an identity and it has been lost for a VERY long time.

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#16 RobinB
January 06 2009, 09:29AM
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blade wrote:

Your attitude sucks almost as much as your blogs. At least Wanye is funny, sometimes.

Wanye, you have a fan, sometimes. Me? Not so much. If it's OK, I'll do my best to soldier on without the support of the insightful Blade and his obviously vast intellect.

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#17 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 09:30AM
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@ RobinB: I know too much to say - too little space - I am trying

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#18 Milli
January 06 2009, 09:32AM
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man am I gonna be pissed if I drive all the way there to watch them stink it up against van and then get to come home and pay up.....COME ON BOYS, SHOW UP AND KICK SOME ASS!!!!!!!

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#19 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 09:40AM
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@ blade: My attitude is equal to the Oils altitude - show me Oil that you want the W instead of winning by default goals off skates. How can anyone support this non achievement - tough love - rebuild when the contracts expire and Lowe is leaves us to the NHL head office for his dream job - Commissioner - rumor has it Gary has his hands full with the demise of PHX, Tampa, NSH, and ATL and will be gone with an owner's revolt against subsidy and bankruptcy payments.

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#20 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 09:42AM
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Oilers propaganda - oilers home page (Oilers sink Islanders) - this is worse than my blogs

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#21 max fisher
January 06 2009, 09:47AM
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isn't it obvious to anyone that this is young talented team. And what plagues young talented teams? inconsistency. It took the redwings, 80's oilers, sharks, years to gel and play with confidence every night. I read above that theres only 1 good forward, and 2 good defencemen (and they're overpaid). Zamboni Driver....are you even a fan of the team? Sure they could tinker with the lineup a bit, but how can anyone expect a team that relies so heavily on 2nd and 3yr players for secondary scoring to be anything but inconsistent. This year and next year will be a rollercoaster until these kids find the switch that turns them into stars rather than potential stars. Until then, quit bitching and switch from beer to bourbon(knob creek or makers).....it numbs the highs and lows.

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#22 blade
January 06 2009, 09:48AM
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RobinB wrote: Wanye, you have a fan, sometimes. Me? Not so much. If it’s OK, I’ll do my best to soldier on without the support of the insightful Blade and his obviously vast intellect. No, it's not OK... Too many people buy into this dribble. Why not "soldier on" and talk about the bloody game for Christ's sake? Like how the brutal Horcoff give away in the first set the tone for the rest of that period. The second goal? Over-commitment near the boards by Visnovsky... where's that in your blog? No, let's just look at the conference standings and assume that the Oil should just demolish the competition. Blah blah blah... Admittedly, I don't agree with some of the "spin" the Oilers spew after some games but your failure to acknowledge that you are in fact a spinster on the opposite side of the same coin is a detriment to your credibility.

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#23 CurtisS
January 06 2009, 09:52AM
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I want another Deep Thoughts blog. Since that 20 games has got to be almost up. Yet we are in the same position.

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#24 RobinB
January 06 2009, 10:01AM
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@ blade: Do you mean drivel?

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#25 blade
January 06 2009, 10:07AM
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RobinB wrote:

@ blade: Do you mean drivel?

No actually, I meant crap.

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#26 Wanye Gretz
January 06 2009, 10:13AM
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RobinB wrote:

blade wrote: Your attitude sucks almost as much as your blogs. At least Wanye is funny, sometimes. Wanye, you have a fan, sometimes. Me? Not so much.

I have a fan? Blade - your cheque for $100 dollars* is in the mail as per our arrangement.

*Cheques will not be valid

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#27 erixon
January 06 2009, 10:14AM
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That game was awful to watch. Horcoff should have stayed home and healed his back, he was brutal. I really don't understand this team. For me, it's going from frustration, to disinterest. It's not that I'm not going to watch the Oilers play, or that I'm any less of a hockey fan than I was last year, it's just that I've now come to expect mediocrity, and there is absolutely no sign that it will change in the near future. Are they going to make a trade? Probably not. How many mid-season trades have the Oilers made in the past few years of any significance? The Glencross trade? Even if they did make a trade, they consistently address their "needs" in the off-season every year, and look how much of a difference it makes! How sad is it when you rattle off 3 wins in a row, and your fans are still critical, because it's likely that you'll lose the next 2-3. I wish I could write more but I don't have the time, just getting somewhat of a point across.

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#28 CurtisS
January 06 2009, 10:19AM
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Why is Reddox still on the first line?

