The real game story: or not

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.

*Or not.

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.

3) Pray.

NOW WHAT?

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.

  • @ rubbertrout

    I mean they are (by some miricle) in 6th/7th spot (or better) around TDD.

    In other words, it's still too early to give up, if they show they can do it. Let them play it out. if they don't, do a minor shuffle.

  • raventalon40

    @Greg:

    Learning how to win is the most important part of rebuilding. I don't think anybody is actually suggesting that the Oilers lose games intentionally, only that they recognize before it's too late that this isn't the year to sell the farm.

    Rather, this is the year to get serious about shoring up all the holes in the roster.

    The Oilers have the following leaders:

    Souray (5.6), Moreau (2.0), Staios (2.7), Pisani (2.5), Horcoff (5.5)

    That's a lot to pay for leadership, especially if certain players are more "role players" than "leaders."

    Not to mention that many roles on this team are duplicated by more than one player and that despite being a team that is "not giving up on the playoffs" there seems to be little idea from the management about how to get there.

    Do you get there by trading Brodziak, Stoll, letting Glencross, Reasoner, and then forcing your offensive prospects like Cogliano and Gagner to try to play those kinds of roles? By overworking the already-injured Horcoff? By signing an old goaltender to a long contract without frontloading (to avoid the cap hit of possible retirement) when you have two goalies ready to come up and compete for the backup job – maybe even the starter job?

    The Oilers have long term solutions for short term problems (Khabibulin) and short term solutions for long term problems (Comrie, Nilsson, O'Sullivan).

    And all of these solutions are costing more money than they should.

    DFF … not about losing games intentionally.

    It's about building a roster that is geared towards rebuilding… towards shaping a team culture.

    I'm sure Quinn and Renney will try to win no matter what – it's what they're paid to do.

    Tambellini isn't there to appease them. His job is to manage the roster.

  • On JAG today, Dan Barnes made a really good point. NOT making the playoffs this year is NOT an option. He figures being out of the playoffs for so long means key management positions' butts are on the line. This is something I'd tend to agree with (but who knows for sure). I'd bet the house Tambellini makes an airlift at the trade deadline if we're within sniffing distance of a post-season spot.

    As much as everybody thinks the DFF is a good idea, its not going to happen. You might as well get used to it.

    • Travis Dakin

      And that scares the every loving …. stuff… out of me. Imagine how awesome it will be to have a GM who is willing to make a bunch of stupid trades that screw the future, to save his job now.

  • raventalon40

    @ David S

    "unmovable contracts" is probably one of the most over-used, terms that lack reality.

    Every TDD teams add bad teams 5th dmen and 3rd line forwards to add depth for the PO.

    Ever summer "unmoveable contracts" are moved.

    See Jim Vandameer/Scott Gomez/Cheechoo

  • Travis Dakin

    @ David S

    Rewind 6 months.

    Mention Penners name in a trade.

    Result – 739,287,273 posts calling him unmovable

    Leason: Fans have no idea who's unmovable and who isn't

    2nd leason: almost everyone is movable

    • Man I hope you're right. I just don't see anyone taking on aging players that are WAY overpaid. Even if some team thought it might be a playoff move, do you really think guys like Moreau and Staios are valuable commodities that other teams don't already have? And even if they were all that, what contending team would have the cap room for their bloated contracts?

      Like the man said. This isn't NHL 2010.

    • raventalon40

      Moreau, Pisani, and Staios are not about to go on a PPG pace and a tear for the rest of the season.

      I don't think Moreau and Staios are unmovable. If anything, they become more moveable the closer you get to the deadline.

  • raventalon40

    Not to mention that Moreau and Staios are hardly "done" (though they aren't the players they were 5 years ago)

    Moreau has consistantly been one of the better 5 on 5 goal scorers on the team (arguable the hardest and most valuable trait a player can have)

    When Staios was out everyone was whining and crying that none of our D would play physical/block shots. As soon as he came back their was a noticable difference.

  • raventalon40

    @ Raven Talon

    No one thought Penner was capable of it 6 months ago either. In fact I'd have to say if the majority of "fans" had it their way, he would have been in Springfield this year.

