NO CIGAR

Robin Brownlee
April 09 2013 12:05AM

As quickly as the Edmonton Oilers playoff bandwagon gathered steam with five straight wins, it is today upside down and on fire in the ditch after three straight losses, the last coming 2-1 against the Anaheim Ducks Monday.

Simply put, it was fun while it lasted, but the post-season drama is done and slim has turned to none. It's over. No chance. No way. No cigar. The Oilers will miss the playoffs, long shot that it was, for the seventh straight season.

The question now, with the Oilers sitting with 39 points through 39 games and with seven of their last nine outings home at Rexall Place, is how close is good enough? Or is close good enough?

If the Oilers push the issue from now until game 48, if they give it the old college try and finish within two or three points of eighth place in the Western Conference, is that sufficient progress? Is that good enough for a team that's finished 30th, 30th and 29th the past three seasons?

PLAYING OUT THE STRING

The Oilers weren't nearly good enough against the Ducks – as far as the big picture, they won’t be good enough, period, until GM Steve Tambellini addresses the holes on this roster -- despite a score dressed up by some terrific goaltending by Devan Dubnyk and a hope-and-a-prayer goal by Nick Schultz.

Outside of Taylor Hall roaring up and down the ice and the stellar play of Dubnyk, Oilers faithful had little to yell about during a game which at least provided comic relief when thick-skulled Anaheim fans mistakenly booed Nick Schultz (before his goal) instead of Justin Schultz for shunning So-Cal fans in favor of a city that actually cares about hockey, but I digress . . .

Thanks to an attack that went south the past three games, a drought that's seen the Oilers outscored 10-2, you don’t need a spread sheet – really -- or a vast intellect to understand the challenge for coach Ralph Krueger and his players now is to suck it up and play it out with as much gusto as they can muster the rest of the way. Finish strong. Don’t fold. Leave what needs to be done to those (Tambellini and Kevin Lowe) responsible for the make-up of this team.

Of course, we'll hear plenty of that from the players and the coaches in coming days. What are they supposed to say? "We give up." As much of a kick in the teeth for fans as another year out of the playoffs is, I do see progress and I do see movement, slow as it has been, toward contention. Right now, that seems like cold consolation for those who wanted and expected more than "close."

No cigar.

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 Mark-LW
April 09 2013, 07:53AM
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Devolution wrote:

When you look at a seven year chunk, fans should absolutely not be happy. When you look at this year versus last year, then yes, I think there is improvement. That is all I am saying.

Courtesy of Tyler Dellow on Twitter:

"Teams that picked first and couldn't makes playoffs in next three years since 92: TB (92/98), OTT (93), ATL (99/01), CBJ (02), NYI (09)."

Still satisfied?

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#52 Serious Gord
April 09 2013, 08:00AM
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Good to see mr brownlee has come to his senses and acknowledged that yak is a keeper. Now he need to acknowledge that there isn't enough room on the bus for gagner.

Dubnyk aside the team is roughly where we thought it was in October. We still need size one physicality on the 1/2line. Gagner and hemsky are still the surplus that can be moved to get it. Whitney is pretty much gone - though is suspect oiler mgmt is partly to blame - perhaps he rises like a Phoenix. Like souray has on his next team. So we absolutely have a hole on defense.

And oilers management has done nothing. And many fans have abetted him by jumping on the playoff wagon instead of insisting KL&T make moves to continue on the quest for the cup - playoffs this year be damned.

As for the remainder of the year - mgmt should only be playing those it intends to have around next year plus those it wants to display and sell in the off season.

Smyth should be benched save for the last and final game of his career.

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#53 vetinari
April 09 2013, 08:13AM
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Trade Gagner? Trade Hemsky? Trade Yakupov?

First, you don't trade a player unless you have another one of equal or greater value lined up behind them, and we don't.

Second, how many of these deadweights while in Oiler silks turn into good NHLer's after we dump them? Souray and Coglianno are better off now. And so are many others.

Our problem is that we stunt a lot of our players for some reason.

