UPDATED: It's lonely at the bottom

Jason Gregor
January 25 2010 09:19AM

“It is possible to fail in many ways... while to succeed is possible only in one way.”

The legendary Greek philosopher, Aristotle, uttered these words well before hockey was played, but today they seem fitting in Oilerville.

A few months ago many felt the Dive for Five was the only way the Oilers could begin the long trek back to the top of the NHL standings. But not even the most optimistic Oiler fan felt the Copper and Blue could give themselves a 48.1% chance to get the first overall pick in 2010.

Well all of you doubting Thomases, this morning the Oilers sit in 30th place and they are 32 games away from having the best chance of being the first team to step up to the microphone on June 25th in Los Angeles.

Before you get too excited let’s look at the hurdles they face between before June.

They can’t keep losing every game. It just won’t happen, especially when you consider that their last two games have been two of their best in the past month. Losing streaks normally come to an end when a team loses a few games that they deserved to win.

Toronto is only six points behind the Oilers, and the Oilers have three games in hand on the centre of the universe. Only Chicago has a longer Stanley Cup drought than the Leafs’ 42-year stretch, so very few teams are better at being losers than the Leafs.

The Oilers have only gained three points on the Leafs in the past ten games, and they didn’t even win a game. How bad will the Oilers have to be if they want to fend of the hard-diving Leafs?

Carolina is playing better, but Jim Rutherford is an expert at overseeing his team fluctuate from contender to pretender season-to-season, so the Oilers can’t underestimate the Canes’ ability to lose games.

The good news for the Oilers is that 17 of the Leafs’ final 29 games are at home. They are 9-10-5 at home, compared to their horrendous 8-16-5 road record. The Oilers have 18 road games remaining and with only seven wins in 21 road games the THIRST for FIRST is realistic.

Gagner improving

Sam Gagner might derail the train to #1 if he keeps playing like he has in the past ten games. He has four goals and nine points in the last ten games and it looks like he’s found his offensive game again.

Gagner had ten points in the first ten games this season, but only had eleven in the next 30 before getting hot again. Ideally for Oiler fans Gagner will keep playing well and gain more confidence, but the Oilers will keep losing.

The Oilers will need more than the first overall pick to turn their fortunes around, so young players like Gagner, Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano need to keep improving if fans expect to see the playoffs before 2015.

Who would you keep?

With Mike Comrie set to return to the lineup this week I wonder who the Oilers will bring back next season out of Robert Nilsson, Patrick O’Sullivan or Comrie.

If you could only bring one player back who would you keep?

O’Sullivan at $2.9 million, Nilsson at $2 million or Comrie at $1.5 million?

Souray gives his list

Sheldon Souray has given the Oilers a list of teams he’d be willing to go to. I will say this about the situation. I spoke with Souray about the family angle and moving closer to his kids. He said that Edmonton was great because his children get to see their grandma, aunts and cousins when they come to Edmonton and no other city can match that.

He said he understand the situation and would be happy to stay in Edmonton, but also that a move could make sense for both sides. I think this is more of a hockey decision than a family one for Souray. His kids live in Las Vegas, and yes LA and San Jose are closer, but there is no extended family there.

Souray is not a dumb guy. He sees the landscape of this team, and considering he has a no movement clause until July 2nd (remember last year we learned that July 1st isn’t the actual day) why wouldn’t he submit a list?

I still say the Kings are the front runner and I know they are on the list. San Jose and Anaheim would be some other obvious destinations. And don’t rule out an Eastern based team. When you consider that you have to be at the airport two hours earlier, then clear customs for his kids to come to Canada, would the entire trip be much longer if they had to fly out east to see him? Probably very close.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Bucknuck
January 25 2010, 09:38AM
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I figure you could lose O'sully and Nilsson and the heart of this team wouldn't miss a beat.

I think Comrie could teach Gagner and Brule a few tricks... keep him.

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#2 The Towel Boy
January 25 2010, 09:38AM
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Right now...I'd keep Nilsson. But he has such a habit of making me think he's "turned the corner"...I just don't know.

Quit playing with my emotions Rowbert!

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#3 Jonathan Willis
January 25 2010, 09:40AM
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It depends what the market is for the three of them, but given that the Oilers probably want to break in Omark and Eberle, plus they already have Gagner and Cogliano, I'd suggest moving all three of O'Sullivan, Comrie and Nilsson.

