PLAYOFF CONTENTION: EYES ON THE PRIZE

Robin Brownlee
March 19 2013 06:24PM

The misery fans have endured since the Edmonton Oilers lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes has included seeing their team hopelessly out of playoff contention more often than not by the time the first day of spring rolls around.

Not so during this lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign as the Oilers host San Jose Wednesday, the official first day of spring, with a 11-11-6 record for 28 points and in the hunt for a post-season spot in the Western Conference.

Yes, there's a great big asterisk beside that because this season, of course, is just 48 games, but I'm guessing that, after six years out of the post-season fun with the stretch drive providing lots of bitching and precious little intrigue, fans will happy look the other way on that front.

Jump back one year to last season and the Oilers were 28-36-8 on March 18 and out of the playoff picture. In 2010-11, they were 23-39-10 on March 19. In 2009-10, they were 22-42-7 on March 19. The only question as spring arrived these past three years was where the Oilers would finish in the draft lottery – the answers we know.

So, a bonafide playoff race, even allowing for special circumstances, beats the hell out of the alternatives Oilers fans have had in recent years. That said, let's keep our eyes on the prize – seeing the Oilers again become legit Stanley Cup contenders, not sneak-under-the-wire playoff pretenders.

BIG PICTURE

You don’t have to look far on message boards and fan forums to see that a big segment of Oiler fans are pumped at the prospect of having something to yell about heading into the stretch drive. Fine. It's completely understandable. I get the sentiment.

It's a fine line between that possibility, though, and falling into the tempting trap that goes something like this: "Man, if Steve Tambellini would only get off his backside and trade fill-in-name-of-player-here for a puck-moving defenseman or a big winger who can score . . ."

Despite a decent run over the last eight games that's built some optimism, this is a flawed roster in need of more than one or two pieces to make it whole in terms of building a team that can contend over the long haul. And that, even with the excitement of a possible run at the playoffs in the air, is the real prize and where the focus of Tambellini has to stay.

It's a cliché for a GM to vow he won’t mortgage the future for the present, and it's a cliché for a reason – some GMs can't help themselves at times like this. "If we just got this-or-that we could make a run . . ." Given the possibility Tambellini gets a can tied to his tail if this team falls flat again, I can see how short-term fixes might be tempting. Tempting? Yes. Smart? No.

THE LONG RUN

Might Tambellini be presented with a trade opportunity between now and April 3 that would help the Oilers get into the playoffs? Sure. Should he make that deal? Depends what the asking price is. If it means giving up a young core player – definitions on that will vary depending who you talk to – or a player who can play an important part with this team two years from now, I say no.

Forget the no-brainers – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov aren't going anywhere. Beyond that, it gets trickier. Should Tambellini, for example, move Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky for a better shot at seventh or eighth-place now?

Again, if the player you're giving up can and likely will be an important part of the team two years from now, then no – unless you can say "yes" to the question plugging in the player coming back. If that's the case, then you have to take a look at it. Seems obvious enough. It's seldom that simple.

It's one thing for fans jacked about a playoff push to take it all in, live for the day and concoct trades that might put the Oilers over the top here and now without an eye to tomorrow. It's quite another matter for Tambellini to take his eyes off the prize in the name of one playoff run. Been there. Done that.

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 dougtheslug
March 19 2013, 09:30PM
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MarcusBillius wrote:

Does every thread here now devolve into talking about DSF or arguing with DSF?

Jeez he hasn't even said anything tonight. But the answer is "yes".

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#52 DSF
March 19 2013, 09:32PM
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dougtheslug wrote:

Jeez he hasn't even said anything tonight. But the answer is "yes".

The worst thing people can say about you is nothing.

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#53 Old Retired Guy
March 19 2013, 09:40PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

First, I'm not a homer.

Second, I'm not suggesting Tambellini make a trade to make the playoffs this year at the expense of the long-term "health" of the team. The entire slant of the whole item is that HE SHOULD NOT. That you didn't, or couldn't, comprehend this before commenting makes you look like a buffoon.

Third, your last paragraph in concert with your complete and utter failure to comprehend the point of the item -- or your decision to ignore it so you could take a poke at me, which you've done before -- gets you gone.

