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.

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 Giggsunited
December 20 2009, 11:00AM
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I dont even know what to do as a fan anymore?

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#2 jake
December 20 2009, 11:01AM
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"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 fifth straight defeat in Minnesota Wednesday."

Oh man, my gut hurts from this one. Things are bleak.

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#3 willy fisterbotom
December 20 2009, 11:07AM
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robin, have you heard if horcoff has asked to be traded?? If so could it be possible that horcoff doesn't know this contract is untradeable?

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#4 Garett
December 20 2009, 11:07AM
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Before we get the folk who come on and bash RB for his eternal pessimistic views of the Oilers, give your damn head a shake and look at what this team really is! I dont know why RB, but you sharing my sentiments actually makes me feel less grumpy about this whole crying shame that is the Oil! I am actually semi-motivated to commit Harakiri by walking out the front door to attempt Xmas shopping on what is sure to be a retarded shopping Sunday here in Grande Prairie. Have a great Sunday and I hope I don't get too impatient with the other morons going shopping in this town today!

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#5 Anthony
December 20 2009, 11:10AM
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Edmonton Oilers = That one girl thats always a 'Tease' you think you're coming out with a 'Win' but then you come out empty handed with a 'Loss'

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#6 Harlie
December 20 2009, 11:18AM
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why does Lionel Ritchie's suck ass song come in my head when I think of Steve Tambellini?

"Hello! Is it me you're looking for? Because I wonder where you are, And I wonder what you do"

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#7 6 ring circus
December 20 2009, 11:22AM
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I have paid good money to watch this team over the years and I have 1 Stanley cup final playoff appearance to show in the last 10 years,I have left Rexall the last 3 games early and pissed off,I am already tired of Quinns post game rants and have no more patience on waiting for Tamballini to do anything,last year the excuse for him was that he was watching and observing.What is his excuse this year? And dont tell me its because the team is up against the cap all he needs to do is look in the mirror, it was him and K lowe that created this mess and they continue to do F-ck all!!!

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#8 oilersinsider
December 20 2009, 11:42AM
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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.

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#9 Hambone
December 20 2009, 11:43AM
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Like every Oilers fan, I want the Oilers to win every single game. It makes my Saturday night a lot better when I can pre-drink watching the Oilers win on HNIC and then black myself out at the bar not being angry.

I really enjoyed watching the Oilers win 5 in a row. However, I knew that in the back of my mind, this 5 game winning streak really accomplished nothing and if in the off chance this started a major drive for the playoffs and the Oilers were able to scrape into 8th (only to get devastated by the Kings, Hawks, or Flames in the first round), is it really actually a good thing?

Please Oilers do me a huge favor and DON'T change. Keep all of the mediocre players, don't make a single trade. Please bomb this year, finish bottom 3, trade away the many worthless bums for draft picks at the deadline and try and draft at least 2-3 players who will be NHL ready in a couple seasons.

I've already sat through 10+ seasons of mediocre to bad teams. I can deal with a couple more.

I am tired of seeing a 10th to 8th place team in Edmonton. I'm tired of cheering for the underdog. I want to be a front runner....

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#11 Abel
December 20 2009, 12:01PM
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Why can't management simply admit that a makeover is due? Continuing to sign players such as Khabby, Souray, et al. is a sign of desperation that has killed this club. Not good enough to make the playoffs, yet too good to get a high draft pick. This blows!

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#12 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 12:10PM
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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.

After watching Steckel play last night and a few other WSH games this year I am happy as hell we didnt trade Cogliano (though hes done crap this year) or someone for him. Hes average.

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?

Moreau did a good job shadowing Ovechkin in the first couple periods when they were on together. Having POS on the Horc line was idiocy, Moreau Horc Stone should have been it, until Pisani comes back then he replaces Stone and we have our shutdown line.

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#13 Death Metal Nightmare
December 20 2009, 12:11PM
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this is so dumb. its just re-hashing the same old crap from last season that cost MacTavish his job - because it was "coaching" - not the roster. any real observer knew the roster was beyond bush. now you guys get the same crap but with a new old man trying to spank the kids asses.

the Oilers traded in their old milieu of "lets overwork to get mediocre results" to "lets try to look fancy getting crappier results."

this article doesnt spell anything out regardless. the only way this team changes is when it makes a radical change to its core and they can ween in players to that core as supplemental players. about the only "core" players they have are Hemsky and Penner. their still needs to be about 2 more elite players above those two in the forward department to have an actual scary team.

the Gagner paper tiger is a laugh for people waiting out for him to mature into some star. maybe with massive roids and some radical reconstruction surgery to his body. enter cyborg sam to make up for his extreme deficiencies that keeps him as a Vulture type offensive player. he circles until he has an easy corpse to gnaw on otherwise he cant do crap out there.

its going to be patience. building the "core" is going to take drafts (Eberle and MPS?) or some extreme luck in the trade/UFA department. but right now they have some secondary star players and a bunch of wimpy turds. their vets and defensive forwards are all mediocre at best.

was a checking line really going to win the game last night? who knows. its impossible to say. you cant throw variables into situations that have infinite possibilities. you can if you want to just change the results to your own agenda but we all know thats not how "chance" works.