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#4 Dyckster
January 25 2010, 09:42AM
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"If you could only bring one player back who would you keep? O’Sullivan at $2.9 million, Nilsson at $2 million or Comrie at $1.5 million?"

That's a tough one for a Monday morning. Haven't seen enough of Comrie (version 2.0) to judge, but the play of POS and RN has been up and down more than a hooker's skirt. If I had to decide right this instant....I think I take Patty, has shown some grit of late, he likes to shoot from all over the ice (a MUCH lesser version of a guy in Washington who's pretty good). A lot of Oiler fans have been wishing for a guy like that. I'm banking on him being a late bloomer.

JG when do we get the answer to the ethics thingy you posed 10 days ago or so? We're all dying out here!

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#5 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 25 2010, 09:45AM
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I'd lose all three, the team needs roughly 50% turnover between now and next Sept to be a PO contender IMO.

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#6 BBOil
January 25 2010, 09:48AM
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Comrie. Price is right for a veteran presence we are going to need, especially for an offensive veteran presence.

Although Nilsson and Sully may not be at the top of many teams wish list, their age and potential to provide secondary scoring may at least get us a decent return.

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#7 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 25 2010, 09:49AM
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I really like POS potential and his quick release. He just seems like he has that potential to be a 30 goal scorer. But his 2.9mil is a tough contract to swallow.

Don't want Nilsson back as he is too up and down and really doesn't bring that much to a healthy club.

I'd like to see what Comrie does when he comes back, but he is another injury prone player. I'm thinking we need to stay away from guys like him, although if he could be had for the same amount as this year then keep him.

O'Sullivan is my pick if it has to be one.

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#8 Next Year Country
January 25 2010, 09:49AM
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Jason, where do you get these pictures? Too funny.

I would keep Nillson. I think he more upside if he can be consistent and play with the grit he has displayed recently.

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#9 Ender
January 25 2010, 09:50AM
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Despite the fact that Comrie signed at $1.5M this year, that was supposed to be a one-time sweetheart deal to get a fresh chance. You could argue that he hasn't done much to solidify his chances, but I can't see Mikey signing that deal over again. Mono or no, he'll want more to stay again next season.

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#10 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 25 2010, 09:54AM
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Ender wrote:

Despite the fact that Comrie signed at $1.5M this year, that was supposed to be a one-time sweetheart deal to get a fresh chance. You could argue that he hasn't done much to solidify his chances, but I can't see Mikey signing that deal over again. Mono or no, he'll want more to stay again next season.

Who's going to give it to him, no one wanted him last year so why would they this off-season?

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#11 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 25 2010, 09:57AM
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Note on Nilsson: I think most would agree we've seen "the good Nilsson" since he's been back from his concusion and "by eye" he's certainly looked flashy the last 6 weeks or so.

That said, in the past 25 games, he still only has 13 points and he's 25 now so he's not even young.

Hopefully his highlight reel moves and flashes of talent will be enough to get a GM to pony up a 2nd rounder or a middling prospect for him.

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#12 LBH
January 25 2010, 10:00AM
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Lose all 3, we need some turnover, and I'd rather keep Cogliano than any of those 3, so to keep Cogliano and give him more of an offensive role, all 3 should go.

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#13 Westcoastoil
January 25 2010, 10:02AM
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Lose all 3. Gagne, Cogliano, Hemsky + Eberle coming down the pipe (with Omark a maybe) is as small as you want to be up front.

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#14 Rusty Duggan
January 25 2010, 10:09AM
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I'm pretty sure that's one of Gregor's pics from Costa Rica no?

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#15 Zamboni Driver
January 25 2010, 10:12AM
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Lose 'em all, thank god we have even more smurfs we have to try out!

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#16 Jmask5
January 25 2010, 10:13AM
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Nilsson for sure. I would like to see an all Swedish line of MPS Omark AND Nilsson. Although I guess there would be no center on that line.

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#17 Oilman
January 25 2010, 10:17AM
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That's not Gregor - there's hair in that picture.

And, I believe this is also one of the ways you can contract Hepatitis while vacationing in tropical areas....Contaminated Ice Cubes, Licking Urinals, .....