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#54 michael
April 09 2013, 08:17AM
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Losing to Anaheim last night was frustrating in the fact that is wasn't Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne that stuck the dagger in us it was scrub that played hockey in Europe up until 2 weeks ago. Radek Dvorak! Disgusting.Some marginal NHLer throws you in the midden heap. The Oilers deserve their fate when a guy like Dvorak is allowed to beat you twice in one game.

The Oilers need to look at their defense this summer and get some defencemen. Not imo the current creampuffs that litter our roster masquerading as defencemen. We need to get tougher, grittier . Uglier to play against.

The Oilers need to come back home and give the fans more of what we saw before this road trip. I don't expect them to win their last 5 games. With tilts against Minny,2x Anaheim and Vancouver to finish our season we will ensure ourselves a top 5 pick. I think we finish 25th.

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#55 Professor
April 09 2013, 08:18AM
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I think the other thing we have to remember when evaluating this season is that we played all of our games against Western Conference teams. Over the past several seasons the West has had far more points then the East.

Who really thought the Oilers were going to make the playoffs this year? We were a longshot at best going from 29th to a playoff position. Does this team still have holes? Absolutely and if Tambo doesn't fix them this summer he should be fired. He has had long enough to turn this team around and hasn't done it.

I know we are all upset right now but we have to look at the increase in points and the fact that we are higher up in the standings as signs of improvement. Points really are the only thing that matters when it comes to making the playoffs and there is improvement there.

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#56 non descript
April 09 2013, 08:25AM
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given the inclination of this team to mail it in, they could easily be picking in the 3-5 range. any improvement this team is showing is marginal at best. that is not good enough and an indication that this is going nowhere.

much the same as the game plan the team fails to execute on most nights, managements plan to rebuild was solid, but they have not executed properly. the team they are building is flawed and probably requires a series of trades to fix. i am not personally confident the current management team is capable of anything other than flipping the odd mid round pick for a depth player.

i could go on about the poor drafting and the pipeline of talent to the big club that isnt materializing but its pointless.

the most frustrating part is the complete lack of transparency. we just have to sit back and watch this unfold and hope for the best.

it will be interesting to see how management deals with their ineptitude a few years from now.

sean monohan?

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#57 Hammers
April 09 2013, 08:32AM
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It's bad when we have 8 guys who played as forwards , 1 goalie ,4 "D" that shouldn't be back .Still a mess and we could draft in top 6 -7 spot . How does Mr. Katz live with this mess.

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#58 Sliderule
April 09 2013, 08:35AM
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This is a poorly coached team.

They changed the person sitting in the captains chair but they have had the same crew since Renney was promoted .

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#59 Jack Handy
April 09 2013, 08:49AM
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@Eddie Shore

Any retired jockey over 4'6" wth rocks in his pockets. Gagner can't play defence and is the poster boy for inconsistent play.

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#60 madjam
April 09 2013, 08:51AM
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Our veteran core is not getting better each season and lack chemistry to move our club forward . They will not get better going into next season and i doubt will compliment emerging talent even as good as this season . Examples of this are Horcoff, Hemsky , Smyth, Jones , Whitney , etc.. We need a new grittier core thats not of the fleeting or diminishing talents . The veteran core has shown with diminshing talents they are incapable of moving our club forward enough .

Talent in AHL will not be vast for a while , and may not produce much anyways . Not much down there that looks like they might make a major breakthrough on a very competitive club.

Hopkins is struggling this season and hopefully will rebound next year . Still not sold on Hopkins at this stage . Paajarvi , Hall , Eberle , Yakupov and J.Schultz look to be the future .

Time to move forward with a new veteran base !

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#61 j
April 09 2013, 08:55AM
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oilabroad wrote:

I am certainly not a fan of tambo, but all this talk about management not knowing what they are doing is ridiculous. They are building through the draft, you cant do that when you are finishing middle of the pack or sneaking into the playoffs every year. The team is improving, the core is maturing, and the players that will put them over the top are the same ones that would make them a middle of the pack team until the core is ready to make them a contender.... it took Gretz, Mess and Coffey 5 years to win a cup, so stop bitching and enjoy the ride, its just getting good

But those teams in the early 80s made the playoffs every year and were well put together. They had talent, grit, leadership, veterans who could still play, goaltending etc. The current group have too much of the same skill set. I don't play video games too often but it is like picking your car for the race - you can choose one with high end speed, or torque, or handling, or tire quality etc. Usually, it takes a balance of all elements (and a bit of luck) to win. The Oil don't have enough balance. It sure would be nice to have a few players between 25-30 who could actually contribute physically and on the score sheet. Imagine that...

