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 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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#102 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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#103 Gav
November 16 2013, 10:15AM
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I'm a fan. I'll keep on cheering for the Oilers because for some reason I love watching hockey. It is irrational, but that is what being a fan is all about. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't have to be rational.

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#104 tileguy
November 16 2013, 10:40AM
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Itchy wrote:

Last nights San Jose game was the first game this season I've watched completely from start to finish. Its also the first game I've ever watched where I saw no scrums, no punches after the whistle, no snowing the goalie, nothing to show me any passion or desire to play hard and get under the other teams skin a bit and compete. It was played with the intensity of an All-Star game. I'm a die hard fan, but this was tough to watch...even my non hockey-fan girlfriend had trouble watching. I may have to go team shopping soon after 15 years....gonna be a tough breakup but games like that make it easier.

If they snowed the goalie they would get their lights punched out. Too many sweeties.

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#105 tileguy
November 16 2013, 10:53AM
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MacT is paralyzed to make a trade for a couple of reasons. To me the solutions is he has to overpay to find some size and grit that still has some reasonable skill level, ie Simmonds. But can you imagine the uproar it will cause, "you gave away potential 40 goals for this" So he doesn't make the trade and we are stuck as a small soft team. Nurse coming in as a 19 year old isn't going to make us gritty next year. My solution is to overpay for size on the offence. That's where we start, goal-tending can betaken care of this summer.

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#106 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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#107 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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#108 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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#109 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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#110 Withwheld
November 16 2013, 07:10AM
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Excerpt from unsigned contact.

1 5. 6. 5.1 5.2 5.3 (a) 6.1 6.2 6.3 ThePartieshaveapprovedthedesignoftheArenaandtheWintergardensetoutinthe100%DD DocumentationasatJanuary22,2013("ApprovedDesign")andtheArena/WGProjectBudget,based ontheApprovedDesign. ARENA SubjecttoSection5.3,theProjectCosts(includingthePreDevelopmentExpenses)fortheArenaas describedinthe100%DDDocumentationandtheArena/WGProjectBudgetshallnotexceed $480,000,000. EACshallcontributeanamountnotexceeding$115,000,000totheProjectCostsfortheArena,as describedmoreparticularlyinthisAgreementandcertainAncillaryAgreements. IftheprivatesectordevelopmentattachedtotheeastwalloftheArenaandsouthwallofthe CommunityRinkdoesnotproceedinconjunctionwiththeconstructionoftheArenaandCommunity Rink: anyresultingchangestothedesignofsucheastwallandsouthwallshallbeinthediscretionof theCity,providedthatsuchchangeswillnotmateriallychangethecharacteristicsorfunctionof theApprovedDesignoftheArenaortheCommunityRink,apartfromtheeastwallandsouth wall;and (b) thecostsrelatingthereto,whichmayresultinanincreaseoftheProjectCostsbeyond $480,000,000fortheArenaand$56,500,000fortheWintergarden,shallbetheresponsibilityof theCity

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#111 TDSM31
November 16 2013, 10:20AM
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God wrote:

That game was a disgrace, for the Sharks. The Oil should feel flattered that it wasn't 6-1. Couture had tough puck-luck tonight and they had a tonne of posts. The Oilers couldn't/wouldn't finish. There was no fight, nor jam left in the 3rd. The Sharks were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. They were exhausted, they still pulled out an ugly road win.

That game was a joke to watch.

I don't blame the players for the seeming lack of fight. They're confused, sad and annoyed. How did they get stuck on this broken ship, adrift? I can understand if there's a few cancers in the dressingroom that won't play under a coach. This entire team, however, is beyond hope. That's on the coach & organization.

I know the Oilers players are confused...and I am too by this post. So the other team has tough puck-luck when they don't score against us and we should be grateful the score isn't even more lopsided, but when we miss scoring opportunities (like the two heartbreakers against Dallas and Smyttys failed wrap around last night) its because we don't have the ability to finish? No bad 'puck-luck' for us?