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#18 Ender
January 25 2010, 10:24AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Who's going to give it to him, no one wanted him last year so why would they this off-season?

Last season, he scored 7 points in 22 games with Ottawa and that hurt his value a lot. Even then, he took until September 10 when all other options were extinguished before rolling the dice on the Oilers. I'm not saying he absolutely wouldn't come back here next season for $1.5M, but I doubt he'd do it on an extension; he's already, even playing several games with mono, done much better point-wise than last year so I'm guessing he'd want to test free agency again with these improved point totals before commiting to another 'sweetheart deal'. Maybe September 10, 2010 sees another $1.5M 1-yr deal, but I doubt it.

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#19 Racki
January 25 2010, 10:25AM
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I'd take Comrie at $1.5M. He was playing well until he got the kissing disease. If he can stay healthy, I think he'll have a bigger, consistant impact than either of Nilsson or O'Sullivan. Yes, he's older, but we still need some veteran presence here. Plus he was one of few guys who looked like an NHLer before he went down.

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#20 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 25 2010, 10:27AM
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Ender wrote:

Last season, he scored 7 points in 22 games with Ottawa and that hurt his value a lot. Even then, he took until September 10 when all other options were extinguished before rolling the dice on the Oilers. I'm not saying he absolutely wouldn't come back here next season for $1.5M, but I doubt he'd do it on an extension; he's already, even playing several games with mono, done much better point-wise than last year so I'm guessing he'd want to test free agency again with these improved point totals before commiting to another 'sweetheart deal'. Maybe September 10, 2010 sees another $1.5M 1-yr deal, but I doubt it.

Assuming another flat cap, their will be even less $$'s available this summer then thier was last summer.

Comrie might luck out, but their will be a pile of guys just like him on the outside looking in.

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#22 Kevin
January 25 2010, 10:34AM
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To many smurfs as it is. Move them all if you can for bigger bodies.

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#23 Phil
January 25 2010, 10:44AM
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"They can’t keep losing every game. It just won’t happen, especially when you consider that their last two games have been two of their best in the past month. Losing streaks normally come to an end when a team loses a few games that they deserved to win."

-Gregor

9/10 times I agree with you Jason. But you have been saying this for the past few weeks now, and what do they keep doing? Losing. The fact they should've won the past 2 games and didn't is a definite spirit breaker. Compound that with the fact they play Chicago tomorrow night on home ice aka Dead Space, and voila, you have an 11 game losing streak. If they get dominated tomorrow like I think they will, I figure they're liable to crash and burn even further down the standi.... oh that's right they're already last in the league!

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#24 postal
January 25 2010, 10:48AM
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Good articles in Sun yesterday. Too many smallish forwards. Tambo needs to get bigger roster. Also from yesterday, Terry Jones had a spot on open letter to Daryl Katz. Totally right on the fact that Katz can't be this shadow of an owner all the time. Fans are getting pissed and they want answers, not just routine cliches from pr gurus.

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#25 dragon
January 25 2010, 10:49AM
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if Patio and Nils will find some decent play these last few games, they will have better market value than Comrie.

I'll keep Comrie for the veteran and scoring presence.

These last few games will tell.

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#26 HottScarrison
January 25 2010, 10:52AM
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We are gonna have an angry hawks team comin off of a bad loss to the nucks.

Out of the 3 I would keep O'sullivan. He's got the most skill out of the 3 and just needs to mentally be ready. Give him good consistent linemates and some confidence and he will be better than those other 2.

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#27 josh
January 25 2010, 10:53AM
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1. O'Sullivan; 2. Nilsson; 3. Comrie

I doubt Comrie will sign here again unless he can't find work elsewhere. I think O'Sullivan is more useful than Nilsson if he's not on the top line (or two). He can play the PK, and shoots more than most Oilers. He contributes even when he's not scoring. Can the same be said about Nilsson?

I don't that it matters but I also like that POS is also really up-front at all the interviews and it seems he has grown a liking to being here.

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#28 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 25 2010, 10:53AM
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@postal

So if Tambo comes out and says we are going to rebuild for the next two years, does this stop the questions? What kind answers do fans want already? A good chunk of fans that follow the game are liking the idea that we can get the 1st overall pick. Really not sure what fans want to hear at this point, we are 20 points out of a playoff spot so now we wait and see what kind of moves Tambo can make to improve the team for the future.