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#14 Gerald R. Ford
December 20 2009, 12:20PM
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Harlie wrote:

why does Lionel Ritchie's suck ass song come in my head when I think of Steve Tambellini?

"Hello! Is it me you're looking for? Because I wonder where you are, And I wonder what you do"

Given the playing style of this team, I'd have thought "Ballerina Girl" was more appropriate.

1-5 on HNIC. Way to thrive in the spotlight, boys.

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#15 Hambone
December 20 2009, 12:23PM
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In my opinion, the only Oilers worth keeping is Penner, Hemsky, Brule, and Gagner on forward, and Vis, Smid, and either Grebs or Gilbert on D (although I hate both with a passion).

I love Souray and I will be really sad if he is traded, but the guy could easily get us some good picks or prospects at the deadline. I'll hope for him not to be traded but my gut says he is gone before next season.

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#16 Bar Qu
December 20 2009, 12:24PM
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Giggsunited wrote:

I dont even know what to do as a fan anymore?

Easy. You wait out the rest of the season, to see where they draft, you express yourself in any public forum (like this) about your frustrations with the management and you cheer for your team when they play. To a certain extent, it is not the fault of the players or coaches the team has a flawed roster. Or that the flaws have been obvious since Oct '08.

In all likelihood, as this team limps into the off season with a good pick (I am calling slot #3) having done nothing movement wise to slow the collapse, at least Steve T will be out the door. If not, well there is always hope that the draft class of '11 is a strong one too.

But, and this is the most important thing, you cheer your team on a game day. That is why you are a fan. {props to Steve for inspiring this fan perspective}

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#17 Shaun Doe
December 20 2009, 12:26PM
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Well I wonder with the obvious lack of top end talent and ability to close out games, how quickly will the players tune out Quinn. He has no alternative to being pissed off these days and for the large bulk of the season so I assume tirades are a frequent occurance and a tool quickly ignored. Sigh...

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#18 Clarkenstein
December 20 2009, 12:29PM
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Actually the best part of the evening now is Quinn's post game comments!! Where this team is at now isn't even worth getting worked up over any more. Interest is definitely dropping as evidenced by the number of posts on various blogs. They're losing our emotional investment. And that's too bad.

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#19 Original Ogden Brother
December 20 2009, 12:41PM
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The real puzzling part of this is that people are suprised by these results.

How can you be upset with the results when they are playing as expected?

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#20 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 12:56PM
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I wish we were in the East. We would have been a powerhouse of this decade over there. 15th in west is good enough for 9th in East. Pathetic

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#21 Clarkenstein
December 20 2009, 01:00PM
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This is what it's come to.... some people would be happy with 9th place. Speaks volumes.

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#22 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 01:04PM
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We wouldnt be 9th, we'd be playoffs.

@ Brownlee

With the Flyers reportedly shopping Jeff Carter (5 mil hit, 1 year after this one on deal, then RFA) I would be really happy if we targeted him. I am curious what is your opinion on him and would you do it? (Im thinking Gags or Cogs would be going other way in package)

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#23 RossCreekNation
December 20 2009, 01:14PM
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Anthony wrote:

Edmonton Oilers = That one girl thats always a 'Tease' you think you're coming out with a 'Win' but then you come out empty handed with a 'Loss'

Isn't that also what they say about one Robert Nilsson?

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#24 RossCreekNation
December 20 2009, 01:25PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

We wouldnt be 9th, we'd be playoffs.

@ Brownlee

With the Flyers reportedly shopping Jeff Carter (5 mil hit, 1 year after this one on deal, then RFA) I would be really happy if we targeted him. I am curious what is your opinion on him and would you do it? (Im thinking Gags or Cogs would be going other way in package)

I'm waiting for Dean Lombardi to call the Flyers up for Jeff Carter. Lombardi was a part of the Flyers management/scouting team a few years back prior to his gig in LA. I see the Kings looking to make a big impact move this year. Dustin Brown for Jeff Carter??

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#25 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 01:31PM
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@RossCreekNation

Brown is their captain, and plays a different position. With Kops as their first line C trading a high tier winger for a 2nd line C I just dont see happening.

