THANKS FOR COMING

Robin Brownlee
March 30 2009 12:16AM

oilersnwild1

The official sign golf season was underway used to be the opening of Golden West Golf Course, but with the modest old track now closed, the Edmonton Oilers have taken over as the official beacon that's it's time for fans to move along and tee it up.

If taking 40 minutes in the 76th game of the season to play with some passion and purpose in a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild isn't a sure sign it's time to dust off the sticks and think temporary greens instead of hockey in April for a third straight season, nothing is.

Playoff teams, which is what the Oilers were supposed to be when coach Craig MacTavish deemed them contenders for a Northwest Division title in pre-season, don't lose to a team playing it's 14th road game in a 17-game stretch like Minnesota was.

When a team like the Wild straggles into town for the second of back-to-back games at the end of a hellacious stretch, you jump on them early and knock the try out of them. You go for the throat. Not yours, theirs.

Playoff teams don't drag their asses and shrug their shoulders for the better part of two periods like the Oilers did before trotting out their tiresome here-come-the-heroes act late to make it interesting. Playoff teams, at least ones with any chance of contending, don't have as many passengers as the Oilers did against the Wild. They don't sit back and say, "Let Dwayne Roloson do it" on the way to their fourth loss in the last five games.

FEEBLE EFFORT

On a night when the Oilers lost ground to Nashville and saw St. Louis and Anaheim vault over them in Western Conference standings, the Oilers didn't show the will, the smarts or the gamesmanship to seize the moment and put the weary Wild away for keeps. It was close to a total team effort in terms of a no-show for two periods.

"Too many guys are just too content to be a non-factor rather than be a factor and step up and make a play and be assertive in a game you desperately need," said MacTavish, the sound of defeat and frustration dripping off every word.

"With six games left, we're still looking for a team that will take charge of an opportunity."  There were some pretty good examples of some guys who played with the intensity and the passion in the game, but not enough. At no point this year have we exhibited the ability to grab the game within the game. You have to take charge of the game. We just haven't had that ability."

One question: if not now, after 76 games, then when?

THE UGLY TRUTH

While Roloson didn't come up with the best effort of his 32 straight starts against the Wild, let's not forget this team would be in line for a lottery draft pick if it wasn't for him. It's been Roloson's jam and competitiveness that's masked a multitude of flaws in the stretch drive.

-- When you're 16-14-6 at home and you can't mount anything resembling a sustained effort until the third period of a game you have to win, you don't deserve to get into a playoff game unless you buy a ticket.

-- The Oilers power play is 3-for-34 in the last nine home games.

-- The Oilers have been outshot in seven of their last 10 games, including 54-20 by Anaheim, 44-26 by Detroit and 43-31 by Chicago.

-- Shawn Horcoff has two goals in the last 18 games. Andrew Cogliano has one goal in the last 10 games. Patrick O'Sullivan has one goal in 13 games since being acquired from Los Angeles. Dustin Penner has three goals in his last 20 games.

-- Ales Hemsky wants to be the go-to guy? Nice job by Dan Barnes of The Journal getting Hemsky to spill his guts last week, but go-to guys don't vent in the newspapers and score one goal in an 11-game stretch when the team needs them to produce. They shut up and get the job done.

NOW WHAT?

So, do you really think the Oilers have the backbone to climb back into a playoff spot with six games to play? I have my doubts. And, even if they do, does it really make the season a success? Depends on your expectations, I suppose. Would eighth place mean more than two homes dates worth of playoff revenue?

Rhetorical question.

Maybe they can give up 50-plus shots against Anaheim again Tuesday and ride Roloson to another win. Maybe they can show the grit Nashville and St. Louis has and put together a late charge. They'd better, because they'll need four wins in these last six to have any chance. But, well, no.

Be disappointed and angry at yet another mediocre season if you must, especially those, like MacTavish, who honestly believed this edition of the Oilers had a legit chance of taking a run at a division title.

Not me. Playing bad golf beats watching bad hockey any day, and I'm ready to play some. To steal from noted orator Dennis Green, the Edmonton Oilers are who I thought they were.