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#29 Randy
January 25 2010, 10:54AM
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If it was me I would keep Nilsson just because his best game is better than the other 2. However the reality will be something like this. Nilsson or Sully get moved at the deadline, win a Cup this spring and 15 years from now get inducted into the Hall.

The other stays here and continues their spotty play until UFA, sign with a contender, win 3 Cups as a veteran, and 15 years from now get inducted into the Hall

Comrie comes back this week, gets 15 goals and 23 assists the rest of the way, we go from 30th to 22nd, and Tambo gives him a 4 year 4.5 million no trade contract. 5 years from now we add him to the coaching staff to insure we "transition the young guys" into Oiler Hockey.

Randy

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#30 misfit
January 25 2010, 10:55AM
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Once the sell-off begins, I could see this team winning it's fair share of games, and putting a real dent in the FFH. Because, while it's clear the playoffs are an unreachable goal, the team is still thinking win on gameday. Once a guy like Souray gets traded, it's a pretty clear message that the season is finally over. And when there's nothing to play for, then there's no pressure, and we're back to the loveable misfits (as opposed to just this one loveable misfit). And we all know that an Oiler team with nothing to lose, loses less often as we've seen in the many end of season pushes of futility over the years.

We suck, but finishing last is still far from guaranteed.

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#31 misfit
January 25 2010, 11:01AM
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I'd keep O'Sullivan. He's the most expensive, but he's also the most versatile. He can play center or either wing, he can play both powerplay and penalty kill, and has the best defensive game of the 3. He's also the most physical, though that's not exactly saying much, and I don't put near as much stock into hitting as most fans and analysts do.

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#32 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 25 2010, 11:03AM
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@misfit

Last might be far from guranteed, but I'm not sure the bottom three isn't guranteed. Wait til we start moving guys like Souray and Staios. People think or defence is bad now, who is going to replace those two?

Carolina have Ward and Staal to win games. Toronto is going to try hard because they don't want to give away the first overall for Kessel. What do we have? Two rookie goalies.

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#33 postal
January 25 2010, 11:04AM
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I think fans just want some accountability. The spin doctors are saying 2 rounds of flu and many injuries which is understandable to a point. But was K lowe sick in the head when he signed these ludicrous contracts Tambo is stuck with. There are a few guys in organization covered in teflon, and its getting tiring. Sadly though it will probably be Tambo shown the door before Lowe. Plus, we are the customers and pay the freight, so if we want answers we should get them.

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#35 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
January 25 2010, 11:06AM
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I'll take Comrie, thanks. Even if he's only in it until the end of the year, I think he's extremely valuable if he can give Gagner some tips on playing bigger than he actually is, or even his faceoff technique. He wasn't too bad on the dot before the mono hit, iirc.

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#36 Jmask5
January 25 2010, 11:27AM
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I hope none of the teams that want Souray come and scout him because they'd see a guy who can't hit the net to save his life, gets beat down low constantly and takes bone headed penalties at the worst possible times.

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#37 JeffG
January 25 2010, 11:34AM
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The one to keep?

then it would be Patrick O’Sullivan. More defensively sound than the others, with some offensive upside. Also a shooter that we lack.

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#38 Mr DeBakey
January 25 2010, 11:42AM
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"If you could only bring one player back who would you keep?"

The one I keep is Gagner & Comrie. Move Nilsson, O’Sullivan, Brule and Cogliano.

"especially when you consider that their last two games have been two of their best in the past month"

The return of Pisani and Pouliot has shored up the roster - created more lines that can compete. When Comrie returns to the Top 9, one more pretender will be dropped. And that could be trouble.

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#39 Bucknuck
January 25 2010, 11:48AM
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postal wrote:

I think fans just want some accountability. The spin doctors are saying 2 rounds of flu and many injuries which is understandable to a point. But was K lowe sick in the head when he signed these ludicrous contracts Tambo is stuck with. There are a few guys in organization covered in teflon, and its getting tiring. Sadly though it will probably be Tambo shown the door before Lowe. Plus, we are the customers and pay the freight, so if we want answers we should get them.

Lowe left Tambo something to work with and Tambo drove it into the ground. The Oilers went from 9th in the west to dead last in the league.

This latest spiral wasn't Lowe, it was Tambo. Every team has a ludicrous contract or two, it's how you plug the holes that counts.

