Call me unimpressed

I laughed out loud when Sportsnet play-by-play man Kevin Quinn tipped us off during the third period of the Edmonton Oilers life-and-death struggle with the New York Islanders that “It doesn’t get any easier on this homestand.”

No, Kevin, it doesn’t get any easier — the Islanders are the laughing stocks of the NHL. They arrived at Rexall Place Monday having lost 12 straight games on the road and sitting dead-last in NHL overall standings.

Then, they lost captain and leading scorer Doug Weight during the morning skate. So, no, it really doesn’t get any easier. Of course, that’s not exactly what Quinn meant.

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So how is it that the Oilers, who already gassed two points in losses to the hopeless Florida Panthers and inept Ottawa Senators, needed fluke goals by Kyle Brodziak and Jason Strudwick in the second period on the way to a 3-2 win to avoid making it three times they’ve soiled the sheets?

Because this is a team, regardless of post-game spin, that has no clue about the intensity and fortitude needed to be a consistent winner and a legitimate playoff contender in the Western Conference.

That’s how.

Hero act

“They played as good as anybody against us,” coach Craig MacTavish said after his team pulled a fast one. “Especially early. They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle the pressure very well.”

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You’d think after blowing off those games against the Panthers and sad-sack Senators, who also came to town with 12 straight road losses before beating the Oilers 3-2 Dec. 30, MacT’s men would have been motivated to come out like a house on fire against the Islanders.

But, down 2-0, they were in danger of falling back to .500 at home until they got lucky — Brodziak banked a puck off Brendan Witt’s skate behind Joey MacDonald and Strudwick made it 2-2 when Zack Stortini’s pass bounced in off his skate.

Good for the fourth-liners, who’ve carried more than their fair share of the workload in recent games, but getting outplayed early before winning it on Andrew Cogliano’s 12th goal of the season is inexcusable.

The Oilers talked the talk in the morning, but they damn sure didn’t walk the walk when the puck dropped.

Not good enough

Serve up the same mistake-filled slop against the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday or the San Jose Sharks Friday and the 19-16-3 Oilers will be back under .500 at home.

Hell, try that against anybody but the feeble Islanders and it’s a loss. Playing down to the level of inferior competition as the Oilers too often do is not the sign of a team ready to contend.

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“We collected ourselves after the first period and played a pretty workmanlike second and third,” offered MacTavish.

“We had a line that was playing a real simple game that got a lot done tonight. That’s a good lesson for everybody. It doesn’t have to be pretty all the time.”

This is not a good team. Tell yourself otherwise if you must, but be prepared to be disappointed.


  • RobinB

    raged wrote:

    Robin- Speaking of nice tries… Perhaps its my reading comp, but that reads a bit like one of deep oils posts, or mine for that matter. You predicted them 9th in september, the wonderful level playing field brought about by the cba is three years old, assuming you havent gone amnesiac on us, how are the two related? This is a useless argument, I see your point with the effort and consistency for sure, just dont think it needs to be made after a win, even against the islanders.

    It's your reading comprehension.

    rindog wrote:

    Lowe should recognize that even if MacT is highly regarded around the league – his shlef life is long past due here in Edmonton.

    How so? If you have issues with MacTavish as a coach because of his style and philosophy, that's one thing.
    The shelf life argument — as in being tuned out because he's been around too long — doesn't hold as much water. Look at the turnover. How many players are left from the 2006 Cup Final team? I count Roloson, Staios, Moreau, Hemsky, Pouliot and Pisani.

  • RobinB wrote:

    How many players are left from the 2006 Cup Final team? I count Roloson, Staios, Moreau, Hemsky, Pouliot and Pisani.

    Come on Brownlee. You have to use Pouliot loosely as an example of players that were on that team.

