SUNRISE, Florida — The struggling Edmonton Oilers continued what’s turning into a disastrous five-game road trip with a costly 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers Monday.
Sitting pretty in 15th place in the Western Conference and contenders for a 2010 Entry Draft lottery pick a week ago, the reeling Oilers won their third straight game as Shawn Horcoff beat the Panthers in the shootout, tucking a backhand between the pads of Tomas Vokoun.
For Horcoff, playing through a shoulder injury instead of resting up and taking one for the team in the lottery bid, it was his second consecutive game-winner — he was the difference in a 3-2 shootout win in Dallas Saturday. On Monday, Horcoff opened the scoring with a deflection past Vokoun to make it 1-0.
"F*ck me," said coach Pat Quinn, asked about Horcoff’s performance. "How does that tip go in? Off somebody’s ass, or something, I suppose. We’re not getting the bounces right now. That’s hockey."*
With Nikolai Khabibulin doing his part in the Seguin Sweepstakes — dubbed Dive For Five by Oiler fans — by sitting out with a back injury, Jeff Deslauriers made his ninth straight start and kicked aside 33 shots for the win.
"Jeff was good again," Quinn said of Deslauriers, who couldn’t stop a beach ball in some earlier starts but is buckling down at the wrong time.
"What can you do? Skill isn’t enough. Jeff has to think in terms of the team. There’s a bigger picture to consider."*
After a promising stretch in which they went 4-11-3, prompting excitement about a headlong tank-job, the Oilers, winners in Detroit, Dallas and now Florida to start the road trip, improved to 13-13-4.
"No comment," said a red-faced Steve Tambellini, who brushed off reporters on the way to the team bus. "F*ck off, Tychkowski. You too, Ireland . . ."*
In other developments, the DFF took another hit with news defenceman Denis Grebeshkov has returned from a knee injury and skated Monday. He could be ready to play before the end of the road trip.
WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT?
WTF, Brownlee? The Oilers win three straight and they’re blowing it? Well, from the perspective of those ON readers who just a week ago opined the Oilers should pull the chute, fold and take the pipe in pursuit of a lottery pick — and a lot of you said it — yes, things are going badly.
Rewind eight days to Nov. 29, a day after the Oilers took a 7-3 spanking in Vancouver from the Canucks.
— Travis Dakin: "I really wish that Horcoff would just pack it in and get the surgery done too. He needs it and the team really needs the dive for five. BAD."
— Pat Quinn’s Chest hair: "I didn’t want to be writing this kind of post this year, especially given how Penner’s play has improved so much and that the Wall played pretty well, but I just don’t see enough other players doing or having what it takes to win. C’mon Tambo, kick some ass already and blow this sh1t up."
— Dave: "Dive for 5. Use the pick to grab a young ubertalent with great leadership qualities. Hopefully he grabs this team by the throat and becomes so popular his cache can be used to attract other talent to Edmonton. Dismiss the coaching staff and insert a puppet chosen by the players as coaching has become redundant in Edmonton."
— Jack Bauer: Its pretty clear that this team needs to do the following:
1) Rid themselves with as much salary as they can. Whatever means necessary to fix the cap issues this team will have for the next few years. Vancouver has done it and they have a very nice cap number right now.
2) Bottom out for a couple of years and get some top 5 draft picks that will hopefully pan out and build around them.
There’s plenty more examples of similar lament and consternation like the bits I just picked out above, but you get the drift.
So, with the Oilers having a chance to rattle off five straight victories with stops left in Tampa Bay and St. Louis, are the vocal members of the DFF camp of the mind that Quinn’s men are blowing it?
Are the Oilers going to play heroes just long enough to miss the lottery, pull fans back in and then come up short of a playoff spot, earning the right to take a sleeper Slovakian centre with the ninth pick?
Or, is the DFF bunch slowly slinking back to a position atop the fence and taking their hands of the panic button — those quoted above have plenty of company — and getting a grip until the next three-game losing streak? Any second thoughts? "That Horcoff. Always liked him . . . We’re one shutdown D-man from Cup contention, baby."
Just let me know. It makes it infinitely easier to come up with an angle for a game story or a column if the writer has a feel for where the heads of Oilers fans, particularly those in the DFF camp, are at on any given day.
I’ll resist the obvious punch line and leave it at that.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.