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 hemi
March 11 2013, 06:24AM
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I will take a win anyday! Accepting a lose just does not sit well with me. The Oil has a very long road to go yet before any of us fans can actually place real faith in the franchise to finally become a contender year in and year out. There is no doubting that the management of this once winning organization has to shoulder many of the problems of a non competative team that has been passed on as the Edmonton Oilers. This is not a team that one should be proud off. After going through coaches, bit players and etc, we are stil in a place where most fans think (me included) we should not be! We have no chance of going anywhere again this year. Rebuilding or not, the time was this season to show the forward movement of this team. Unfortunately, it has not materialized. There is no way else to put it, we are a bad team. Patience has all but run dry for me, time to sh*t or get of the pot for this organization.

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#52 jason
March 11 2013, 06:32AM
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don't get excited we've seen this movie before. like the alchoholic who tells his wife he's going to clean up his act, and quits just long enough to keep her from leaving, but then disapoints again. listen they've played one good period of hockey in 20 or 30, let's remember they nearly blew a 4 goal lead, so now they'll turn around and lose 4 or 5 games (notice how their play got progressively worse as the game went on). i'm sorry but nothing but making the playoffs will convince me that things have changed. even if they play really well and just fall short, that never seems to translate into success the following season, how do i know? we've all seen that movie before to.

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#53 Oiler Al
March 11 2013, 07:07AM
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Good thing time ran out on the game, othewise, it would have been a Hawks win.

IN any case, its a spirit lifter for the players, which was much needed. I just like watching Quinville chewing his lip blanket off this face, knowing he just lost to a last place team.

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#54 Spydyr
March 11 2013, 08:11AM
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What most Oiler fans fail to take into account. Every game involves two teams. Not just the Oilers. Last night the Hawks and especially Emery had their worst period of the season. It was not the Oilers being so good it was the Hawks being so bad.

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#55 j
March 11 2013, 08:48AM
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A win like this demonstrates how close most NHL teams are in terms of skill and how critical the intangibles are (i.e. confidence, execution, intensity, effort). Any team in the league can win games when things align. The good teams are able to keep them aligned. The Oilers aren't yet able to do this consistently but I don't think we need to throw the baby out. Lot's of great potential. We need someone to oversee the project, steer the ship, and teach the kids how to win.

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#56 Shane
March 11 2013, 09:25AM
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@Spydyr

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

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#57 Rama Lama
March 11 2013, 09:36AM
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Good to see the team rebound..........it's about time.

I think that Ralph has to be a better coach more than the players have to be better players.

I liked his line make-up against Chicago...........you can't have three puck carrying type of players on one line( RNH, Eberle, Hall) and it was good to see them in different line combinations for a change.

I say Potter played a hell of a game.........where has this guy been?

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#58 VK63
March 11 2013, 09:36AM
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Soooooooo. Now Calgary is a last place team.

That should satisfy those with flames psychosis around these parts.

For those so inclined. A 6' 4" stud of a dman lurks at the top of the draft. Not incentive to fail but one heck of a booby prize at the end of futility road.

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#59 justwondering
March 11 2013, 09:44AM
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You know I don't really care where they end up in the standings...as long as they are working every game and not taking nights off like they did in at least 4 games on this road trip.

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#60 Will
March 11 2013, 09:44AM
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If COlumbus can string together 5 wins in a row, why can't we? Also, even though they have two games in hand, it's nice to see Calgary in the basement. At least that prophecy could come true.

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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 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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#66 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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#67 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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#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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