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#29 blade
January 06 2009, 10:20AM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

I have a fan? Blade - your cheque for $100 dollars* is in the mail as per our arrangement. *Cheques will not be valid

Don't worry about it... I already took it from your wallet when you passed out on the toilet last night.

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#30 Oilersordeath
January 06 2009, 10:20AM
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I knew this team was going to suck as soon a pre-season started. No heart at all. I'll bet the German WJ's would give the Oil a hard time!!

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#31 Katrina
January 06 2009, 10:27AM
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It looks like Dan had stove top STAUFFER last night as they made up, now I know why I left him

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#32 442Junkie
January 06 2009, 10:28AM
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@ Deep Oil: Deep Oil wrote:

one by one the king wears no clothes campaign will become reality - oilers are 0.500 with the overtime adjustment - not good enough

Are you kidding? If you look at the standings in the whole NHL there are only 15 teams that are .500 or better, when adjusted for OT loses. How is that not good enough?

Now I'm not saying that there aren't problems but, .500 with the OT loss correction is a weak point to make. The Oilers made the Playoffs 97-99 with sub .500 records. Before they started giving out loser points. Giving a point for an OT loss is skewing things severely.

Just my two cents, probably only worth 1.5 cents now...

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#33 erixon
January 06 2009, 10:30AM
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CurtisS wrote:

Why is Reddox still on the first line?

Because he isn't good enough to play on the 4th line.

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#34 baggedmilk
January 06 2009, 10:53AM
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@ RobinB:

God, Robin, how dare you be so critical of such a mediocre team. How dare you voice the opinion of those that actually watch this team and realize just how terrible the game last night really was.

A win's a win? The way they played last night in the first period is absolute proof as to why I spent that time watching the WJ game instead.

@ blade:

Dude, Robin speaks for those of us that are tired of watching this continuous dedication to mediocrity. You may seem him as having a poor attitude, but I see at the absolute truth. If you think this team is rim jobs and sunshine then you need to pass along the junk you're on.

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#35 raged
January 06 2009, 11:12AM
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Other than the piss poor first period, was the rest really that bad? Im sure they outchanced the Islanders in the final forty. And with two lucky goals and one decent one, they outscored them 3-0. Okposo (I think it was him), who I would love to trade for, rang one off the post in the final five minutes, but so did gagner. Were 5-2-1 in our last 8, missing our best player, and a great penalty killer for most of those.

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#36 blade
January 06 2009, 11:23AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

@ blade: Dude, Robin speaks for those of us that are tired of watching this continuous dedication to mediocrity. You may seem him as having a poor attitude, but I see at the absolute truth. If you think this team is rim jobs and sunshine then you need to pass along the junk you’re on.

I guess I just expect something of SUBSTANCE from such an experienced writer. My apologies. I understand that the art of the blog is that you get to write about whatever you want. I totally get that... But perhaps it would be more efficient to just write one big long whiny blog and post it every time there's a disappointing Oilers "win".

raged wrote:

Other than the piss poor first period, was the rest really that bad? Im sure they outchanced the Islanders in the final forty. And with two lucky goals and one decent one, they outscored them 3-0. Okposo (I think it was him), who I would love to trade for, rang one off the post in the final five minutes, but so did gagner. Were 5-2-1 in our last 8, missing our best player, and a great penalty killer for most of those.

No dude... mediocrity blah blah blah. Get with the program.

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#37 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 11:31AM
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@ 442Junkie:That is what happens when you expand the league from 16 to 30 - Gary calls it parity and we call it boring - lets face it - some of us can't name more than a few players on some teams - I have trouble with the sun belt teams in the eastern conference and teams like columbus, atlanta and st. louis - mostly sub par teams that I rarely see - bottom line is there are a lot of invisible players making millions over an average 5 year career... this website is cool in terms of showing income of players from 1990 - http://www.hockeyzoneplus.com/bizdb/nhl-salaries-search.htm - for example above average player - Doug Weight has pocketed - 54 million dollars - when you sit down and realize the cash that these players are pocketing - it makes our lives very trivial.

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#38 Wanye Gretz
January 06 2009, 11:38AM
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@ Deep Oil:

See now THAT is a valuable contribution. I am going to spend the rest of the day looking up players at

http://www.hockeyzoneplus.com/bizdb/nhl-salaries-search.htm

Enjoy your $27,693,000 career earnings Chris Gratton.

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#39 Deep Oil
January 06 2009, 11:50AM
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@ Wanye Gretz: Here is another valuable website contribution - http://islanders.nhl.com/icegirls/icegirls.htm - it appears that Kelly and Kristy are twins.