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#62 Halfwise
April 09 2013, 08:57AM
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The team is not good enough on the ice. The same roster holes remain. The main cause for optimism is that the youngest players will be better year over year.

But the organization IS better. There is a minor league system with developing prospects. That should create value for the long haul.

What else isn't good enough? If this is the entertainment business, we paying fans aren't being entertained. If this is the business of selling hope, there isn't much reason to buy it.

If the talents of KL and ST are better suited to building infrastructure than to improving the NHL team depth chart by wise asset management, we shouldn't hope to be entertained by their results. This year for me, it's been a growing sense of dread that KL and ST are wasting generational talents by making poor decisions.

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#63 Eddie Shore
April 09 2013, 09:06AM
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Jack Handy wrote:

Any retired jockey over 4'6" wth rocks in his pockets. Gagner can't play defence and is the poster boy for inconsistent play.

So what you're saying is you dont know. You don't trade someone away unless you have another player that is capable of stepping in and assuming the role.

I'm not against trading him, I just don't want another 18/19 year old being asked to play above his capability. If the Oilers had some D who could break the cycle, I don't think Gagner would be exposed as much. Unfortunately for him, the D are just as bad at breaking the cycle as he is which is an awful combination.

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#64 DSG
April 09 2013, 09:23AM
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@shifty203

Gagner to the wing is an option... However, looking at what Erat brought I am not very hopeful that Hemsky and a middle 1st rounder is going to bring in a big center. Everyone in the league wants a big center.. Very hard to procure.

But center isnt our only need... We desperately need NHL defencemen.

If we can keep Gagner and get him to the wing great. Provided we dont pay him like Grabovski. However, I think the better move is to ship him out for some help elsewhere... Yes he is 23-years old with 35 points in 39 games, that is what gives him his value. But those 35 points havent really propelled us to success this year have they.

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#65 Shredder
April 09 2013, 09:35AM
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The Oil weren't going to make the playoffs this year, but I really wanted them to take another step forward. THey did. Playoffs next year, cup contention the year after, and the year after that, and the year after that, etc.

That being said, there has been a ton of rookies on this club for a long time, and it looks like we'll continue to add to that. I like that we've got prospects graduating, but it looks like we're just getting to the point where they don't have to step in and play big minutes. That will be a big key to being competitive. The unfortunate thing is that the last peice of the rebuild is addressing the blue line, and it's obvious the long term plan comes from our prospects. And we all know how long rookies dmen take to develop...

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#66 borisnikov
April 09 2013, 10:04AM
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I'll have to side with DSF on this one. Having the 5th worst shot differential post '04-'05 lockout does not qualify as improvement in my world. The record and facade of being in the playoff hunt is and was being propped up by good goal tending, 1 fantastic line (led by Hall) a good PP and a good PK. There needs to be drastic change in support player personnel and coaching strategy at even strength. If that means a change in management so be it. Clean out the f***ing closet.
Hall, Eberle and Nuge are getting it done as a line (or whomever Hall plays with) but there is currently no consistent support from the rest of the team (It could be said that Smid and Petry provide that support, but after that?). Let me repeat. From game to game there is only one line consistently outplaying the other team. That is the sign of a bad hockey team, a team that consistently, as a whole, gets out shot and out played. -5.7 is historically bad and this team is no closer to the playoffs than they were when the rebuild began. F*** am I sick of the losing. The Oil coloured goggles are off this fan and my fridge is empty of 'optimism and hope' beer.

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#67 Zamboni Driver
April 09 2013, 10:10AM
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Robin, ripping Anaheim fans for cheering for (against, I guess) the wrong player to an audience who

BOOED WAYNE GRETZKY

Really isn't particularly logical.

