On the fence: for better or worse?

Robin Brownlee
July 27 2009 06:57PM

lowe-tambellini

If the Edmonton Oilers don't make another roster move between now and the start of the 2009-10 season, do you see them on the outside looking in for a playoff spot for the fourth straight season or are you of the mind they'll be back in the post-season?

While I'm sitting on the fence, I'm leaning big-time toward the former. That's the easy projection of course, and it seems to be the overriding sentiment around here during these hockey dog days of summer.

Still, there's a corner of my brain -- my head is square -- that says otherwise, even if there isn't much evidence, and none in terms of new personnel, that the Oilers can climb from 11th place back into the top eight in the Western Conference.

Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides of the issue, so rather than slag Dany Heatley yet again, lament that Nikolai Khabibulin will be 57 when his $166-million contract is up and curse Steve Tambellini for mostly sitting around with his thumb in his arse when he's not on his knees in Kelowna, let's do that.

THE PESSIMIST SAYS

-- With Heatley dragging his feet until the San Jose Sharks come up with a package of players that tickles Bryan Murray's fancy, the Oilers will again lack the one-shot scorer they covet to complement Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. The first line won't be good enough.

-- Khabibulin isn't a significant upgrade on Dwayne Roloson and odds are Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, left to die on the vine last season, isn't capable of taking over as No. 1 when the Bulin Wall takes a header in the shower and dislocates his spine four games into the season.

-- With Tambellini failing to bring in any high-priced help for Hemsky, letting Ales Kotalik walk and Pat Quinn thinking No. 83 is a centre, how long is it before Hemsky phones agent Jiri Crha and says, "Get me the hell out of here, and make it fast?"

-- Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule are pencilled into Quinn's top-nine forwards, and Robert Nilsson is still hanging around, so the Oilers remain too soft and too small up front. Not a six-footer in that group. There isn't enough grit in those expected to play top-nine minutes.

-- Between Lubomir Visnovsky's surgically-repaired shoulder, Tom Gilbert's bad back and Sheldon Souray's long list of past injuries, a defensive group that seems to be deep is a couple of bad breaks from leaning on Denis Grebeshkov, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick and Theo Peckham for too many top-four minutes. Does the thought of seeing Taylor Chorney force-fed playing time give you the willies? Me too.

THE OPTIMIST SAYS

-- Dustin Penner can't possibly be worse than he was last season under Craig MacTavish, who made him a whipping boy. While PDP brought some of that on himself, MacTavish went too far and showed him up. A new start under Quinn and Tom Renney could be exactly what Penner needs to pick up where he left off in Anaheim before hitting a wall under MacTavish. Might the Oilers already have the first-line LW they seek?

-- This team won't have the distraction of the dressing room splits that were whispered about much of last season. While some of that talk was nothing more than gossip and speculation, MacTavish lost the room with his inability to resist the temptation to make examples of certain players, particularly Penner. That, I can tell you first-hand, was a real problem.

-- The penalty-killing (ranked 27th) will be better under Quinn and Renney. I know, how could it be worse? Likewise, the power play, which was a middling 22nd, has the potential to move up 8-10 notches with a full season of O'Sullivan and if Penner gets more PP time, which he deserves.

-- No chance the Oilers replicate their feeble 18-17-6 home record at Rexall Place. That was 14th in the West, ahead of only Colorado.

-- Liam Reddox will not play on the first line at any point this season. Then again, neither will Rob Schremp.

Which side of the fence are you on? Let me know.

GRIFFITHS FIRED AT TEAM 1260

Bryn Griffiths, host of More On Sports at TEAM 1260, was let go by Astral Media at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Griffiths served as sports director under Marty Forbes when TEAM 1260 took to the airwaves some seven years ago and co-hosted More On Sports with Jake Daniels until Daniels was fired this spring. More later.

-- 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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#1 Chris
July 27 2009, 07:04PM
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Wow. Why the shake up at Team?

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#2 White Ninja
July 27 2009, 07:12PM
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Sucks. I liked Bryn. Does AJ take over the morning slot?