Not good enough.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every 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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#51 roughneck
March 30 2009, 12:13PM
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Scott wrote:

They are done this year, and even worse, I am not sure anyone in the room really cares. I think there is some sort of chemistry issue with the team, I don’t know if it is MacT losing the room, or vets v. rookies, but the team is just a bunch of individuals. So, I have put my (and any other Oiler Fan who has had enough) support up for auction on Ebay. We need to send a message to the team, and this might get some play if enough people get onside. All money raised will go to the EOCF, at least they do some good in town. Let’s get a few hundred fans in this, at least it will raise some money, and I will send the cheque on behalf of “Fans who support Oilers Hockey, not this year’s team”

a link for said auction?

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#52 Clarkenstein
March 30 2009, 12:29PM
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David Staples wrote:

Hey, Robin, I know you predicted the Oil wouldn’t make the playoffs, but did you not catch Oilers fever this year in November-December? I could be wrong, but I recall some prediction from you that the team was about to go on a massive winning streak, and you challenged some poor soul to point out the games the Oilers were going to lose, saying you just couldn’t see them losing the coming 15 game stretch . . . . . . Anyway, this is a small point. … You’ve been consistently realistic (pessimistic), so that’s why that one moment of optimism from you is sticking with me . . .

David I'm not sure why you stuck that "pessimistic" jab in there for Robin. Robin is a realist. I picked the Oilers for 12th at the start of the year and barring a last minute surge from Dallas I will miss it by one spot. Just because RB doesn't see this club with the rose coloured glasses a lot of the fan(atic)s do does not make him pessimistic about anything. Kevin Lowe, and nobody else, has turned this organization into something bordering on dysfunctional. He is a pi$$ poor leader and grader of talent but he is a good speaker which has made him more of a salesman of the team than anything. Clean house Mr. Katz or you will be confirmed as the rich boy "jock sniffer" that many of us suspect you to be.

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#53 Deans
March 30 2009, 01:15PM
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The "bears are who we thought they were" is a pretty good analogy for this season. Unfortunatly we (oilers fans) are Dennis Green and we are getting progresivly more pissed off and we might be a few more questions away from breaking down in tears/rage.

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#54 Robin Brownlee
March 30 2009, 01:18PM
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Harlie Chuddy wrote:

Robin - wasn’t it only a week or two ago that you wrote that you were wrong and that they were going to make the playoffs? You flip flop more than an ex lib PM who was in office shorter than Bowl-A-Rice’s career with the Oil! I ain’t tryin to defecate on your corn flakes…just givin you a hard time.

David Staples wrote:

Hey, Robin, I know you predicted the Oil wouldn’t make the playoffs, but did you not catch Oilers fever this year in November-December? I could be wrong, but I recall some prediction from you that the team was about to go on a massive winning streak, and you challenged some poor soul to point out the games the Oilers were going to lose, saying you just couldn’t see them losing the coming 15 game stretch . . . . . . Anyway, this is a small point. … You’ve been consistently realistic (pessimistic), so that’s why that one moment of optimism from you is sticking with me . . .

Don't try to take the edge off my gloom and doom prediction. David, I don't catch Oilers fever. I don't have that kind of emotional investment in their success or failure.

I conceded they might prove me wrong a couple of weeks ago because several other teams were struggling ridiculously, but I never changed my position -- you can't be proven wrong if you're flip-flopping and saying, "Changed my mind. They'll make it."

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#55 Archaeologuy
March 30 2009, 01:40PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Robin, when you started as a young Sports reporter was it difficult to remove yourself emotionally from the teams you covered? If so, was it purely through sheer will power that you changed how you felt about sports teams or did the Oilers simply kill your ability to cheer for such a bad team like they've done to so many of us?

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#56 FS
March 30 2009, 02:02PM
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I fully expect Mac-T to resign, as soon as the season is over. Kevin Lowe you should join him.

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#57 J-Bird
March 30 2009, 03:33PM
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Kevin Lowe must be fired. MacT and his staff must be fired. It is time to start fresh. This princess soft team, both physically soft and especially mentally soft, is no where near good enough. They are more than a "tweek" away here. A major overhall is needed.