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#68 Rick
April 09 2013, 10:30AM
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Heading into the season the company line was all about playing meaningful games down the stretch.

I fear that once the dust settles, Tambellini will point to playing meaningful games in April or past the deadline and will be given a free pass by the only guy that matters, Katz.

Even though the last meaningful game was April 3rd and it fell on the deadline itself.

Anyways, when deciding if this season has been good enough I can't get past the fact that when Horcoff went down for an extended period and then Belanger followed suit, managements big solution was to force Krueger into playing Ryan frigg'n Smyth at center.

Seriously, how many points were left on the table by not actually providing a roster of players that can play their natural positions? 3? 4? How would even a few extra points look right now?

As a side rant, going back to Smyth, the guy built a career scoring PP goals from 6 feet in front of the net, at his age and already limited skating ability why sign him to kill penalties and see pretty much no PP time? Talk about sticking a round peg in a square hole for sentiments sake.

Bottom line, the season can't be seen as a success when it comes to at least assessing management but like some losses can be good losses, I think the important players on the team have shown that they are ready to win. They have excelled despite playing on a team that has been intentionally - or otherwise - handicapped. They have demonstrated that they are ready to be on a winning team.

Maybe it's time to get some decision makers in to the right positions that can give them some help with that.

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#69 Spydyr
April 09 2013, 10:35AM
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Sir Smoka Lottt wrote:

Time to pull a ole yeller on Smyth....

He shouldve retired as a oiler right after the trade.

Ole Yeller......perfect.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.....

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#70 Rama Lama
April 09 2013, 10:37AM
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No one should be surprised with the current state of affairs..........we have know and talked about holes in the team for the past three years.

We missed the trading deadline and did nothing, except add another marginal player who will be playing in OKC next year. Forsberg went for almost nothing and would have helped us next year..........no moving out marginal players, ( Hemsky, Jones, WHitney, Petrell, Peckham, Potter) for draft picks.........nothing was done and why?

Because Tamby did not want to send the wrong message to the team..........i'm laughing so hard I can hardly type.

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#71 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 09 2013, 10:52AM
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Heading into this off season, Edmonton has a few improved assets at their disposal. A now healthy Hemsky, an improved one dimensional offensive player in Sam Gagner, and a restored Paajarvi as a purposeful NHL prospect again. Smid, N.Schultz, Lander and Hartikainen, all available when management finally decides to punch that accelerator, hopefully this summer.

Jones,Fistric and Whitney may unfortunately walk for free, but we'll still be stuck with Horcoff, a slowing Smyth, and perhaps Belenger.

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#72 madjam
April 09 2013, 10:53AM
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Oilers are not necessarrily doing much better this year than last . We started well the year before and about after 40 games we fell apart as usual due mainly to diminshing talents of our veterans . This year it looks like same scenario happening at 35 game mark .

Gagner will be a good NHL'er like Cogliano , but probably not with a squad that is fraught with too many diminutive players . Todays NHL is size with skill , and the hockey factory is putting them out in droves . Smaller players are facing much more talented bigger players than ever before and can be successfull as long as there are not too many on same team - which is a disadvantage to them and team to be honest .

The best we got simply is still not good enough to make playoffs due to inferior veteran core . Others with multiple diminshing talents like Tampa are also not making playoffs . Like it or not size and grit rule the NHL now and have for several years . Thats what every team wants , and we are lack to get on that bandwagon . Blame management for lack of forsight right from the getgo of rebuild . Simply put overall , we were not this bad before the initial gutting . We are still trying going into fifth season next year to get at least as good as we were the year of gutting .

All players are tradeable , we are just not getting long term upgrades with our trades .

Start acquiring some long term veteran core to replace the inferior one we have now .

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#73 JDP
April 09 2013, 11:13AM
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I've been saying this for awhile now....this team has talent but is way too smurfy.

