October 26 2009 11:48AM
Here in the Heartland of Hockey, the line separating giddy elation from the depths of despair is thinner than a runway fashion model who considers Red Bull and cigarettes a balanced diet.
That line, if you read the comments of Edmonton Oilers fans here and elsewhere, is exactly two games wide. On one side of it, hope abounds, like after last Thursday's 6-4 win over Columbus. Dustin Penner could have been elected mayor and Pat Quinn was a genius for assembling the best first line since Mark Messier had hair in Penner, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.
On the other side of it, unabashed self-loathing and back-biting that makes an emo kid seem a raving optimist after a pair of weekend losses — 5-2 in Calgary Saturday and 2-0 in Vancouver Sunday. WTF? How could anything suck so bad. Hopes dashed. Time to cut.
It's a line passionate Oilers fans walk so clumsily, it's difficult not to applaud them one second and laugh out loud the next. Don't take my word for it, take a look at the GDB comments here for the past two games. For a generation hooked on instant gratification, what you get is what you've got.
At 6-2-1, Oilers fans were on top of the world. At 6-4-1, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov have been exposed as clowns, Shawn Horcoff is stealing money from Daryl Katz and Ethan Moreau should have the C ripped off his chest yesterday. Is that about right?
I shudder at the thought of a loss to Colorado Tuesday.
I get it there's reason for concern about how the Oilers have played after the last couple of games, notably the realization Grebeshkov and Ten Thumbs Tommy aren't nearly ready for the kind of minutes they've been force-fed with Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios out, but really folks.
Isn't 13 points through 11 games about where you'd expect the Oilers to be? You didn't know that 13 points by Penner, Gagner and Hemsky was a one-shot deal not to be repeated? Or that Gilbert and Grebeshkov, as a pairing, is sketchy at best because neither one can hold his own in the defensive end of the rink when the heat is on? Really?
While we tend to roll our eyes at cliches like, "Don't the highs get too high or the lows get too low," Oilers fans could do themselves a favour by putting down the Pepto-Bismol and heeding that well-worn bit of advice.
- No, Penner isn't going to score 60 goals this season. No, Horcoff isn't going to struggle like he has offensively through 82 games. He'll get 50-55 points, even with this horrid start. There's a middle ground with both.
- No, Gilbert shouldn't be traded for a box of tape and a bag of pucks. He isn't this bad. He just isn't as good as those who were fooled by his points totals last season projected him to be.
- Yes, the loss of Souray and Staios to injuries and the flu-bug that's hit the team has hurt, even if Quinn isn't using it as a crutch. What we've seen the last several games isn't the line-up Quinn has wanted, it's the line-up he's been able to cobble together. That holds true for the wins and the losses.
- Yes, Patrick O'Sullivan can break a pane of glass with his shot, it just doesn't look that way right now.
The way I see it
- I've been asked a few times if Gilbert's trade value is being hurt by his performance in the early going.
First, I don't have it from anybody that the Oilers are even trying to trade Gilbert, even if I think they should. Second, pro scouting departments of NHL teams don't put nearly as much value in short segments of seasons as fans do. So, while Gilbert hasn't done anything to increase his value, he hasn't plummeted as a commodity, either.
Teams that liked Gilbert last season still like him, even with his obvious limitations. Smart staffs aren't fooled by how bad he's been this season just like they weren't fooled by his inflated points totals in 2008-09.
- Gilbert Brule, when he isn't puking his guts out with the flu, is a keeper. If Andrew Cogliano gets moved at some point, Brule will more likely be the reason why than Gagner will be.
- Had the Oilers done anything on those five-on-three power plays over the weekend we'd probably be talking about a 1-1 split instead of 0-2. Without the threat of Souray on the point, not having Mike Comrie dealing off the half-wall hurt the PP even more.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.