DEAD-LAST OR DEAD AND LAST?

Robin Brownlee
November 16 2013 12:02AM

 

It seems ridiculous to say the Edmonton Oilers can forget about the playoffs for the eighth straight season after just 21 games, but that's exactly where the Oilers find themselves with 61 games to play after a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Friday.

Fact is, you could have said that, and many have, three or four games ago. The loss to San Jose, coupled with a win by the Buffalo Sabres, leaves the Oilers 4-15-2 and dead-last, 30th, in NHL standings as they prepare to face the Calgary Flames Saturday in a provincial showdown of have-nots.

I'm not going to trot out the threadbare "playing for pride" bit coaches tend to default to when it's obvious their teams are also-rans as the Oilers already are, but there's no doubt Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish are going to learn a lot about the players on their team in the games that remain – aside from the obvious, that this roster isn't good enough.

Frankly, given the frustration bubbling over as the defeats mount, like that articulated by Taylor Hall after the loss to the Sharks, it's going to be a long and challenging string to play out. That said, Eakins and MacTavish will find out a lot about who's-who and what's-what.

FRUSTRATION MOUNTS

The Oilers played some of their best hockey in several games after the Sharks took a 3-0 lead, but that was cold consolation to Hall in the dressing room as the Oilers packed for a quick flight to Calgary.

Gene Principe of Sportsnet Tweeted this quote from Hall after the game: "I'm just so tired of coming in here after games and having to give a reason why we lost. We just gotta win."

Surrounded by reporters, Hall added: "We played well for the rest of the game, but it doesn't matter. It's for nothing.

"I've been around for so many losses that you kind of put yourself in a tailspin of wondering what it is. It's really hard. We're trying really hard in here but we're not winning games. At the end of the day, that's all that matters."

While it's foolish to try to read too much into what Hall said just minutes after another disappointing defeat – one wouldn’t expect him to be tap dancing with glee -- it doesn't take a vast intellect to figure out Hall and his teammates are just as sick of losing as fans are. The question now is what he and his teammates do about it the rest of the way.

LONG WAY TO GO

The way I see it, there's a big difference between being dead-last in the standings and dead and last in the 61 games that remain. What I want to see is who digs in and battles the rest of the way. Who fades away? Who flat out mails it in? I'd imagine Eakins and MacTavish want to know, too.

This isn't about saying, "Don't give up boys and everything will be OK." That's naïve. This team is flawed in the way it's been put together, as has been pointed out for a long, long time, and a bunch of "try-hard" efforts isn’t going to make the deficits in this team's make-up go away.

Addressing the shortcomings by position and in personnel falls to MacTavish, but he's going to get a good, long while to assess who fights and who folds from here on out, and that does play into where this team is going in the long term.

Is Hall up for it? Is Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov and on and on? Who is resilient and stubborn enough to suck it up and go balls out with the post-season again a pipe dream? Who has been broken, or is close to it, by all the failure? Who says, "I'm sick of this and I'm not going to take it?" Who says, "I'm sick of this. I quit?"

Who has a heartbeat? Who is dead and last?

PARTING THOUGHT . . .

I wonder if MacTavish is seriously considering bringing in an experienced NHL coach to bolster his staff and I wonder if he still has Paul Maurice's phone number?

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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#101 M22
November 16 2013, 12:10PM
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Here's a thought:

If, hypothetically, you could give Daryl Katz two scenarios to chose from:

1) Continue the current model of building a mangement group (stocking the group with your idols of yesteryear), then one day come close to winning the Stanley Cup, but never actually win it.

or:

2) Clean house and build a managemnt group based on best available hockey minds (do I even need to say it doesn't include anybody currently employed by Katz?), and then one day actually win the Cup.

....I truly wonder which scenario he would pick. Hardly anybody really knows this man. I certainly don't. What motivates him as an owner? Is it winning the Cup? Or is it the experience of NHL ownership? It must be very satisfying to do this with a bunch of his close buds; people he knows and trusts.