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#74 etownman
April 09 2013, 11:22AM
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We play well when teams don't run us every time we touch the puck! Then the opposing coach says, 'hey guys, remember the game plan, hit these Oilers, they have no answer'! Hard to watch the game when an energy guy, who can play, gets 5 mins. of playing time! Krueger has to get Brown on the ice more for the energy & physicality! Distressing to watch! I would also have Fistric & Peckham as the third pairing for 15 mins. per game? We need push back & accountability for the other teams, screw this turn the other cheek BS!

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#75 oilerjed
April 09 2013, 12:23PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Smyth is a toughie. Best case scenario is he retires at the end of the season, realizing he can't compete at the level he would like.

Sadly, I don't see that happening. He is a guy who is going to leave the game one (or more) year(s) too late rather than one year too early. Plus, no matter how much money he has, he is not walking away from $2.5 or so million next year.

Really is too bad. The guy has been a blood and guts Oiler and a great community guy, but sadly he just can't compete any more. Waaay to many fluttery shots from outside and not enough dirty nose stuff. The guy has been beat up for close to 20 years and his body is showing the effects.

What is the right way to deal with a guy who gave you everything he had for the better part of 15 seasons but is done like dinner? Like I said, tough one.

I think you have it wrong about the money. Smytty is loaded and is not concerned about money. He is hoping beyond hope that he can hold on long enough to win a cup with the OIL. Bank on it.

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#76 The Soup Fascist
April 09 2013, 12:40PM
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oilerjed wrote:

I think you have it wrong about the money. Smytty is loaded and is not concerned about money. He is hoping beyond hope that he can hold on long enough to win a cup with the OIL. Bank on it.

Then maybe he can orchestrate a trade. The Oilers will never win a cup in the BRIEF time he can get around the ice.

No matter how much money you have $2.5 million is a lot of money. I love Smytty but he walked for $100k five years ago. That is not a knock. Just a fact.

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#77 Mitch
April 09 2013, 12:57PM
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@Brownlee they need to get bigger this team is wore down bad. I don't want to package Yakupov in any deal unless the return is Backes or Lucic. I hate the UFA market in terms of Oilers managers getting it right. The other thing that bothers me is Smyth he can't play the wing anymore IMO was doing fine at centre ice. Edmonton puts way to much emphasis on face-offs instead of winning battles. Just because you have possession from the face-off isnt the be all and end all. They need to just get way more committed to playing defence.

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#78 Fresh Mess
April 09 2013, 01:25PM
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As a hockey manager, Tambellini is well suited for a role similar to the one he held in Hongcouver.

As an executive, Kevin Lowe would make a great 'Community Ambassador' or television analyst.

....that is as diplomatic as I can be on the subject.

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#79 Mr common sense
April 09 2013, 01:59PM
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bdiddy18 wrote:

Over a regular 82 games season does this squad make the playoffs ??

on pace for 82 points... probably 10 points short in a regular season anyways.

I really want the media - the guys that have the acess and can really ask the questions that fans want to hold management accountable.

I want them to roll the archived tape of the Oiler management self proclaimed 1-3-5 plan.

they said playoffs in three, CONTEND in 5. This is year 4.

Are we going to Contend next year??? absolutely not - not with this roster.

Also, I want to know

under what rationale was Ryan Smyth given a two year contract? when you got the likes of Ryan Jones, Temmu Haartikanen and Magnus Pajaarvi that do the same thing. And easily Smyth has been the most ineffective of the four and has had the most ice time of the four.

ask Tambellini how effective does he think all of his veteran UFA signings have been to the Oilers over his tenure - Belanger? Eager? Khabibulin? (injured every year) Sutton ? Potter ? Hordichuck? Cam Barker? Kurtis Foster? Steve MacIntyre?

- When Lennert Petrell is the most effective signing you have brought to the team what does that say about the GM?

- When re-signing pieces that existed before you became the GM - Hemsky, Smid - and renewing draft picks to their 2nd contract in the NHL at MAX ... what does that say about the GM?