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#3 Jason
July 27 2009, 07:13PM
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With the team they have now the oil will still be on the outside looking in. Bryn gone now too maybe now we will actually talk sports in the morning.

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#4 jeanshorts
July 27 2009, 07:22PM
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when the Bulin Wall takes a header in the shower and dislocates his spine four games into the season.

God I hope Gene and the gang are in the dressing room for an Oilers PPV when that happens. I smell a youtube sensation!

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#5 oilitsinyoutogive
July 27 2009, 07:22PM
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well i guess one thing going for the oilers if there is no more changes, we have more or less the same team what was "going" to win the division last year. Yet i think we can still make the playoffs or at least contend if the team stays healthy on the back end and in net. that is however a pretty big IF. also it sucks about Griffiths

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#6 Dallas
July 27 2009, 07:25PM
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The Flameouts made a trade with the Leafs trading nothing for something they traded premeau for Anton Stralmon and Colin Wilson the Flameouts also gave up a second round pick I don't know about anyone else but they really seem to be doing quite an overhaul over there and are making us who really need one look pretty bad

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#7 oilersseasonticketholdersince99
July 27 2009, 07:25PM
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Robin what is happening here in Edmonton? When Mactavish was let go Tambalini was pretty clear as to what type of team he wanted,more compettion, grittier and more offense,well that was 2.5 months ago, how come I have the gut feeling that what we see is what we are going to get.As a fan of the team it gets very frustrating that there is no accountability from this organization.The Heatley fiasco would have been great if he wanted to come, but I also have a gut feeling he was one of the problems in the Ottawa dressing room.Maybe someone should send Lowe,katz and Tamballini a video of "the boys on the bus" maybe that will bring back memories of what it takes to build a winner.

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#8 Korruption
July 27 2009, 07:29PM
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Good luck Bryn, you will be missed. 1260 is losing some valuable assets, WTF? Stauffer left a crater when he left and Gregor has tried but is still half the host Bob was/is. Now what...

As for the Oil, I am in the wait and see mode. I refuse to believe that this is our opening night roster.

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#9 JeffG
July 27 2009, 07:34PM
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I lean to the getting into the playoffs side of the fence. Getting in at either 7 or 8 place. Not enough changes to get higher, but enough internal improvement to get them over the hump.

Bryn Griffiths...Thats too bad. I listened to him in the mornings. I wasn't sad when Jake was punted, but maybe it is the business side (and not the "Show" side) of his job that got Bryn punted.

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#10 David S
July 27 2009, 07:35PM
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Grebs' agent hinted at the fact that there were other deals in the works. I have to think something is going to pop. As far as grit goes, I'm willing to bet Sam Gagner brings alot more to camp this fall.

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#11 flyricky
July 27 2009, 07:37PM
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I have to give the boys a little credit for not going out like some of the folks in beverly and spending their welfare cheques in one night like some other teams did with Hossa, Komisarek, Gaborik,etc. On the otherhand I think there are some upgrades out there and some fine tuning to do before the season starts.

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#12 Godzilla
July 27 2009, 07:37PM
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I am usually overly optimistic about the Oil at the beginning of the season. I always see them winning the division. But not this year.

Tambo fixed none of our needs (faceoff circle, 3rd line center, muscle, PK, etc.). And the worst thing is that teams like the Kings and the Blues will be much better this year.

Hey, wait a minute! Maybe Tambo is outsmarting everybody and is aiming for Taylor Hall!!!

Worst offseason ever!

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#13 GJS
July 27 2009, 07:37PM
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Korruption wrote:

As for the Oil, I am in the wait and see mode. I refuse to believe that this is our opening night roster.

I totally agree. There is no way we start the season with this current roster. Let's go Tamby...

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#14 DanMan
July 27 2009, 07:38PM
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Great stuff, Robin.

You had me falling off the fence at Penner. I am 100% on the optimistic side of things.

The coaching change is huge. MacT's soft demeanor and lack of intesity showed through the tube, and imo was starting to fall on deaf ears. I've heard an analyst for the rights-holder blame this on having a young team. BS (that was an unintended pun)

A full year of the Big Vish could get us to the dance. We were above water for most of the season until he went down.

