DRUDGERY TAKES A DAY OFF

Robin Brownlee
March 10 2013 09:25PM

Will the Edmonton Oilers have a better second half to this lockout-shortened 48-game season? And, even if they do, will it be enough to make them playoff contenders in the Western Conference?

I don't know the answer to that, but Sunday's all-over-the-place 6-5 nail-biter over Chicago at the United Center – the Blackhawks first regulation time loss at home this season -- damn sure was worth the price of admission and kicked off the second half of Edmonton's schedule with a bang.

Languishing in the basement of the Western Conference when the game began and on a five-game losing streak, the Oilers jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then hung on for dear life to win for just the second time in eight games on this nine-game road trip after being shutout in back-to-back games.

Along the way, the Oilers lost starter Devan Dubnyk, who took a knee in the coconut from Teemu Hartikainen, leaving third-string stopper Yann Danis to close the deal and send the Oilers to Colorado to wrap-up the trip feeling, I'm guessing, pretty good about themselves.

It wasn't remotely close to the way coach Ralph Krueger would have drawn it up for Game 25, but it was two points for a team that was in the throes of a difficult stretch and starting to look like a bunch that was flat-out beaten down and ready to fold.

WHAT'S NEXT?

"I'm proud of the team to be able to dig this one out," Krueger said after the Oilers improved to 9-11-5 for 23 points going into Denver for a match-up with the Avalanche Tuesday.

People like to call wins like this one "character builders." Maybe so, but if the Oilers are going to make anything resembling a concerted playoff push in the 23 games that remain, character-builders are going to have to take a backseat to points in the standings.

It goes without saying there's obviously a helluva long way to go, but there is something to be said for the lift, however brief, a win like this one provides. There's been a lot of heads hanging and shoulders slumping over the past few weeks, and that starts permeate a locker room. "Here we go again . . ."

Against the Blackhawks, Sam Gagner continued to shove it to his critics with two more goals. Captain Shawn Horcoff, who called a team meeting Saturday, made his return from a busted knuckle and scored a goal. Buzz-saw Mike Brown contributed with his gloves on with the 1-0 goal and continues to look like a timely and much-needed pick-up. Hartikainen returned to the fold. Ryan Whitney looked like, well, the player he used to be.

So, what now?

DOWN THE STRETCH

While it's tempting to say the win over the Blackhawks could set a tone heading into Denver, that tone changes completely if the Oilers revert to recent form against the Avalanche. Given the swings in performance we've seen this season, that's entirely possible. Maybe even probable.

Will the veteran leadership of Horcoff make a difference in the remaining 23 games? Is Whitney finding his game or was Sunday a blip on his way to a new address at the trade deadline? And what of Dubnyk? If he's not ready to go against Colorado, it'll be Danis and somebody not named Nikolai Khabibulin tending the twine.

That'll play out, as it always does, soon enough. Besides, plotting a trend for the Oilers, as we've found out, has been next to impossible, so it's probably prudent not to read too much into what we saw against the Blackhawks.

What I do know is this: for the first off-day in a long time, the Oilers have something to feel good about as they make their way to Denver instead of digesting yet more defeat and disappointment. Likewise their fans, who've had precious little to cheer about lately. Take a day to enjoy it.

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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#51 oildawg99
March 11 2013, 09:46AM
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Soemone call the wahbulance cuz some oielr "fans" are not happy

Wahhhh the Oilers won but they didn't win right

wahhhh horcoff scored a goal and played a great game but he didn't have a great game right

Wahhhh we beat the number one team in the league but we just didn't beat them right

Wahhhh trade all our veteran players its so easy to do

wahh why won't Boston give us Lucic for hesmky

Wahhh why won't the preds give us Shea Weber for nothing?

Its really sad to see my fellow Oiler fans turning into whiney canuck type fans. Cheer for your team damn it, if not move on to another team. We are five points out right now ( as most sensible people prediucted we would be) give or take a few points so try and enjoy yourselves for one friggen day

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#52 Yourmomthinksimhot
March 11 2013, 09:55AM
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oildawg99 wrote:

Soemone call the wahbulance cuz some oielr "fans" are not happy

Wahhhh the Oilers won but they didn't win right

wahhhh horcoff scored a goal and played a great game but he didn't have a great game right

Wahhhh we beat the number one team in the league but we just didn't beat them right

Wahhhh trade all our veteran players its so easy to do

wahh why won't Boston give us Lucic for hesmky

Wahhh why won't the preds give us Shea Weber for nothing?