Wanye - can you start an online petition for Oiler Ice Girls, Power Girls, etc so we can get rid of the farm boys in blue from Northlands - LaForge are you listening?

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#40 Chris
January 06 2009, 12:00PM
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I believe the Oilers are inconsistant because they are either unwilling or unable to play a power game. It was big untalented plugs who saved the game last night by driving the net.(No disrespect...I love those guys) Fancy soft skill players exploit mistakes, and often pad their stats on the powerplay, or when the game has already been won. Where were these guys when we were down two goals to the Islanders?

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#41 baggedmilk
January 06 2009, 12:04PM
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@ Chris:

If it wasn't for two lucky bounces last night the Oilers would have lost 2-1. Fortunately for us, those bounces went the way of the Oil last night. However, without some major net crashing by the fourth line we'd all be complaining about a loss. Not to mention I'd be exhausted at work today from having to make multiple trips to and from the arena in the Fire MacT Bandwagon.

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#42 raged
January 06 2009, 12:04PM
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Blade- Manage your expectations and you might be a little less suicidal. Oilers wont set the world on fire, they will grind it out just like every year. This is the best team since the 05-06 team, blessed be thy names. they will squeak into the 6th 7th or 8th spot, and after that who knows. Theres no point bitching over a 3-2 win. Im just hoping we get better as the season goes on, which seems to be a forming trend, and that we can ink some more grit or skill come trade deadline, until then i cherish wins.

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#43 Sense of humour
January 06 2009, 12:08PM
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@ raged:

With the names on this team we should be EXPECTING wins, not "cherishing" wins like they are some rare precious stone.

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#44 Clarkenstein
January 06 2009, 12:11PM
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When Hemsky is not in the lineup could we please stop referring to Horcoff's line as the 1st line? Horcoff must have a guilty conscience cashing his cheque when it's just he and Penner getting in each other's way. How about some of you stats freaks starting a list of overpaid players in the NHL. Without doubt Horcoff would have to be in the top 3. I'm not sure if Spezza is available as it's probably just blog BS but I would let Ottawa pick our roster clean with the exception of Hemsky. Could u imagine those two together?? And back to MacT and KLowe.... it's just so obvious that when a team can't get ready to start the game time after time after time that it is a coaching issue!! Katz are you watching for chrissakes???

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#45 Chris
January 06 2009, 12:19PM
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raged wrote:

If it wasn’t for two lucky bounces last night the Oilers would have lost 2-1.

Hard working players manufacture bounces. Struds fought like hell to be in front of that net. If a guy like Schremp was able/ willing to plant himself in prime scoring locations and use his wicked hand/eye coordination to his advantage; he would be an asset to this organization. The Oilers have too many players and prospects who are unwilling to pay the price.

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#46 baggedmilk
January 06 2009, 12:20PM
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Clarkenstein wrote:

And back to MacT and KLowe…. it’s just so obvious that when a team can’t get ready to start the game time after time after time that it is a coaching issue!! Katz are you watching for chrissakes???

Curse you and your logic. But hey, let's run through another list of players coming and going rather than realizing the problem stands behind the bench.

Anyone satisfied with last nights win over the worst team in the league needs to give their head a shake. 2 lucky bounces for the Oil ended up saving that game, and I mean saving.

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#47 raged
January 06 2009, 12:24PM
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godo point Sense of humour, and they did win. Allz im saying is that if Horcoff didnt fan on that pass in the first Mr. Brownlee probably didnt write this article. Thats a whole lot hypothetical, but its true enough.

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#48 RobinB
January 06 2009, 01:08PM
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raged wrote:

godo point Sense of humour, and they did win. Allz im saying is that if Horcoff didnt fan on that pass in the first Mr. Brownlee probably didnt write this article. Thats a whole lot hypothetical, but its true enough.

Wrong. If you thought that overall effort was good enough, carry on. I have expectations of better, and so did MacTavish when the season began.

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#49 Chris
January 06 2009, 01:23PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

2 lucky bounces

Again with the "lucky bounce" thing. Since when is driving the net lucky? I absolutely hate it when MacT or our apologist Edmonton media (Tencer) justify an Oiler loss blaming "unlucky bounces"

We rag on this team for not being gritty... and then be-little the accomplishments of the Oiler fourth line players who are finally attacking the difficult areas of the ice!

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#50 raged
January 06 2009, 01:23PM
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Then why did you predict them to not make the playoffs if you had expectations higher than where they are now, tied for 8th?

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