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#15 flyricky
July 27 2009, 07:38PM
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Jason wrote:

With the team they have now the oil will still be on the outside looking in. Bryn gone now too maybe now we will actually talk sports in the morning.

Is this Gregor talking?

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#16 White Ninja
July 27 2009, 07:40PM
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I think the addition of the West Edmonton Wall puts us exactly where we were last year. Goal tending wasn't the Oilers problem last year. Penalty killing, and having only one center who could win a faceoff were major problems. The rule change moving the faceoff after a penalty hurt the Oilers more than any other team las year IMO. I think PDP WILL be much improved this year. Quinn knows donairs are like spinach to this guy.

I heard Astral Media wanted a bigger, grittier morning show. They may get a flashy free agent but chances are they will sit tight and try to eke it out with the current roster. It is so HARD to make a trade in radio these days, but they are on the phone everyday.

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#17 Reagan
July 27 2009, 07:41PM
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Wow. No offence but AJ makes my skin crawl. Bryn gone, who else is left? Geesh, what are they doing over there? I sure hope AJ isn't there full time after this. I'll quit listening for sure in the mornings.

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#18 DanMan
July 27 2009, 07:43PM
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White Ninja wrote:

I think the addition of the West Edmonton Wall puts us exactly where we were last year.

The West Edmonton Wall hahahahaha. I really hope that sticks.

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#19 David S
July 27 2009, 07:47PM
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White Ninja wrote:

I heard Astral Media wanted a bigger, grittier morning show. They may get a flashy free agent but chances are they will sit tight and try to eke it out with the current roster. It is so HARD to make a trade in radio these days, but they are on the phone everyday.

Ahh-hahaha! Nice.

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#20 DanMan
July 27 2009, 07:51PM
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@ White Ninja:

The Oilers PK faceoff % was not the problem last year. The new rule affected everyone, and the PP wins more faceoffs than the PK league-wide, something like 55%-45%. The forwards on the PK were not even the major problem last year.

Grebbert were horrible at keeping guys away from the top of the crease and were often caught standing around and waving their sticks at the cross-ice passes. I'm not worried at all about forwards on the PK. It's not rocket science. You play the box, get into shooting lanes, and try to get your stick on the passes. Pisani is an elite PKer, and Horc and Moreau should be better this year. Brodz needs to be replaced, but imo a PK specialist is not needed, especially with our cap problems.

I'm much more concerned with what is happening in front of our net on the PK than at the points. It would be nice if one of our young guys could become Marty Reasoner, but not everyone has the balls to block shots with his face.

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#21 Harlie
July 27 2009, 08:01PM
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Great article and it had some fricken hilarious lines. Total downer on the Bryn ending though. I've never met the guy but he responded to an email I sent in there one time and he gave me an honest straight forward response. I didn't mind his easy going nature on the radio too. They better have paid his ass out with a nice severance. F'rs!

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#22 White Ninja
July 27 2009, 08:03PM
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@ DanMan: Thanks. I had no facts to back up PK faceoff %, just my impression from watching games. Makes sense since Horcoff probably took all of them. Except maybe one or two. When he uses his blue eye, he is money. His blue eye got him the contract. If only he had two blue eyes, then he would be the true number one every body wishes he could be. I miss the days when Ulanov and Jason Smith were one-two in the league for blocked shots. Lets bring Uly in as an assistant coach. He has my vote. West Edmonton Wall not mine. I cribbed it from a buddy. I hope it sticks too.

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#23 Steve
July 27 2009, 08:05PM
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Gregor's show is better than stauffer's. Much more variety and he gets way better guests. Too bad guys have to lose their jobs. Tough business. Good luck Bryn.

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#24 Smokin' Ray
July 27 2009, 08:05PM
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I'm on the making the playoffs side of the fence. I really believe that with a different voice, the players will then actually step up and go for it.

