Gloomy Gus: the bad old times

Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009 03:40PM

craptacular-hockey2

The Era of Ineptitude that was 1992-93 to 1995-96 for the Edmonton Oilers was supposed to be a low point never to be duplicated, but the 2009-10 edition of the Copper and Blue is poised to earn its share of infamy.

If head coach Pat Quinn and associate Tom Renney can't coax the Oilers into the playoffs this season -- and you can make a reasonable argument they won't -- it'll mark four straight years out of the post-season, tying the franchise mark for futility set by the 1992-96 teams.

You remember the bad old days, right?

Four straight seasons in which the Oilers managed 30 wins just once. Four seasons with 12,000 people in the building a lot of nights. Four seasons of watching coaches Ted Green, Glen Sather, George Burnett (for about 15 minutes) and Ron Low age before your eyes as stalwarts like Geoff Smith, Ian Herbers and Len Esau took a twirl. Paper Bag City, baby.

No way that could happen again, right?

Encore?

Now, I'm not about to suggest the 2009-10 edition of the team is going to be anywhere near as bad as the group of misfits and stiffs that marked the 1990s, but four years out is four years out and the team that'll take the ice to start this season is at three and counting.

Having duly documented the lean years -- I remember doing report cards on each player for The Journal, a task that made me immensely popular when "D" represented head of the class -- it was a humbling time for an organization that had won five Stanley Cups in its first 11 NHL seasons.

How bad was it? Well, Peter Klima led the Oilers in scoring in 1992-93 with 48 points, a season in which the team played 84 games and won 26. It was 25 wins in 1993-94, 17 wins in the 48-game season of 1994-95 and 30 wins in 1995-96.

If that didn't make fans mental enough, you could sing and clap along, or maybe just yank out tufts of your own hair, to Cotton Eye Joe just after Bill Ranford fished another puck out of the net.

No, this team, even if it misses, won't be that bad. But it goes without saying that being less lousy will be cold consolation to fans if Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Company can't get it done.

Naming names

For the record, nine players played on all four non-playoff teams from 1992-96. Doug Weight, Zdeno Ciger, Kelly Buchberger, Igor Kravchuk, Louie DeBrusk, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson, David Oliver and Ranford had the honour.

If this edition misses, 11 players -- Hemsky, Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Steve Staios, Marc Pouliot, Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert, Zack Stortini, Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson and J.F. Jacques -- stand to make it four straight.

Like I said, there's no chance this group will be as bad as the stumblebums that previously stained the ice. The Oilers are coming off a 38-win season and 85 points after years of 41 and 32 wins. No comparison.

Likewise, the building is full, Cotton Eye Joe, like Esau, has long been retired, and Daryl Katz actually has enough money to ensure the Oilers are on solid financial ground, which was hardly the case at a time when Peter Pocklington's financial house of cards was collapsing.

But, while these might not be the bad old times, four straight years out of the playoffs is four straight years.

It'll take some doing to avoid it.

-- 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 Curious
August 10 2009, 03:51PM
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Now that dam song is in my head...thanks Brownlee.

I never thought of the current Oilers this way. But you are right 3 years out is 3 years out no matter how you slice it. I think there is more parity now in the league but 4 years is unacceptable.

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#2 Librarian Mike
August 10 2009, 03:51PM
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That team was so bad, Shayne Corson was thought of as a reasonable choice for captain. Ugh.

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#3 ronaldo
August 10 2009, 04:03PM
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~Well, at least we came out of both slumps full of high-end elite talent stock piled through the draft.~

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#4 Word
August 10 2009, 04:03PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

That team was so bad, Shayne Corson was thought of as a reasonable choice for captain. Ugh.

I have an autographed Shayne Corson game stick from that era. I use it to fish the basketball out from behind the backboard when it's stuck on my garage...

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#5 Souby
August 10 2009, 04:11PM
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But, while these might not be the bad old times, four straight years out of the playoffs is four straight years.

Read more: http://www.oilersnation.com/2009/08/gloomy-gus-the-bad-old-times/#ixzz0Nos472R2

That is the long and short of it. Can this squad come together and make a push for the playoffs? Only time will tell.

There are a number of factors that will help determine their fate.