    You're forgetting Horcoff though. <3

  • Chris

    @ baggedmilk:
    Man we are arguing on two seperate threads simultaneously. I think I'm fighting an indefencable position regarding Jr hockey… but this; not so much.

    baggedmilk wrote:

    You’re definitely right, when Hemsky cross seam passes to Horcoff for the open net PP goal it’s all luck. No skill involved there

    Our "lucky" goals last night occured 5 on 5. It must have been "unlucky" that Nilsson's repeated cross seam passes into coverage resulted in no scoring chances because we are told he is a high skill player. When Souray blasts one in off a defender it is skill not "luck". When the Oilers fail to keep the crease clear and the opposition scores off a skate it is "unlucky"….

    I'm merely downplaying the importance of "luck" in a hockey game. It's overblown. Pucks are thrown at the net. Sometimes they are deflected in, sometimes they are deflected wide, sometimes they arrive screened, and so on. When a line can deliver the puck to the front of the net, or on net, they will score 5-10 percent of the time. This is about the law of averages not some notion of "Hockey God" interference, or fate, or luck. If goals like the fourth line generated last night rarely occured I would concede that they were lucky… but those kind of goals are not rare…I have seen enough of them scored on us the last number of years.

  • RobinB

    @ baggedmilk:
    Yes, I did forget Horcoff.
    But even if you don't want to count Pouliot, who got nixed by mono going into the playoffs after eight regular season games, that doesn't alter my point.

    Sub in Horcoff for Pouliot and that still makes just six players left from 2006. It's not like the majority of players here have been listening to MacT forever and are simply tired of the message.

  • Cam

    I don't think anyone on this list will be happy until the Oilers go 82-0 for the season. I cannot believe the amount of bitching after a win. Winning five of the last seven no less… and still there is a lot of moaning. What is this – a Lemas class?

    I was at the game. It was ugly. The Oil were a disorganized mess through the first fifteen minutes. After that they righted the ship and managed to be fairly good, if not great. There were chances and lucky and unlucky bounces at both ends of the rink. to listen to you lot carry on you would think they were figure skating for most of the game.

    Our best centreman was playing with a bum back. He took faceoffs mostly and when he played he wasn't overly effective. He gave the Islanders their first goal. He should have had an assist on that perfect feed… Ugh. Compile that with Hemsky being out and the Islanders being plenty hungry and sick of losing and you have a closer affair than many would have liked to see.

    It was a case of who sucked the least, but you would have thought that the sky was falling the way you whiners are carrying on. Half way through the season they are in playoff position with a number of games in hand.

    Don't get me wrong, I want another dynasty too, but barring that I will settle for better than half the league, which is where they are now.

  • @ Chris:

    It is never a bad play to throw the puck on the net. Lord knows it's probably the last thing that the Oilers know how to do this year. You can't count on those though, if it had not been for two banked passes for the 4th line we'd all be livid about a loss to the Islanders. The effort, as a whole was not there last night. It was absolute luck that those went in last night, but it was driven by hard work. Either that or we'd see those 3 yahoos on the PP. Although I'm sure MacT would like that idea.

    As for Nilsson, that guy plays about as soft as an elderly man's flacid love rocket. The defenssemen know that he is going to pass because he's too big of a pansy to get in the tough areas of the ice.

    Saying Souray hitting the net is skill is off too. If the guy hit the net a third of the times he wound up I'd by psyched and the maintenance team could spend less time repairing the boards.

  • RobinB

    Cam wrote:

    Don’t get me wrong, I want another dynasty too, but barring that I will settle for better than half the league, which is where they are now.

    Can we see if this team makes the playoffs for the first time in three years before using the D-word?

  • @ Cam:

    With a team spending this close to the cap it is completely understandable that fans expect a better effort than last night. Play that way against a team like Detroit, or San Jose and they're dead in the water.

    I was thrilled at how the Oilers played against Dallas, that was a complete game and they came out ready to play. Last night the effort was piss poor and they're lucky to have a win on the score sheet.

    Lose that game last night and they're 1 game over .500. I don't know about everyone else but I'm tired of watching mediocrity. ESPECIALLY with expectations as high as they were coming into this season.