    • raventalon40

      Doesn't matter what people thought, since the math has always suggested that Penner was a better player than people gave him credit for.

      Willis and Staples wrote extensively on that topic.

      On that note, the math has been unkind to Moreau and neutral for Staios.

  • raventalon40

    @ David S

    I think both are "overpaid" by about .5 million.. maybe less

    I think fans worry more about "bloated contracts" then GM's do. Disagree? Look at their transactions

    The man (I'm assuming you meant Brownlee) also said that felt their WAS a market for Staios/Moreau

    Yes I think guys like Moreau and Staios are valuable commodities as 4th liners/3rd pairing Dmen on young teams with deep playoff aspirations.

    I find it kind of funny that you champion a return to the line-up for Nillson, yet you claim a proven 15 goal score at evens (pretty similar to a guy popping 22/23 with PP time) as worthless.

  • @ David

    3 good games for Nilsson. I'll bet $20 Moreau out scores him (goals) 5 on 5 3 to 1. Out points him 5 on 5 2 to one and out. Out scores him (goals) EV+PP.

    Wouldn't be bad for a guy that's done.

  • raventalon40

    @ Raven

    Your kind of taking my point in a different dirrection.

    My point is that the fan base clearly doesn't know which players are movable and which aren't. If the Penner example doesn't work for you then take Vandemer/Gomez/Brad Richards/Smyth/Cheechoo/Lupul and a host of others should.

    Check out different hockey fan sites, you'll find 100,000's of posts from fans declaring their contracts "unmovable" only to see their contracts "moved"

    • raventalon40

      Good, a voice of reason is rare and I'm glad that I've found one.

      Sometimes I see people who think you can move a bunch of contracts of young players to teams and get star players in return… and I think WTF.

      Trades are about relative value and relative return, and teams don't usually don't trade guys they need.

      Most of the Eklund trade proposals, for example, like trading Evgeni Malkin for random crap… remember, the Joe Thornton trade was the exception, not the rule. The Oilers trading Stoll and not replacing him is the exception, not the rule.

      The worst is the post-game radio call-ins and guys who want to trade "Moreau, Cogliano, so and so and a 1st round pick for Sidney Crosby… man they'd be crazy not take such an overpayment" except that the team with the best players and depth usually win.

      One man's garbage isn't always another man's gold. The situation is never all one way or all another. It's always relative.

      Think about the stock of a guy like O'Sullivan to the Oilers before and after the Hemsky injury.

  • Harlie

    I still refuse to believe that Pat Quinn could stomach coming out of retirement to finish dead last in the NHL. I mean, why get off the couch? Especially since I heard him say he's not even making close to a mill a year!* In all seriousness I think we may see a trade or two but these guys will fight tooth and nail all year and where we end up we end up. They'll deal with the consequences then. This is what they have chosen to do in the past and I can't see them veering from that strategy now.

      • Harlie

        yeah I heard that on one of the pressers. Pat said something like we all wish for a lot of things, "hell I wish I had a million dollars". And then one of the Reporters said, "you must have a million dollars". And then Pat said, "are you kiddin?"

        ~Maybe ole' Patty was lendin to McCarty?~ haha

  • Harlie

    You know what's interesting about the ON perspective. Is just how "on" and "off" all the Oiler players have been for the past 30 games.

    Think about you can probably find a post that highlights and lowlights every player this season. So what's my point. Maybe there is parity in the league and maybe there is enough talent in the Oiler system to compete to be a playoff team every year but what it takes is understanding your team's weaknesses, develop a system to mitigate and play as a team AND MOST OF ALL COMPETE = Great Things.

    Example – see 2009-10 Avalanche. 2nd in the conference, 5th in the league. See the LA Kings similar story.

    Do they have better 'tending than the Oil? better D? A better elite player?

    . . .I don't think so.

    • Better elite player than the Oil? Umm… ya, they do. Anze Kopitar & Paul Stastny are both waaaaay better than anyone on the Oilers. In fact, they're exactly the type of player they are missing, and exactly the type of player everyone is talking about them needing to draft.