Its really sad to see my fellow Oiler fans turning into whiney canuck type fans. Cheer for your team damn it, if not move on to another team. We are five points out right now ( as most sensible people prediucted we would be) give or take a few points so try and enjoy yourselves for one friggen day

Only 5 points out hey..... This might interest you as to how big of a hill 5 pts is to climb. http://www.sportsclubstats.com/NHL/Western/Northwest/Edmonton_ChanceWillMakePlayoffs.html

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#53 Minister D-
March 11 2013, 09:56AM
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Agreed, RB, especially on the "probable" likelihood that the Oilers will revert, as you say. With O'Reilly and Landeskog back in the Avs lineup, the Oilers will get mauled if they play anything like they have for most of this road trip. The Chicago game was far too wild to be granted 'turning point' status; by all rights the Oilers probably should have lost last night, despite the 4-goal lead.

A concern has to be defense; not D-personnel, mind you, that would be beating a dead horse, but systems. The Oilers have been giving up an awful lot of goals against and ten-bell chances lately. And speaking of zone-play, Petrell, Belanger, and Smyth were atrocious again last night. None of them should be here next year.

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#54 Spydyr
March 11 2013, 10:04AM
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Shane wrote:

I'm sure that most Oilers fans understand the concept that the team that plays worse will usually lose.

It is not as simple as that.

An example is Nuge. He is slumping in a big part because he is playing top minutes against the best players in the world at 19.

Last year he was sheltered. Not this year. It affected his game.

Last night Chicago never showed up to start the game. Something Oiler fans are all too used to. That dictated the first period more than the Oilers play as the rest of the game showed.

It is not that the better team wins most nights (that is obvious). It is the way the other team plays that night affects how well the Oilers look as much as how they are playing.Put this team in a playoff game against one of the bigger teams and they will get destroyed.

That is my point.

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#55 oildawg99
March 11 2013, 10:20AM
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Yourmomthinksimhot wrote:

Only 5 points out hey..... This might interest you as to how big of a hill 5 pts is to climb. http://www.sportsclubstats.com/NHL/Western/Northwest/Edmonton_ChanceWillMakePlayoffs.html

Apparently you missed the entire point of my post but thats ok you were busy looking for negative stats for some unknown reason as I never at any point said it was an easy climb.

So we are 5 points out and its a tough hill to climb I should start whining with the rest of these so called fans? Even after a win?

No thanks, I will cheer for my team and hope to have some meaningful games near the end of the season.

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#56 geoilersgist
March 11 2013, 10:24AM
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@oildawg99

Its great they are only 5 points out. I am happy they are as close as they are but the fact is we are only 1 point out of last and the team in last has 2 games in hand on us. What improvement has there been this year over last? NONE, I enjoy when they win and hate when they lose, but something needs to be done to this team. I don't know what but something has to give sooner rather than later.

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#57 Yourmomthinksimhot
March 11 2013, 10:35AM
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@oildawg99

I'm not whining actually. I'm simply making a statement that using "we're 5 points out" as an implication that we're even remotely close or as a positive statement is a waste of a sentence. 6% is our chance of making the playoffs this morning, "5 points out" doesn't matter... at all.

I also in fact am a fan and I find it disappointing that this team is yet again going to miss the playoffs. Whether we are coming off a win or not this is getting old and frustrating. Fans on this website have earned the right to complain.

Get over it.

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#58 nuge2nail
March 11 2013, 10:43AM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

@oildawg99

You really want us to celebrate this win, did you watch the Preds and Wings game? Im sorry my short term memory is still in tact unlike yours.

Seems your long term memory is shot too since we have been rebuilding for FIVE years- maybe you dont remember the 3 first round picks in 07.

Maybe your delusional and you dont realize we are sitting in 15th in the Western Conference still and this team has made no improvements via trade in almost a decade.

Also me suggesting trading a guy with 8 goals(which would tie him for second in goal scoring on the bruins and wings) for a late first(25-28th overall) doesnt seem difficult. Trading Jones for a second, Smid for a first, doesnt seem unrealistic. Seems like it will be a sellers market with most teams looking to resign their players rather than trade them for picks, and with the tight races.