Slow Clap

Clap........Clap.........Clap......

For the other Old Guy......Well Played!

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#54 Old Retired Guy
March 19 2013, 09:46PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

Considering that Sam Gagner is currently the leading scorer on the team, I don't think trading him gives the team a better chance at getting to the dance. There are only 19 players in the league scoring more than he is.

It wouldn't make sense to move him, unless management is thinking the Oilers are out of the playoffs, in which case his value will never be higher IMO.

Agreed. I for one, was part of the crowd that was for trading Gagner while his stock was high. The thinking was, he is too small to be effective in the playoffs.

I have changed my mind. Gagner proved me wrong. He has become a solid second line center.

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#55 Old Retired Guy
March 19 2013, 10:01PM
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Also don't think Whitney will bring us back as much value as keeping him gives us.

I thought his brutal play last year and in the first 20 games this year was a clear indication that his injury/disability had become permanent.

But his play in the last 6 games is like some kind of minor miracle compared to those first 20.

The question then is "Which is the REAL Whitney"?

If I were to hazard a guess at the 3 most likely guys to move via trade they would be 1) Habby 2) Hemmer 3) Nick Schultz

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#56 Ryan14
March 19 2013, 10:10PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Just looking at the numbers needed to get into the playoffs in past years Robin...

And that there as so many teams in contention that most are far better configured than the oil to make a serious run if they do get in.

And I'm being serious because i think that this is a critically important opportunity for the future of the oil. Because things are so tight this trade period is going to be a huge sellers market. We could get very good - top-of-the-market value for hemsky and gagner. More than a few GMS and coaches butts are on the line to boot.

Fan attitude is a critical determinant in this as well. Just look south to calgary and you will see thatthe fan pressure on Feaster and Iginla et al is make a move - to blow it up and start the rebuild in earnest.

And judging by the scouts at calgary games something seems to be afoot (iginla? Boumeester?).

That oil fans are all atwitter hoping to make a run only encourages the feeble-hearted K,L &T to hang onto the well-performing spare parts (H&G) to keep the run alive.

And an epic opportunity - one that might cost us a cup one day - will have been lost.

What does Twitter have to do with anything?

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#57 Dog Train
March 19 2013, 11:02PM
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Any moves that the Oilers make should be with a eye on future years. Most of our core is young so I doubt that there is a big deal to be made. If we make a big move, I suspect it will come in the off-season.

I love how everybody is getting their panties all up in a bunch about how many points we need and how difficult it will be to make the playoffs. Of course it will be difficult but for fans of a team that has missed the playoffs for 6 straight seasons, can't we just enjoy being in the hunt this late in the season? Shortened season or not. It's fun to be scoreboard watching in March. There are lots of teams in the playoff hunt but most of them are really struggling right now. None of San Jose, Phoenix, Nashville, Calgary or Dallas are playing well right now. Only Columbus is really on a roll but as nice of a story as that has been, it would be hard to imagine them keeping it up. We are only 2 points out and only Calgary has more remaining games in the west. Predicting the playoff cut line is a moving target but we are in the hunt. Let's just take care of our own games.

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#58 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
March 19 2013, 11:25PM
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There's a good chance this unfamiliar excitement may last ALL THE WAY.... to this weekend.... dun dun dun....

It takes one or two lousy performances by the Oilers (which we very well know they're capable of) to straighten the fan base right out.

Let's see if this ship is still afloat by the end of the weekend.

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#59 Oil4Life
March 19 2013, 11:34PM
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Lets string together a few more wins before we start seeing who needs to be moved. maybe Whitney can pull his head out of where ever its been and be the best player he can be. That'd make a pretty big difference for the Oilers! So exicted for the next few games!!!

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#60 Mikey
March 19 2013, 11:51PM
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Hayek wrote:

Get serious Brownlee you homer. We are nowhere near close to competing for the playoffs.

To suggest Tambo makes a short term trade just to make the playoffs this year is just plain harmful to the long term health of the team. Even if we get in the playoffs, what are we expected to achieve? It's way more practical to make short term rentals when the team actually has something to gain.

It is nice to see this blog still employs someone stuck in the 1980s. You are the Don Cherry of Oilersnation.