1. The Oil need their young guys to step up and contribute. Guys like Gagner, Cogs, Nilsson need to show that they can contribute some offense.

2. Is Visnovsky 100%? It was a huge blow to lose a player of his caliber to injury. With him back the Oil have a top notch puck mover, and a power play D-man that can change a game. Plus, when he makes a mistake, he has the wheels to get back and break up the play.

3. Are Habibulin's best days behind him? It can be argued that is the case, but he is a solid veteran with cup experience. He is younger than Roloson and I feel offers us the same skill set and price tag isn't terrible for a number #1 goalie.

4. Is Penner going to live up to the contract? Will he come to camp in shape? Can Quinn and Renney light a fire under his ass? Like the young guys listed above, he needs to show he can be a consistent contributor.

5. Can we expect better efforts on the PP and PK? I still think we need a solid 3rd line center to play between Pisani and Moreau. Someone who can win key draws, especially in the defensive zone, and a guy that can take the body and kill penalties. Malholtra? Betts? Bonk? Who knows. As for the PP, we just don't have a sniper that can finish with the man advantage....other than Souray.

The list could go on, but these are some of the areas I feel are most important.

Thoughts?

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#6 danjo1
August 10 2009, 04:17PM
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Robin: They can't be that bad. I would live with 4 years of no playoffs if there was improvement this year though.

Wanye: your mspaint skillz are crazy!! I can barely tell that picture is doctored (no need for that text tool)... now to put my glasses on and appreciate it in it's full glory...

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#7 cableguy
August 10 2009, 04:20PM
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Souby wrote:

There are a number of factors that will help determine their fate.

when there is a list of "what ifs" that long, the team is in some trouble.

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#8 Wanye Gretz
August 10 2009, 04:22PM
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You call those the bad old days? Those were some of the finest displays of Oilers hockey of all time! Truthfully, those are the years when a young Wanye got involved in following this hockey squadron. When the Oil finally made it back to the playoffs, I dang near wet myself with glee. It seemed like AGES since they had made it last.

It's sad to think there are kids out there who don't recall the '06 run to any great degree.

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#9 Wanye Gretz
August 10 2009, 04:23PM
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danjo1 wrote:

Wanye: your mspaint skillz are crazy!! I can barely tell that picture is doctored (no need for that text tool)… now to put my glasses on and appreciate it in it’s full glory

Sadly that isn't me. That is bingofuel paying homage to my skillery.

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#10 oilitsinyoutogive
August 10 2009, 04:23PM
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lets look on the bright side, less wins = more tix in my pocket. Sad part is thats the bright side...

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#11 cableguy
August 10 2009, 04:25PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

It’s sad to think there are kids out there who don’t recall the ‘06 run to any great degree.

there is a fairly substantial group of 12-90 year olds that were far to drunk to remember that run to any degree as well

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#12 DonDon
August 10 2009, 04:25PM
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we can only hope that this will not be another brutal hockey season and the fourth consecutive of missing the playoffs. This is Steve Tambellini's team as he is directly responsible for choosing the coaches and goaltender and, contrary to his assertions at the press conference announcing Craig MacTavish's firing, has not dealt with getting the 2009-2010 edition of the Oil bigger, grittier and tougher to play against. Instead, it appears he will have a stand-pat array of forwards (minus Kotalik); not too many of them NHL calibre players.

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#13 Souby
August 10 2009, 04:27PM
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cableguy wrote:

Souby wrote: There are a number of factors that will help determine their fate. when there is a list of “what ifs” that long, the team is in some trouble.

True. I didn't want to add the fact that they may need to make a trade or two in order to address other areas like shedding a contract or two and getting more cap room. I thought five points was enough, but I could go on.......

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#14 oilitsinyoutogive
August 10 2009, 04:27PM
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cableguy wrote:

Wanye Gretz wrote: It’s sad to think there are kids out there who don’t recall the ‘06 run to any great degree. there is a fairly substantial group of 12-90 year olds that were far to drunk to remember that run to any degree as well

im in my 20s, and i remember the hang overs the next day more then the games...

