Late Again

I’ve always believed that if you can’t show up on time, then don’t bother coming at all. As stodgy as that sounds, the Edmonton Oilers would be only marginally worse off in the standings if they adopted that policy.

After a career abiding by deadlines — in the newspaper biz, the greatest story in the world isn’t a story at all if you file it at 10:32 p.m. when the deadline for the next editions is 10:30 p.m. — I’ll admit to being more rigid than most people when it comes to these things.

If you’re coming over for dinner at 7 p.m., don’t arrive at 7:15 p.m. with excuses why you’re late. Worse yet, don’t ring the doorbell, waltz in and say nothing, like it doesn’t matter. If you’re inclined to say, “Whatever,” well, expect some nose-blow in your cold lasagne.

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If you’ve asked me for a ride and I’m supposed to pick you up at 7 p.m., don’t expect me to still be sitting in front of your house at 7:15 — I’ll be circling the block and waiting for you to step onto the street so I can mow you down and, if time permits, back over your lazy ass.


OK. I keed, I keed, but you’d think what separates the Oilers from dolts who are chronically late but never get called on it is that it’s obvious there’s a price to pay. As they’ve been prone to do, the Oilers didn’t bother to show up for the first period against the injury-riddled and feeble Dallas Stars Sunday afternoon, and it cost them in a 4-3 loss.

How many points can this 10-11-2 juggernaut afford to blow off like that before Craig MacTavish’s can’t-be-bothered-to-be-on-time outfit figures this one out?

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“The half-full, half-empty scenario again,” MacTavish said. “You fight back and it’s going to be a real momentum-building game for us to come back again and tie the game twice in the third, and then . . . ”
After overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the St. Louis Blues Saturday to slide out of the Show Me State with a 4-2 win, the Oilers pulled the same stunt at a half-empty American Airlines Center against the last-place Stars and almost pulled off an encore of their 40-Minute Hero Act.

Thank goodness 53-year-old Mike Modano kicked them in the groin with his 1,300th career point, scoring the winner with less than three minutes to play, thus reminding MacT’s men that showing up when you please will, at some point, bite you on the backside. In the NHL, it usually does.


With this latest casual little twirl around the ice in the opening 20 minutes, the Oilers have now been outscored 23-11 in first periods. They’re 3-8-0 when trailing after 20 minutes. They’re 4-9-1 when the other team scores first. So, what part of being ready when the puck drops, of showing up on time, don’t the Oilers understand? “The game was there for us. The air was rife with opportunity,” MacTavish said of facing a Dallas team that came in 7-11-4.

“We mangled the puck a little bit. Gibby (Tom Gilbert) started the game fumbling around and ends up costing us a goal. Just not being sharp early. The league is too tough to try to feel your way into the game like that.”

Yes, it is. So, instead of packing for home with two points, it’s more nose-blow in cold lasagne and more skid marks on a perfectly good sports jacket. But maybe that’s just me.

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

  • Chris

    Ironically, I thought that might have been the best game the Oilers have played all year. Lot's of jump, good pressure on the forecheck, the kids managed a cycle or two. Negate the poor bounce on the first goal, have Horc hit twine instead of post, and you come out of the first tied. Hockey Karma for some of our earlier "victories".

  • Johnny D in the Loo

    The late start came back to bite the Oil in the butt again. Good efforts from the all four lines. It feels like the 3rd line with Brodziak is playing more solid, 1st line, had another solid game and the kids were starting to play a little bit of that possession game which they need to play. I was happy to see them getting the puck deep and I think that will help to give them more room down the road. Robin, one question I want to ask you regarding the goal tending situation. Any new things to report regarding the three headed monster in net? I read somewhere that something is going to happen this week to address the situation.

  • "and more skid marks on a perfectly good sports jacket."

    You should probably stop tying it around your waist.

    As bad as it is, I think that was the best first period the team has played all year. That first goal was sheer fluke, and like Chris said it should have been 1-1 at worst. The play was in the Dallas end most of the period, which was nice to see for once.

    The defensive brain farts in the third period were absolutely brutal, and I think this game was more of a case of failing to finish then failing to show up early.
    But I completely agree that this inability to show up for the first 20 minutes every other night is inexcusable.

  • RobinB

    Clarkentstein: I don't think anybody, certainly not me, expected them to go 15-5 in this 20-game segment.

    What I said was there was no good reason why they shouldn't be able to produce a reasonable facsimile of their 14-5-1 record in the stretch drive — anything in the 12-14 win range with a loser point or two thrown in.
    Even that's going to be a tall order now with the way the Oilers have been blowing off first periods and falling behind.

    They played very well in the final 40 minutes in St. Louis and Dallas, but all that got them was a split. Not good enough.

  • Clarkenstein

    Robin, for those of us keeping track of the critical 20 game stretch you talked about… now 1-2. Need to go 14-3 for the rest. Ya, I’m laughing too!!