In fact, I wouldn't even criticize what his motives are. It's his team; he bought it, and can run it how he wants. I, as all of you do, sit and ponder far too much about how the hell this team remains, after all this time, a disaster, with little tangible evidence to provide hope, and plenty of historical evidence to prolong dread and doubt.

We won't be completely satisfied until we win the Stanley Cup. For Katz, that might be just the gravy.

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#102 Cynic
November 16 2013, 12:17PM
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"Bottom line, Edmonton does not have an NHL team."

I have 600 million reasons to doubt the veracity of that claim.

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#103 Andrew
November 16 2013, 12:19PM
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I'm not so sure it is just players who may 'mail it in' as you say. I think Katz, Lowe, GM and coaches have already 'mailed it in'. Neither Mact nor Eakins seem to have a clue on how to build or coach. Sorry, but the above listed are an epic fail.

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#104 tileguy
November 16 2013, 12:22PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You are bang on about there being little or no incentive for the Oilers to shake anything up as long as the dollars are rolling in.

Part of the problem when fans discuss making their displeasure known is the Oilers already have the revenue from season tickets -- "They're already paid for so it won't matter if I don't go. They have my money. Plus, there's a waiting list, so somebody will just take my spot if I don't renew."

Fair enough, but there's still a way to make a statement AND hit the team on the bottom line, but it would take fans organizing -- and I'm not just talking about starting up a Facebook page and bitching about how bad the team is. That does nothing.

What if the Oilers played a game or two in front of 10,000 to 12,000 empty seats because season ticket holders organized and, for example, said, "We aren't going to the Nov. 19 game against CBJ and the Nov. 21 game against Florida?" If fans didn't sell the tickets or give them away, those seats would be empty.

Yes, the team still has the money for those seats, but they don't get concessions and souvenir revenue etc. Plus, management and ownership is looking at a two-thirds empty building in back-to-back games. That sends a real message. Having 1,500 or 2,000 people stay away, as is the case now, doesn't have the same impact financially or visually, so it would take some organization by fans to make it worthwhile.

I'm not saying it should be done, but it could be done. Would such an action significantly change anything? I'm not sure.

What I do know is that when customers vote with their dollars -- even if a lot of those dollars are already in the bank via season tickets -- the message carries far more weight than spewing venom on a hockey website or a post-game radio show.

It should be done on a national broadcast so if the money lost doesn't sting, the nationwide embarrassment would.

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#105 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
November 16 2013, 12:22PM
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@M22

Katz is the only guy who is a bigger loser than Kevin Lowe. Howson is number 3.

None of them care about winning they only care about scmoozing in fancy places and eating lobster stuffed with caviar.

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#106 **
November 16 2013, 12:31PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You are bang on about there being little or no incentive for the Oilers to shake anything up as long as the dollars are rolling in.

Part of the problem when fans discuss making their displeasure known is the Oilers already have the revenue from season tickets -- "They're already paid for so it won't matter if I don't go. They have my money. Plus, there's a waiting list, so somebody will just take my spot if I don't renew."

Fair enough, but there's still a way to make a statement AND hit the team on the bottom line, but it would take fans organizing -- and I'm not just talking about starting up a Facebook page and bitching about how bad the team is. That does nothing.

What if the Oilers played a game or two in front of 10,000 to 12,000 empty seats because season ticket holders organized and, for example, said, "We aren't going to the Nov. 19 game against CBJ and the Nov. 21 game against Florida?" If fans didn't sell the tickets or give them away, those seats would be empty.

Yes, the team still has the money for those seats, but they don't get concessions and souvenir revenue etc. Plus, management and ownership is looking at a two-thirds empty building in back-to-back games. That sends a real message. Having 1,500 or 2,000 people stay away, as is the case now, doesn't have the same impact financially or visually, so it would take some organization by fans to make it worthwhile.

I'm not saying it should be done, but it could be done. Would such an action significantly change anything? I'm not sure.

What I do know is that when customers vote with their dollars -- even if a lot of those dollars are already in the bank via season tickets -- the message carries far more weight than spewing venom on a hockey website or a post-game radio show.

That is a very interesting idea, boycotting the games. I'm not sure either if it would change things much, but It would be an interesting action to take. At the end of the day it is probably the same 200 of us who call the radio shows or post on these websites to vent our frustrations but that is a drop in the ocean compared to the number of ticket holders.