- And why does the top level executive roster for the Oilers feel glutted - Laforge, Lowe, Mac T, Tambellini, Howson ?? how many former GMs and ex coaches do you need up there? not to mention all the assistant titles

Excellent post. Media is has an ethical responsibility to grill the morons in management. Didn't they ask renney for a plan? What was it? Who has a plan? Is there a plan? Every single acquisition (the ones they had to use their brain for, not picks and ufas) has been a disaster, why are Tammy and klowe still here? The fans need a voice, the media MUST ask these questions

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#80 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 09 2013, 03:00PM
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@Mr common sense

The media can't effectively do that without being blackballed. Everyone of them live in fear of losing that press pass. It's wielded over them like a fat kid at a cotton candy booth. Without that press pass it severely affects their livelihood.

Have to think a guy like Jim Mathesons damning (if there ever was one) articles have to be proofread by the Oilers before it goes to print. They are all at the mercy of the big boob that is the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club. Not many want to bite the hands that feed them, me thinks. Sharing the same planes, eating their food, probably all comes at a price. Nobody is forced to drink more of that Oiler Koolaid than the media types. LOL, look what happened to Bob Stauffer as a reference.

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#81 Wendy01
April 09 2013, 04:38PM
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DSF wrote:

Thing is...other than a marginal improvement in the PK, the team is actually slightly worse than last year in G/G, GA/G, SH/Diff.

Dubnyk has been better but his performance is masking a team that is underachieving on a massive scale.

Suck it! That is all!

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#82 jason
April 09 2013, 04:47PM
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oilerjed wrote:

Out of contention. If this was January and we were only 4 points out of 8th we would be doing just fine. The only reason we are out now is because we have 9 games left. Let's not fall all over ourselves crying in our beers Fellas.

The top line is pretty freaking good. 2/3 lines need some help but arent that far off. The fourth line 13-52-37 is starting to look like a capapble line with some pretty strong defensive play. Our D is bad, but replace Whitney with someone who is capable of doing what he was signed to do (1st pairing offence) pushing N Shultz down to the 3rd and potter back to the AHL and that is much improved. Goalie is solid. Som IMO 2nd line and D is where we need to improve and this team will be a force. Keep your head up fellas. Your not Canuck fans after all.

just saying they were in relitivly the same spot last year, and all 40 more games did was allow this team to place 29th overall, i'll give you this the stats this year are slightly better good enough for 28th or 27th overall in a full season.

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#83 Bucknuck
April 09 2013, 06:58PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Its just you...at least Mean Gene is creative and tries to bring some levity to the telecast. Would you rather watch a guy like Roger Millions go through the motions? Sure, Gene's cheesy but he knows it and he knows we know it. He doesn't care if people are laughing at him or with him...at least they're laughing.

I'm with you, Gene's self deprecating humour might not be for everyone, but it's hardly an embarrassment. I would venture a guess that the players feel pretty comfortable around Gene since he is the easy going guy he is, which is a good thing for viewers I would think.

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#84 GVBlackhawk
April 09 2013, 08:14PM
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Grumpy OM wrote:

It has been fun, yet frustrating watching the Oil this year. I am of the old school of thought but, why is 4/93/14 not together on the p.p.? I think Ralph has done a good job, but like every other coach in the NHL he must put his mark on the team in order to justify his job.

In my opinion the best coach is one that doesn't over coach, they are far and few between, the best one out there is Dan Bylsma , but then again he has alot of good horses to open the gate for.

The Oilers goal should not be to make the playoffs,but to be win the Stanley Cup. They are heading in the right direction, what management does this off season will tell fans alot.

As a side comment is it just me or is Gene Principe a joke and embarrassment to the entire Sportsnet and Oilers organizations.

Actually Gene is not employed by the Oilers whatsoever.

I sat next to Gene on a flight to Chicago a couple of years ago. Real nice guy who is not a phoney. The puns are meant to be cheesy...that's his schtick.

Want to know who is embarrassing to hockey? Don Cherry, Glenn Healy, PJ Stock, Pierre McGuire, Mike Milbury, etc.

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#85 Dog Train
April 09 2013, 10:13PM
Trash it!
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trashes
Cheers
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cheers

It's not too hard to stay in the mix until April when the season is only 48 games long. Dubnyk has been stellar and we are probably a little bit better than the past few years but I'm not sure that we have made as much progress as some people seem to think.

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