THE WAY I SEE IT: SUCCESS, PLEASE

Robin Brownlee
January 28 2014 06:03PM

The way I see it, the Edmonton Oilers will be far better served in the long run by having as much success as possible in their final 27 games of the season than they will by sucking so badly they get another crack at a first overall pick.

What the Oilers need now is for the core players they've assembled in previous seasons of ineptitude and suffering – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov – to find out what it feels like to win rather than more filing off the ice game after game carrying yet more failure on their shoulders.

What the Oilers don't need is their fourth first overall draft pick in the last five years, even if the reward for being the worst team in the NHL this season is prized defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Another blue-chipper, no matter how good he is, who'll help the team three years down the road isn’t as important as having the group assembled now – not to mention fans who expected better this season – get a taste of how it feels to win.

The good news is that the Oilers, 17-32-6 for 40 points, can tear it up, relatively speaking, in these final 27 games and still get a crack at a top-three selection next June. They're buried so deep now, even winning 14-15 of their remaining games likely isn't going to move them above 28th place.

No Ekblad there? Too bad.

DOWN THE STRETCH

Not everybody agrees with my approach, of course. With playoffs out of the question for the eighth straight season, there is a segment of fans who'd like to see the Oilers "tank it" and finish last, getting the best possible pick. The hopeless Buffalo Sabres, with 35 points, sit 30th now.

The only team the Oilers have a realistic chance of overtaking is the 28th place Calgary Flames, who have 43 points (and three games in hand). Right now, the Florida Panthers occupy 27th with 49 points and they also have three games in hand. The Oilers won’t catch them even with 14-15 wins.

Playing at or near .500 in terms of available points the rest of the way isn't going to undue the struggles of the first 55 games in the eyes of fans, and that's understandable, but it could do wonders for the aforementioned likes of Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. Winning is and has to be a part of development and there's been precious little of that around here.

No matter how this team finishes, it goes without saying there's still a helluva lot of work for GM Craig MacTavish to do before the Oilers get anywhere near a playoff spot. This much we know.

That said, I'd rather see Hall and the rest of the kids head into the off-season with something resembling confidence and feeling good about themselves in April after a modest run of success than have June roll around and hear, "With the first overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers select . . ."

WHILE I'M AT IT

. . . As good as Ekblad is, I'm not sure the Oilers could go far wrong if they were to hang on to the third overall pick and get a crack at either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett, both centres.

. . . Sam Gagner is playing his best hockey of the season after a horrendous start and that's good news. Gagner is, far and away, the likeliest player to be dealt between now and training camp next season – assuming there's nothing big on the table that involves one of the core group – and he will strengthen MacTavish's hand with a solid finish.

. . . I've liked the way Jeff Petry has played over the last stretch a lot more than I liked him at the start of the season. He's been a lightning rod for criticism, some of it earned, mainly because he's been forced into top-pairing minutes by lack of depth. When Petry is playing second-pairing minutes, the Oilers will be a playoff team.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 NJ
January 28 2014, 06:13PM
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Agreed. We can't go wrong drafting a BIG two way centre. Key word big.

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#2 james_dean
January 28 2014, 06:18PM
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Just curious... if mac was going to go against his gentlemens agreement with samwise, whens the deadline?

July 1st? Sept 15th?

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#3 Spydyr
January 28 2014, 06:18PM
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Robin, do they wait and hope for two of the kids to grab the top pairing (Marincin has looked great in his short window here) or do they trade for the top paring guys?

I think they can't afford to wait much longer.

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#4 Bishai in the Benches
January 28 2014, 06:19PM
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I agree 100%. I don't claim to be a sports psychologist, but I have studied behaviour and motivation, and I do know that there is no way a team can continue losing 67% of their games and keep the fight and their heads held high. I have always wondered why new acquisitions (Gazdic, Perron, Hendricks, ect) always seem to play more aggressively and with more emotion, and I'm sure part of it has to do with playing style, but I guarantee that at least a good portion can be attributed to not having a "loser mentality".

I even see this on my beer league team. We went through a stretch where we won 3 of 18 games, and guys (who are normally best friends) were blaming each other, blowing up in the dressing room, and not showing up to play. I can't imagine what 4 (or 8...) years of losing does to the team.