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#15 Wanye Gretz
August 10 2009, 04:28PM
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cableguy wrote:

there is a fairly substantial group of 12-90 year olds that were far to drunk to remember that run to any degree as well

No doubt. My personal game day ritual was to crush 15 BLs, before and during the game. But I convinced myself they had to be done before the game was over, lest I break with ritual and the Oil lose.

They were giving out hats with a case of BL that year. I believe I had 20 of them.

*Wanye's liver nods in agreement from it's death bed*

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#16 LowOnOil
August 10 2009, 04:34PM
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Somehow, with you taking the time reminisce over the past misery, you've actually managed to brighten my day.

To my recollection, Lowetide seems to believe that creme Brule/Poiliot on 3C is not the hill that Tambi's willing to die on. I hope this is the case and that we pick up something on Soube's list.

Hope springs eternal and without some roster change in the off season, this cliche is becoming less convincing.

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#17 jt in Oilertown
August 10 2009, 04:36PM
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The summaries may have said 12,000 in the seats, but it was more like 8,000 on most nights. It was great to finally be able to afford tickets, only to watch that abortion on the ice.

Ah, Cotton Eyed Joe...he was one section over from us, and never failed to creep me out.

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#18 David S
August 10 2009, 04:50PM
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Souby wrote:

Is Visnovsky 100%?

Jonathan had a great post over on his site, a translated interview where Visnovsky said he felt he was at about 80% right now. The biggest problem is mobility and fear of re-injury. Like we saw with Horcoff, these things take a while to get ironed out. Still, a Viz at 80% beats no Viz hands down. I still believe his going down last year was the end of our playoff chances. Maybe with him back in the lineup, new coaches and a maturing group of young guys we might have a chance.

Maybe.

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#19 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 05:13PM
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ronaldo wrote:

~Well, at least we came out of both slumps full of high-end elite talent stock piled through the draft.~

Actually, the Oilers came out of the four-year stagger with two good picks in the first rounds -- Boyd Devereaux and Mathieu Descouteaux in 96, Steve Kelly in 95, Jason Bonsignore and Ryan Smyth in 94 and Jason Arnott and Nick Stajduhar in 1993.

Wanye Gretz wrote:

No doubt. My personal game day ritual was to crush 15 BLs,

I think I had you thrown out for puking on my shoes during a game against Vancouver in 1994.

jt in Oilertown wrote:

Ah, Cotton Eyed Joe…he was one section over from us, and never failed to creep me out.

It was like catnip for dorks. The Oilers would be getting filled in by (insert-name-of-team-here), they'd crank up CEJ and everybody would start stomping and clamping like like it wasn't 5-1.

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#20 Prop Jay
August 10 2009, 05:20PM
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Cotton Eyed Joe, The guy who used to dance up and down the stairs?

Robin I can't even believe you brought that guy up. That's it. We're not talking for a week.

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#21 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 05:26PM
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@ Prop Jay: Am I a twist, or was I the only one hoping for a slip-and-fall and maybe a spiral fracture of the tibia when that duffus would start prancing up and down the stairs and wagging his arms like a hillbilly all jacked up on the eve of his marriage to his perty cousin Becky?

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#22 Librarian Mike
August 10 2009, 06:04PM
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You know why Doug Weight is my favorite Oiler, all time? It's because he stuck it out for those 4 years, put up 104 points with no support in 1996, and still has nothing but good things to say about this town.

I was sad that Carolina won the cup in '06, but the silver lining was that Weight got to lift the cup.

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#23 DSG
August 10 2009, 06:08PM
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Ok... since the topic was brought up. Someone seriously has to do something about the person in charge of the music at Rexall. If anyone has some pull lets get someone else in charge of the lineup. The choice of music is horrible. I live in Toronto and heck the Air Canada Center music is 10 times better than what I hear at Rexall. They actually play something to get the crowd going... At Rexall their idea of a song to pump the fans up is a power ballad from nickelback... And while those songs have their place, the height of the action is not the time to hear Hero.

BTW - Cotton Eyed Joe is not an acceptable song anymore.

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#24 Prop Jay
August 10 2009, 06:13PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Nope, you were not alone. A bail would of been the bee's knees.

