HALFWAY THERE

Robin Brownlee
January 08 2017 10:28AM

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For the better part of the last decade, documenting the Edmonton Oilers at the halfway mark of the season has been a tale of defeat, ineptitude and frustration. Over and over and over again. A hockey version of Groundhog Day, only with Bill Murray kicking Oiler fans in the pills.

Most years since the team actually gave fans something to yell about by reaching the 2006 Stanley Cup final, the Oilers have been so far out of contention by the 41-game mark there’s been nothing left to do but vent about how much fill-in-name-here sucks and calculate the team’s chances of winning the draft lottery.

It’s a welcome change, then, even as somebody who doesn’t have the same skin in the game as all the fans who’ve supported what’s been a dumpster fire for so long, to have something else to write about, something else to talk about, at the halfway mark.

With Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils, the Oilers are 21-13-7 for 49 points through 41 games as they get ready to wrap up a four-game road trip against the Ottawa Senators today. The Oilers had 37 points at this juncture a year ago and 27 points at the same time in 2014-15. Out of it. Again.

Not being somebody who believes in jinxes and crap like that – you know, thinking that mentioning a shutout on Twitter or a live broadcast can actually impact the outcome of games – I can say without hesitation the Oilers are going to put the Decade of Defeat behind them and make the playoffs. It’s not a matter of if they will, but where they’ll finish. Or did I just wreck it?

CHANGING IT UP

Change

Like many of the writers here, I had the Oilers in the close-but-no-cigar category going into this season. Having seen it go wrong so many times in recent seasons when the Oilers were selling hope without much substance for doing so, I couldn’t muster the same optimism some others did. Looking back at snippets of items I’ve written after 41 games in recent seasons, I guess you could call me cynical.

From 2012: “The Edmonton Oilers are halfway there. Halfway where? Their latest John F. Kennedy impression in Dallas in the books after a 4-1 loss to the Stars at the American Airlines Center today, the Oilers finished up a seven-game stretch away from home with a 1-6-0 record to hit the halfway mark in their schedule with a record of 16-22-3 for 35 points.” The whole bit is here.

You get my drift. Between awful teams that never had a snowball’s chance and decent teams that under-achieved during a time frame that saw Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish pulling the levers as GM, coupled with Dallas Eakins re-inventing the game because he was just that smart, it’s been a cluster. You’ve suffered along.

Finally, here we are in the second year of Pete Chiarelli’s regime as the GM with Todd McLellan behind the bench in a spanking new rink, and the Oilers are going to have to fall down an elevator shaft in the second half of the schedule to miss the playoffs. I don’t see this collection of players and coaches doing that. What a bloody breath of fresh air that is.

There’s more to write and talk about than where it all went wrong and who should be fired because of it. There’s been no need to begin a debate in December about which pimply-faced teenager the Oilers will get in the draft lottery and how he will or won’t turn the fortunes of the franchise around.

The time has arrived again, at long last, to contemplate tweaks to the roster, being buyers not sellers, before the trade deadline that might make sense. Fans can debate what line combinations might work best down the stretch drive. Fans get to watch that Connor McDavid kid make his bid for the Art Ross Trophy. 

No longer done in 41. Buckle up, if you remember how. It’s going to be fun.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Megaphone

  • I understand why there’s some concern out there that McDavid has fallen off the points pace he set early this season, but if you watched the game against New Jersey, you’ve got to think long and hard to come up with a better performance, even though he finished with just one assist (on Mark Letestu’s game-winner).

    McDavid, who turns 20 Jan. 13, made something happen on pretty much every shift and he finished the game with eight shots, a career high. While he’s slowed down since a wicked start – he has 2-5-7 in his last 10 games – McDavid still leads the NHL scoring race with 14-32-46. He’s just fine.

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

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

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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 baggedmilk
January 08 2017, 10:33AM
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I DON'T REMEMBER HOW TO HAVE FUN, ROBIN!

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#2 Oilerchild77
January 08 2017, 10:34AM
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Connor is doing just fine for such a young player. He'll only get better, and with goaltender equipment about to get smaller, he'll put up more points in the future.

Side note: I hope they also come up with an illegal defense rule that says you can't leave both feet to block a shot/pass because that would open things up even more.

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#3 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
January 08 2017, 10:37AM
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I can't believe you called the 2012 Oilers at game 41 "their latest John F. Kennedy impression in Dallas."

