A NEW YEAR: BETTER DAYS AHEAD

Robin Brownlee
December 31 2010 03:53PM

One more year almost gone. Another to come. With 2011 on the way, I can't remember being this optimistic, be it about the Edmonton Oilers or life in general.

That's not my nature, as many readers here can attest, but as I slip into my 50-something years more gracefully than I thought myself capable, I can't help but look ahead feeling the best is yet to come -- even if there's not as much time left as I'd like.

Most of that optimism has to do with issues completely unrelated to the Oilers -- my sons Sam and Michael, my wife, Analyn, and the happy place we're at in our lives. Likewise, where I find myself at, unplanned as it's been, in this scam otherwise known as a career in sports writing.

Simply put, when I sit back and take stock, and having just read the heart-rending stories in The Journal this morning about the passing of former CFLer Tony Proudfoot, who died of ALS, it's difficult to be this lucky and not feel optimistic.

I'm not Tom Renney optimistic, mind you, but I'm content and happy and hopeful about life in general and excited as an aging ink-stained wretch like me can be about what the New Year will bring.

Likewise, about the Oilers. They're the object of the exercise here, so, for the most part, I'll stick to them.

WATCH THEM GROW

To steal from the always perceptive Lowetide, if you're an Oilers fan, you should be sitting back and taking in every baby step this team makes on the way to better days -- they cannot be worse than 30th, after all.

We saw another one of those steps in a losing effort last night as the Oilers closed out the 2010 portion of their schedule with a 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado. That's five straight losses to end the year. No matter.

Even with the possibility this team might lose 50 games now that Ryan Whitney is gone -- I'm hearing surgery to repair a damaged tendon and three months out, essentially the balance of the season -- we saw more of the promise Lowetide has been on about.

Yes, there will be growing pains and failures. Yes, there are gaping holes to fill, glaring weaknesses to address and players to acquire, more work to do. And, yes, there is at least reasonable doubt this management group has the moxy to pull it off. All of that is grist for the mill here. I get that. Most of us do. It's part of the process.

But mercy, the growing group of young players -- Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Theo Peckham, Sam Gagner and, yes, even supposed spare part Andrew Cogliano, showed brass balls against the Avalanche.

I lean heavily -- many would say too heavily at the expense of common sense -- on the willingness and ability of players and teams to show me some fight, some screw-you-we-won't-quit. Personal bias. First-hand experience as a guy who was long on try and short on talent. Call it what you want. I like it. And I know it when it see it. I see it here and now.

LET'S PLAY

The Oilers spent the first 15 minutes against Colorado looking like they'd never played the game. They were outclassed at every turn. A game like that, 3-0 by 14:49, could have ended up 8-1 with the wrong group of kids. "Not our night. We'll get them next time." But not this group of kids. Back they came, like a house on fire.

My old and shrinking sports writer's gut doesn't spell out the details for me, much to the amusement of those who prefer more exact ways of measuring what they see, but it tells me Steve Tambellini, be it happenstance, luck or design, is assembling the right kind of kids here.

And they aren't just we-won't-quit pluggers, either. If you have that kind of chip on the shoulders of talented diamonds in the rough like Hall and Eberle, Peckham and Paajarvi, Gagner and Cogliano, if you add that stubborn streak, you've got something to work with. As always, patience willing

For all the shortcomings, for all the deficiencies, for all the fire drills we'll see in front of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk without Whitney in the fold on the way to a lottery pick, I see that spark.

When the Oilers get another top-five pick under Stu MacGregor next June, if Jeff Petry and Peckham grow into what I think they can be and if there's even one find like them in the system among Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin and Curtis Hamilton, those better days won't be so far off.

When it comes to the Oilers, like 2011, I'm hopeful.

AND...

-- Via Oilers news release: "General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have recalled defenseman Shawn Belle from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. Belle, 25, has played in 31 games with the Barons this season recording 19 points (3G,16A) and 41 penalty minutes. The 6’1”, 235-pound Montreal, Quebec native was originally recalled in November, appearing in four games."

-- Former video coach Brian Ross, who lost his job as part of the purge that saw Craig MacTavish shown the door, is back with the Oilers. He's helping Bill Moores in the Oilers expanding minor league development department.

-- I'm puzzled as to why, exactly, Linus Omark got his ticket back to Oklahoma City today at the same time J.F. Jacques is still here. I'm not saying Omark can't use more seasoning, but what has Jacques shown?

-- Last but not least, a healthy and happy New Year to all the readers of Oilersnation, even the needlers and knuckleheads who think they're smarter than I am (but aren't).

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 Willyfisterbotom
December 31 2010, 03:59PM
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Thanks for all the great posts rubin Happy new year to you and your family

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#2 dawgtoy
December 31 2010, 04:00PM
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Good article Robin, Happy New Year to you as well. I agree 100% about JFJ and Omark, what is the point of JFJ still taking up a roster spot.

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#3 Sean from Edmonton
December 31 2010, 04:30PM
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I think it will be good for Omark to play in the AHL for a bit. Call him up later in the season when he's a bit more seasoned, as Brownlee put it.