It's good to know though, that more experienced, professional minds share some of our (more hardcore fans) views.

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#107 **
November 16 2013, 12:33PM
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I would much rather see some of that arena money spent on building a better building for the Golden Bears. They are a much older tradition, win consistently, and are part of a very important institution in the province.

And boy does Clare Drake need an upgrade.

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#108 M22
November 16 2013, 12:41PM
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@Max Powers - Team HME Evans

"None of them care about winning they only care about scmoozing in fancy places and eating lobster stuffed with caviar."

Highly doubtful. It's not that management doesn't care. It's that they are NOT CAPABLE!

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#109 Turnover
November 16 2013, 12:51PM
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PAUL MAURICE Career coaching: Games coached: 1084 Games won: 460 Games lost; 457 Games tied: 99 Games lost in OT: 68

FIRED 3 times. 2 by Carolina. 1 by Toronto.

Thats 65 games under .500 over numerous years.

Sad attempt at humour there Robin.

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#111 Loyal Oil
November 16 2013, 01:24PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You are bang on about there being little or no incentive for the Oilers to shake anything up as long as the dollars are rolling in.

Part of the problem when fans discuss making their displeasure known is the Oilers already have the revenue from season tickets -- "They're already paid for so it won't matter if I don't go. They have my money. Plus, there's a waiting list, so somebody will just take my spot if I don't renew."

Fair enough, but there's still a way to make a statement AND hit the team on the bottom line, but it would take fans organizing -- and I'm not just talking about starting up a Facebook page and bitching about how bad the team is. That does nothing.

What if the Oilers played a game or two in front of 10,000 to 12,000 empty seats because season ticket holders organized and, for example, said, "We aren't going to the Nov. 19 game against CBJ and the Nov. 21 game against Florida?" If fans didn't sell the tickets or give them away, those seats would be empty.

Yes, the team still has the money for those seats, but they don't get concessions and souvenir revenue etc. Plus, management and ownership is looking at a two-thirds empty building in back-to-back games. That sends a real message. Having 1,500 or 2,000 people stay away, as is the case now, doesn't have the same impact financially or visually, so it would take some organization by fans to make it worthwhile.

I'm not saying it should be done, but it could be done. Would such an action significantly change anything? I'm not sure.

What I do know is that when customers vote with their dollars -- even if a lot of those dollars are already in the bank via season tickets -- the message carries far more weight than spewing venom on a hockey website or a post-game radio show.

THIS^. This is the sort of thinking we need to bring change. First ON writer that I have seen say fans need to hit ownership to make changes. Thank you RB!!!

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#112 Clive
November 16 2013, 02:07PM
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People talk about passion on the ice, I like the little bit of passion we are seeing off the ice. Even the little grumbling from Hall and Yakupov this week cannot go unnoticed by Lowe, Katz and management. After all a disgruntled employee is a bad employee and these guys are the cash cows the management is hoping to keep around for a long period of time. Sure, it would be great to see it on the ice, but these guys are 20 something and when I was in my 20's I think I showed my passion in the wrong way more than once. Get a few more guys to show their disgruntled pleasure at how the team is going and you'll see quicker movements in management than any financial hit. Here is some interesting stats on the Oilers financial situation: Forbes rates the Edmonton Oilers as the 14th most expensive NHL franchise, that means Gary Bettman has 16 other franchises to worry about financially before the Oilers (don't think there is much fear about Edmonton not having a NHL team, it's a good market) By the way, the lowest valued team in the NHL is the St. Louis Blues, I don't think anybody in Edmonton would mind if the current team moved out and that owner put his team where he can make a profit. The hockey would be good and something we could be proud off. Also, the Oilers have a positive gross income above about 20 odd teams. One team that has traditionally lost money year after year is the Anaheim Ducks, wonder what position they are in the NHL? Here is a suggestion, rather than empty the seats, boo the team like crazy in the second and third period, they take care of the score line. You'll definitely see some reaction from the players. I'll bet MacT will try to put differences between the fans and the players to make the players feel like he is their buddy but I really like what Dallas had to say about the fans - that they have a right to boo and expect better hockey. If you look at him, you can see he wears every loss on his shoulders, he hates it as much as the players and we do. I do not see the same expression on the Oilers of past.

