ROAD TEST: EXIT TO ALSO-RAN CITY?

Robin Brownlee
February 24 2013 09:04PM

It's ridiculous that the Edmonton Oilers will play nine straight games on the road during a 48-game season, but that's what they're facing as they prepare to take on the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks Monday to kick-off a road swing that will go a long way in deciding their playoff hopes.

Given the stops along the way, it's a daunting trip and one made that much more difficult because the Oilers have been so-so at best by getting out to a mediocre 7-7-3 start for 17 points through 17 games, with 10 of those played within the friendly confines of Rexall Place.

Saturday's 3-2 comeback victory over Phoenix earned the Oilers just their second win during a five-game homestand. They managed that without Taylor Hall, who'll serve the second game of a two-game suspension for kneeing Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild.

It's difficult to get a read on this trip because it's difficult to get a read on Ralph Krueger's team. The inconsistent Oilers have been all over the place through 17 games, with the only real constant being their inability to generate as many goals as they'd like at even strength.

Will the Oilers return from this road trip in post-season contention or will it be obvious by March 12 that it's no cigar regarding a Western Conference playoff spot for the sixth straight season? You tell me.

THE WAY I SEE IT

FEB. 25 CHICAGO 15-0-3: The Oilers are 3-1 in Chicago the past two seasons and outscored the Blackhawks 16-14 in those games. PICK: LOSS

FEB. 28 DALLAS 9-8-1: Big D is a dead zone for the Oilers. They've got one win in 10 games in Dallas the last five seasons. PICK: OTL

MAR. 1 ST. LOUIS 10-6-2: Tough task in first back-to-back of trip. Oilers were 0-2 in Show Me State last season. One win last six trips. PICK: LOSS

MAR. 3 MINNESOTA 8-7-2: Oilers lone win in their last 16 games in Minnesota came last season, 5-2. PICK: OTL

MAR. 5 COLUMBUS 5-12-2: Oilers beat the Jackets 3-1 Feb. 1 in Columbus and are 2-2 in their last four visits. PICK: WIN

MAR. 7 DETROIT 9-7-3: Oilers lost 2-1 at the JLA on Feb. 9 and have just one win in their last nine trips to Detroit. PICK: OTL

MAR. 8 NASHVILLE 8-6-5: Won 6-3 and 6-2 in Music City last season and have won three of the last four. Second half of back-to-back. PICK: WIN

MAR. 10 CHICAGO 15-0-3: PICK: LOSS

MAR. 12 COLORADO 7-8-2: Oilers have lost three straight in Denver, including a 3-1 loss Feb. 2. PICK: WIN

BOTTOM LINE

If the Oilers come out of this trip with nine of a possible 18 points, which I suspect they will, they'll almost certainly jet home from Denver further out of a playoff spot than when they left home just two points out. Less than nine? Likely too much ground to make up.

It's the first four stops that are a kick in the pills. Squeeze more than two loser points from the first four games and take, say, 11-12 points from the trip, and the Oilers will have passed the halfway point of the schedule with at least a fighting chance to take a run at a playoff spot in the second half.

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 David S
February 24 2013, 09:06PM
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This is the season right here boys. We flub this one and the fat lady can start singing.

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#2 Crispy
February 25 2013, 12:26AM
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I predict that we will beat Chicago 10-2, and Gagner will get a lot of points, maybe only around 7 this time.

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#3 David S
February 25 2013, 10:18AM
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For the love of god can somebody let Mike Modano's Dog outside before he pisses all over the carpet? SHEESH!

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#4 Bring back Salo
February 25 2013, 10:58AM
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Dear RNH's shoulder: please heal, we need you

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#5 27Ginge
February 25 2013, 02:46AM
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Oilers will win six on the trip. Kevin Martin will win eleven.

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#6 Walter Sobchak
February 24 2013, 09:29PM
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RB

I pick the same games minus the game in Nashville, I just don't see them winning those back to backs.

I also think the Oilers wont pick up any Bettman points, which means I'm picking them for outright loses.

2-7 is my expectations.

I'm hoping for 4-5.........At 4-5 there still hope.

