Happy Holiday: a lump of coal, or something

Robin Brownlee
December 20 2009 10:41AM

Well, the Edmonton Oilers have certainly done their level best to boost the Christmas spirit of the faithful at Rexall Place over the past three games, now haven't they?

Ho-ho-ho. The Oilers return home after winning five straight games on the road, putting a big dent in the Dive For Five bandwagon, and lose 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings Dec. 15.

Ho-ho-ho. The Oilers jump out to a 2-0 lead against the Nashville Predators in front of another packed house before folding in a 6-3 loss, leaving fans face down in a big puddle of rum-laced egg nog Dec. 17.

Ho-ho-ho. Saturday night, the Oilers parlay a lucky bounce to a 2-0 lead over Washington. That goes sideways after Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau spends the second intermission questioning how a wealthy player like Alex Ovechkin could have hobo hair and such bad teeth. Ovechkin sparks a four-goal outburst and is last seen being patted on the backside by Boudreau as Oiler fans stumble to the parking lot after a 4-2 loss.

All that remains for fans before the NHL's official Christmas break is for Santa to sh*t in their stockings with an overtime loss to the feeble St. Louis Blues Monday and a fifth straight defeat in Minnesota Wednesday.

It could be ugly, indeed, long before the credit card bills roll in and that puke-inducing concoction otherwise known as grandma's Christmas cake hits the trash.

Bing and the losers

With Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background and my son Sam bounding about the house fuelled by another load of holiday-issue sweets, it was disconcerting seeing the Oilers so thoroughly outclassed by Ovechkin and the Capitals in the third period last night.

When a good team, let alone a great team like the Caps, plays anywhere near as well as it can, the team Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini have assembled for coach Pat Quinn doesn't have the dimension, drive, talent or gamesmanship to do anything but hang on and hope.

Jonathan Willis nailed it with his assessment in his post-game wrap-up, That's Not A Choice, It's A Lack Of Options:

"I just don't know that I can scrape for positives when Washington sends out Ovechkin and Co. and the best Edmonton can manage in response is (one-armed) Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O'Sullivan (in a slump to end all slumps) and (NHL rookie) Ryan Stone.  Looking for a bona fide checking line, that's the best Quinn can do, and I can't even call him on it because there aren't any other options.

"Seriously — look down the roster. There's nobody. Hemsky would help a fair bit, but despite the sheer volume of forwards on the team there isn't anybody proven who can handle a checking role. It's Horcoff, O'Sullivan, rookies, the Ghost of thecaptainethanmoreau, and the faint hope of a healthy Fernando Pisani."

Like watching Uncle Arthur crack open his belt after too much turkey and stuffing and then pass wind while mom divvies up the pumpkin pie, the Oilers shortcomings have become tradition — at the very least for the past four years running. This isn't a one-off.

What to do?

  • Where is the shutdown line the Oilers need when it's 2-0 and the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin rev it up? Can you name three forwards on the roster Quinn could put together who could lock it down?
  • Where is the centre who can kill penalties and win face-offs? He was at Rexall Place last night, but David Steckel, who went 13-9 on the dot, wears No. 39 for the Caps. He doesn't count. There is no reasonable facsimile here.
  • Where is the defenceman who can settle things down in the defensive end? Who, aside from Sheldon Souray, has shown any ability whatsoever to clear the front of the net without getting out-muscled or out-smarted? Laddy Smid doesn't count, yet, because face-washing after the whistle doesn't qualify.
  • How many hacks at the puck would Ovechkin have had at the 4-1 goal last night if he didn't bang it past Jeff Deslauriers on the third try?
  • Speaking of Deslauriers, he's gone from sitting for months between starts last season to making 111 straight appearances with Nikolai Khabibulin waiting for Santa to deliver a new spine. Anybody have a plan?

The sad reality is there won't be anything under the Oilers tree on Christmas morning to bolster the ridiculously flawed line-up Quinn has to work with, the team loyal fans keep paying good money to see.