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#113 4 Minute Mark
November 16 2013, 02:12PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Here is an idea. Those of us who have already paid for tickets still like a night out.

What if the fans ... ALL of us, pick a time, perhaps the 4 minute mark of the 3rd period and left. Everyone go ... especially on a nationally televised game. $ minuted being chosen because we are all tired of the Kevin Lowe show ...

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#114 Dockstaff
November 16 2013, 02:28PM
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** wrote:

That is a very interesting idea, boycotting the games. I'm not sure either if it would change things much, but It would be an interesting action to take. At the end of the day it is probably the same 200 of us who call the radio shows or post on these websites to vent our frustrations but that is a drop in the ocean compared to the number of ticket holders.

It's good to know though, that more experienced, professional minds share some of our (more hardcore fans) views.

You know what, something similar happened here in Riderville in the 90s. After 20 years of losing the fans stopped coming to the games. The mid-late 90s saw a signigicant drop in ticket and souvenir sales. Ownership finally listened and things started to turn around. It took until the mid 2000s before we started to field a competitive team.

I don't think the Oil is there yet. We have talent, but they need to mix in the grit and blood to give the talent room to do their thing. Step One was brining Eakins and MacT; Step two start moving pieces (players).

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#115 MDAN25
November 16 2013, 02:30PM
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Leaving with 4 minutes in doesn't solve anything. Most of our games our half empty by the last few minutes anyways. I'm a season ticket holder and I have no problem giving up a game or two to have 2 empty seats there, but I'm not doing it in a small group.

RB - How can something like this be organized to get across to the entire fan base / season ticket holders? If something is planned for a specific game or two obviously some people will still go, but if we got the word out - I'm sure the majority of fans would stay home.

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#116 GK1980
November 16 2013, 02:33PM
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I was at the SJ game lady night and it was sad to see the crowd reaction. Nobody cares. Ref made a few bad calls against the oilers and nary a peep in the crowd. NOBODY CARES ANYMORE. Would one power play make a difference? Nope. No emotion from the players or crowd. Pathetic.

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#117 GK1980
November 16 2013, 02:38PM
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4 Minute Mark wrote:

Here is an idea. Those of us who have already paid for tickets still like a night out.

What if the fans ... ALL of us, pick a time, perhaps the 4 minute mark of the 3rd period and left. Everyone go ... especially on a nationally televised game. $ minuted being chosen because we are all tired of the Kevin Lowe show ...

Me and my brother and law were hoping this would happen last night. I spent $500 for both if these tickets and I would have walked out if someone had instigated it. WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION. Imagine an empty building on CBC. Someone should hack into the score board and send a message for all fans to stand up and walk out.

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#118 GK1980
November 16 2013, 02:38PM
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4 Minute Mark wrote:

Here is an idea. Those of us who have already paid for tickets still like a night out.

What if the fans ... ALL of us, pick a time, perhaps the 4 minute mark of the 3rd period and left. Everyone go ... especially on a nationally televised game. $ minuted being chosen because we are all tired of the Kevin Lowe show ...

Me and my brother and law were hoping this would happen last night. I spent $500 for both if these tickets and I would have walked out if someone had instigated it. WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION. Imagine an empty building on CBC. Someone should hack into the score board and send a message for all fans to stand up and walk out.

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#119 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 16 2013, 02:58PM
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1st tier fans please hear me. I know you are going to the game tonight but send a message. Don't buy anything at the game until you see how they perform. If it is a good performance buy a beer/food/pop or whatever. If it is bad DO NOT GIVE ANY MORE MONEY!!!

If they still suck at the end of the 2nd just leave. Dont boo dont shout just get up at the end of the 2nd and keep going.

Although do it with 5 minutes left in the period will get better media coverage.

I know this is just my pipe dream but you have the power 1st tiers. I know you are better at being a fan than I am (since '79) so please fix this.