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#7 Shredder
February 24 2013, 09:38PM
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The blackhawks game is the exact kind of game the oil want to play. I say they win both vs. Chicago, especially since they played today, and the recent games against them have been huge victories....

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#8 Serious Gord
February 24 2013, 10:21PM
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1. I hate hate hate the NHL points system. Having two OR three point games is ridiculous. It's impossible to say how many games out of the playoffs a team is.

Please, rules committee for the love of god move to a 3-2-1 system.

2. " ...with the only real constant being their inability to generate as many goals as they'd like at even strength."

Actually there are two other constants:

1. Soft play with nearly non-existent hitting.

2. No hard shots from the point.

And a bonus constant.. Opposing goalies never getting the ass of their pants wet from being knocked over by a oiler forward in the blue paint.

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#9 The Oilers Shot Clock
February 25 2013, 12:41AM
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If... We come out of this 9 game trip and its a write off, I hope the long road trip itself isn't used as an excuse or a crutch, instead of admitting this team has issues, and then not address said issues.

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#10 Jon
February 25 2013, 08:14AM
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We are always a good matchup against Chicago, their style of play lets our offense play. I think we come out with a win tonight, considering Chicago is playing the 2nd of a back to back and they did not put out a good showing last night but still came out with the win (usually means lesson not learned).

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#11 Serious Gord
February 25 2013, 08:15AM
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@northof51

Because we lack a hard point shot - Justin Shultz I'm looking at you - other teams are already adjusting by moving more aggressively towards the point and hurrying and disrupting possession.

As regards the bettman point helping keep more teams in the playoffs, I understand that adding more teams to the playoffs via a wildcard similar to the MLB is being discussed. The NHL should eliminate the BP and add the WC.

Winwin

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#12 tileguy
February 25 2013, 09:30AM
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Can somebody please explain 500 hockey to me. Is going 3-3 +3 gaining 9 points and giving up 14 to your western conference opponents still playing 500 hockey? Please no more using the term 500 hockey if that is not what you truly mean.

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#13 Bucknuck
February 25 2013, 11:32AM
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When does Horcoff get back? That will be when they start winning again.

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#14 Time Travelling Sean
February 24 2013, 09:43PM
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I hate it that we play one game, get two days off for three straight games then have to play b2b and 3 games in 4 nights.

Why can't we beat Chicago? You can't stay hot all year.

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#15 DonDon
February 24 2013, 10:34PM
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Calgary has now moved up to tie the Oilers for 12th, one point ahead of Minnesota in 14th.

Doesn't look good for the next 9 games on the road, but miracles can happen. That is why the games are played.

Good luck boys.

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#16 Bonvie
February 24 2013, 11:39PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

1. I hate hate hate the NHL points system. Having two OR three point games is ridiculous. It's impossible to say how many games out of the playoffs a team is.

Please, rules committee for the love of god move to a 3-2-1 system.

2. " ...with the only real constant being their inability to generate as many goals as they'd like at even strength."

Actually there are two other constants:

1. Soft play with nearly non-existent hitting.

2. No hard shots from the point.

And a bonus constant.. Opposing goalies never getting the ass of their pants wet from being knocked over by a oiler forward in the blue paint.

Its not about how hard you shoot it from the point its about getting it on net through traffic and most important part is that there is traffic. There are a few guys in the NHL that can sometimes beat goalies from the blue line with a slapper with the goalie seeing it all the way, but for the most part its the guys who get the shots on net quickly, and through the traffic that do the scoring.

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#17 VK63
February 25 2013, 12:54AM
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Just a bunch of young single millionaires on a two week foreign hiatus.

What could go wrong?

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#18 pelhem grenville
February 25 2013, 07:30AM
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...by the time the dust settles and the smoke clears from this mid-season sojourn our GM needs to beware The Ides of March...his club will have to go well over 500 on this trip...

...if they don't he should be fired!

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#19 northof51
February 25 2013, 07:38AM
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@Serious Gord

I also hate the Bettman point, but this is one of those things that makes a lot of teams a lot of money... It has kept more teams in the playoff hunt and for that matter, kept the playoff picture invariably mixed up, until late in the season and often, the very last game. The owners get more fans in the rink and the TV networks pull better ratings (game 82 in 2010 between the Flyers and Rangers was one of the highest rated [non-outdoor] regular season games ever in the states).