  • shakey

    So by some of these responses I get that we should just be happy with the 2 points and we're not allowed to jump on them because they won.
    Does this mean that we aren't allowed to praise them in a game that they actually worked hard in but lost?
    Some of us have watched this team for a long time and just because we should be used to the inconsistancy and lack of effort doesn't mean we should just accept it and 'support our boys no matter what'.
    When you start every 3rd or 4th game like you just woke up from a nap…you have problems.
    When your 4th line is your best line…you have problems.
    When Liam Reddox is your default option to fill in on the 1st line…you have problems.
    This team has problems and a win against NYI doesn't change that.

  • Rev

    @ baggedmilk:

    I am fine with mixed scores and a record of .500 (hell even less) if everyone can skate off of the ice with a solid contribution. They can't do that now – which explains a certain amount of frustration.

  • @ shakey:

    Sometimes I would be a lot more satisfied if they came out with their asses set ablaze and lost rather than a gross win like last night. If the Oilers go out there and leave everything on the ice and lose then I would be happy they competed. Prime example, when they lost to Colorado this year only because Boo-Dye stole the show.

    Last night they didn't compete and were lucky to be rewarded.

  • Chris

    @ baggedmilk:

    Chris wrote:

    Our “lucky” goals last night occured 5 on 5. It must have been “unlucky” that Nilsson’s repeated cross seam passes into coverage resulted in no scoring chances because we are told he is a high skill player. When Souray blasts one in off a defender it is skill not “luck”. When the Oilers fail to keep the crease clear and the opposition scores off a skate it is “unlucky”….

    This entire paragraph was ment to be phecisious.

  • me

    It's an interesting argument and I see both sides.

    But do we make excuses for other teams when they get "lucky" bounces to get wins against the Oilers?

    Are would we argue that they earned those breaks. The first goal was a result of the fourth line outplaying and outhustling the opposition on that shift. They earned that goal and the second one because of their hard work and grit. Something that has been a weakness all season, so when we finally get it we call it a fluke? Sorry I have trouble with that reasoning.

    The Islanders have lost how many one goal games this season? It is not an uncommon occurrence.

    Are they really underacheiving? I picked them to finish six and they are now two points back with two games in hand.

    Why did I pick them to finish 6th? I expected growing pains, I expected mistakes, I expected the young kids on this team to struggle. This is exactly what is happening. I also expected some players to play well and that the Oilers would be able to overcome it and make the playoffs. I still expect that to be the case but the Oilers are really underacheving. They are about where I expected them to be. Now the other side of the coin.

    That being said this teams needs to learn from their mistakes, learn from their inconsistency and learn to put 60 minutes together.

    I haven't seen enough consistent effort from the veterans on the team to compensate for the projected growing pains and inconsistency of those players. Some of the veterans have been as inconsistent as the kids.

    I have not seen management address the PK problems, the faceoff problems? The lack of grit?

    This team is where I expected them to be but this team can get better and needs to address their problems.

  • Cam

    RobinB wrote:

    Can we see if this team makes the playoffs for the first time in three years before using the D-word?

    You have a point, there. I used that word only because it seems people have dynastic expectations.

    Last night's game wasn't wasn't impressive like the way they handled Nashville or Phoenix, but they weren't lucky to survive it like they were against the SanJose game either.

    It was a chippy slow blue collar January game between two teams who are short their best players. I expected a win and I didn't expect it to be pretty. They got the result; they didn't talk about how good they were after the game. They know they have to be better. Good; enough said. Bring on Vancouver.

  • Chris

    baggedmilk wrote:

    If it wasn’t for two lucky bounces last night the Oilers would have lost 2-1.

    Should read, "If it wasn't for the great effort of the fourth line last night the Oilers would have lost 2-1."

    We are negative enough on this site without denigrating the efforts of the few character players we have.