There that outta do it. :)

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#120 Al Low
November 16 2013, 03:09PM
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I think the idea of Paul Maurice is intriguing. Anybody with some experience with winning at the NHL level would be fantastic. It's unfortunate that a guy like Taylor Hall would be on his 4th coach if Eakins is not brought back next year. Of all the so-called young guns, he seems to be the only one who really cares if the team wins or loses. I hope the kid doesn't ask for a trade but I wouldn't blame him if he did. Right now, it looks like Eakins's has lost the room he needs to be removed before next year begins. It's time for Daryl Katz to step up and take control of a franchise that is moving backwards. Although I'd love for the Oil to be competing for the playoffs, I'm enjoying seeing well-deserved fan backlash against this horrendous management/coaching group. Edmonton fans have been so loyal and patient through the last 7 years of incompetence. We're only 1/4 of the way through too. It's gonna be ugly. And, to make matters worse, the Olympics will make the season even longer for Lowe, MacT and the crew.

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#121 Dog Train
November 16 2013, 03:18PM
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I'm so sick of this playing for pride nonsense. We will start to play better when we realize how far out of it we are and that there is no more pressure. That won't be the take when next season starts up again.

By now I think we know the makeup of most players on this team, at least the ones who have been Oilers for a few years. As long as the players stay the same, expecting the game to change is foolish.

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#122 Hair bag
November 16 2013, 03:29PM
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Jason wrote:

Robin (or anyone who cares to comment),

I have been an Edmontonian and Oiler fan all of my 40 years. As maddening as it is for me to see the team as bad as it has been for as long as it has been, the one thing that I think is mostr frustrating is this.

The problem has been the same for the last 7 years - we are too small up front, lack defence, have questionable goaltending, and not enough guys playing with conviction and grit!

How is it that a problem that has been identified for this long seems no closer to being solved?

This hasn't been the problem for 7yrs, only the last 3. We used to have big guys up front with limited skill, now we have little guys with lots of skill - the problem is you need a mix of both. The defence has slowly deteriorated since Pronger was traded, there were some good dmen on the back end but slowly they have all left or been traded away and no one has replaced them...

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#123 Doug
November 16 2013, 03:50PM
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I read or heard somewhere that the Oilers wanted to hire Maurice but he did not want to be an assistant coach.

Can someone verify that?

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#125 nick
November 16 2013, 04:11PM
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I have been a season ticket holder for the Oilers since 1976, the old WHA days. Been through some rough times and some great times. I can honestly say I have never seen a team more poorly run than this organization. I have seen George Burnett coach a bad team but he did a better job than this Eakins clown with nothing to work with. I have stopped going to the Oiler games and will give my season tickets up next year. Don't care if someone else gets them, good luck with them. Can't stand MacTavish standing in front of a a mic and saying F#@#ALL He is clearly incompetent in this job. Katz has to step in and fire everyone from KLOWE all the way down to the last assistant coach and scout. Joey Moss is the only one that needs to stay. Only way this embarrassment of a team will every climb out of the toilet. The Islanders in their embarrassing days were a class organization compared to this joke here. Sick of it and will not take anymore.

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#126 Gordie Wayne
November 16 2013, 04:19PM
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#PositiveThoughts

At least those onion rings behind Dallas Eakins in the photo sure look tasty!

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#127 Rod from Viking
November 16 2013, 06:06PM
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@gcw_rocks

Do you have the link for the Cassie Campbell statement about free agents? The truth is that free agents either want to go somewhere they can win or somewhere where you have a life off the ice where you are not noticed and have great weather, or all three if you go to L.A,San Jose or Anaheim.

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#128 Rod from Viking
November 16 2013, 06:28PM
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nick wrote:

I have been a season ticket holder for the Oilers since 1976, the old WHA days. Been through some rough times and some great times. I can honestly say I have never seen a team more poorly run than this organization. I have seen George Burnett coach a bad team but he did a better job than this Eakins clown with nothing to work with. I have stopped going to the Oiler games and will give my season tickets up next year. Don't care if someone else gets them, good luck with them. Can't stand MacTavish standing in front of a a mic and saying F#@#ALL He is clearly incompetent in this job. Katz has to step in and fire everyone from KLOWE all the way down to the last assistant coach and scout. Joey Moss is the only one that needs to stay. Only way this embarrassment of a team will every climb out of the toilet. The Islanders in their embarrassing days were a class organization compared to this joke here. Sick of it and will not take anymore.