It's illogical and frustrating, but I fear it's here to stay.

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#20 Phixieus666
February 25 2013, 08:52AM
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Doesn't matter this team is still going no where. You can have all the potential and talent in the league and unless you can translate that into wins and points, your still nothing but the Islanders.

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#21 Lochenzo
February 25 2013, 09:20AM
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It's one thing to listen to your coach preach what needs to be done. It's quite another when you face a daunting task, and then you listen to your coach's advice. You tend to be more receptive subconsciously. Recognize when to chip and chase. Pucks on net, especially if you're in prime scoring areas. Simple pucks out of the defensive zone when there's pressure.

Simple things the Oilers need to be better at. Road trips are all about simple games. If they figure it out, they have a chance.

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#22 Rob...
February 25 2013, 09:34AM
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So when is Shanahan's conference call with Hall, where the POS has to explain why Max Pacioretty faces no supplemental disciplinary action for his actual intent to injure on McDonagh. F' this WWE-like league!

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#23 admiralmark
February 25 2013, 09:40AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Because we lack a hard point shot - Justin Shultz I'm looking at you - other teams are already adjusting by moving more aggressively towards the point and hurrying and disrupting possession.

As regards the bettman point helping keep more teams in the playoffs, I understand that adding more teams to the playoffs via a wildcard similar to the MLB is being discussed. The NHL should eliminate the BP and add the WC.

Winwin

All of this could be remedied if only RNH could adjust to making a one timer once in awhile? I really think the kids shoulder is screwed.

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#24 Dougers14
February 25 2013, 10:00AM
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Man, there is a lot of negativity in Oil country these days, understandable I guess, but I for one think a road trip is just what this team needs. This year the Oilers play much simpler on the road, which for some reason they cannot do at home and that will benefit them IMO.

My prediction is the Oilers will finish the trip 4-3-2, 10 points which will give them a shot at making a playoff drive in the second half of the season.

I am excited and nervous about this trip, and hope it gels the team and turns around their season. I guess we will find out in the next two weeks, yikes!

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#25 CaptainLander
February 25 2013, 10:00AM
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@Phixieus666

Not yet ready to compare the Oil rebuild to the perpetual Islander one but a coupe more years of this and I will be.

Oil 4-2 Win tonight

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#26 Mike Modano's Dog
February 25 2013, 10:02AM
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I couldn't agree more, Serious Gord and tileguy!

I have become very disinterested in the 'playoff run' as a team being a few points out is never able to make ANY headway because the teams above are all playing chicken-shit hockey and guaranteeing they get a loser point at worst. It's ruining the game, in my opinion, and the crazy chases for playoff spots most fans really enjoyed!

There is nothing I hate more than hearing a team is .500 when they are 3-3-10. No, they are simply losers - but to Bettman they ARE .500, BECAUSE they're getting a point...which Bettman gave the losers in the first place. (For casual hockey fans when a team goes to OT a 'win' is placed along with all the other wins, but on the other hand an OT 'loss' isn't placed in the loss column. It is placed in a separate column, normally reserved for ties. It makes it appear they didn't lose those games, when counting how many games the team has won as opposed to 'lost', the normal bar for playing .500 in any sport!) We all see what is happening with that so allow me to ask all the members of the media who clearly understand that:

CAN YOU PLEASE STOP CALLING THOSE TEAMS .500, for the love of God?! If their losses and OTL COMBINED add up to their wins, then please feel free to!! :D

http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39172-THNcom-Blog-NHLs-useless-loser-point-creates-detrimental-confusion.html

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#27 vetinari
February 25 2013, 10:16AM
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I would prefer a system where the winner takes home 2 points for a win and losers get nothing for a loss, even though the loser points are helping us out right now.

My present feeling about the road trip is that we are too inconsistent to bring home more than 6 or 7 points-- even Columbus could give us fits if they half-a$$ show up and we decide to play pond hockey again. If, by miracle of miracles, they decide to cut out the fancy extra passes that miss their mark AND the blue line turnovers AND the undisciplined penalties at key points in the game, then maybe, just maybe, we could come home with 10-12 points to show for the trip.