And there's not even a gift receipt to ease the pain.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

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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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#101 Dan the Man
December 21 2009, 01:02PM
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Dubnyk gets the start tonight per Stauffer.(Correction...per Gregor)

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#102 wayne
December 21 2009, 01:53PM
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The Oilers need to commit to a long-term plan for rebuilding this team. It wont happen overnight but with a new arena being proposed, I would love to see the team use the next few years to start developing talent and freeing up cap space. So when we have a new arena we have a consistent competiteve team to play in it. As long as the Oilers stick with a plan, the fans will support them through a few bad seasons.

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#103 KenMcC
December 21 2009, 04:15PM
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The most passion, enthusiasm, vigour, energy, drive, or pizazz Tamby has ever exhibited was during the "good-bye to MacT" press conference. If he had only followed-through on half of what he said that day we would be in 8th to 11th place instead of forking-garbage 14th or 15th.

If he followed through on 75% of what he said, where would we be?

Congrats to Katz for "spending the cap". I wonder what the hell would happen if we'd not wasted it on garbage like Horcoff.

I don't mind watching a young team that makes a lot of mistakes, but shows enthusiasm and hard work. I can't stand watching old high-paid "talent" freak up every other shift.

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#104 Phil
December 21 2009, 06:04PM
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oilersinsider wrote:

The problem with this team is that their not strong enough one way or the other. Even Brownlee who suggested on air this past week, that Edmonton not need to make quick alterations to the goalie situation, now make a plan thanks to Deslauriers consecutive starts and win-loss record.

The Oilers need to be either good enough that they actually contend for the playoffs each year, or they are bad enough their draft selections are good ones.

Not being able to do either means a consistent 18th-22nd or 23rd in the league. That means little help at the draft and more mediocre free agents that don't actually improve the future of this team.

The Oilers need to be either good enough that they actually contend for the playoffs each year, or they are bad enough their draft selections are good ones. Not being able to do either means a consistent 18th-22nd or 23rd in the league. That means little help at the draft and more mediocre free agents that don't actually improve the future of this team.

Thing is though, as long as the money keeps coming in, that's all that really matters to ownership IMO.

The people - or more specifically, the hockey fans - of Edmonton are for the most part a simple folk. It's like temporary escapism, or a "fancy night out" for them. Sure there's the diehards, the truly rabid pockets of fans, but overall, for the people who buy the tickets and go to the games - it's simply something to do. Better than nothing sorta thing.

They can be frustrated with the on ice product but at the end of the day they'll still show up. And for every group of season ticket holders who don't renew, there's 2 or 3 families in line just waiting to sub in for them and to pay the money.

As far as I'm concerned, it looks like they're content with battling for 8th, or 7th, almost every season as long as they can sell the fans new hope every season, something to latch onto. Status quo is just fine for Daryl Katz because at the end of the day, he'll be making his money, or coming closer breaking even (don't know the financial details). The city and it's people eat everything up for the most part, no matter how sh*tty the quality is, because the bottom line is it's a novelty in this small city of ours.

Trading away assets, committing to a rebuild - or in other words accelerated losing/giving up, proving the fanbase they're in for a long, bleak haul = losing money, losing season ticket holders, general fading interest and an even cheaper on ice product. So as long as they can maintain things the way they are, it looks like it will be good enough for both the fans and the ownership.

That's my opinion anyways.

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#105 Phil
December 21 2009, 06:08PM
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Replacing the coaching staff was the perfect example of that. Cheaper, easier way out of the problem. The real issues aren't just skin deep, the very fibre of this Edmonton Oilers organization is ill. So flawed, and so much bullsh*t going on behind the scenes it's ridiculous.

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#106 Oilers "R" Us
December 24 2009, 12:01PM
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People may laugh when they read my name but I don't care. Why? Because when you think about it that's what all of us are... Oiler fans!!! Yes I am upset that they are doing horrible right now but what can we do? Give up? Jump ship? I know what I am going to do; I am going to cheer every time we score a goal! I am going to cheer every time we win a game! I am not going to lose hope that one day we will have a team that rocks the nation!!!!!!!!

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