I love the guys who call people Homers, when they themselfs are ones. I guess it takes one to know one.

Not that RB is a homer.

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#61 Woogie63
March 19 2013, 11:56PM
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I don't know why Ganger has not played himself onto more people's core list. He has proved to be a very good second line centre who is outscoring all the other centres. Who is going to play in the number two hole? 23 year centre who is just coming into his own ... He is on my core list.

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#62 Mikey
March 20 2013, 12:02AM
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Old Retired Guy wrote:

Also don't think Whitney will bring us back as much value as keeping him gives us.

I thought his brutal play last year and in the first 20 games this year was a clear indication that his injury/disability had become permanent.

But his play in the last 6 games is like some kind of minor miracle compared to those first 20.

The question then is "Which is the REAL Whitney"?

If I were to hazard a guess at the 3 most likely guys to move via trade they would be 1) Habby 2) Hemmer 3) Nick Schultz

It goes back to that old saying, well I'm too young to know how it goes, so ill paraphrase it. It takes a long time to get back into form after a injury, just look at Hemmer.

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#63 Serious Gord
March 20 2013, 01:10AM
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Woogie63 wrote:

I don't know why Ganger has not played himself onto more people's core list. He has proved to be a very good second line centre who is outscoring all the other centres. Who is going to play in the number two hole? 23 year centre who is just coming into his own ... He is on my core list.

Simple. You cannot have rnh and gagner as your one-two down the middle. And gagner is too good/wrong type to be the third line center.

Gagner is a very good player. He can get us a very good player who fills a need/deficit in return.

http://youtu.be/Bo7zkd0kRS4

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#64 Bucknuck
March 20 2013, 02:47AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Joe thornton had 33 pts in 23 games when he was traded to SJ.

Phil Esposito had 127 pts 76 games the year before he was traded (after playing 12 games with 16 pts).

Gagner is small fry compared to either. The question is: do KL&T have the guts to pull the trigger? Sadly there is absolutely no evidence that these guys have the guts of a Harry Sinden or Doug Wilson.

Boston finished 26th the year they traded Joe Thornton.

What point, exactly, are you trying to convey?

Mine was that trading Gagner would be a Seller's move, not a move that was trying to get the Oilers into the dance.

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#65 Jay
March 20 2013, 06:21AM
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I'm with you on not trading gagner! This idea of trading him to fill a "need" doesn't make sense cuz all we'd be doing is making another need at centre, the only thing I'm worried about is what he and his agent are gonna want to get paid.

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#66 messy EH!
March 20 2013, 07:23AM
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Sam Gagner is currently 12th is center scoring. He has not been handed the heavy lifting or the soft minutes. He's scoring like a 1st line Center the concerns are his face off % 160 overall for centers in the league. He is the right age. Has the offense. Just needs to spend alot of time on his defense and faceoffs and we have our second line centre for years to come.

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#67 Serious Gord
March 20 2013, 07:28AM
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Bucknuck wrote:

Boston finished 26th the year they traded Joe Thornton.

What point, exactly, are you trying to convey?

Mine was that trading Gagner would be a Seller's move, not a move that was trying to get the Oilers into the dance.

My point as well. The oil should be selling to make for a better balanced and thus better team. Trading gagner is not some thing you would do if you are trying to make the playoffs this year.

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#68 madjam
March 20 2013, 08:16AM
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Sitting tied for 8th spot in goals against , but third from bottom in goals for so far . Seems to me youth or maybe entire club , has to start picking up more goals in final games in order o make for a run at playoffs . Is it Kreuger's system that prevents more goals for , and maybe over emphasizes defence to our offensive detriment?

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#69 Phixieus666
March 20 2013, 08:52AM
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Woogie63 wrote:

I don't know why Ganger has not played himself onto more people's core list. He has proved to be a very good second line centre who is outscoring all the other centres. Who is going to play in the number two hole? 23 year centre who is just coming into his own ... He is on my core list.

I agree, right now there is no way I trade this guy unless the return is just too off the charts to turn down. There are still some ? with him but they have changed. Can he get even better at faceoffs and his defensive play while maintaining the offensive production? That is one healthy gamble to take and brings a smile to the face.