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#28 DSF
February 25 2013, 10:42AM
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This is pretty much do or die here kids.

If the Oilers lose tonight, they will have to sit and wait until Thursday against Dallas while the following occurs:

DAL@CLB

CAL@MIN

PHX@VCR

COL@SJS

NSH@ANA

DET@LA

CHI@STL

CAL@COL

MIN@PHX

DET@SJS

Now, considering that many of those games may be 3 pointers, the Oilers chances of making the playoffs may dip to as low as 10% before the Dallas game on Thursday.

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#29 bdiddy18
February 25 2013, 10:44AM
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Oilers earn their stripes here - last year in the final three months Oilers went 8-5-2 on the road - this even when they were out of the race by then

calling it doomsday will benefit the team cause what is expected is a disaster, they will suprise.

They play a much simpler road game plan, focus on the essentials and go 5-2-2 - get excited about the race.

Then they come home try to be the harlem globetrotters again and botch it.

its going to be that kind of year.

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#30 Spydyr
February 25 2013, 11:14AM
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If they don't get more then four wins this trip It is fore time yet again and another lotto pick.Either this is what the brain trust wants or they are incompetent.

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#31 michael
February 25 2013, 11:53AM
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We'' be getting out the pitchforks and firebrands and marching on Oilers headquarters.We'll be burning effigy's of Tambo with demands for his resignation. The Oilers go 3-6 on this road trip and the doom I speak of will not even describe the ire of the fans if this season is a write off by March 12th. Tambo has sat idly by and done zip.He is allin with this team and the guy across from him has 2 aces.It don't look good. We got suited 5-6.

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#32 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
February 25 2013, 12:19PM
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DSF wrote:

This is pretty much do or die here kids.

If the Oilers lose tonight, they will have to sit and wait until Thursday against Dallas while the following occurs:

DAL@CLB

CAL@MIN

PHX@VCR

COL@SJS

NSH@ANA

DET@LA

CHI@STL

CAL@COL

MIN@PHX

DET@SJS

Now, considering that many of those games may be 3 pointers, the Oilers chances of making the playoffs may dip to as low as 10% before the Dallas game on Thursday.

To be fair, if they win tonight they'll still have to wait until Thursday.

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#33 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
February 25 2013, 12:29PM
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Competitive teams can perservere/overcome. Our Oilers aren't there yet so i can see why you'd catalogue this in the redickerous category.

Since Gregor's up to his arse in aligators i'll put my prediction here.

Oilers are due for a WTF game tonight. 4-1 Oilers, a good start to what will be a difficult roadtrip.

Love to see one more premium selection this summer added to the fold. It won't be so bad if the Oilers can lose the lions share to teams they measure up better against, and beat someone they're not supposed to once in a while.

WTF win tonight boys......2 goals for Yakupov tonight in the Blackhawks first regulation loss.

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#34 Serious Gord
February 25 2013, 12:37PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Competitive teams can perservere/overcome. Our Oilers aren't there yet so i can see why you'd catalogue this in the redickerous category.

Since Gregor's up to his arse in aligators i'll put my prediction here.

Oilers are due for a WTF game tonight. 4-1 Oilers, a good start to what will be a difficult roadtrip.

Love to see one more premium selection this summer added to the fold. It won't be so bad if the Oilers can lose the lions share to teams they measure up better against, and beat someone they're not supposed to once in a while.

WTF win tonight boys......2 goals for Yakupov tonight in the Blackhawks first regulation loss.

The hawks record streak just means that they are due (for a loss in regulation). Perhaps the oil will be the beneficiaries tonight.

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#35 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
February 25 2013, 12:46PM
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pelhem grenville wrote:

...by the time the dust settles and the smoke clears from this mid-season sojourn our GM needs to beware The Ides of March...his club will have to go well over 500 on this trip...

...if they don't he should be fired!

Here here!

What is an "ldes" btw?

It it means throwing Steve under the bus, i'll be more than happy to drive that sucker.

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#36 The Other Ron Burgundy
February 25 2013, 12:48PM
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I am strangely optimistic about this trip. History makes it look bad but at some point you have to shake of the weight of history and make new history. Unless you are the Islanders or the Blue Jackets...