Do I think this team is good as is? No. But the Oilers don't look that terrible right now. Then again... I do drink the kool-aid. :)

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#25 DanMan
July 27 2009, 08:07PM
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White Ninja wrote:

@ DanMan: Makes sense since Horcoff probably took all of them. Except maybe one or two. When he uses his blue eye, he is money. His blue eye got him the contract. If only he had two blue eyes, then he would be the true number one every body wishes he could be. I miss the days when Ulanov and Jason Smith were one-two in the league for blocked shots. Lets bring Uly in as an assistant coach. He has my vote.

LMFAO. That's gold, White Ninja, GOLD!

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#26 rOILty
July 27 2009, 08:17PM
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I'm pretty sure Quinn was talking about Horcoff when he said that stuff about the center-man losing the puck. I remember thinking myself while the season was going on that Horcoff tried to do too much by carrying the play into the offensive zone and lost the puck along the boards countless times, sometimes multiple times on the same night.

As for the fence argument, I am at heart an optimist, however, I really do believe that we are not done yet this off season. Why would Tambi say he is going to make us bigger, tougher, and more skilled and then settle on an geezer with a gold plated goalie mask. (all age and money jokes aside, i am actually quite optimistic about bulin too!)

I will be utterly baffled if we do not make a somewhat significant trade sometime before training camp.

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#27 Dallas
July 27 2009, 08:25PM
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Sorry peeps that trade I posted about should say Colin Stuart much different player than Colin Wilson I might add too but I believe Anton stralmon is a solid prospect

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#28 team dean
July 27 2009, 08:38PM
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wow bryn is gone now, what the crap? i know him and a'j sounded like the 2 cranky old guys sitting in the balcony on the muppet show, but thats what happens with 2 like personalities. him and jake were entertaining together though. i sure hope the team has a plan because i am a loyal listener, but i'm begining to wonder for how much longer. gregor stepped right in for stauffer though, gregor may be the best interviewer in the buis. hopefully they got someone to step right in for the morning too.

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#29 HNoob
July 27 2009, 08:47PM
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Best comment in your blog post: "The penalty-killing (ranked 27th) will be better under Quinn and Renney. I know, how could it be worse?" Alas, there is hope! lol

Yeah worst off season ever! Tambi seemed to state his intentions of making changes ala grit, size, etc and has yet to follow through at all.

I would be more optimistic if next year had a deeper level of draft talent.

I half envision Tambi sitting in his office chair sipping on fine glass of single malt scotch listening to Que Sera Sera by sung Doris Day.

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#30 White Ninja
July 27 2009, 08:53PM
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@ team dean: The two old guys on the muppet show were my favorite characters. I've spent my entire adult life trying to live up to their image. I thought the morning show was coming around. I liked that they didn't see eye to eye all the time.

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#31 The Towel Boy
July 27 2009, 09:08PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

God I hope Gene and the gang are in the dressing room for an Oilers PPV when that happens. I smell a youtube sensation!

*clap-clap*

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#32 mAD~mOD
July 27 2009, 09:23PM
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Steve wrote:

Gregor’s show is better than stauffer’s. Much more variety and he gets way better guests. Too bad guys have to lose their jobs. Tough business. Good luck Bryn.

Your kidding right Gregor's show is amateur(3)hour next to Stauffer. With any luck he's the next to go.

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#33 Propeller
July 27 2009, 09:30PM
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Put me in the desperate camp that thinks we need/must add a big name free agent in order to make the playoffs and feel good about ourselves.

I think the obvious choice is Michael Vick. If MacT can rip the Flames-dog's tongue out...

too soon?

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#34 West Coast Oil
July 27 2009, 10:48PM
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Im thinking kids (including Stortini and the 4th liners) find another gear, Penner used properly, Grebs plays for a long term contract and the vets (Moreau and Horcoff) play for retribution. When the kids made the run in 08 no one talked about lack of size or grit as it was skill doing the talking! So yes we are play off bound! We have 2 coaches that compliment each others style so really what more could you ask for? For those of you who say the lack of a 3rd line center will be our undoing I say you are wrong! If the Oil fail miserably this year it will be due to a new unseen problem. Think about it we have never had the same thing bring us down twice. 06 Goaltending,07 poor defense pairings, 08 injury, face off/lack of effort/insane coach. So quit worrying about last year and wait and see what this year brings us!