Me also suggesting packaging 8 picks for one player is seen by some as an overpayment and others as "recieving Weber for nothing"

WEBER IS AN EXAMPLE OF A PLAYER TO TARGET WITH 8 PICKS AT THE DRAFT. Im sure we would can use those picks and add NHL Talent and fill some holes. All im saying is doing nothing is not acceptable anymore, and a loss to Chicago probably would have been better because fans are starting to turn on the team, and thats what is needed to finally create some change.

PLEASE PUT A BULLET IN MY HEAD if I have to go through another offseason, reading countless articles about the fact that we have to add size and grit to our forwards, bring in a two way top 4 dman and better goaltending.

Its like waking up in groundhog day hockey hell.

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#59 Quicksilver ballet
March 11 2013, 10:47AM
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SELL THE FARM!

As long as they give it back against the Avalanche tommorow, last evenings victory won't hurt managements ultimate goal.

Hall to center, draft Drouin in a few weeks, then back up the truck to please David Poile. Weber would be the ultimate wow move to help MacTavish (the new GM) get started on the right foot.

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#60 Lochenzo
March 11 2013, 10:50AM
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The kids have been seeing a lot of the the other team's top lines and dmen. We've seen RNH and Eberle point production be just a little disappointing. Now, it's good for the long term to let these kids figure it out and play them in those situations. But if your priority is the playoffs this year, would you shelter their minutes a little more with more home games coming up on the horizon? ie. the Tom Renney approach where we see more Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, against the top lines.

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#61 Dennis
March 11 2013, 10:53AM
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@Spydyr

Careful, don't say Nuge is in a slump or Keilan will come and tell you that nobody should take you seriously.

I agree though, his game isn't what it was last year. He's probably more injured than the team is letting on, and the harder minutes aren't doing him any favours. Eberle's game has suffered some as well, but last night they were talking about him possibly having a broken finger. If so, that's got to affect thigns big time.

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#62 Jay
March 11 2013, 10:53AM
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@oildawg99

It's a shame we can't all stay positive and continue to cheer for a bottom feeding team. We should all just feel privileged that we get to spend our money on a NHL team at all. I'm with you, let's all just stay unjustifiably positive! Winning and improvement needs to be an irrelevant idea.

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#63 oildawg99
March 11 2013, 10:57AM
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@Yourmomthinksimhot

Hey man its cool. Anyone can complain. I was just pointing out that it is pretty pathetic of our fans to complain even when we win a game.

To say I am not disappointed with the season this far would be an understatement and I also feel there are changes that need to be made.

Also just wondering how far your b*tching and moaning has got you. other than pissed off even when your team wins?

Everyone has the right to complain my point that its confusing to see so called fans complaining after a win against the #1 team in the league.

I am sure someone like yourself would say beating Chicago "does not matter at all"but I would argue it does as we are now 2 points higher in the standings, I would also say a 6% chance is better than 0 so in fact when you say it does not matter at all you are again whining? but thats ok, you have earned that right as well.

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#64 oildawg99
March 11 2013, 11:17AM
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@nuge2nail

yeah, saw the Preds and Wings games, Minny too. Horrible. I understand frustrated fans after those losses flipping out. But why not enjoy the win?

I am also not saying that your trades are not plausible or even makes sense but it seems that oilers fans forget that in order to make a trade you need a willing partner.

Oilers: Hey boston how about a trade hemsky for Lucic staright up?

Boston: not really looking at a deal right now

Oilers: but my fans think its a good idea

Boston: Well if they think its a good idea it must be, when do we get this deal signed?

Talk about delusional. if you think fans turning on the team is going to breed some kind of championship team you are out of your mind. What I can see it doing is driving potential free agents from ever wanting to come here ( we have this problem already) convince the young players that this is not where they want to be, and generally build an atmosphere of negativity around the team, similar to the old Maple Leafs.

This is not to say that management has not failed miserably and some changes are needed. I am just saying enjoy the win, as a fan of the team.

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#65 OilersBrass
March 11 2013, 11:20AM
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oildawg99 wrote:

Hey man its cool. Anyone can complain. I was just pointing out that it is pretty pathetic of our fans to complain even when we win a game.

To say I am not disappointed with the season this far would be an understatement and I also feel there are changes that need to be made.

Also just wondering how far your b*tching and moaning has got you. other than pissed off even when your team wins?

Everyone has the right to complain my point that its confusing to see so called fans complaining after a win against the #1 team in the league.

I am sure someone like yourself would say beating Chicago "does not matter at all"but I would argue it does as we are now 2 points higher in the standings, I would also say a 6% chance is better than 0 so in fact when you say it does not matter at all you are again whining? but thats ok, you have earned that right as well.

