The bucket list

The morning after the night before at Rexall Place didn’t provide the puke-inducing bag skate many fans of the Edmonton Oilers, not to mention some players, expected from coach Craig MacTavish today.

In that regard, the Oilers — still shame-faced after the humiliating stain on the franchise that was a 10-2 loss to the 1957 Montreal Canadiens, I mean the 2009 Buffalo Sabres — were spared the need to reach for the bucket, even if those who pay the freight weren’t afforded the same courtesy Tuesday.

What MacTavish didn’t do in rehashing the worst home defeat in franchise history with a stench still hanging in the air was sugar-coat the abomination or take issue with fans who jeered his team.

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At least the Sabres gave the faithful what they wanted, answering chants of “We want 10, We want 10 ” by putting up double digits, capping 60 minutes of buffing their boots on Oiler backsides with a shorty.

Got a problem with that, MacT?

“Our fans, I give them a lot of credit,” said MacTavish. “They’re very appropriate in their reactions. When they’re unhappy, they’re good hockey fans, they know the game and they know the expectations.

“They don’t fly off the handle prematurely. I thought last night, they weren’t bad. They weren’t as bad as what it could have been. We deserved it all.”

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But coach, “We want 10?”

“We would have joined in the chorus, too,” MacTavish said of the coaching staff, trying to lighten things a bit. “We were disappointed, too. They were very appropriate in their commentary.”

The saying goes that the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. Maybe so, but I’m not sure the Oilers deserve that much credit, given how the Chicago Blackhawks waltzed into town not so long ago and drubbed them 9-2. That said, MacTavish faced every question.

“I don’t feel compelled to say anything, other than we’ll be better, which isn’t a stretch,” said MacTavish when asked what he’d like to say to fans.

Revenge of the nerds

Tuesday’s “debacle of monumental proportions” was like watching a schoolyard bully yank a kid out of algebra class by the pocket protector, drag him down the hall to the boys washroom, shove his head in the toilet and flush until his arm got tired.

At some point, even the nerd decides he’s had enough and fights back, even if it’s to no avail and the bully throws in a Stanfield’s-stretching wedgie for good measure. Where was the fight from the Oilers? And, no, Craig Rivet accidentally getting kicked in the groin by Dustin Penner doesn’t count.

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What part of getting embarrassed by the Blackhawks Dec. 16 didn’t the Oilers understand? I know it wouldn’t have changed anything, but, failing salvaging some pride by coming out and winning the third period, doesn’t somebody have to get punched in the mouth or two-handed?

At some point, doesn’t somebody, anybody, say, “I’m not going to take this. I’ve had enough?” Apparently not.

“At that point, what’s it going to prove?” said Sheldon Souray. “You’re already getting embarrassed. We don’t need to embarrass ourselves further. We were getting beat fair and square on the score board.”

I’ve got all the respect in the world for Souray, who at least took a hack at a Buffalo forward in front of clay pigeon Jeff Deslauriers in frustration, but I disagree.

Until last night, it was fair to argue Chicago was a one-off, but to sit back and watch the Sabres light it up virtually unmolested?

Sorry, call me Scribe-osaurus-Rex, but somebody needs to get poked in the nose when it’s 7-1 or 8-1 or 10-2.

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“We were getting humbled and humiliated by that team,” Souray said. “I think we would’ve embarrassed ourselves had we taken the game to a different landscape. I just don’t think it would have served a purpose.”

Now what?

  • With a three-game winning streak and their tidy 5-1 roll done, the Oilers have to gather themselves and face the Minnesota Wild, who’ll arrive Friday eyeball-to-eyeball in Western Conference standings.
    Both teams are 24-20-3 for 51 points, but Minnesota sits seventh and the Oilers eighth based on goal-differential. Not to worry, the Oilers always light up Nicklas Backstrom like a cheap cigar…
  • Expect MacTavish to go back to Dwayne Roloson against the Wild despite his shaky start against Buffalo (three goals on eight shots).
  • GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe took in today’s marathon practice, which ran about one hour and 45 minutes and included a break to re-flood the ice. Both looked on for most of the session, with each stepping out occasionally to answer the phone — no doubt lots of GMs out there are calling to help them out.
  • The next six games are particularly important to the Oilers playoff hopes. In order, they’ll face Minnesota, Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and the Wild again.

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

  • RobinB

    @ Rick:
    I didn't go near Ethan today because I was talking with Souray and Staios. I did see the comment you're talking about on the evening news, but I can't lend any context to it.

