No names, but a reporter asked Ethan Moreau after practice at Clareview Arena today if it might be a good thing that the Edmonton Oilers are heading out on the road for a five-game trip.
A good thing? Where they’ve lost five straight games? Nothing like a little bonding when the team’s in the toilet, right? Look, I get the angle because it’s one reporters always lean on at times like this, but I’ve got to admit I was damn proud of myself for choking back a guffaw at that knee-slapper.
The Oilers are 7-8-1, have lost six of their last seven games and are hanging on edge of the bowl by their fingertips. They can’t generate shots. They can’t score goals. They can’t get the power play going. I’m worried coach Pat Quinn is going to clutch his chest and go down any day now.
Sure, a trip through Denver, Ottawa, Buffalo, Atlanta and Columbus without Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray, with Ales Hemsky banged up and the collective confidence of the team in tatters can’t possibly help but sort all that out.
What could possibly go wrong?
HEY, IT COULD WORK
"You get the guys together and get more of a positive energy surrounding our team," Moreau said, dutifully answering the question. "It’s worked as an advantage in the past. Hopefully, that’s the case."
And hopefully Nikolai Khabibulin doesn’t throw his arms in the air and say, "Screw you guys" after facing a barrage of rubber through 16 games with next-to-no run support during a 1-6 slide.
Hopefully, the penalty killing bounces back from an awful night in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Rexall Place Thursday. Hopefully, a few bonding brews in Denver or a team stroll down Rideau Street in Ottawa will soothe the many ills ailing the Oilers. Then again, maybe not.
The problem, Ethan, isn’t where the games are being played. It’s how they’re being played. Not enough intensity. Lack of cohesion and persistence in the offensive zone. Too many puck battles lost at both ends of the rink. Lapses in defensive zone coverage. Fading late in games. Too many guys riding the bus, nobody steering it.
Location. Location. Location.
FLY ON THE WALL
Robert Nilsson and Quinn had a heart-to-heart chat at practice today, a conversation that was initiated by the insanely inconsistent Swede, who is widely perceived as one of the first guys to go when the Oilers get healthy.
Quinn mentioned the chat to reporters, but declined to discuss what was said. Luckily for Oilersnation fans, I have a source — a digital recorder I taped to Nilsson’s shoulder pads after slipping the equipment guys $100 to look the other way — that provides us with an exclusive on the conversation.
Nilsson: "Coach, can we talk?"
Quinn: "F*ck, Ales, what do we have to talk about? You’ve got mad skills, kid, but skills alone aren’t enough. You play. I talk."
Nilsson: "Uh, it’s Robert, coach. Robert Nilsson. Hemmer isn’t here today. Look, I know I’ve been horseshit. I feel bad about that and . . ."
Quinn: "You sure have, kid. I’ve got my ass hanging in the breeze and I can’t count on you. That cream-puff you call a shot couldn’t break a pane of glass. You’re killing me. I’ll tell you again because I like you Patrick, skill alone isn’t enough. You’ve got to play within a team concept, you’ve got to . . ."
Nilsson: "Uh, it’s Robert, coach. Robert Nilsson. Look, I know I’ve got a bad rap as a slacker. MacT hated my guts. I was looking forward to a clean slate with you, but I’m worried I’ve f*cked that up already."
Quinn: "Dam straight you have, Ethan. Everybody is puking and shitting themselves with this H1N1 thing. The power play is in the crapper. The PK sucks. Jeezuz H. All I’m asking of you is to show a little leadership and, for f*ck sake, stop taking stupid penalties or I’m going Bobby Orr on you."
Nilsson: "Uh, it’s Robert, coach. Robert Nilsson. I can turn things around, I really can, coach. I think that when Horcoff gets back, if you’d put him and I together, we could make something happen. We could . . ."
Quinn: "Horc, thank Christ you’re here. Good job, kid. Shoulder’s good, eh? Listen, Shawn, do me a favour, OK? Talk to Hemmer. Make sure he’s happy, isn’t asking for a trade, shit like that. O’Sullivan, too. I don’t want the kid down on himself. And where’s Nilsson? You tell that kid, and tell him good, if he mails another one in, he’s dead to me."
- For another kick in the pills the Oilers don’t need, Hemsky didn’t even skate today and it looks like he’s battling through a shoulder injury after getting banged around on the last road trip. That’s two days in the last four Hemsky has been held off the ice.
- J.F. Jacques is still struggling with back spasms, and that’s a significant malady for a big player who has to bang to be effective, especially one who has already had back surgery.
- So, Tom Renney still talks to Jaromir Jagr occasionally, eh? Renney figures Jagr still has some NHL seasons left in him. Too bad about the waivers thing, and that the Oilers won’t get a sniff even if he does bolt for North America. Let the rumours — hello Peter Adler at The Journal — begin.
- Beat writers covering the Oilers can no longer travel on the charter with the team because of new regulations in the U.S. No more quick check-ins at private terminals. No more business class seats. No more trolleys of free booze and food rolling up and down the aisles. Commercial travel, baby.
- Fearless Prediction: Oilers return from the road trip 8-11-2.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Edmonton’s power play is 2-for-18 in the last six games.
- The Oilers have been outshot in 13 of their 16 games.
- The Oilers were 8-7-1 for 17 points through 16 games last season.
Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.