Humans are social creatures, and culture plays an immense role into our moods, motivation, and effort.

The Oil need to win now.

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#5 Andrew
January 28 2014, 06:22PM
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I for one am not sold on Gagner. We've seen this flic before. Trade talk spurs him on for a late season burst. He is still small, physically weak compared to strong heavy team's 2nd line Centre's. He's not effective in his own zone. The word lost comes to mind.

He has shown better play offensively of late and seems over the last two games to have found some chemistry. He is one dimensional at best. If the Oil brain trust can make an improvement at his position then they should cut bait.

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#6 **
January 28 2014, 06:22PM
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I too don't see a need for tanking. This team will be much better served both in terms of emotion and pshyche by winning as much as they can in the final stretch of the season than by tanking and getting another piece that by the time he's ready to contribute the Oilers top guns will be at the end of their contracts and the situation will be much different then. There will be plenty of good options for big guys on the top 5, so let's go, see what this team can really do and see if there's a coach in Eakins or not.

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#7 ColourMeImpressed
January 28 2014, 06:25PM
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Undo, not undue.

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#8 #ThereGoesTheOilers
January 28 2014, 06:25PM
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Agreed. Tanking for another high pick ain't gonna help anything right now. Success next season will be gauged by whether or not we contend for a playoff spot come April.

If we want to contend, we need to do our damndest to win EVERY game we play, even if it is labled 'meaningless' by the disillusioned.

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#9 Chambers
January 28 2014, 06:28PM
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Oiler fans are indeed in big trouble! The hundreds and hundreds of losses over the last 8 years has lost your perspective on sports! Be reminded losers sports is about winning it is not about draft day and drafting 1st overall in 4 consecutive years! Can't believe what I have been reading where you again actually think the Oilers should lose to gain optimal draft position. A lot of good that has done!! You currently have high level talent with shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing! Do you really think a 17 year old like Ekblad is going to help immediately??? Unbelieveable !!

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#10 vetinari
January 28 2014, 06:29PM
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The players need to feel the satisfaction of winning and the fans need it too. Losing has taken its toll and I would love to see them rip up the last 27 games or so, kick Calgary and Vancouver around a few times, and figure out who our starting goaltender for next year is.

Even if we moved up a spot or two, we'd still be a lottery team and anything could happen (we could still pick first), and the prize would still be Ekblad or a centre which would help us out... y'know... two to three years from now.

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#11 Pouzar99
January 28 2014, 06:38PM
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I am incapable of rooting for the Oilers to lose for ANY reason. When they do, at times like this, I take some comfort in that it may improve their draft position, but I still hate it. I believe management did some tanking in the early years of the rebuild and I think they underestimated the damage they were doing to the team culture. Of course since they have been totally incompetent in every other area, it would have been very odd for them to have gotten that right either. Yes, I badly want Ekblad, and don't feel it will take three years for him to start helping, but I will go on rooting for every possible Oiler win. Well said Robin.

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#12 Show me da Money
January 28 2014, 06:52PM
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So the team feels a little bit better about itself by winning more games for the remainder of the season?

How important is that feeling which only lasts as long as a winning streak compared to drafting a potentially very good defenceman that will be around for years and years to come?

I'd prefer to have a better player for the long run over feeling a little better about myself.

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#13 Mikey
January 28 2014, 07:02PM
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Callahan is available. Eberle and gagner + for Callahan and Krieder +. What say you!

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#14 Mikey
January 28 2014, 07:04PM
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I probably should mention that obviously Callahan would have to want to sign here. That is a must, and very obvious.

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#15 Soccer Steve
January 28 2014, 07:04PM
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"Gagner is, far and away, the likeliest player to be dealt between now and training camp next season."

Really?

Surely that's Schultz Sr. or Hemsky. A dark horse in Bryzgalov even.

Second, what GM, knowing, AT THE VERY LEAST, what we already know about Gagner takes this player?

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#16 JeffG
January 28 2014, 07:06PM
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Maybe the Oilers think outside of the box and become buyers istead of sellers this trade deadline. Identify players that are going to freeagency and pick them up. If the oil go on a good run for the final games it tells the team and players they could be good next yr. Then try to sign the players before freeagency starts.