Too many players that are the same, and in a bad way. Highly skilled supposedly, soft as marshmallows, SMALL, SMALL, SMALL. Who leaves town with any bruises after a game with the "mighty" Oil? And the fans get crapped on for having no life in the building. As a season ticket holder, WTF have we had to cheer about? A good dump in? Or another stupid turn over at the blue line? The reason it's quiet is because they suck a lot of the time.

The coach makes his players watch hockey (meaning watching, thinking, and then reacting.....oops, too late!) instead of playing hockey. His system is reactive instead of pro active. He really needs to simplify and get bad thoughts out of players heads instead of putting (more like FILLING) their heads with consequences and doubt. I can't watch it anymore. I mean since 2006 I would be willing to bet if somebody had the time to go through and look at how many games they've been outshot, it would be over 60% of the time, AT LEAST.

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#58 deepoil
March 30 2009, 04:02PM
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it seems that there are many converted oiler fans that want to fire everyone today...... lowe and mct must go....

just some food for thought..... if the dark knight is the caretaker founder of rexall ....like the late dave thomas from wendy's (founder) - then the real backers (mckesson) should really clean house..... if the dark knight really owned the team - it would be owned by DK and not rexall or rexall sports...... we have a conglomerate ownership group that says nothing, does nothing and only cares about maximizing the brand of rexall itself..... remember if DK actually owned the team, he would own it.....being the founder of a company is more like a puppet or figurehead - and someone else is really pulling the strings here.... and could care less about the win loss record as long as the brand is out there......long term this will come back and blow up on the rexall brand if the hogans heroes approach (see nothing - know nothing) keeps going

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#59 Phil
March 30 2009, 04:09PM
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humantorch wrote:

Also, Nickelback? Seriously? If “the industry” thinks that they’re worth 3 awards at the Junos, someone needs to get fired over there even more promptly than the Oilers office needs to get cleaned out.

haha that was a complete joke.

the junos are complete garbage. embarrassing actually.

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#60 Robin Brownlee
March 30 2009, 05:43PM
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Quinn wrote:

Robin, does the loss of Smid mean we have seen the last of him in Oiler silks? I am a huge fan of the kid and feel that he has been jerked around this organisation like so many other prospects have. Will he want to come back? Or does he find greener pastures elsewhere in the offseason? And if Smid goes, who takes up the tough guy defenceman role to back up Souray? Lots of questions, I know, but I really feel that we need a Smid to complement the Gilberts, Grebeshkovs and Visnovskys of the D-corps.

Jerked around? How? I can see why Smid would, and did, ask to be traded if he's being pegged as a third-pairing guy in the longterm, but he was being used more with Visnovsky out and played a bigger role.

He can't go anywhere unless the Oilers decide to trade him. I'd suggest Tambellini will have a good, long talk with Smid's agent and try to clarify what the team's view of him down the road will be.

Personally, I can see Smid developing into a second-pairing guy who can play a shutdown role. He won't ever provide enough offence to rise above that, but being pegged as a No. 3 or 4 would likely ease his worries about being buried behind Souray, Visnovsky, Grebeshkov and Gilbert.

My best guess is one of those guys (probably Gilbert) gets moved and Smid stays.

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#61 Hanson#4
March 30 2009, 08:10PM
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Good post Robin.

Horrible week to be an Oilers fan. The coyote game was souless, Ducks was all about Rollie (50+ shots are you kidding me !) and Wild ....well crap the bed.

Look up and down the line up and what jumps out his how many players are playing below their potential. Where is the pride ? Where is the the refuse to lose ? Where is anything resembling grit ?

I think I am done for the season. Can't stand to watch these guys put in the MINIMUM effort then watch them burp out the standard excuses. Moreau, Suray not one of the so called leaders is taking accountability, not one of them is saying "jump on my back boys". Only Rollie, our 39 year old goalie was cranking it up but honestly I think he is spent, mostly because he is likely feeling all alone out there. I doubt he comes back next year.

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#62 Dennis
March 30 2009, 08:31PM
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Does Lowe go?

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#63 Robin Brownlee
March 30 2009, 08:50PM
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@ Dennis: I think he should, but he'll blend into the Rexall Sports set-up with fewer identifiable ties directly to the Oilers.