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#112 Chad
November 16 2013, 10:21AM
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he's not bringing in another coach, he just said in his news conference that the coaching staff is doing a great job

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#113 Gret99zky
November 16 2013, 11:30AM
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arsenaloilerbarca wrote:

First time poster - 27 years a fan

Going to the game vs columbus on tuesday, bringing a sign that says:

"hey MacT, here's a bold move, refund us our money"

first time i spent money on a mini pack and actually regret it… sad times being a fan of the oil :(

the sign won't make it past security

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#114 tileguy
November 16 2013, 11:39AM
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I can't wait for the day when the fans start chanting, "hey hey, ho ho, Kevin LOwe has got to go"!

Can you hum a few bars of that so we get it straight?

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#115 Death Metal Nightmare
November 16 2013, 12:06PM
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solid article but...

we know who the floaters are. we know who the guys are with talent who play with some guts (it's not many). we know who the Fancy Boys are who overpass, sit on the perimeter and are too weak to get greasy. having 61 games to figure that out is ridiculous.

the defense is so over-matched by any team that isnt symmetric with the Oilers caliber of roster. "puck moving D" is a farce. "puck losing D" - the non-red wings model.

there's way too many walking dead on this team. theyre not even passengers. passengers rely on a driver and no one is driving this team.

this is just a game of politics and money now since we all know that the management team should be completely wiped. theyve all had their fingers in this too long. "We gave them dumb contracts so now we have to eat our humble pie of crap while we wait patiently."

and WTF are the coaches teaching these kids during TC and pre-season? Eakins not being able to "implement" some facets of his system? if this was the NFL that f-ing coach would have been fired for getting partial (or non-existent) systems in place.

rebuild FAIL. this is the Atlanta Thrashers at expansion time through the early 2000s. the fact that an established NHL team has a roster as poor as an expansion team even after multiple attempts at free agency, trades and drafts (where's the help there outside of obvious picks?) is a massive disappointment.

instead of seeing who has the guts on the ice, lets see "authority" in the franchise has the guts to get rid of some of these faith-based flunkies running the show.

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#116 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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#118 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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#119 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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#120 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 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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#123 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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#124 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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#125 CMG30
November 16 2013, 10:51AM
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"This team is put together wrong"

True statement, but not something that can be fixed overnight. I don't believe for a second that MacT is happy with this roster and I believe that he desperately wants to change it. The problem is that the right deal is not out there yet.

There is talk of the trade between Anaheim and Toronto. I don't see that trade being available to the Oilers for that price for 2 reasons: 1 Anaheim and Edmonton are in the same conference and 2 there has got to be a premium on any trade involving Edmonton because of the situation in Edmonton right now.

There is no doubt that the Oil need to trade a young star but I can't see that happening until closer to the trade deadline. The right deal just isn't available. As painful as the loses are, the Oilers still need to be careful with their assets. For all intents and purposes this is the team Tambi built and it was why he was fired. The surest way for the new GM to get fired as well is to panic and ship out one of the past season's booby prizes for a has-been or a rental.

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#126 **
November 16 2013, 11:49AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I for one do not care anymore if they win or lose........just play hard and leave it all on the ice.

This team has been assembled with too much emphasis on skill /speed in stead of skill/size........those chickens are coming home to roost. The only one that can be held accountable for that is Kevin Lowe. He proclaimed long ago that small fast players given the new interferrence rules would rule the NHL world.

He and he alone is the master of this disaster. I can't wait for the day when the fans start chanting, "hey hey, ho ho, Kevin LOwe has got to go"!

Oh to see the look on his face!

I agree they neeed to focus on skill/size. I would add grit. Penner had size but never played physical enough, same with Eager. Funny how the smallest forward in the team leads them in hits and all around game (Arcobello). And they are not just ove taps, he actually separates players form the puck in good defensive plays. I wish Joenssu and Eager played with that spirit. THey certainly have enough skill.

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#127 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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#128 **
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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#129 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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#130 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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#131 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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#132 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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#133 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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#134 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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#135 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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