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#17 tom.MTL
January 28 2014, 07:07PM
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I'd love to see how many 1st overall picks could be playing on a 30th place team. Continue the Gong Show!!!

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#18 Oil glob
January 28 2014, 07:17PM
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Trade ganger, Hempsky, smyth all for salary dump.

Bring in nurse and klefblom

Fire the coach

And bring lots of Hope for a new season!

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#20 Craig
January 28 2014, 07:34PM
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Oilers are on a two game win streak! Re sign management and start giving out 7 year deals before they all leave.

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#21 hemi
January 28 2014, 07:37PM
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I am sure that I am like most other Oil fans in this matter, the continuous walk up the alter to claim the high draft pick has become very unrewarding. The thrill has gone!

Time to win and never mind the standings. We are going to pick high anyway. Perhaps there will be some wheeling and dealing involving upcoming picks and present prospects we have in the cupboard? No matter what the thoughts of how this rebuild has gone thus far and whom may be responsible for it's derailment, it comes done to winning. This team, city and above all, us fans have to get this attitude again that we are indeed one of the best at everything we do. For those of us who have been around for a bit can fully appreciate the "we are the best" attitude we boldly displayed in a most proud manner during the Oil's hay days, way back when......

Being true blue Oil fans, it has been a horrendous number of years for us. We have hit rock bottom and have been there much too long. The winning has to start now!

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#22 Sliderule
January 28 2014, 07:40PM
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This was the story last year.

The team had to win to feel good about themselves

While everyone else was going full tank we moved down to to the number seven pick.

Instead of Seth jones we got Nurse.

This year we could have Ekblad ,Reinhart or Bennett.

Win a few meaningless games and we can have question marks like Draisatl or Dal Colle .

If the oilers have any brains they will bring up all the hopefuls and do the full tank . Hopefully for last time.

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#23 Show me da Money
January 28 2014, 07:51PM
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It's better to tank the rest of the season and start rebuilding with a new core of draft picks like K-bom, Nurse, Ekblad, and hopefully McDavid.

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#24 srelio
January 28 2014, 07:58PM
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I dont know why everyone thinks ekblads going first overall. jones went 4th last year when he was projected 1st and teams almost never draft defense 1st overall. if the oil has the 3rd pick he'll probably still be available

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#25 srelio
January 28 2014, 08:01PM
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Looks like Calgary will tank it more than the Oilers come trade deadline. Last year they got Monahan over us. This year it'll be Ekblad.

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#26 GVBlackhawk
January 28 2014, 08:04PM
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Actually Robin, it would be the fourth 1st overall pick in the last five years...sadly.

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#27 chambers
January 28 2014, 08:14PM
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srelio wrote:

Looks like Calgary will tank it more than the Oilers come trade deadline. Last year they got Monahan over us. This year it'll be Ekblad.

You are sadly incorrect. Unlike the Oiler culture Hartley has instilled hard work and energy in the Flames. Despite there minimal talent they work hard every night and will never tank. This tanking practice you are talking about is an 'Oiler' thing given the potential 4 consecutive first overalls. The worst joke in pro sports today!

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#29 Oilcruzer
January 28 2014, 08:29PM
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Having a culture of losing for 8 years, and suggesting continuing that path to take an 18 year old to turn your fortunes around, is crazy logic.

Developing a culture of winning and eventually slotting in pieces, including people who will then want to come over at a discount, and still getting the third or fourth overall pick this year?

People are questioning this?

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#30 srelio
January 28 2014, 08:30PM
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@chambers

Yes the Flames work hard. However, it is Burke who will tank it for them by trading away whatever assets they have left come trade deadline.

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#31 Time Travelling Sean
January 28 2014, 08:31PM
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Are there World Championships during an Olympic year? Or do they cancel them?

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#32 Harry
January 28 2014, 08:33PM
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Anyone who thinks the Oil could benefit from MORE losing should have their.head examined.

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#33 madjam
January 28 2014, 08:35PM
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Who is going to tank more after trade deadline with players going elsewhere ? Flames , Sabers and / or Oilers ? This years draft does not impress like others have . I can see us trading it away quite frankly unless we have NBR.1 again . With our type of mentality for speed and skill I have a feeling we might choose diminutive Joshua Ho-Sang if beyond second choice . Nothing wrong with his skill set , just not that big physically .