You have had tickets 15 years longer than me(of course I missed all the cups) and I agree with you completely, I can't believe Mac T's presser when he said we believe in our core of 8 or 9 guys and are going to ride it out, in my core there would be Hall, RNH,Yakapov,Eberle ,Perron, Nurse,Schultz and possibly Petry.They need a top six forward with size and grit and at least two d men that will hit, fight and shut things down and one of them have to be a lefty with a decent shot for the powerplay, they can be #3's and can be had.

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#129 4 Minute Mark
November 16 2013, 07:07PM
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MDAN25 wrote:

Leaving with 4 minutes in doesn't solve anything. Most of our games our half empty by the last few minutes anyways. I'm a season ticket holder and I have no problem giving up a game or two to have 2 empty seats there, but I'm not doing it in a small group.

RB - How can something like this be organized to get across to the entire fan base / season ticket holders? If something is planned for a specific game or two obviously some people will still go, but if we got the word out - I'm sure the majority of fans would stay home.

The time was a suggestion poking at Klowe. Halfway thru the first period; whenever. Doing while the game is on though, so the cameras catch the exodus.

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#130 4 Minute Mark
November 16 2013, 07:09PM
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@reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)

Beer is all that gets me through the game.

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#131 oilerman53
November 16 2013, 07:13PM
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Does Katz really give two craps about how bad his team is when they just sold out Rexall for like the 500th time in a row?

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#132 Rod from Viking
November 16 2013, 07:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

It's not a sad attempt at anything. Oilers looked at Maurice before. Wondering if they might again.

Maurice and Eakins are good friends,he should have brought him in as an assistant.

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#133 Dockstaff
November 17 2013, 03:05PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

Do you have the link for the Cassie Campbell statement about free agents? The truth is that free agents either want to go somewhere they can win or somewhere where you have a life off the ice where you are not noticed and have great weather, or all three if you go to L.A,San Jose or Anaheim.

The only other category of Free Agent is the Faint Hope player (Bryzgalov) who's last chance to play in the show is to sign.

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#134 Dockstaff
November 17 2013, 03:13PM
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Hair bag wrote:

This hasn't been the problem for 7yrs, only the last 3. We used to have big guys up front with limited skill, now we have little guys with lots of skill - the problem is you need a mix of both. The defence has slowly deteriorated since Pronger was traded, there were some good dmen on the back end but slowly they have all left or been traded away and no one has replaced them...

In the previous decade, Edm was where nobody Dmen came to develop before moving on to hefty contracts: See Brewer, Poti, Hamrlik, Niinimaa, Matt Green (kind of).

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#135 Dockstaff
November 17 2013, 03:48PM
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dougtheslug wrote:

Kevin, Craig, Bucky, Stevie, they are all his buddies from back in the 80's. I'm sure when he bought the team his dream was that they would all be together again at centre ice, raising the cup like they were young lions once again. So they set about recreating what they thought was a reasonable facsimile of the 80's dynasty team, with Hall as Messier, RNH as Gretzky, Schulz as Coffey, Yak as Kurri, Eberle as Anderson. Except they're not. And the game has changed a little since the 80's, where Lowe and MacT and Katz seem to permanently stuck. And they can't get their heads around it, and are stunned that their ingenious plan isn't working. So they best we can hope for is they will bring in Mark Messier to help sort things out. As DSF would say, "Book it".

Doug, I don't think emulating the 80s Oilers is wrong, but you need to extend beyond Mess, Gretz, Coffey, etc. First off we don't have the replacement for Anderson - he was such an important role player. But we don't have a Tikkanen or MacTavish, no McSorely or Huddy or Simpson either. Smid was our Huddy or Gregg, but no more. Petry is more like Mike Grier he coughs up the puck at all the wrong times.

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