The Crying Game

Even as someone who can piss and moan with the best, it gets sickening listening to the whining and excuses offered up after the Edmonton Oilers 5–4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday.

What was the buzz on the radio, fan boards and websites after the loss? Was it that the Oilers sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes and fell behind 5–0? Uh, no. Was it that the Oilers got the first three power plays of the game and did nothing with them? Nope.

Aside from more brain-dead talk about firing coach Craig MacTavish, the braying was about how referees Kerry Fraser and Gord Dwyer had screwed the Oilers without even kissing them in the third period.

How they’d let that nasty little so-and-so Matt Cooke flatten Tom Gilbert with an elbow and take a run at Sam Gagner. Then, how Fraser and Dwyer threw the book at Theo Peckham, issuing him a two-minute instigator minor, a major for fighting and a misconduct for jumping Cooke, who got only a minor for roughing.

Dirty Deeds

Here’s how MacTavish saw it:

“The Matt Cooke incident,” MacTavish said. “He leaves his feet. He elbows Gibby in the head. No call. He comes across the ice. He runs Gags. The referees obviously weren’t going to protect us in that respect.

“Peckham does what he needs to do and he goes in there. He squares off with Cooke. He gets an instigator, and aggressor, whatever you want to call it and two fives. It’s just a bizarre call… we end up losing a bunch of time to get ourselves back even in the hockey game because of a bizarre call.”

Cooke’s been a cheap player and a hit-and-run coward for a long time, so I get MacTavish’s frustration. That frustration, amplified by another loss, spilled over into the post-game show on 630 CHED, where host Dan Tencer railed against the injustice of it all.

Piling on

“How Matt Cooke gets the benefit of the doubt from officiating crew on that and how they put Theo Peckham in the box for a five-minute major penalty is absolutely patently ridiculous,” Tencer sniffed.

“Kerry Fraser ought to be embarrassed because that is, again, the most stunningly stupid call,” he continued. “I’m holding myself back here because it’s family radio.”

The sentiment was the same on fan websites—like this one—after the Oilers dropped to 6-6-1 with a second straight loss.

Kevin, right here on ON wrote: “Not to whine, but WTF with the officiating last night? Crosby cross checks Peckham in the face—no call. Souray gets a penalty for roughing a guy who just slashed the goalie. Penner gets 2 for ultimately being stronger than the other player.

“They played horrible for the first 38 minutes but the officiating was downright horrible. Dust yourselves off boys, pull your heads out of your arse, and get back to it!”

Kevin, that IS whining, although Cooke, on past record alone, deserved a major. Maybe Fraz had hair product in his eyes and didn’t get a good look at everything. Dwyer?

Less talk more action

Here’s a thought—take the referees and bad calls out of the game by playing better. Show up for the opening puck drop. Build leads, then don’t toss them back. Show some gamesmanship. Get a clue on the PK.

Had the Oilers done anything on their first three power plays in Pittsburgh, had they not soiled themselves for 40 minutes, we’d have heard less about Cooke. The Oilers went 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed a shorty by Maxime Talbot.

Bad calls happen. In fact, I recall at least two that went the Oilers way the night before in a 5–4 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus, a game worked by Tom Kowal and Chris Ciamaga.

Down 2–0 and then up 4–2 before imploding, the Oilers had two bogus calls go their way in the third period.

It was 4–4 when Jan Hejda got fingered for a phantom hooking call on Robert Nilsson. It remained tied when Marc Methot got tapped for hooking on Shawn Horcoff. The Oilers PP stiffed on both on a night it went 1-for-5. The Blue Jackets were 1-for-6.

By the way, through 13 games this season, the Oilers have been on the power play 56 times, scoring 10 goals. They have been shorthanded 61 times, allowing 15 goals.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • hunter1909

    No worries. Oilers will fumble and sputter just like they always have since 2000, with a semi-ok shot at making 8th. Certainly no guarantees of reaching it.

    The team will keep blowing hot and cold, with the most expensive pluggers in hockey.

    A previous poster writes "Light a fire under these guys". Sorry, but that's not on the coach's agenda.

    In so many ways, this team perfectly reflects the current state of the franchise, as well as the younger part of it's fanbase.

    Oh yeah. Another middle of the pack finish, so let's hope we can get lucky with our probable middle of the pack 1st round pick, assuming we will still have one.

    We've been fed the "If only we had the same money to spend as the bigger teams" kool aid. Also the "just wait until the new CBA comes through" carrot on a stick.

    At least this year, we don't have to watch as the players get concussed on an ongoing basis, while management scoffs at the idea that the team should need an enforcer.

    The temperature of discussing the Oilers has gone higher and higher over the past 8 years, to the point where unless I'm willing to pretend the team isn't in grave peril of another collapse due to a clearly incompetant coach, I'm either called a troll, or worse.

    And it stinks.

  • Jerry MacWire

    The Oilers only have themselves to blame for the slow start yesterday. Sure refereeing affects the game but before any of that happened you had a bunch of professional athletes that didn't answer the bell in the first round, again. Getting to be an old saw? Sure is and it's no different than how a lot of last year went.

    When athletes aren't disciplined or professional enough to take the game seriously for the first twenty minutes, what to do?

    Light a fire under the guys. More of like what we saw with benching Nilsson. Sure you have to sit some of your best players but they need to understand as a team that they aren't safe. They aren't secure. I sense a complacency while watching the team play the first period or so.

    What do you do when your kids don't listen to you? Well, what do you do?

  • Unleaded

    I can't say I saw a lot of what happened last night, because I only caught the 3rd. But that was a fun period of hockey.

    I would love to see some lines not based on who's the most skilled, but based on who is playing the most consistently good hockey. I really feel bad for MacT because the whole team is so bloody inconsistent, it makes such a strategy impossible. Especially our defense. Several times in the last 2 games I've thought "Wow, Souray is a beast. What a player." Then one bad pinch against the Blue Jackets and he reminds me that he makes the same kind of bad mistakes everyone else on the back end has been making.

    Hope JDD gets a lot more starts right now – he's been the most consistent goalie we've seen so far this year.

    God, I hope I didn't just jinx that…

  • Big Deal

    How often have we seen the Oilers start slow? 5 games, 6 games. How often does the team need to start poorly before the coaches change something up? Obviously what they are doing is not working. So change…and do it soon. The opposition realizies that the Oilers start slow and are taking advantage of it. The Oilers can't keep spotting the opposition a few goals before they get ready to play.

  • Just to throw something in before I get thrown under the bus for the millionth time on the internet (much to my amusement, for the most part)…I absolutely did "rail against the injustice" but I was clear that the sequence of events had little to do with the outcome of the game. The missed call and made call were both brutal…but the game was lost in the first 40 minutes.

  • Robin, I actually agree with you for once. Take a minute to let that sink in… The bad calls, MacTavish firing rants, this happened that didn't would not have been an issue if the Oilers didn't look like a Bantam B team in the first half. It was by far the worst start to a game that they could have offered while facing a team that good.

    What's your thoughts on JDD? Does he get the next start? He looked really solid in the next for the last half of the game.