  • swany

    This team after all the personal turn over is 9-5-1 since Dec Cole is starting to go as is Gagner. We have games in hand on Van and the Ducks. 6 points behind Van with 3 games and 4 points behind the Ducks with 2 games in hand, so does that mean all these teams aren't as good as though? If we win our games in hand and pass the Ducks and Vancity will there be a blog stating we are BETTER than thought? Look around the NHL teams with way more talent are struggling, Pitty is only 1 piont better than us and we have a game on them, last time I checked there is know Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Sykora ect on our team. Maybe just Maybe Mact is getting more out of this team than some people are giving credit for. The Ducks should be way better than us by all of the bloggers who want Mact's head yet they have the identical record as us (if we win our games in hand) so some perspective here Robin maybe this Games was bad but what about the Dallas game. If they come out that flat for Vancity I will agree 100% but if they come out and play like they did against Dallas I will chalk this game up to looking past them to Van.

  • topshelf

    Penner was awful last night and Horcoff looks lost out there without Hemsky. I was at the game and I think I dozed off a few times. Brutal hockey and I'm glad my tickets were free.

  • me

    Cam wrote:

    RobinB wrote:
    Can we see if this team makes the playoffs for the first time in three years before using the D-word?
    You have a point, there. I used that word only because it seems people have dynastic expectations.
    Last night’s game wasn’t wasn’t impressive like the way they handled Nashville or Phoenix, but they weren’t lucky to survive it like they were against the SanJose game either.
    It was a chippy slow blue collar January game between two teams who are short their best players. I expected a win and I didn’t expect it to be pretty. They got the result; they didn’t talk about how good they were after the game. They know they have to be better. Good; enough said. Bring on Vancouver.

    Any one that reasonably expected this team to be a contender was really not having reasonable expectations.

    Predicting how the Oilers will play from game to game is like picking which 6 numbers will appear in the lottery.

    Who in the hell knows. That is the only accurate prediction I will make about this team is that is is completely unpredictable.

  • Deans

    Something has been bugging me about the Oilers this season and it has nothing to do with inconsistency or coaching. Whats bugging me about the Oilers is well.. frankly YOU. I'm not trying to be confrontational but I honestly think Oiler fans are not as loud and intense as in seasons past. The place is reminding me of the library they played in during the mid 90s. I would love to know hat does OilersNation thinks? Have Oilers fans lost there standing as one of the leauges best?

    Blade your an assclown. FYI-You can look that one up in your thesaurus but chances are you wont find it.

  • Chris

    The key to winning is clear: We beat Calgary after MacIntyre smeared Boyd. We beat Dallad after Penner powerslammed Wilson. We beat the Islanders thanks to the gritty efforts of the fourth line. It's clear that our "skill" players are about as reliable as a K-car in a snowstorm… the key is to get more hustle out of the muscle.

  • me

    Deans wrote:

    Something has been bugging me about the Oilers this season and it has nothing to do with inconsistency or coaching. Whats bugging me about the Oilers is well.. frankly YOU. I’m not trying to be confrontational but I honestly think Oiler fans are not as loud and intense as in seasons past. The place is reminding me of the library they played in during the mid 90s. I would love to know hat does OilersNation thinks? Have Oilers fans lost there standing as one of the leauges best?
    Blade your an assclown. FYI-You can look that one up in your thesaurus but chances are you wont find it.

    I agree the fans haven't been as enthusiastic as seasons past but I think a lot of the reason can be seen is this thread.

    1. High and perhaps unreasonable expecations, tied in with that.

    2. The Oilers have not been great at home and have underperformed on home ice.

    3. The fans are sick and tired of mediocrity and rightfully so.

    In years past there was almost a mantra or a feeling of cheering for the underdog because we could not afford to pay the Doug Weight's of the world. Now we expect more and are still hovering around the 8th place spot and fighting for our playoff lives. Fans want more, expect more and I don't think there is anything wrong with that even if I think the expectations are too high at this point!

  • Cam

    @ me:
    They are consistently inconsistent. They are good enough some nights to give me hope and bad enough some nights to make me want to vomit.