  • swany

    Mike wrote:

    swany wrote:
    Robin I heard some intresting things going around the rink today, did you hear anything of NEWS regarding trades?
    Hey man, that is the third lame attempt by you to state you were at the rink and on CITY. Show us the clip and then we can ask Gregor and Brownlee if they saw you there. If you were there why didn’t you say hi to either or them, especially Brownlee since you ask him lots of questions.
    Me get it…you are a wannabee..but prove it or zip it…no one cares you were at practice…and I thought practices were closed to the public? Gregor or Brownlee is that true?
    And Nilsson was the best of a bad bunch…but sadly that isn’t saying much

    What the hell is your problem, I am not a wannabee, my KIDS had the time of the lives there, I don't know you and you don't know me so what's with the personal attacks, all I said was I heard somethings while I was there and if Robin has heard anything new on the trade front, and I did say hi to Robin. Sorry to piss you off, man if that's all it takes you must be a blast at parties

  • Sing A Song For SingSing

    I was never convinced this team turned a corner. I'm still barely convinced they'll be a playoff team.

    The Hemsky story is a nice little piece over the past week or so, got everyone excited and gave them something to write about with his coming back from injury and contributing in marvelous fashion. We'll see how long he lasts, and how consistent he is with his play.

    At this rate they're going to need Hemmer to play like a superstar virtually every night if they want to have a legit shot at the post season, cuz the rest of the forwards on this team – aside from maybe Cole – are passengers.

    Goaltending = suspect.

    Defense… well, I'm happy with it overall. But they're going to have to be lights out in the second less-than-half as well. Souray has to play like he was in the first 30 games, he's dropped off quite a bit IMO.

    Realistically dwelling on the playoffs though… I just don't think they have the horses, don't have the talent to do it. And even if they did sneak in with the 7 or 8 seed, they'd be easily disposed of by SJ or DET. It would be embarrassingly easy. Same could be said with CGY, and don't think it would be any different just cuz it's CALGARY.

    Edmonton plays with virtually zero heart, zero pride and zero determination. They're not physical enough to hang with Calgary, the Flamers have developed into a well oiled machine.

    Back 2 the upcoming sked over the next 5 or 6 games…

    I can see the Oilers dropping the game on Friday (unless Hemmer has another dominating game and Roli stops at least 2 sure goals), losing to Nashville on Sunday then getting destroyed by Chicago on Tuesday – all games on home ice – and getting the train(wreck) right back on track.

    They COULD win 2/6 with W's against St.Louis and MTL the following week on the 11th. They play Detroit and Minny again leading up to that.

    Could potentially be disastrous and the end of the season if they don't get their shit together ASAP.

  • Sing A Song For SingSing

    Ender the Dragon wrote:

    Anyone who has kids has experienced a situation similar to the following; you walk into the house and your child is standing in the kitchen in middle of the a pile of broken glass, holding a long stick in one hand and a skipping rope in the other. At that point, not not 100% sure what has happened, but you’re reasonably sure you’re not going to like the answer.
    At this point, you have several options. Some of them will will make your kid dislike you, some of them will provide a teaching opportunity, and a few might even land your kid in foster care. The difference between them all is how you handle your emotions initially. While it’s perfectly natural to be angry and want to beat the child with the blunt end of the refridgerator, that’s not the correct answer. You may well decide that the child is going to get a spanking but if that is your choice, logic dictates that you should cool off before proceeding with such a plan. Failure to do so can lead to unforseen and unfortunate events as a result.
    What does all of this have to do with the Oilers? It’s a question of maturity and emotional control; if they didn’t respond last night because they just didn’t give a damn, then I agree that there’s a serious problem in the room and some trades and/or demotions are in order. If, however, the Oilers were angry on the inside but holding themselves in check, then I am onside with their actions. Jason already pointed out that we challenged their guys to fight. When they don’t oblige, letting your emotions get the better of you and hauling off and sucker punching someone may not be the wisest course of action. Sure, it feels good at the time; venting your rage on someone who’s just royally pissed you off usually does. The misconduct and the league review that go with it, however, aren’t as easy to accept. Ask Todd Bertuzzi if he would do anything differently in his life given a do-over. Yeah, we lost 10-2 last night, but no one did anything stupid, no one got hurt, no one got suspended for 18 games, you get the idea. I think maybe it all worked out as best as could be hoped for, given the score.
    Friday, we’ll find out whether it was emotional maturity that kept the fight out of the boys or a complete void of character. I sure hope it’s the former.

