The Era of Ineptitude that was 1992-93 to 1995-96 for the Edmonton Oilers was supposed to be a low point never to be duplicated, but the 2009-10 edition of the Copper and Blue is poised to earn its share of infamy.
If head coach Pat Quinn and associate Tom Renney can’t coax the Oilers into the playoffs this season — and you can make a reasonable argument they won’t — it’ll mark four straight years out of the post-season, tying the franchise mark for futility set by the 1992-96 teams.
You remember the bad old days, right?
Four straight seasons in which the Oilers managed 30 wins just once. Four seasons with 12,000 people in the building a lot of nights. Four seasons of watching coaches Ted Green, Glen Sather, George Burnett (for about 15 minutes) and Ron Low age before your eyes as stalwarts like Geoff Smith, Ian Herbers and Len Esau took a twirl. Paper Bag City, baby.
No way that could happen again, right?
Now, I’m not about to suggest the 2009-10 edition of the team is going to be anywhere near as bad as the group of misfits and stiffs that marked the 1990s, but four years out is four years out and the team that’ll take the ice to start this season is at three and counting.
Having duly documented the lean years — I remember doing report cards on each player for The Journal, a task that made me immensely popular when “D” represented head of the class — it was a humbling time for an organization that had won five Stanley Cups in its first 11 NHL seasons.
How bad was it? Well, Peter Klima led the Oilers in scoring in 1992-93 with 48 points, a season in which the team played 84 games and won 26. It was 25 wins in 1993-94, 17 wins in the 48-game season of 1994-95 and 30 wins in 1995-96.
If that didn’t make fans mental enough, you could sing and clap along, or maybe just yank out tufts of your own hair, to Cotton Eye Joe just after Bill Ranford fished another puck out of the net.
No, this team, even if it misses, won’t be that bad. But it goes without saying that being less lousy will be cold consolation to fans if Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Company can’t get it done.
For the record, nine players played on all four non-playoff teams from 1992-96. Doug Weight, Zdeno Ciger, Kelly Buchberger, Igor Kravchuk, Louie DeBrusk, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson, David Oliver and Ranford had the honour.
If this edition misses, 11 players — Hemsky, Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Steve Staios, Marc Pouliot, Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert, Zack Stortini, Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson and J.F. Jacques — stand to make it four straight.
Like I said, there’s no chance this group will be as bad as the stumblebums that previously stained the ice. The Oilers are coming off a 38-win season and 85 points after years of 41 and 32 wins. No comparison.
Likewise, the building is full, Cotton Eye Joe, like Esau, has long been retired, and Daryl Katz actually has enough money to ensure the Oilers are on solid financial ground, which was hardly the case at a time when Peter Pocklington’s financial house of cards was collapsing.
But, while these might not be the bad old times, four straight years out of the playoffs is four straight years.
It’ll take some doing to avoid it.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.