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#64 Harlie Chuddy
March 30 2009, 09:00PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

i'm not going to try and answer your question to Robin but your question reminds me of a similar situation that I was in. I have always paid attention to the goings on of movie stars and the entertainment crowd and lo and behold I ended up getting a job on multiple (say 25 or so) movie sets while I lived in Vancouver. The list of stars that i met and saw include Pacino, Gooding Jr., Hilary Swank, Jeff Goldblum, Meatloaf, Macgyver, etc etc. Once you are on their turf and you watch the inside's of these productions and the amount of people it takes to make things happen, all of a sudden you just detach and realize that all these big stars eat and shyt just like we do. At some point, you turn from an admirer to an observer. Probably much like what has happened to RB and other's in the media.

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#65 Archaeologuy
March 30 2009, 10:14PM
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@ Harlie Chuddy: yeah, it seems like eventually that would happen, but I could only imagine the difficulty of the first little while.

I would have been fired in the 1st 3 months of the season for being blatantly biased.

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#66 Dennis
March 30 2009, 10:15PM
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RB: I don't think MacT's been blessed with a great crew but I think he should have done more with it and you could seriously fire him for the ST play alone.

He's a smart cat and a great quote but I'm ready to see him go.

All that being said, Lowe's the new Teflon Don and I'd feel better about all the deadwood being rooted out if I knew his hands were totally off the keys.

Though I imagine that even if he's fired from his current post, he'll still have some juice like Sinden did when O'Connell was in charge in Boston and like Clarke seemed to have up until say two years ago in Philly.

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#67 Q
March 30 2009, 10:16PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Thanks for the response and good analysis. I was thinking Smid has been more misused and under utilised compared with a Strudwick. I see this as jerking around with his development, sorta like JDD has seen this year. Probably just my frustration with the year coming out.

That sounds like good news about Lowe fading away too.

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#68 Smokin' Ray - NNC
March 30 2009, 10:50PM
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Smokin' Ray - NNC wrote:

I am curious. I want all the 220 people that voted that Hemsky was being misused to explain why you think that. I am one of the 41 people that voted “Hellz No”. Because as Brownlee writes, “Ales Hemsky wants to be the go-to guy? Nice job by Dan Barnes of The Journal getting Hemsky to spill his guts last week, but go-to guys don’t vent in the newspapers and score one goal in an 11-game stretch when the team needs them to produce. They shut up and get the job done.” That was how I felt as well and always. “Leadership is action… Not position” BTW: Great post Robin.

242 people now. Anyone care to share?

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#69 Deans
March 30 2009, 11:42PM
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I dont think that Smid has been misused this season or any previous seasons. Maybe I'm crazy but I dont see Smid as ever being more than a #5. If Smid is in your 3-4 D- pairing, your D is in a bad way. This season he has become solid and somewhat dependable (Im not trying to downplay this, Smid has emerged as an everyday player, which is a huge acomplishment), but Smid will never live up to the billing of having been traded for Pronger. I truly believe that the Oilers fans partial love-in for Laddie has to do w/ the Pronger trade. In my view, the guy doesnt bring enough grit and/or enough offense to become a top four guy.

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#70 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
March 31 2009, 12:40AM
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I dont see Smid being a top 4 defensmen here anymore than I see Hemsky squeaking out more than 80 points in a given year. For as much hype as Oiler fans put on Hemsky, the guy doesnt produce like the superstar he claims he wants to be. The excuse is, well he needs a winger to play with, uhhh....what? A superstar can take his line on his back and still score 50 goals or 100 points no matter what. Hemsky cant do that.

If Hemsky wants to be the man, score some freaking goals!

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#71 Rob
March 31 2009, 06:49AM
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RB, why hasn't the Edmonton media jumped all over MacT? He hasn't shown ANY accountability at all this year, he constantly blames the same players, but never the coaching staff. Is the media in Edmonton that scared of the organization to BASH the coach?? Or are they just gutless???

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#72 Robin Brownlee
March 31 2009, 07:34AM
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Rob wrote:

RB, why hasn’t the Edmonton media jumped all over MacT? He hasn’t shown ANY accountability at all this year, he constantly blames the same players, but never the coaching staff. Is the media in Edmonton that scared of the organization to BASH the coach?? Or are they just gutless???