    Prepare yourself for sheer and utter disappointment haha. That's what I like to call a guaranteed L-Burna

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    I heard that today's practice could be classified as a "back to the basics" practice???

    If that is true, how sad is it that our coach has to run a "back to basics" practice at this point in the season?

    Aren't most teams fine tuning and tweaking their systems for a big playoff push?

    It speaks volumes as to the direction this team is (or isn't) headed on the ice….

  • Hockey Gods

    @ rindog:
    After last nights performance I think they need to go back to the basic's. They were clueless with the d-zone coverage.

    Mind you I am with the rest of you, a bag skate was in order. One hour bag skate, flood the ice then go out and do total back to basic's, treat them like atoms practice.

    I hope today they all feel like Corky from Life Goes On, b/c thats what they looked like last night.

    I am trying stay positive, and last night was a just a bump in the road… right… they win the next 2 and they are 7 – 2 in their last nine… please??

    I would have an easier time believing that had showed at least one ounce of pride last night. Arrrggghhh you would think us Oil fans would be used to the inconsitancy.

  • RobinB

    @ rindog:
    Not so much back to basics as reinforcing what's already in place. Lots of repetition of drills they've done before. It's the longest practice I can recall under MacTavish. Ron Low had a couple as long during his tenure.

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    Then I guess my real question is:

    What kind of team needs reinforcing at this time of the year? Especially when this coach is the only one most of the players really know at the NHL level??

    I don't want to use the "tune out" phrase – but if the players have been using the system and actually bought into it -would they really need reinforcement now?

  • rindog

    @ Hockey Gods:

    I guess that is my point. We only really have two new impact players on our team this year. Why is this team still struggling with the simple things?

    Is the system not working or are the players not playing the system?

    If it is the latter – we have to ask the question; why?

    Do the players not believe in the system the coach is implementing?

    Maybe we don't have the right players to play the system being asked of them?

    Either way, it seems very odd that we would need to be addressing these types of things at this point in the season???

  • Hockey Gods

    Hey Robin and/or Gregor maybe you guys might have some insight on a pipe dream I am having. Darren Dreger's (who seems to be a pretty well conected guy) blog on cited some players he predicted to move before the deadline. The one that really made my tighty whities rise was Colby Armstrong.

    I see his game as something the Oilers could really use. He has that sandpaper high energy style who is defensively aware (Career plus player), can pot the odd goal, or drop the gloves and stick up for his teammates. I have always seen him as a born leader.

    Now my hard-on aside, I don't want to become a rumour monger, as Dregor states in his article there are no garantees; he is just hearing this list of names mentioned. But if he were availible, do you guys see him as fit here, would Tambo has as much interest as me, and what do you guys think it would take get him?

    *** Again it may be pipe dream, but play along fantacy's are fun ***

  • Hockey Gods

    rindog wrote:

    Either way, it seems very odd that we would need to be addressing these types of things at this point in the season???

    The thing is a week and a half ago they didn't need to address these things. That is is most frustrating thing as a fan, the inconsistancy makes you want to punch nun.

  • Deans

    @ David S:
    I'm not a PC nut or anything I've just been hearing that phrase pop up alot in hockey talk. I think it was one of the third string CBC hacks who used that phrase while I was watching a game with a group of friends. The whole room went silent and everyone had a disturbed WTF look on their face. While the lexical definition is harmless, for my generation at least, the word unmolested conjures negative images that have nothing to do with hockey. Ok now Im officially going to give it a rest.

  • RobinB

    @ Hockey Gods:
    Interesting with Armstrong. He does have some qualities that make him a useful guy (although it sounds like you were describing Moreau when listing his attributes).

    I'll tell you this, although it doesn't necessarily apply now: as part of draft previews I used to to do at the Journal and Sun, I'd make up an Oilers wish list of players they wanted. I asked the Oilers specifically about Armstrong because I thought he might go as high as 13th, where they picked. They weren't nearly as impressed with him as I was at the time. The Oilers took Hemsky 13th and Pittsburgh took Armstrong 21st.

    Anyway, the Oilers have a couple of immediate needs that are different from what Armstrong brings. I don't see a real need for him right now.

  • OB

    Until fans stand up by not showing up to games, we will continue to watch subpar play, horrible coaching, and laughable management.

    This team is a pretender. I guess that stands to reason when the Captain is a smug, arrogant washed up third liner. As a long time season ticket holder, I was very disappointed in Moreau's comments yesterday. Maybe the players should donate their pay from that game to the hospitals they're visiting today; which is just a quick PR fix BTW.