  • Fiveandagame

    I like Brownlee when he's angry. Huzzah sir…Huzzah!

    What I find really frustrating is that MacT repeatedly this year has commented that it's the coaches duty to have the team prepared and ready to play. Would not not include some first period intensity? First period jam? Or is it making sure they have directions to the arena? It seems to me MacT is pointing out his own inability to get the team geared up to play.

    How can this team find some enthusiasm to be out on the ice and lay the hammer down on a team early. If this team ever got up by a few goals they would light the place up as there skill would shine through when the other team opened it up to try and get back in the game.

    Instead we are repeatedly trying to score high skill goals in tight checking. It's much harder to score when the other team is putting the squeeze on you when they have a 1 or 2 goal lead. I think that fact alone would attest to our low goals per game average.

    I'm with Brownlee. Show up on time or don't bother showing up at all.

  • swany

    Robin Tambi said a major trade before the coach I don't know if anyone else saw this on TFP but Kovie was moved to the 4th line in ATL maybe his stock has fallen enough to put a deal together?

  • RobinB

    Swany: A trade (major or otherwise) before a coaching move, as Tambellini said, is the usual process. Kovalchuk? I'll have a sniff on that one, but don't hold your breath.

  • swany

    Just stating that if Kovie is on the 4th line in ATL where they need scoring as much as we do he must have fallen out of favor with there coach NO? what would it take to get him? Gagner, Grebs and Schremp plus a pick would that work or is it to much?

  • Travis Dakin

    Cogliano, Nilsson, Schremp and Smid oughtta do it. Then we can bring up Brule to replace nilsson, Smid isn't playing anyway (although I do like him) and Cogliano is good but it's going to take that to get Kovalchuk. Schremp is never going to make it here.

  • Neil R.

    "Cogliano, Nilsson, Schremp and Smid oughtta do it."

    I would almost think Schremp would be taken out and one of the goalies thrown in, most likely Roloson just to help the cap hit of Kovalchuk's 6+ million.

    Oh how sweet that would be.

  • RobinB

    UPDATE: MacTavish said this morning Robert Nilsson likely won't play against the Stars Wednesday after his tumble into the boards in Dallas.

    The Oilers intend to call up a forward from Springfield, but MacT wouldn't say who. My guess is it's Rob Schremp.

  • swany

    I have dreams of Hemmer to Kovie he scores about 50 times a night, that line would be the BEST line in the qwestern conf. Does anyone care what it would take to get him he is young and signed for another year, go get the guy put a overpay package together and bring this guy to town. The only players that I say can't go are Hemmer and Souray the rest are up for grabs.

  • Dennis

    RB: As long as the PK is this bad this team will always be behind the eight ball. I don't see anything being done to change the approach so I'm not sure there's an awnser unless Garon gets to play again this year and puts up PK SV PCT numbers like he did last year.

    Speaking of Garon, can you dig and find out just what's going on there? The Oilers aren't wasting time trying to change his approach, are there? And the last time I checked Pete Peeters wasn't one of the Allaire brothers.

    Finally, that 24-43 tandem is the absolute garbage and yet Smid still can't draw in?

    What gives?

  • David S

    Robin, you may have just started a new wave of Schremp mania. Not looking forward to that unless he, well, does something this time around. Since the team has started taking the body the last few games, I wonder where a poufter like Schremp will fit in.

  • RobinB

    Dennis: You're right about the PK. If things are going to improve, it'll either take even better goaltending or better work in the face-off circles.

    I do think something is going on with Garon. For starters, it seems hinky to me that Garon has come down with the "flu" on at least two occasions when he was supposed to start. Hmm.
    And I wasn't seeing a lot of love or discussion between him and Peeters out on the ice at practice today. Just an impression.

  • Dennis

    RB: I imagine it was the correct impression. Hey, everyone knows Garon goes down early and leaves the top of the next exposed but he does a good job overall even with that little wrinkle. And everyone also knows that Roli gives out a lot of rebounds but you don't see anyone trying to change his approach. Did MacT just believe that because we had a run down the stretch last year with Roli in net that he's the guy to lean on?

    And since when was Pete Peeters a Yoda-type figure? This is getting frustrating and though we're only 23 games in it's going the right way towards the Oilers just throwing out any chance that they'll bring back Garon to be the starter for the 2010 season. That's all well and good if the other option was overpaying him but right now it's like they're making up their mind early that he isn't an option and/or they're annoying him to the point that he won't consider coming back no matter what.

    Does anyone really think young JDD's the awnser to anything?

    The only way that this plays to Garon's benefit is if they've told him they're showcasing Roli and even that doesn't make sense because at the bloody least they could give Mathieu a game to shake off the rust.

    Finally, you aren't gonna bite on my Staios/Strudwick critique?