      • Though interstingly enough neither of those guys were lottery picks, with Kopitar going 5 picks after Brule and Stasny going in the second round.

        I hope I'm not editing this too late, but I noticed, at least in the western conference, that while quite a few teams have lottery picks leading their teams there are quite a few teams who do not. We are the only one with an undreafted guy leading the team in scoring, but Detroit is led by Zetterberg and Datsyuk, Dallas is led by Richards who was a 3rd rounder. Both Getzlaf and Perry were mid to late first round picks. Iginla went 11th, plus the two guys mentioned above. Seems to me there is a reasonable chance of getting pretty good guys with later picks, you just need a bit of luck.

    • Kopitar is a "better elite player" than Hemsky and LA's second tier of forwards with Smyth, Brown and Frolov is better than Edmonton's.

      I'd give the Oilers a slight edge on defence right now, but I'd take LA's back end with Johnson, Doughty and Greene over Edmonton's based on age if I was building for 2-3 years down the road.

    • raventalon40

      The Avalanche and Kings haven't achieved jack squat yet.

      And Anze Kopitar is not elite? And don't forget that LA built there team through the draft too.

  • I'm with OgdenBro and Brownlee as far as Moreau & Staios are concerned. I'm fairly confident multiple teams will have interest in both players. The return isn't the important part. Moving 2 highly, highly respected individuals in this organization to Cup contenders and clearing the cap space is.

    Aside from those moves, I'd also look at moving Cogliano for a better fit up front (as Eberle has a shot at replacing him in the small-skilled category), moving one of Souray/Visnovsky, one of Gilbert/Grebeshkov, and spare parts (Nilsson/Pouliot).

        • Yah sorry… forgot the thing~~~~~~

          good player that yankie joe was. bit of an oiler nemesis as I recall. Them were the days, otto and messier just flat out getting after it.

          Pierre is kind of the cheap (very) hockey version of Dick Vitale. I realize its his schtick but its just very painful at times. Im rather certain you will find many more Pierre tolerant people in a flames environment.
          ~why would that be?~

  • raventalon40

    Post 197 is supposed to read:

    With Hogdson out, I can see Eberle as captain of that team. From what I've heard, theirs not going to be many returning players… and off memory, none that were top 6 guys from last year.

  • I wonder if Windsor's top line sticks as a unit (Greg Nemisz, Taylor Hall & Adam Henrique). Obviously, I want to get a look at this Nemisz kid on the big stage. Hoping he's a keeper!

  • Get over yourself Brownlee. The oilers win a couple of games, and now you're trying to stick it to the fans who recognize this team does not have the core to ever challenge for a cup?

    Maybe the only thing more annoying than anonymous arm chair critics, are trade school journalism/broadcasting diploma graduates who think they're perspective is more enlightened than the unwashed masses who actually pay to support this underachieving organization year after year.

    The fanbase have been patient with this club for long enough. Bad moves by the hockey ops department have mirred this team in a never ending cycle of mediocirty.

    Rather than spending to the cap(and price gouging your fans to recoup that expenditure) every year with the hope of creeping into the playoffs, what is so hard to grasp about cutting loose low value contracts and rebuilding thru the draft?

  • "you'll be truly entertained when I actually do lay the smack down.

    Find a way to move Moreau, Staios and Souray –three deals, not seven or eight that screams "We give up" — and the Oilers will not only free up cap space, the lottery pick will take care of itself. A lottery pick should be an offshoot of a proper rebuild, not the focus."

    I know! I was there for the Deep Oil thread. Although you never did answer the question on if he was as crazy in person as he seems on here.

    I agree with that this team needs to change its veteran core. They are simply got good enough to be "leaders" on this team.

    • Not crazy, just somebody with issues involving the Oilers. I'm not going to run DO down now that he's agreed ranting here time after time isn't the best idea.

      And I hope you didn't take me using your quote personally. A lot of people feel the way you do about the DFF. This team, everybody can agree, needs a significant makeover.

      My position is simply that it should be done methodically, not as an all-out purge with its foundation in frustration. The Oilers have now won four straight, but it doesn't change the fact they need an overhaul.