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#34 Harry
January 28 2014, 08:37PM
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Chambers wrote:

Oiler fans are indeed in big trouble! The hundreds and hundreds of losses over the last 8 years has lost your perspective on sports! Be reminded losers sports is about winning it is not about draft day and drafting 1st overall in 4 consecutive years! Can't believe what I have been reading where you again actually think the Oilers should lose to gain optimal draft position. A lot of good that has done!! You currently have high level talent with shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing! Do you really think a 17 year old like Ekblad is going to help immediately??? Unbelieveable !!

Hey you.dumbfu"! Nobodys saying tank. We're actually saying the opposite. Learn how to read moron

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#35 Mikey
January 28 2014, 08:39PM
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So just trashes, with no response? Interesting, actually pretty boring.

I guess I should just say Fire Lowe or what/who ever we are blaming this week for the oilers failures. Instead of actual intelligent discussion.

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#37 Harry
January 28 2014, 08:42PM
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Sliderule wrote:

This was the story last year.

The team had to win to feel good about themselves

While everyone else was going full tank we moved down to to the number seven pick.

Instead of Seth jones we got Nurse.

This year we could have Ekblad ,Reinhart or Bennett.

Win a few meaningless games and we can have question marks like Draisatl or Dal Colle .

If the oilers have any brains they will bring up all the hopefuls and do the full tank . Hopefully for last time.

I cant imagine that you played sports at all in your life. Tanking is 100% cowardly loser talk

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#38 Bushed
January 28 2014, 08:44PM
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So a culture of winning will be established after a month of .500 hockey?

And free agents will suddenly want to play for a 29th place team because they upped their record to .500 for a month?

Winning is important, but let's keep it in context.

What the team does the rest of this season will matter far less than what MacT does between now and next season, I'm guessing.

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#39 The Real Scuba Steve
January 28 2014, 08:47PM
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Pouzar99 wrote:

I am incapable of rooting for the Oilers to lose for ANY reason. When they do, at times like this, I take some comfort in that it may improve their draft position, but I still hate it. I believe management did some tanking in the early years of the rebuild and I think they underestimated the damage they were doing to the team culture. Of course since they have been totally incompetent in every other area, it would have been very odd for them to have gotten that right either. Yes, I badly want Ekblad, and don't feel it will take three years for him to start helping, but I will go on rooting for every possible Oiler win. Well said Robin.

Yep, they tanked on purpose to the bottom of the pit and now they can't find their way out no matter how many coaches they fire each season.

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#40 Chambers
January 28 2014, 09:02PM
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Bushed wrote:

So a culture of winning will be established after a month of .500 hockey?

And free agents will suddenly want to play for a 29th place team because they upped their record to .500 for a month?

Winning is important, but let's keep it in context.

What the team does the rest of this season will matter far less than what MacT does between now and next season, I'm guessing.

"winning is important but let's keep it in context"....your kidding right? Look at the Oiler loss column the last 8 years. Then look at Eberle, RNH, RNH, TH, Schultz, Hemsky, Gagne etc..these high end top guys have never experienced winning in the NHL. DO you think it is in the Oilers best interest to install winning hockey rather than have a 17 year old Eckblad added to the disaster list of ruined young talent. Please give your head a shake!

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#41 S cottV
January 28 2014, 09:04PM
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Very much agree that it's way more important to win as many games as possible to close out the year.

.500 would be quite an accomplishment under the circumstances and provide some momentum going into next year.

I don't see it happening but if so - maybe an indication that a glimmer of light has appeared at the end of the tunnel.

If Gagner can up his game, it will help the prospects of playing .500 hockey to close out the season, but he is not the 2c answer for an eventual playoff spot.

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#42 Brian
January 28 2014, 09:05PM
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Why would the team not do anything but strive to win every game? "Play bad for Ekblad "? Please. These are professionals who must try to win every game. Finish as high as possible, then let the Suits figure out the next moves.

Although if would be kind of fun to see Harrison and his entourage of rocket surgeons make another #1 pick.

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#43 dougtheslug
January 28 2014, 09:07PM
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All I can say is this - I felt a whole lot better watching Perron stripping the puck off Kassian and scoring a hat trick goal into an empty net, than I did watching Kassian score the winning goal against the Oilers a week ago.