Scared or gutless? Not much of a choice, is it? It's not up to the media to bash -- that's a word I hate because it's used to describe anything from perfectly legit criticism to uncalled-for personal attacks -- the coach.

If you don't think MacTavish has been criticized, then you aren't paying attention. I'm guessing you fall into the camp of people who won't think MacTavish has been "criticized" enough until he's fired or resigns.

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#73 Rob
March 31 2009, 08:06AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Well if you compair the way the Ottawa media, not to mention the national media jump all over their coach, and the way Edmontons media "critcizes" MacT, he hasn't been called/criticized at all. Everytime you turn it to Sprotsnet or TSN the so called experts continue to talk about what a great coach he is, and that it's the players that have failed him, not the coach that has failed the players.

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#74 Robin Brownlee
March 31 2009, 08:35AM
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@ Rob: The Ottawa media? Surely you jest. Like I said, if you were really paying attention as opposed to hearing what you want to hear, you wouldn't say MacTavish hasn't been criticized.

Legit media offers criticism when criticism is due. Jumping all over anybody, well, that's what fans do because they have an emotional investment in the team.

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#75 Zamboni Driver
March 31 2009, 08:36AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Gotta say, while I love Matheson, his piece this morning was entirely much a-do about nothing. How he has to kiss @ss to the Oilers is beyond me.

JoJo, I can see, she is still trying to play in the man's world, plus she's supposed to be the beat reporter, but Matty could have actually brought out some of the big guns. Unfortunately, he brought out a pea shooter.

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#76 Rick
March 31 2009, 09:06AM
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Dennis wrote:

RB: I don’t think MacT’s been blessed with a great crew ...

I tend to lean towards the make up of the team more so than strictly the coaching BUT it's no great mystery that MacT does have input on the players being moved in and out (even if it's limited) and he did set the bar at competing for a division title this year based on his training camp roster.

He doesn't set the bar that high unless he is happy with the roster he has to work with so failing to get what he pictured he could out of this crew has to fall at his feet.

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#77 Robin Brownlee
March 31 2009, 09:09AM
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@ Rick: You're absolutely right. Because of their long hockey history as teammates and then GM-coach, MacTavish had more say with his GM about personnel decisions than a lot of coaches do.

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#78 Deans
March 31 2009, 10:23AM
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@ Jack "FMNF" Bauer: I really thought this season was going to be Hemsky's superstar unvailing. But you are right, he will never be a 30 goal or 100 point guy. Like Sil in The Sopranos, Hemsky will always be a great #2 but his isnt able to be The Boss.

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#79 J-Bird
March 31 2009, 11:22AM
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The media in Edmonton is simply a propaganda machine for the club much like the former USSR, sorry, it's a fact.

Put this team in Toronto or Montreal, the dinkus' in charge (Lowe and Mac) would get ripped to shreds. We're in year 4 of the "competative balance", spending to the cap, about to miss the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years. Beauty. Can't stand the homer media here from the Journal and Sun.

Thank the good lord for the Team 1260 and Oiler Nation. Listening to Tencer makes me gag. Bob Stauffer too, he's a turncoat too. Katz paid hard to shuddap Bob.

In any event, the propaganda minister works at the Oilers office, and has control over almost all media outlets in the city. It's the truth.

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#80 Dennis
March 31 2009, 01:04PM
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I imagine everyone should get to good old Vish Throttler - Kevin Lowe - before they take a look at MacT.

There's no question I've lost faith in MacT but that only happened recently. OTOH, I believe Lowe's been making questionable decisions since the day he moved Pronger yet you wouldn't know that from reading either of the dailies.

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#81 Elaine
March 31 2009, 11:19PM
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The Oilers are down right awful. There is a lot of fixin that needs to be done in the off-season which will begin very shortly as the Oilers won't be in the playoffs...again. Too small, not smart enough, not tough enough, not skilled as much as management thinks they are. If Roloson doesn't come back they don't have a #1 goalie either. What do they have? Hemsky is a #2 not a #1. Has skill but we only see it in small spurts every so often. Most of his points come on the PP and not 5 on 5. Trade Horcoff but make sure you get a centre who can win faceoffs. If you keep Horcoff,let him centre the 3rd line. Management must own up to their over estimation of their players.

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