As for JFJ...how many chances does this guy get? All he has shown is:

1. The ability to get hurt, 2. The ability to bang into the boards, missing his targeted opponent by a few feet, and 3. The inability to take a pass, make a pass, andtake a quality shot.

If he was four inches shorter, he would have been dismissed ages ago.

Call up Reddox, please.

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#4 rubbertrout
December 31 2010, 04:31PM
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Happy New Year's eve to all (even Robin ~who thinks he's too smart for us but sometimes isn't.~)

Be safe out there knuckleheads.

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#5 Lowetide
December 31 2010, 04:32PM
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All the best to you and your family, Robin. And to all ON readers. And also to Jason Gregor (great guy), Jonathan Willis (smart guy), Amber, Bingofuel and the other nations of the world.

Plus Wanye. :-)

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#6 Chris.
December 31 2010, 05:15PM
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Any resolutions Brownlee?

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#7 Gerald R. Ford
December 31 2010, 05:23PM
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Happy New Year to you and your family, Robin. I know cynicism is a tough thing to conquer. It's a pretty crappy world most of the time. But, family, friends, and doing something you love (most of the time) go a long way to making it livable.

As for the Oil... this has been the best season in... forever. I know we're getting kicked to the curb in the standings yet again, but, man, these kids have shown so much to make us love them this year, I just can't complain. Last year, my TV remote didn't make it to game 10, I had hurled it against the wall in sheer, blind rage so many times. This year, it's been unbelievably serene and easy (easier) to accept when they lose. It's not desirable, but, as you said, it's what we signed up for. The world better watch the hell out when we emerge from the other end of this long, dark tunnel. We're comin' for ya.

And happy 2011 to my beloved Nation.

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#8 Dan the Man
December 31 2010, 05:24PM
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I would have minded seeing how Omark would respond after a night in the press box but I'm OK with him going back down to fine tune. Omark doesn't have to clear waivers so it's easy to send him down and obviously if Gilbert is iffy and Vandermeer isn't ready we needed another D.

Happy New Year Nation!

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#10 bingofuel
December 31 2010, 05:41PM
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Happy new year, everyone, from your friendly neighborhood cyborg! I may not post very often but I read EVERYTHING YOU TYPE.

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#11 John Chambers
December 31 2010, 05:42PM
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Happy New Year everyone.

We're 1.5 years removed from the Dany Heatley debaucle and about another 1.5 years away from having a team capable of making the playoffs for a solid decade.

Be proud of your patience and dedication, dear Nation. Feel bullish about where we're about to go, and be proud that we committed to making the necessary changes to turn this ship around, and that your optimism will have helped persevere through it.

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#12 Rob...
December 31 2010, 05:57PM
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Happy New Year to all the kool-aid drinkers, cantankerous arses, sarcastic comics, bandwagon jumpers, and die hard copper and blue bleeders. May the New Year bring maturity to the trolls and prosperity to the rest of you, regardless what you define as prosperous.

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#13 @NateInVegas
December 31 2010, 06:02PM
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RB,

Appreciate your posts and glad you found a happy place.

I have less hate in 2010-11 but still haven't found the promised land.

Anyone feel like hitting up Osteria De Medici tonight?

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#14 kawi460
December 31 2010, 06:19PM
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JF hasn't showed as much as Big Mac

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#15 jake
December 31 2010, 06:28PM
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Remember the night O'Sullivan shyed away and was called out by the shoeman Milbury? Seems like eons ago, thank god. Happy New Year folks.

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#16 Harlie
December 31 2010, 06:31PM
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Happy New Year everyone!!

Health, happiness and peace in 2011 to one and all.

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#17 David S
December 31 2010, 07:16PM
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Robin - Thanks so much for your wisdom and insight. I love all the writers who contribute here, but your work is still a few cuts above. Happy New Year to you and your family and congrats on your incredible weight loss.

BTW - There's a train of thought out there that Omark's reassignment to Oklahoma is more about helping the Barons. They haven't been very good since he was called up and a poor showing in a new city isn't palatable to the organization. They need to make the playoffs if at all possible.

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#18 Wanye
December 31 2010, 07:19PM
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Happy New Years Nation. I am down in rural Mexico to ring in the New Year with third tier tequila and fourth tier women, but my mind stays only with our beloved Oilers and our even more beloved OilersNation.

Happy 2011!

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#19 MattL
December 31 2010, 07:59PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Man, Brownlee, judging by that picture you HAVE lost a lot of weight.

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#20 pelhem grenville
December 31 2010, 08:20PM
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I was genuinely surprised to hear the news of "no comments' departure...apart from winning my Liver&Onions bet that 23 wouldn't last the season here i was kinda sorry...NOT!!!

now...can we just get *jockfakejack* packed up and OKC'd?...it's the gingers' turn isn't it? next move, continue to play 40 sparingly, run the stuff out of our goalie,he'll end up breaking and we're in even better shape.