And judging from the look on Perron's face, so did he.

Maybe the games were equally meaningless in the standings. But my sweet Lord, I'm sick of losing.

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#44 **
January 28 2014, 09:09PM
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Chambers wrote:

Oiler fans are indeed in big trouble! The hundreds and hundreds of losses over the last 8 years has lost your perspective on sports! Be reminded losers sports is about winning it is not about draft day and drafting 1st overall in 4 consecutive years! Can't believe what I have been reading where you again actually think the Oilers should lose to gain optimal draft position. A lot of good that has done!! You currently have high level talent with shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing! Do you really think a 17 year old like Ekblad is going to help immediately??? Unbelieveable !!

The point of the article is precisely that the team has to win and not chase another draft pick. Did you fall on your head when you were little?, or are you just naturally $tup!d?

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#45 Moog's helmet
January 28 2014, 09:17PM
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Agreed. If there were 5 games left and we were in this position I'd feel differently. Closing things out with a 4-1 record in the name of "finishing strong" and losing out on Ekblad would be stupid. Momentum barely carries over from game to game let alone season to season. But with 27 games left you want these players to feel that winning feeling.

"Who cares the season is lost! Why not tank to guarantee the best player?? It's not like things could get worse!"

Wrong. There is a lot more poison left in the mug that is this season. If you let these players drink it to the tune of a 5-17-5 finish you could wind up with some Post traumatic season disorder that they never recover from going forward.

Media player relations. Fan player relations. Player coach relations. Fan management relations. All permanently damaged if the season were to be bookended by ungodly 25 game losing streaks.

So let's keep our jersey's on and hope for some wins.

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#46 rickithebear
January 28 2014, 09:27PM
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A true measure of a goal scorer is not padded PP goals.that is dependent on the whim of the refs.

Eberle: 179gm 66G 88A 154pts 49 EVG 14th best P. Kane 183gm 70G 110A 180 pts 49EVG Bobby Ryan 180gm 61G 66A 127pts 48 EVG

Ryan Callahan 158gm 514g 51A 105P 27 EVG 124th Gagner 164gm 38G 69A 107Pts 27 EVG 124th

Gagner- Calahan Eberle ? krieder

I am looking at Eberle for Krieder?

Oh this is just a beauty!

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#47 Chambers
January 28 2014, 09:28PM
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** wrote:

The point of the article is precisely that the team has to win and not chase another draft pick. Did you fall on your head when you were little?, or are you just naturally $tup!d?

Actually I have one up on you...I am able to read! And what I read are various posts from Oiler fans promoting losses and draft position rather than winning culture. All that after 4 consecutive years of finishing in the sewer.

Naturally if you were able to read you would understand this.

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#48 Fresh Mess
January 28 2014, 09:36PM
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I agree. The notion of purposely losing to increase draft position is disgusting. I don't believe that was ever the Oilers intention. No sir, you can chalk up the last 8 years to good old fashioned managerial incompetence.

It's time to turn a corner. Long past the time actually.

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#49 GVBlackhawk
January 28 2014, 09:40PM
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dougtheslug wrote:

All I can say is this - I felt a whole lot better watching Perron stripping the puck off Kassian and scoring a hat trick goal into an empty net, than I did watching Kassian score the winning goal against the Oilers a week ago.

And judging from the look on Perron's face, so did he.

Maybe the games were equally meaningless in the standings. But my sweet Lord, I'm sick of losing.

For truth Doug. Losing sucks and it is mentally draining. The Oilers will end up with a good prospect even if they start winning now...so they might as well keep winning. In fact, there might be less pressure to send the player back to junior if he isn't a 1st overall.

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#50 K_Mart
January 28 2014, 09:44PM
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Show me da Money wrote:

It's better to tank the rest of the season and start rebuilding with a new core of draft picks like K-bom, Nurse, Ekblad, and hopefully McDavid.

While I don't see the benefit of tanking this year, I definitely see the benefit of doing so next year. McDavid is a generational talent a la Crosby, lemieux, gretz... We tanked for 7 years, what's 8.

Hall would be a great veteran to bring Mcdavid under his wing.

Katz should just forfeit all 82 Games before the season starts but not tell any of the oilers until the season is over lol. They can win all they want but hold on to that 30th ranking.

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