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#70 outdoorzguy
March 20 2013, 09:04AM
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Who was that guy in the lead picture? Why it's Timid Tambellini doing nothing. Saw Loser Lowe on the news this morning pulling down a curtain to unveil a new medical centre. What a pair. Useless as all hell. Has anyone seen or heard the owner lately?

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#71 outdoorzguy
March 20 2013, 10:16AM
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Crispy wrote:

Oil spills kill sharks... Lets do some polluting!

The only "polluting" that comes from the Oilers is the stench from the management offices.

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#72 rob
March 20 2013, 10:28AM
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I am just happy to watch meaningfull games in march!its nice to have the excitment while watching the oilers,at least they are starting to get better,ride it out make trades in the summer!

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#73 oilerjed
March 20 2013, 10:54AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Blow what up? How about we just move some of the deadwood out.

Anything not bolted to the floor (fab 5) should be liquidated. Management has brought these wares to the last 3 entry drafts and tried to move them but to no avail. Maybe with Gags,Hemsky having decent yrs they may get a bite this summer on them. Smid (soon to be an overpay) and Whitney should be able to find a home in a couple weeks.

Players like these you can replace at Walmart during the summer (free agency).

Smid is only an over pay if you can replace his quality with a better priced dman who can bring the same skills. Whi is available to fill that spot this summer afte you turf a project we have been working of for 4-5 years. Same goes with Gags, who are you going to get that will replace his points and effort on a nightly basis. Even if this is his career year you still need a 50-60 point center next year or we lose the trade. I for one am excited to see if gags is really the big game guy he seems to be.

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#74 oilerjed
March 20 2013, 11:30AM
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The most important thing that happens this year is that our young guys learn how to play hard enough to make a run at the playoffs. And if they squeek in then there is an educational oppourtunity that they would have had to happen eventually. Worst case scenario, we end in 12-9th and they learn. Best case, they make it in seventh or eigth and they get a snif of what it is all about. Why wait? If we want to break the mindset of being "losers" what is a better way then the gleam of a chance to be in the playoffs and make a run at the cup?!

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#75 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 20 2013, 12:05PM
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@oilerjed

Edmonton already has one. Jeff Petry can do much more than Smid. Petry leans on people, blocks plenty of shots, quicker of foot and is much better offensively that Laddy......not to mention, at half the price as well.

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#76 bdiddy18
March 20 2013, 12:40PM
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For those that have just sat back and let it unfold however it may be... this March is the most fun in recent memory..

you have a Oiler fan base that has no clue what to do..

you have the Fire Tambo and K-LO haters who are doo dooing their pants because in order for their HATE to continue their own team has to continue to suck and they have to wish for loses.

you have the die hard loyalists hoping praying waiting for their 6 year I TOLD YOU SO MOMENT. But could be left crying on their soapbox with megaphone on mute.

and the media is all confused they have no clue what the Oilers should or shouldn't do.

love it all... oh the uncertainty!!

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#77 oilerjed
March 20 2013, 12:48PM
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@ oilchange

That may be true but you still would have to fill his spot. Is downgrading his spot because Petry can do the same a good choice for a team that has possibly two D holes to fill?

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#78 Wax Man Riley
March 20 2013, 04:13PM
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Bonvie wrote:

Gagner is a keeper, even if we have to use him on the wing instead.

I think we have a winner here.

He can definitely play the wing, although it doesn't give you a big #1, 2, 3, 4, on the right side, it gives a lot of speed, talent, and scoring punch.

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#79 Oiler Al
March 20 2013, 06:19PM
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I would have "Skate By" Hemsky on the trading block long before I had Gagner on there.

Gagner is not perfect, and perhaps not the same skill level as Hemsky, but he trys to make plays on both sides of the puck.

Hemsky after all these years has not learned to play with other players in the sandbox.

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#80 nunyour
March 20 2013, 06:56PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

I would have "Skate By" Hemsky on the trading block long before I had Gagner on there.

Gagner is not perfect, and perhaps not the same skill level as Hemsky, but he trys to make plays on both sides of the puck.

Hemsky after all these years has not learned to play with other players in the sandbox.

couldn't agree more,if Gagner is not the second line centre everyone wants,lets get him first then we can trade Gagner.

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