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#26 Tayranchula
December 20 2009, 01:34PM
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This is a bit off topic but im sure if the Oil could land him it would make a difference in the win column.

Kovalchuck may get traded this year and if the oiler could land him do you think they could without getting rid of Gagner Hemsky Penner up front and/or Vishnovsky or Souray at the back end? What would be a reasonable asking price for Kovy? Also if Kovy came to a market like EDM would he become a superstar with teh likes of Crosby Ovie and Malkin? Since he will be playing in a place that cares about hockey and he will be exposed 100 times more than in ATL.

Also would someone like Simon Gagne work in EDM?

Also traded cogs for S.Kostitsyn....he is a natural winger and would be cheaper and more suited for a 3rd line role..althought that comes with alot extra backage

Hows my armchair gm working out, may get a job in the echl (joke with laughter attached)

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#27 Brandon
December 20 2009, 01:42PM
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Tayranchula wrote:

This is a bit off topic but im sure if the Oil could land him it would make a difference in the win column.

Kovalchuck may get traded this year and if the oiler could land him do you think they could without getting rid of Gagner Hemsky Penner up front and/or Vishnovsky or Souray at the back end? What would be a reasonable asking price for Kovy? Also if Kovy came to a market like EDM would he become a superstar with teh likes of Crosby Ovie and Malkin? Since he will be playing in a place that cares about hockey and he will be exposed 100 times more than in ATL.

Also would someone like Simon Gagne work in EDM?

Also traded cogs for S.Kostitsyn....he is a natural winger and would be cheaper and more suited for a 3rd line role..althought that comes with alot extra backage

Hows my armchair gm working out, may get a job in the echl (joke with laughter attached)

Kovy has already said he likes playing in Atlanta, he also said that he doesn't want to play in a hockey crazed market where everyone knows him, he enjoys his private life.

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#28 I Miss Stanley
December 20 2009, 01:46PM
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Someone needs to hansbaur the messershmit out of that one.

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#29 RossCreekNation
December 20 2009, 01:48PM
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@Hemmertime

Logic would suggest you're correct. Just asked my dog what he thinks and he said yes, so... we'll see~

LOLz

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#30 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 01:54PM
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@Tayranchula

Trading Penner Hemmer and Gags to rent Kovie for 3 months before he re-signs in ATL or moves on would be a BAAAD move

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#31 BarryS
December 20 2009, 02:06PM
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Well, it's Christmas and the fans? are busy looking for the lifeboats while wishing the tooth fairy would bring them an easter egg or two.

Slow down, take a deep breath, it's hockey we watch, not even play, not important to most of the world, you know the people with empty bellies and nothing in sight to eat,(even here in Edmonton) and those others in other countries who spend their time dodging other people who think it would be a good idea if they took this bomb and walked into that there building and get 72 virgins (what do the female bombers get?)as a reward in some other place.

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#32 Giggsunited
December 20 2009, 02:15PM
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Why and try and get Carter? or even Kovalchuk? our team would still be crap. The only way to go here is commit to rebuilding. I'm sick of missing the playoffs every year.

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#33 BarryS
December 20 2009, 02:16PM
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@6 ring circus

Time to find something else to do, perhaps, since hockey no longer seems to give you pleasure, unless complaining is all the pleasure you need.

Trouble is, once we were top dog and did't have any money behind the team, trouble now is we have money and there does not seem to be any players to buy. All deals now are four way deals, two GM's and two players (at minimum) who will consent to be traded. All players have defacto no trade contracts, all it takes is an indication of unhappiness with coming and the desire to leave the new team as soon as possible if traded.

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#34 BarryS
December 20 2009, 02:17PM
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Giggsunited wrote:

Why and try and get Carter? or even Kovalchuk? our team would still be crap. The only way to go here is commit to rebuilding. I'm sick of missing the playoffs every year.

Rebuilding means more seasons of missing the playoffs.

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#35 BarryS
December 20 2009, 02:21PM
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Hockey should be more like soccer, buy and sell players for cash between teams, and a cap limit of however deep the owners pockets are. Bottom three teams go to the A, top three A teams go to the NHL each year. Sure, there will only be a couple good teams, but now there are only a couple good teams.

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#36 BigE91
December 20 2009, 02:24PM
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~Anyone like to purchase my tickets for the remainder of the season?~

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#37 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
December 20 2009, 02:24PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Trading Penner Hemmer and Gags to rent Kovie for 3 months before he re-signs in ATL or moves on would be a BAAAD move

do you think they could without getting rid of Gagner Hemsky Penner up front and/or Vishnovsky or Souray at the back end?

where do you get penner,hemsky,gagner for kovie out of that?