That's an egregious comparison, as the 2012 Oilers never had a second shooter.

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#4 Harry2
January 08 2017, 10:39AM
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Brownlee. That is an absolutely ruthless JFK joke. Nicely done.

That game last night against NJ was the most dominant ive seen this team play.

And dare I say with a gamebreaker like McD and if Talbot gets hot not to mention a savy deadline aquisition this team can make some noise this spring.

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#5 3 Little Birds
January 08 2017, 10:47AM
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I commend you Robin. It could not have been easy writing about this team over the last decade.

Start the season with a new young gun, excitement is flowing, then X-mas comes around and the dark clouds have been forming for weeks.

Covering this team must have been like a gourmet chef who only gets to cook plane burgers.

Keep up the good work! I actually believe the Oil will keep up their side of things too, for a change.

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#6 D
January 08 2017, 10:50AM
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When Darryl Sutter said the Oilers were a good team after the Los Angeles game, that's when I believed it for the first time this season.

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#7 Craig1981
January 08 2017, 11:02AM
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Eberle is lucky they are in a playoff spot, if we weren't he would be hearing it far more.

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#8 Virtual_Xi
January 08 2017, 11:05AM
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Couldn't be happier about the dominating performance from last night. In previous years, the ghosts of Oilers past always dismantled us, and yet the biggest trade of the last 10 years was shutout and we destroyed them!

Let Optimism reign on ON, it's such an improved site when fans aren't speaking vitriol about every friggin player/game/moment.

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#10 VK63
January 08 2017, 11:28AM
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Quoting Robin

"there’s been nothing left to do but vent about how much fill-in-name-here sucks"

^^^ this part will remain. It is the lifeblood of the venerable scribes who report on the team... it is their balance activator. When it starts to skew to a particularly favourable place they look down their noses, give a cluck, and resort to "back in the day" comparisons. The "geezers lament" as it were. (copped from Stephen Brunt).

Except Matty... he is trying to get Clare Drake in the HOF, for that worthy effort, he redeems himself.

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#11 btrain
January 08 2017, 11:39AM
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Craig1981 wrote:

Eberle is lucky they are in a playoff spot, if we weren't he would be hearing it far more.

And the inevitable Eberle criticism finds it way into the conversation. Nice contribution.

If you are keeping an actual score, the fact that you even made this comment, indicates that Eberle is hearing it just fine.

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#12 Dreadguy
January 08 2017, 11:49AM
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For some, watching Eberle compete hard and contribute the way he did last night was fun to watch. For others, it was just a reminder of what he can bring, but doesn't on a consistent basis.

I understand both points of view.

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#13 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
January 08 2017, 11:56AM
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Buckle up if we still remember how??

Seeing as my liver has fully recuperated from 2006, I should be just fine.

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#14 Big Jacks Meat
January 08 2017, 11:57AM
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going to be tough today but wow would one more W on this trip be sweeeeeeet.

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#15 freelancer
January 08 2017, 11:57AM
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The Oilers got outplayed in Boston and outplayed the Devils last night. The Oilers won both games. We are almost at the point where we can stop talking about moral victories and coming close againstgl good teams.

The Oilers are a good team now and I for one can't wait to see what decade brings.

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#16 Petrolero
January 08 2017, 11:59AM
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We legends are born in January!

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#17 Petrolero
January 08 2017, 12:00PM
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Big Jacks Meat wrote:

going to be tough today but wow would one more W on this trip be sweeeeeeet.

Both teams are playing the second of back to back so fatigue shouldn't be a factor. Believe!

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#18 VC Glaswegian
January 08 2017, 12:05PM
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Every shift counts,play like it's your last. Stand up for your mates and play for each other, build your team from the goalie out. Ken Hitchcock whom might one day write something on his hockey thoughts would always say, "make a good pass, a good check, stick and/or man, and a good shot on net, and you have had a good shift. GivrBigRvrOil!!!! Ps best of the new year to u brownbear and family ! 🍻

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#19 paul wodehouse
January 08 2017, 02:12PM
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great piece Brownlee...

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#21 Oil Can
January 08 2017, 02:37PM
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Connor did look good last night and the credit should go to his line mates also. With Dria and Moroon, the McDavid looks like it could be the most dominant line in the league.

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