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#35 OilerFanInCalgary
July 27 2009, 10:52PM
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I still think we're going to have a better year...Our youngsters are a year older and have another years experience. Remember too, with all the jabs at Gilbert and Grebs, they're young too and they're only getting better every year. I hated Penner last season but I honestly think he will have a fantastic year with a new coach and stuff. It's exactly what he needed in his career I think.

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#36 Ogden Brother
July 27 2009, 11:20PM
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This team better make the PO (and have a nice increase in points... and scoring from almost all forwards) or roughly 1,845,284 people are going to owe MacT an appology.

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#37 Robin Brownlee
July 27 2009, 11:28PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

This team better make the PO (and have a nice increase in points… and scoring from almost all forwards) or roughly 1,845,284 people are going to owe MacT an appology.

Not necessarily. Injuries could bite the team again as they did in 2006-07 and 2007-08, a record year for man-games lost. Another team (LA) could jump into the playoff picture after being a non-factor in recent years. I think MacT ran his course here and Quinn and Renney will provide a jump-start, but there are other factors that'll determine where this goes. Let's not forget, there's still over a month until training camp and Heatley might still be an Oiler . . .

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#38 SierraRacs
July 27 2009, 11:38PM
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I can see the press conference Tambo will give prior to training camp now, for better or or worse...

Tambo: "Well, in these tough economic times, it becomes harder to make deals that will benefit the team in the long run. We attempted to make a splash during the off season and I feel we did that by drafting some incredible young men that will be the future stars of the NHL."

Gregor: "What about Dany Heatley?"

Tambo: "That's a great question. We furthered our off season dealings by signing the 'bulinwall'... Nicoli Khabibulin. In signing a former Stanley Cup winning goalie we achieved two things. First, we can continue to show the rest of the league and it's players, that we no longer are a small market team, we can spend money like we never could before. Second, we achieved a major goal by getting a younger goalie, who is used to the pressure of playing in a smaller market, such as Winnipeg and Tampa Bay."

Brownlee: "What about acquiring bigger players with grit?"

Tambo: "Another great question! I know that when we look at our organization and we see the players that we felt only a year ago, could take us in to the playoffs, I still feel we have that right now. With players like Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid. Our forwards are stronger than ever! Andrew Cogliano gives this team speed up the middle that will make other teams d-men double-take and miss their assignments."

Gregor: "Doesn't Smid play defence?"

Tambo: "I know I can say this without reservation... when we have a double threat of Smid and Struwick who we can put anywhere, and I mean anywhere on the ice, it's going to give the opposing team coaches fits when they try to match our juggernaut lines. They will have no idea if two of our players are forwards or defenders."

Tencer: "I really like what I see and I know that this is a team with the potential to really make some moves and finish better than 11th in the west. Would you agree with that?"

Tambo: "Absolutely, I think we addressed that by adding Pat Quinn. With him we were able to add even more grit to the team. And to address some concerns about how as an organization we seem unable to sign free agents to long term contracts that are reasonable... Not only were we able to sign one great coach, but we were able to sign two great coaches. That's right TWO! If the players thought they were going to get off easy with only one coach, just you wait until they have two coaches they have to work with. I think that will solve any rumoured or potential splits in the locker room.

That's all the time I have for today. Thank you."

Gregor and Brownlee are left trying to figure out this mess and Tencer has his blackberry out and tweets about his hard hitting question.

... That's my for better or worse. I think it's going to be a loooooooooonnng season.

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#39 Ogden Brother
July 27 2009, 11:40PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: This team better make the PO (and have a nice increase in points… and scoring from almost all forwards) or roughly 1,845,284 people are going to owe MacT an appology. Not necessarily. Injuries could bite the team again as they did in 2006-07 and 2007-08, a record year for man-games lost. Another team (LA) could jump into the playoff picture after being a non-factor in recent years. I think MacT ran his course here and Quinn and Renney will provide a jump-start, but there are other factors that’ll determine where this goes. Let’s not forget, there’s still over a month until training camp and Heatley might still be an Oiler . . .