...breath deeply Nation, we're nicely positioned...

FelizAnoNuevo Wanye

Continue Being The Best Brownlee!

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#21 rubbertrout
December 31 2010, 08:37PM
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bingofuel wrote:

Happy new year, everyone, from your friendly neighborhood cyborg! I may not post very often but I read EVERYTHING YOU TYPE.

Dig the new avatar Bingo. Thanks for posting to let us know you're still alive.

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#22 Team Hall
December 31 2010, 09:53PM
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Why is JFJ still here and Omark is not? I thought it was obvious. One is large, and can hit, and the other is not, and cannot. On a team full of skilled smurfs, there simply isn't room for another one, and Omark drew the short straw. I guess all that talk about "I'll stand behind you" and, "let them learn" doesnt apply to Linus. This seems a bit like MacT and Schremp Part II. Not sure why every youngling gets a long leash except Linus. Poor poor Linus. I'm pretty sure Hall and Eberle have had a few apple turnovers, but they are the golden boys. How political. Communists. JK.

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#23 Mike Modano's Dog
December 31 2010, 10:12PM
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Happy New Year to all!

A quick question, and sorry if it's been talked about since last game:

Was Paajarvi benched last game for a while, his whole line, or was he injured? He sure didn't play much after the first period or so.

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#24 Wax Man Riley
January 01 2011, 03:22AM
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Team Hall wrote:

Why is JFJ still here and Omark is not? I thought it was obvious. One is large, and can hit, and the other is not, and cannot. On a team full of skilled smurfs, there simply isn't room for another one, and Omark drew the short straw. I guess all that talk about "I'll stand behind you" and, "let them learn" doesnt apply to Linus. This seems a bit like MacT and Schremp Part II. Not sure why every youngling gets a long leash except Linus. Poor poor Linus. I'm pretty sure Hall and Eberle have had a few apple turnovers, but they are the golden boys. How political. Communists. JK.

In my opinion, sending Linus back to OKC was the right move. He looked pretty fresh out there, and definitely a defensive liability. He has some hands for sure, and he can make a play, but I would keep him in the AHL for this year if I could.

With the roster we have and the skill vs. size, and the number of rookies already occupying spots, why not let a player that could benefit from the minors play there? Next year, he will be that much better and the team will be that much more experienced.

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#25 Wax Man Riley
January 01 2011, 03:31AM
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BTW...

Happy new year Nation! Also, a belated Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

All the best in a new year where we can all have a fresh start and new perspective.

Thank you Robin, for the sweet gig you have. You do it so well and we appreciate it.

Finally, thank you to all of the contributors to ON, Writers, IT people, fans and posters, for making this the best place to express joy for my beloved Oilers.

squee

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#26 pelhem grenville
January 01 2011, 06:17AM
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9 years of new years eves and i still don't miss not knowing what happened the night before or wondering why i was sooo hungover ...morning 2011... what is up ?

WaxMan wrote: "...why not let a player that could benefit from the minors play there? Next year, he will be that much better and the team will be that much more experienced..."

i suggest that Linus won't be an Oiler or a Baron after the trade deadline ...i don't believe there was ever anymore of a plan to showcase him than we saw...he was always only going to be given just enough rope and now no one's gonna be able to say he never got a chance...i hope he will flourish in the A where the Barons DO need him and his fancy crowd pleasing...alas not in The Show... i'm thinking he's MacT & rs part II too, accept 23 'might be' the real 'small' deal next year...back in the A or in the K. b-bye

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#27 Skidplate
January 01 2011, 10:41AM
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Wanye wrote:

Happy New Years Nation. I am down in rural Mexico to ring in the New Year with third tier tequila and fourth tier women, but my mind stays only with our beloved Oilers and our even more beloved OilersNation.

Happy 2011!

Keep drinkin' that tequila and the women will turn to 1st line right quick.

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#28 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
January 01 2011, 12:05PM
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Great article Robin. I love reading your stuff. Here's a question for you... With the Oil on the PP, F/O in the Avs end, 1:01 left in OT, would you have pulled Dubey for the 5 on 3? I know if Colorado scored we dont get the bonus point, but if a lottery pick is where we are heading, why not take the chance?

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#29 treblecharger
January 01 2011, 01:05PM
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"it's difficult to be this lucky and not feel optimistic. I'm not Tom Renney optimistic..." HA! Good one, Brownlee!

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#30 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 01 2011, 01:19PM
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Welcome to the I just want to make the best of the time i have left club.

Oilers must think they have a buyer in tow for Jacques, who wouldn't want a closer look at a guy with his curb appeal in a different system/better group of players.

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#31 Ryan2
January 01 2011, 05:48PM
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@ Robin Brownlee - Have you heard anything from the team re: Penner having a bit of a leg injury? I was at the Avs game and he seemed to be favoring one leg a bit (lifting his foot off the ice to bend/flex his knee/thigh) during TV timeouts and breaks before taking the shot off his foot. His facial expression gave off a sense of something not being right while he did it as well.

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