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#38 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
December 20 2009, 02:26PM
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BarryS wrote:

Rebuilding means more seasons of missing the playoffs.

keeping things as is aint working either

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#39 Rob
December 20 2009, 02:39PM
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@Robin Brownlee

that's a bit like a guy with bad teeth and a comb-over looking to wheel a hot dame at closing time after the lights come on.

Bin dare Dun dat. RB - that rolled off your keyboard just a tad too smoothly. That happened a long, long time ago in a bar on Whyte Ave. N'est pas?

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#41 TigerUnderGlass
December 20 2009, 02:52PM
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@Robin Brownlee

I may have forgotten what a real checking line looks like.

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#42 Giggsunited
December 20 2009, 02:54PM
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BarryS wrote:

Rebuilding means more seasons of missing the playoffs.

At least we expect them to miss the playoffs for a bit, not get teased and have high hope for under achievers.

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#43 Tayranchula
December 20 2009, 03:05PM
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Hey Brownlee, Who do you think is the best shutdown/checking line in the Nhl or West?

Also who do you think will make up the checking line for Canada at the Olympics?

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#45 Tayranchula
December 20 2009, 03:40PM
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Brownlee,

haha yaaa being from bc and all was'nt sure how the organized crime was doing in edm, I had to take a stab at it.

Also since it is christmas time I thought I could give Santa my wishlist one last time.

If Pisani does return and they do make that proven checking line you put above who gets bumped out of the picture? Also with Comrie returning sometime soon same with MAP who will be the additional players getting sat or sent down.

Im fine with Nilson getting sat and Struds but I still like the way Stone plays. Any chance of him still being in the lineup with these 3 players returning?

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#46 JackBauer
December 20 2009, 03:41PM
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"Not enough organized crime in Edmonton to keep him happy."

Really?? The EPS seem like quite the gang. Im sure they would rival his Russian friends from Montreal.

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#47 jeanshorts
December 20 2009, 03:47PM
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Hambone wrote:

Like every Oilers fan, I want the Oilers to win every single game. It makes my Saturday night a lot better when I can pre-drink watching the Oilers win on HNIC and then black myself out at the bar not being angry.

I really enjoyed watching the Oilers win 5 in a row. However, I knew that in the back of my mind, this 5 game winning streak really accomplished nothing and if in the off chance this started a major drive for the playoffs and the Oilers were able to scrape into 8th (only to get devastated by the Kings, Hawks, or Flames in the first round), is it really actually a good thing?

Please Oilers do me a huge favor and DON'T change. Keep all of the mediocre players, don't make a single trade. Please bomb this year, finish bottom 3, trade away the many worthless bums for draft picks at the deadline and try and draft at least 2-3 players who will be NHL ready in a couple seasons.

I've already sat through 10+ seasons of mediocre to bad teams. I can deal with a couple more.

I am tired of seeing a 10th to 8th place team in Edmonton. I'm tired of cheering for the underdog. I want to be a front runner....

*One clap so loud it makes Christmas non-existent*

I'm glad to see there seems to be more people who have the same thoughts as you and I, rather than people who are fully behind the "lets win 4 extra games now. Who cares if we finish in 10th place again, at least I'll be happy for an extra day" plan.

On another note, we've seen more or less what JDD can do. He's inconsistent but every once and a while he'll make the saves when he needs to. So when does Dubnyk get a look? Is there really anything to lose? Management is going to have to choose between the two eventually so why not throw him in the deep end while there's an opportunity and see if he sinks or swims?

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#48 The Real Scuba Steve
December 20 2009, 03:55PM
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You guys are forgetting the only winning year had in 20 yrs was 06, by trading for top veterans (Pronger, etc) to work with our young guys. Show me an Oil team the the last 20 yrs that went as far as they did by strictly getting youth to rebuild. This was always the excuse the Oil used pre lock out, This post lock out which is supposed to help teams like the Oilers. Take steps forward not backwards.

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#49 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 03:56PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

do you think they could without getting rid of Gagner Hemsky Penner up front and/or Vishnovsky or Souray at the back end?

where do you get penner,hemsky,gagner for kovie out of that?

Oh I read it as "Penner Hemsky Gagner" but now I see the word "Without", my bad. Unless Eberle, 0.

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#50 Hemmertime
December 20 2009, 03:58PM
Trash it!
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@Robin Brownlee

Moreau and Pisser have proven they can shut down people, at least more than anyone else has. Generally they require a decent C though. Horcoff at 5.5 should not be a shutdown player, but we need him to be. Better than POS and a rookie.

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