    It's too bad Katz's head is rammed up Lowe's ass to see how horribly run this club is.

  • Greg MC

    It looks like Coach doesn't have a clue about how the team will perform day to day. It looks like the players want to help him out the door. What is it going to take to end his tenure? MF!

  • Ender the Dragon

    Greg MC wrote:

    It looks like Coach doesn’t have a clue about how the team will perform day to day.

    A little unfair. No coach in the league today would bet his salary against his team winning that night (Rick Tocchet doesn't count). While there are good teams and bad teams in the NHL, the talent spread isn't as wide as people like to think. Parity and the salary cap have ensured that any team of professionals in this league can beat any other night to night. If you want to win at this level, you have to show up with every one of your guys ready to play hard. One unfinished check or one puck that you fail to clear out of the zone can spell the difference.

    MacT can't promise wins. He can and should promise that his team will show up and work their ass off next game. Show me where he's said that he's not sure that will happen.

  • shakey

    @ OB:
    I usually am a Moreau supporter but out of all of the Oilers I at least expected him to get a little pissed off and show some emotion during Buffalo's practice the other night. He'll take a stupid slashing penalty at a bad time in a close game but he doesn't even make an effort to throw a body check or push a guy away from the net after a whistle? His comments after the game weren't as surprising as his lack of emotion. There used to be a tangible level of pride with being an Oiler and I'm just not seeing it lately. It's disappointing and frustrating.

  • Thorn

    Does anyone else have a sick feeling in their stomach about friday's game against the wild? I think monday was more detrimental than just "the worst home loss in FRANCHISE HISTORY". As an outside observer, it feels like the locker room chemistry suffered a major hit. I just hope they can get motivated to play for each other tomorrow. And I sure hope the fans show up in their corner because we need all the help we can get right now!

  • swany

    Milli wrote:

    All I wanna know is where is the “PRIDE”???????
    I didn’t see any.

    We will see what if any pride this team has Friday, if they come out like bulls in a china shop great BUT if they come out throw a little hit here and a little hit there I will be looking for answers somewhere. They must come out and set the pace of the game Mac NEEDS to get at the Boogieman right off the start, The Captain NEEDS to man up and throw a friggen hit, Cole should try and play with BOTH hands on his stick, and the D well try to stop some cross ice passes to give the goalies a chance, This is a middle of the road team, there are only 3 teams in the west that are pulling away the rest will battle it out till the end.

  • Rick

    shakey wrote:

    I usually am a Moreau supporter but out of all of the Oilers I at least expected him to get a little pissed off and show some emotion during Buffalo’s practice the other night.

    Last year when Moreau came back from the broken ankle I really thought that he did a fantastic job at injecting the needed emotion and leadership into the room through the right kind of physical play. I was thinking that if this was what he brought as the new captain then the team is in good hands.

    What he brought last year in his 25 games just hasn't translated to this year though. I know that some of the stats they record are unreliable at best but given that they are the only ones available it's all we have.

    Gregor has made mention of Moreau taking aggressive penalties and that those aren't necessarily a bad thing. Looking outside the minor penalties I find it interesting that in comparing the first half of this year and his 25 games from last year his hits per game is down by .4 and he has 1 less fighting major in almost twice as many games as last year.

    He isn't nearly as aggressive this year on a team that needs a guy to play that way more than ever before.

  • Cam

    Milli wrote:

    All I wanna know is where is the “PRIDE”???????
    I didn’t see any.

    I don't really care how much jam or emotion they have at the practice… or what they say with a Micrphone in their face.

    The test of their pride and jam will be on Friday. If they go down to the Wild without a fight, then I will get on my soapbox and condemn them.

    Until then I reserve judgement about their reaction to this thumping.

  • rindog

    I think the things I hear people saying have alot to do with the compete or emotional level that our team performs at.

    I have heard MacT say numerous times, "Don't let your highs get too high and your lows get too low."

    I think that might be part of the problem?

    What is worng with smashing your body into the glass when you score a goal or breaking your stick over the crossbar when you get scored against?

    It is funny how the television brodcasts always show MacT after we get scored on now. MacT better be getting paid a sponsorship deal from Disani. Every time we get scored on they show MacT calmly taking a sip of Dasini and showing no emotion what so ever!!!

    Maybe if the coach showed a little intensity and fire – our players would follow suit???