I agree it was time for a change behind the bench, and ya obviously injuries and such could be a legit reason for another sub-par finish... however baring injury's you'll have alot of fans with egg on their face if this team has another weak year.

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#40 Wanye Gretz
July 27 2009, 11:59PM
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SierraRacs wrote:

That’s my for better or worse. I think it’s going to be a loooooooooonnng season.

Ugh.

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#41 SierraRacs
July 28 2009, 12:07AM
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@ Wanye Gretz:

Sorry man.

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#42 Wanye Gretz
July 28 2009, 12:11AM
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@ SierraRacs:

That was actually a kick ass comment you laid down. It was just a hair depressing. But that's not your fault. I don't know whose fault it is, but when I find out....

WHAMMY

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#43 James
July 28 2009, 12:13AM
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san joes and dteroit suck. the oilers ate gonna be firts place

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#44 SierraRacs
July 28 2009, 12:21AM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

WHAMMY

Why am I having 'Press Your Luck' flashbacks. Hmmm... sounds like the Oilers. Big bucks, no whammies.

OH... That was just horrible. I truly am sorry and I will go back into stealth mode.

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#45 Darren
July 28 2009, 12:32AM
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I can't believe the Team 1260 fired both of them - good guys, too! I loved listening to them in the morning... and used to be a loyal listener. I'll be honest; I don't know WTF they're thinking!

As for the Oilers, who is rated in the top 5 or 10 for next years draft?? It's gonna be a rough one.

You know, as funny as this sounds I think maybe Tambo is doing the right thing. He's not going crazy trying to fix this quickly. Maybe he is doing a good job assessing our team honestly (not through a fan's eyes) and seeing we are a LONG way off from making any serious noise. Like Chicago did, St. Louis, etc... I think it's time to just accept the situation our team is in currently and build through the draft. That's the first thing John Davidson did when he took over St. Louis after years (and years) of mediocrity, and built accordingly. They're finally building a young exciting team there. That's the only way we're building a powerhouse. There is no calvary coming immediately through free agency, even trades now. I say don't mortgage the future and get some really good pieces to build around.

Personally, I'd get rid of a couple veterans and make room for a couple more kids, to help with their development when we're ready to make some noise down the road.

(Ready for the shit storm to begin after posting this!;)

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#46 Hemmertime
July 28 2009, 12:48AM
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Heatley = playoffs. Without Heatley I say 30-40% chance. Once we beat the odds and make the playoffs we taking it all the way home and bringing back the Cup.

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#47 Wace
July 28 2009, 01:45AM
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The Edmonton Oilers right now will NOT make the playoffs. They have a bunch of third line players who can't score and overpaid (horcoff), Thanks 2 Big kevin Lowe. Brian Burke said it best when he said Lowe was gonna run this team into the GROUND.. The Oil, Colorado and the Stars will be drafting first.

Why has it been when Oilers trade a player away they trade a good used 1/2ton. Then usually they get an old Diesel that can't run. Or is it Mac T was that bad of a coach!?!

I am a huge Oil fan but when u see players from edmonton Alberta going 2 Calgary cause its not FUN 2 play here, and a player from Calgary who won't waive his NTC 2 come here that really makes me MAD!!

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#48 On the fence: for better or worse?
July 28 2009, 06:14AM
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[...] to be the overriding sentiment around here during these hockey dog days of summer.Still, there’s click for more var _wh = ((document.location.protocol=='https:') ? "https://sec1.woopra.com" : [...]

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#49 MattN
July 28 2009, 06:51AM
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@ RB

"MacTavish lost the room with his inability to resist the temptation to make examples of certain players, particularly Penner. That, I can tell you first-hand, was a real problem."

Care to elaborate on the first hand information?

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#50 Robin Brownlee
July 28 2009, 07:23AM
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MattN wrote:

@ RB “MacTavish lost the room with his inability to resist the temptation to make examples of certain players, particularly Penner. That, I can tell you first-hand, was a real problem.” Care to elaborate on the first hand information?

The players didn't appreciate MacTavish benching, sitting and publicly chastising Penner. The part many found most offensive was the reference MacTavish made to Penner's contract. That's off-limits.

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