In a way though I wish he would start it up again. Bring back some of that early 90's analog fun. I always wondered why the oil got involved with that guy and let him do his shtick every game. I mean through their encouragement and the fact they gave him a slotted amount of time, if he would have fallen it would of had lawsuit written all over it.

If only it were still possible....

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#25 Librarian Mike
August 10 2009, 06:15PM
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@ DSG:

Okay, I've got an idea. It's the third period, and the Oilers and Flames are tied 3-3. Oilers get a powerplay, and what music do you play? I vote for 'Angel of Death' by Slayer. When the lead singer lets out that blood-curdling scream about 10 seconds in, I guarantee the Flames will pee their pants in fear. Slayer rules.

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#26 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 06:28PM
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LowOnOil wrote:

To my recollection, Lowetide seems to believe that creme Brule/Poiliot on 3C is not the hill that Tambi’s willing to die on. I hope this is the case and that we pick up something on Soube’s list.

David Steckel. Just saying . . .

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#27 Puckbag
August 10 2009, 06:34PM
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@ Librarian Mike:

Slayer??? C'mon, lets be a bit realistic. At a pivotal time like that in a game calls for some Miley Cyrus or Jonas Bros.

~Signed the current employee playing the tunes at Rexall~

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#28 Harlie
August 10 2009, 08:10PM
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those painful lean years is what me got me turned off of paying attention to the Oilers and the NHL in general back then. My mind turned to chasing women and partyin' about that time. It was after I settled down from the skirt chasin and the binge drinkin that I got back into following the game, I was born in 74' so the glory years for the Oil were a part of my growing up. It's glad to be back on the wagon and now that I've got 2 sons I am looking forward to following hockey for the rest of my life. If the Team sucks this year I will still follow them but unless they win the cup I will think back to 09' for other reasons...Great read as always RB.

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#29 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 08:21PM
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@ Harlie: No chance the Oilers "suck" this year, even if the roster stays the same as it is now. Sucking would be the teams of the 1990s. I think this team as it stands has a chance to be marginally better than last season's team, and not just because of Quinn and Renney. That said, marginal improvement might not be enough and I'm not comfortable with the inability to land a bonafide third-line center who can PK, etc. These aren't the dogs Ron Low had to try to whip to the finish line, but I'm not sold on a playoff spot as things stand today. But more on that in coming days and weeks . . .

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#30 David S
August 10 2009, 09:07PM
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DSG wrote:

Someone seriously has to do something about the person in charge of the music at Rexall.

Couldn't agree with you more. Its bad. I mean epic bad. And Mark Scholtz (sp?) beaking off after every whistle just compounds a bad situation. I could put up with it if we had some sweet, sweet ice girls. Problem is, its so effin' cold in RX1 that they'd have to wear parkas at ice level. However, maybe they could do ice girls in the stands...hmmm...doing ice girls in the stands...

Huh? What?

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#31 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 10:48PM
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Apparently, THN is feeling like Gloomy Gus as well -- they've picked the Oilers to finish 11th. I'll have an item posted on this shortly.

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#32 trying to be a fan
August 10 2009, 10:50PM
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What is the point Robin? You keep getting the same hate the Oilers responses from the same bunch of negative fans every time I log on and read one of your stories.

I am amazed by the negativity of the so called fans but more amazed by the fact that you just keep playing into it, inciting even more criticism even before the team loses 1 game.

Ever here about or have a boss that was never happy no matter what you did? How about one that continually told you that you weren't good enough? Remember or imagine how that would have motivated you? Right, you probably quit...so let's hope the players don't do the same.

There has to be a story out there that real Oiler fans might want to read. Maybe one that makes the players feel welcome and excited about the upcoming season. We have some great young players who deserve better than a constant diet of negativity and 20/20 hindsight.

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#33 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 10:56PM
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@ trying to be a fan I'm writing a nine-part "Don't Worry Be Happy" series later this month and it'll be full of great quotes from players . . . "It was a long summer and I can't wait for the season" and "We're a better team than we showed last season and we're going to prove it" and it'll have Pat Quinn stuff, too: "I can handle young players and I'm looking forward to the challenge." It'll be facking riveting. I promise.