6-2-1 is my guess, with one of those losses coming tonight and the OTL in Dallas, after which ON goes into a tailspin the likes of which hasn't been seen since the first utterances around here of a "rebuild".

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#37 VK63
February 25 2013, 12:58PM
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Same 6 dmen as last game.

IE:

Ryan Whitney eating popcorn with Hallsy, Horc et al.

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#38 Hayek
February 25 2013, 01:27PM
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I think we will go 2-6-1. Oilers will finally start scoring more goals, but will give up a lot more.

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#39 Scott in Grande Prairie
February 25 2013, 02:52PM
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I hope I'm wrong, but I think this trip sinks the year.

I don't want to throw the Greater Edmonton Sports Community under the bus, but I'm just thinking out loud here: If and when the Oilers move into a new building and out of Rexall Place, would you consider selling the old building to the Canadian Curling Association and/or the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association for, say, the princely sum of $2?

Edmonton has become easy-money for the Canadian Curling Association for both national and international curling events ... but the Oilers are, quite frankly, victimized by it. And if you combine a curling-event year with the regular Canadian Finals Rodeo road-trip, it's tougher. And the scary thing is, it's almost self-inflicted.

I mean, obviously, gate and conscession revenues come into both events (and I have to believe Katz will want both events in the new building), but a small part of me is really, really hoping that when that new building is built, the Oilers can schedule things so that the seven- and nine-game trips are a thing of the past.

Nine-game road trip in a 48-game season ... I don't think Magellan's road trip was that bad.

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#40 David S
February 25 2013, 04:30PM
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DSF wrote:

This is pretty much do or die here kids.

If the Oilers lose tonight, they will have to sit and wait until Thursday against Dallas while the following occurs:

DAL@CLB

CAL@MIN

PHX@VCR

COL@SJS

NSH@ANA

DET@LA

CHI@STL

CAL@COL

MIN@PHX

DET@SJS

Now, considering that many of those games may be 3 pointers, the Oilers chances of making the playoffs may dip to as low as 10% before the Dallas game on Thursday.

So you're saying there's a chance?

Sweet. The way things are going, I'll take your 10% odds ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!

*Sobs hysterically*

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#41 sec206
February 25 2013, 05:37PM
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.

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#42 Gilmore Tuttle
February 25 2013, 08:37PM
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Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

I hope I'm wrong, but I think this trip sinks the year.

I don't want to throw the Greater Edmonton Sports Community under the bus, but I'm just thinking out loud here: If and when the Oilers move into a new building and out of Rexall Place, would you consider selling the old building to the Canadian Curling Association and/or the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association for, say, the princely sum of $2?

Edmonton has become easy-money for the Canadian Curling Association for both national and international curling events ... but the Oilers are, quite frankly, victimized by it. And if you combine a curling-event year with the regular Canadian Finals Rodeo road-trip, it's tougher. And the scary thing is, it's almost self-inflicted.

I mean, obviously, gate and conscession revenues come into both events (and I have to believe Katz will want both events in the new building), but a small part of me is really, really hoping that when that new building is built, the Oilers can schedule things so that the seven- and nine-game trips are a thing of the past.

Nine-game road trip in a 48-game season ... I don't think Magellan's road trip was that bad.

The road trips for the CFR and curling might hurt the team's record but don't feel sorry for Katz. He gets all the suite and advertising revenues. Northlands has to pay him a big chunk of money in beer rights and other charges.

Northlands isn't going to sell their building unless Katz comes up with about $60 million or so. The CFR won't be going to the new arena. Northlands owns the brand and has a long term contract with the CPRA. Also, events like curling make a big chunk of money with beer garden facilities, which exist at Northlands but don't in the new downtown plan.

Katz will try to poach all the events he can, including the curling or figure skating championships. He will soon learn that he can't compete with Northlands as they will make a lot more money with 100 more free dates in their building, even though the city is using that ticket tax to subsidize Katz.

His wallet will soon rule his ego when he realizes that he can't compete and either have to enter a partnership with Northlands to run both facilities or get bored and sell the team to buy the Canucks.

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