    Any team that is good enough to make the playoffs is good enough to put a run together. Who knows which team will be hoisting our Great Lord Stanley in the Spring, I just want to make sure the Oil have a crack at it.

    Hope is a double edged sword though. It cuts deep at times (like the season after the cup run 2007)

  • Deans

    Great point about how having higher expectations can diminish fan enthausasm. I dont think fans are content with 7th or 8th as they were during Weight/Smyth era. During the late 90s/early 00s I was never too upset after an Oiler loss b/c frankly the team was operating on a shoestring budget. Now Im a little more dejected after an Oiler loss.

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    Except when Hemsky, Horcoff, Moreau, Pisani & Staios are our leaders.

    I have many, many more reasons (other than the shelf life comment), but I won't bring them up now.

    The fact is – the players that our young guys all look up to (our leaders) have really only had one NHL coach (except Moreau & Souray). They only know HIS way.

    It's one thing if HIS way has been proven successful and delivers results. It's another thing if it doesn't/hasn't.

    To top things off – our coaching staff is also very inexperienced when it comes to working with different systems/styles at the NHL level.

    I have always agreed with with the theory that "if it ain't broke – don't fix it"…

    My question is…..

    What do you do if it is broke???

  • me

    Cam wrote:

    @ me:
    They are consistently inconsistent. They are good enough some nights to give me hope and bad enough some nights to make me want to vomit.
    Any team that is good enough to make the playoffs is good enough to put a run together. Who knows which team will be hoisting our Great Lord Stanley in the Spring, I just want to make sure the Oil have a crack at it.
    Hope is a double edged sword though. It cuts deep at times (like the season after the cup run 2007)

    Yep.

    One game you think they are turning the corner and the next game they appear to take two giant step backwards.

    There are some positives though.

    1. The fourth line. There have not been many games in the last while that they haven't outplayed the line against them. Scoring two goals is not going to happen on most nights but the hard work and determination they have showed is not fluke or luck.

    2. Eric Cole/Gagner – Cole is starting to look like the player I thought we were getting and it is no coincidence that Gagner is starting in flashes to look like the Gagner we saw last year. So there are some signs of secondary scoring. As luck would have it, Hemsky went down so we still don't really have two lines of consistence scoring.

    3. Smid – I have seen some wonderful plays under pressure from him over the last few games.

    It has given me some hope that this team can turn the corner but until they start showing consistency I will not get my hopes up.

  • me

    Questions for Robin:

    These are really not on topic but I wonder if you would answer them anyway.

    Who is really in charge of trades or moves? Is Tambellini a puppet GM?

    Do you get a sense that the Oilers will a move soon? (I don't expect any blockbusters as no one is making those kinds of moves in the salary cap world right now) but is there any talk or legitimate rumours of smaller moves they might make.

  • Cam

    @ me:
    I agree with your comments regarding Gags, Cole and Smid. Love the way Smid played last night. The only guy who looked better on the back end was Visnovsky

  • Chris

    me wrote:

    Questions for Robin

    Since we are asking questions…
    Why are we still booing Comrie? It's been years and years and the club has never delivered on it's promise to clear the air… What REALLY happened? At the time I automatically sided with Lowe… now I'm not so sure.

  • RobinB

    rindog wrote:

    What do you do if it is broke???

    Good question. The debate, of course, is what constitutes "broke?"

    Some people will say making the playoffs is good enough. Some people expect the Oilers to win a division title. Others, given MacTavish's tenure here, probably have a couple rounds deep into the playoffs as their cut-off point for what's acceptable.

    I said in the pre-season I don't like the make-up of this team, and that goes for the coaching staff. I think there's adequate individual talent here, but as we're seeing, that hasn't consistently translated into results many people think it's reasonable to expect.

    At times, I question the personnel Lowe has assembled. Other times, I question how MacTavish has used the personnel he has. I look at the veterans. I look at the leadership. The coaching.

    I don't have the answer. If I did, I'm guessing Katz would pay me handsomely for it.