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#34 trying to be a fan
August 10 2009, 11:07PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ trying to be a fan I’m writing a nine-part “Don’t Worry Be Happy” series later this month and it’ll be full of great quotes from players . . . “It was a long summer and I can’t wait for the season” and “We’re a better team than we showed last season and we’re going to prove it” and it’ll have Pat Quinn stuff, too: “I can handle young players and I’m looking forward to the challenge.” It’ll be facking riveting. I promise.

Brilliant response Robin - your sarcasm just proves my point.

Maybe if the sports critics/ writers didn't revel in negative stories the players might give you some better quotes and insights.

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#35 Robin Brownlee
August 10 2009, 11:14PM
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@ trying to be a fan: Actually, it doesn't prove your point but if you feel better sulking then have at it.

The problem now is players are out of town and Steve Tambellini and the coaches are laying pretty low, so there's not a lot new to say and much of what's being talked about has a negative tone because Tambellini hasn't been able to get much done at this point.

When the players start filtering into town we'll be able to get their perspectives and much of it will be the kind of thing I had some fun with in my last comment. But, hey, at least it won't be NEGATIVE.

And before you get carried away, you night note my newest post about THN picking the Oilers 11th. It hardly represents me piling on the team and slagging them before camp even opens. Quite the opposite.

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#36 cableguy
August 11 2009, 07:28AM
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trying to be a fan wrote:

I am amazed by the negativity of the so called fans but more amazed by the fact that you just keep playing into it, inciting even more criticism even before the team loses 1 game

3 straight years out of the playoffs and little being done over the summer is pointing everything towards a 4th year out of the playoffs.

but, you can sip your happy fan kool-aid as much as you want.

being a "fan" doesnt mean you cant be negative towards the team or the players

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#37 Wanye Gretz
August 11 2009, 11:38AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Sadly though the dancer doesn't bust a move anymore the person in charge of the music at RX1 still considers Cotton Eyed Joe to be worthy of remaining in rotation.

It blows my mind the crappiness of the playlist at Rexall.

In dark times like these it might serve to dull the pain for the thousands in attendance.

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#38 Wanye Gretz
August 11 2009, 11:41AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

And before you get carried away, you night note my newest post about THN picking the Oilers 11th. It hardly represents me piling on the team and slagging them before camp even opens. Quite the opposite.

I really need to read all the comments before I throw out one of my own.

@ trying to be a fan:

If you want to read positive tripe you can bounce over to one of a handful of mainstream sites that will be pleased to force "Stortini looking fantastic in summer windsprint training" or some such nonsense.

I for one prefer an objective take on the team, even if the outlook for the patient isn't the most positive thing I have ever seen.

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#39 Travis Dakin
August 11 2009, 01:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

The problem now is players are out of town and Steve Tambellini and the coaches are laying pretty low, so there’s not a lot new to say and much of what’s being talked about has a negative tone because Tambellini hasn’t been able to get much done at this point.

Speaking of that, where are all the players? Are they all down in LA again doing their training? and if so who is down there? Are any of them training together? Where is PDP? I want to know these guys are working their asses off. It would comfort me.

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#40 Robin Brownlee
August 11 2009, 06:32PM
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@ Travis Dakin: They were never "all" down in LA in any off-season. Not sure where everybody is as of today, mainly because I'm not the beatman at the dailies any more so I don't have to know. I haven't read much from Ireland or Tychkowski, and it's their job to keep tabs. I'll start picking off guys next week when they arrive in town for skating camps etc.

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#41 Travis Dakin
August 11 2009, 09:58PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

They were never “all” down in LA in any off-season.

HA thanks for ripping me on the exaggeration and thanks for answering. I'm hoping Hemsky comes to camp with an extra 6 or seven pounds of muscle "In the best shape of his life" like Smid and Pisani did last year.

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#42 Robin Brownlee
August 12 2009, 12:06AM
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@ Travis Dakin: No rip intended. The number of players working out in LA has fluctuated greatly from year to year. Sometimes it's as many as 8-10, other summers it 4-6. Some with Chad Moreau, others on their own. Plus, with the change in personnel, some of the guys who used to go down regularly -- Stoll and Torres, for example -- aren't even Oilers any more.

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