I was just thinking that! People complain about the lack of scoring and winning games, and even when the Oilers address both of those problems they still find a reason to complain! As an Oilers fan, sure it was hard to watch the last bit of that game last night, but it sure was a fun game to watch.

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#66 Ducey
March 11 2013, 11:22AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

SELL THE FARM!

As long as they give it back against the Avalanche tommorow, last evenings victory won't hurt managements ultimate goal.

Hall to center, draft Drouin in a few weeks, then back up the truck to please David Poile. Weber would be the ultimate wow move to help MacTavish (the new GM) get started on the right foot.

Yes, its so easy. I can't believe Tambo hasn't traded for Weber already! Fire him! Why don't the Oilers trade for Crosby, Stamkos and Quick! They would be sooo good!

What are you guys, 12?

There is absolutely NO WAY that NASH trades Weber. Period.

You want Weber? Draft Seth Jones.

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#67 Quicksilver ballet
March 11 2013, 11:47AM
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@Ducey

There are a number of reasons a deal like this could happen. Whose to say Poile isn't feeling the pinch from ownership next summer if the Preds fail to make the playoffs? That contract has to be a ball and chain around the neck in a revenue sharing dependant market like Nashville. This money issue alone leads me to believe moving Weber isn't such a reach.

Seth Jones is nothing more than Adam Larsson 2. Fack that, he's not even the best d'man on the Winterhawks. Don't buy into all that projected imagery and hope of what he may/may not be in 7 yrs.

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#68 admiralmark
March 11 2013, 12:22PM
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oildawg99 wrote:

Soemone call the wahbulance cuz some oielr "fans" are not happy

Wahhhh the Oilers won but they didn't win right

wahhhh horcoff scored a goal and played a great game but he didn't have a great game right

Wahhhh we beat the number one team in the league but we just didn't beat them right

Wahhhh trade all our veteran players its so easy to do

wahh why won't Boston give us Lucic for hesmky

Wahhh why won't the preds give us Shea Weber for nothing?

Its really sad to see my fellow Oiler fans turning into whiney canuck type fans. Cheer for your team damn it, if not move on to another team. We are five points out right now ( as most sensible people prediucted we would be) give or take a few points so try and enjoy yourselves for one friggen day

Yes yes.. a million times yes!

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#69 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 11 2013, 12:56PM
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Minister D- wrote:

Agreed, RB, especially on the "probable" likelihood that the Oilers will revert, as you say. With O'Reilly and Landeskog back in the Avs lineup, the Oilers will get mauled if they play anything like they have for most of this road trip. The Chicago game was far too wild to be granted 'turning point' status; by all rights the Oilers probably should have lost last night, despite the 4-goal lead.

A concern has to be defense; not D-personnel, mind you, that would be beating a dead horse, but systems. The Oilers have been giving up an awful lot of goals against and ten-bell chances lately. And speaking of zone-play, Petrell, Belanger, and Smyth were atrocious again last night. None of them should be here next year.

You mean even as a healthy scratch Belanger looks bad?

crap, that's bad!

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#70 Minister D-
March 11 2013, 01:42PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

You mean even as a healthy scratch Belanger looks bad?

crap, that's bad!

Yeah, bad suit! ; ) Saying Belanger's had a bad game is like a reflex now, whether he's playing or not.

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#71 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 11 2013, 02:04PM
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Minister D- wrote:

Yeah, bad suit! ; ) Saying Belanger's had a bad game is like a reflex now, whether he's playing or not.

Todd Harvey once wore a brown suit with his playoff moustache in the 06 run when he was scratched.

Belanger should be shown some tape of that game by the video judge under the heading: "how to help the team while scratched: suits of inspiration"

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#72 Minister D-
March 11 2013, 03:29PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Todd Harvey once wore a brown suit with his playoff moustache in the 06 run when he was scratched.

Belanger should be shown some tape of that game by the video judge under the heading: "how to help the team while scratched: suits of inspiration"

And Harv was actually on the bench after those games cheering like a madman to boot.

RIP Harv's brown suit + moustache, Crabby Joe's, London, Ontario, Canada, circa 2006.

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#73 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 11 2013, 07:36PM
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@Minister D-

allergens afoot and "brewmeisters" on the table... down go the wings!

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#74 Suitcase
March 11 2013, 09:05PM
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Although I agree with oilers fans whining, you are bitching and whining about bitching and whining lol

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