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#40 VMR
January 25 2010, 11:53AM
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@Bucknuck

I dont think you can absolve Lowe of all responsibility. This was a team struggling to just get by and get a shot at the playoffs every year. It's not like Tambo took a contender and turned them into dog meat, they were already pretty piss poor and that's on Lowe. This management team has taken a lot of longshots over the past few years trying to hit a homerun like they did in the playoffs of 2006. They're paying for it now.

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#41 Jmask5
January 25 2010, 11:56AM
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The Oilers only have 1 ludicrous contract and that's Horcoff. Lubo's isn't bad, Staios and Moreau are not amazing but you can easily buy them out since they end after next year. Souray is meh. Last year he was underpaid this year he is way overpaid. It depends on how he is playing. If I have noticed something about Souray is that one year he is an all star the next year he is abysmal. Maybe the Oilers should keep since next year he should be awesome again.

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#42 David S
January 25 2010, 11:57AM
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JeffG wrote:

The one to keep?

then it would be Patrick O’Sullivan. More defensively sound than the others, with some offensive upside. Also a shooter that we lack.

I'd say we need a scorer more than a shooter. I mean, Tim Hortons and POS have alot in common as they both serve a ton of muffins.

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#43 Ninjafoot
January 25 2010, 11:58AM
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Strictly from a financial and rebuilding perspective I keep Comrie; one year deal only, same as last time.

In that way we get the benefit of some veteran presence, while at the same time trim contracts, salary and at the end of one year we can walk away if it is in the team's best interest.

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#44 David S
January 25 2010, 12:00PM
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~Did you guys see Comrie's ridiculous shootout move in the skills competition? I'd keep him just to see us win us games in the OT shootouts with "MC's" (previously unknown) shootout sickness, NBA stylez~

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#45 Mr DeBakey
January 25 2010, 12:05PM
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"The Oilers only have 1 ludicrous contract and that's Horcoff"

Nikolai Khabibulin for sure

Patrick O'Sullivan maybe

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#46 dunciano
January 25 2010, 12:10PM
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Trade all 3! Please!

Remember a player named Michel Petit?

What did they say about him?

All the tools but no toolbox. Skilled but no brain.

O'Sullivan is like that but with no heart.

Very skilled - skate, shoot, stick handle - but..

It was Petit right?

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#47 Bucknuck
January 25 2010, 12:12PM
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Mr DeBakey wrote:

"The Oilers only have 1 ludicrous contract and that's Horcoff"

Nikolai Khabibulin for sure

Patrick O'Sullivan maybe

Lowe isn't responsible for either of those.

The Oilers were a middle of the pack team that had a shot at the playoffs before Tambellini took over.

I am not saying Lowe didn't make mistakes (Smyth and Glencross come to mind), but he has admitted those mistakes and seems to learn from them.

I don't see any learning happening with Tambellini (since Khabibulin is our MVP).

Disgusting.

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#48 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 25 2010, 12:13PM
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VMR wrote:

I dont think you can absolve Lowe of all responsibility. This was a team struggling to just get by and get a shot at the playoffs every year. It's not like Tambo took a contender and turned them into dog meat, they were already pretty piss poor and that's on Lowe. This management team has taken a lot of longshots over the past few years trying to hit a homerun like they did in the playoffs of 2006. They're paying for it now.

I don't think anyone wants to absolve Lowe, but theirs still a large faction that wants to put all the blame on the guy thats been out of the GM chair for 18 months.

Every new GM inherits a team, it's their job to plug the holes on that team. Thus far Tambellini has sold from weakness and added to "strength" (got rid of two forwards with size and added two more small forwards)and made a latteral move in net (with the added bonus of injury history) not exactly championship building stuff.

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#49 Jmask5
January 25 2010, 12:16PM
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Khabibulin can still be useful though. I'm hoping this surgery should set him straight for next year. He was doing pretty well before the injury and keeping us in games. Plus its only 3.75 there are a lot of team who pay way more for their goalies then we do for sure. Its just the length that is the ludicrous part but whatever I think there is still hope. Horcoff on the other hand doesn't even show any signs of ever being worth his salary.

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#50 GSP
January 25 2010, 12:19PM
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Gregor...when are we going to get the "skinny" on the ethical thingie???

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