Happy Holiday: a lump of coal, or something

Well, the Edmonton Oilers have certainly done their level best to boost the Christmas spirit of the faithful at Rexall Place over the past three games, now haven’t they?

Ho-ho-ho. The Oilers return home after winning five straight games on the road, putting a big dent in the Dive For Five bandwagon, and lose 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings Dec. 15.

Ho-ho-ho. The Oilers jump out to a 2-0 lead against the Nashville Predators in front of another packed house before folding in a 6-3 loss, leaving fans face down in a big puddle of rum-laced egg nog Dec. 17.

Ho-ho-ho. Saturday night, the Oilers parlay a lucky bounce to a 2-0 lead over Washington. That goes sideways after Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau spends the second intermission questioning how a wealthy player like Alex Ovechkin could have hobo hair and such bad teeth. Ovechkin sparks a four-goal outburst and is last seen being patted on the backside by Boudreau as Oiler fans stumble to the parking lot after a 4-2 loss.

All that remains for fans before the NHL’s official Christmas break is for Santa to sh*t in their stockings with an overtime loss to the feeble St. Louis Blues Monday and a fifth straight defeat in Minnesota Wednesday.

It could be ugly, indeed, long before the credit card bills roll in and that puke-inducing concoction otherwise known as grandma’s Christmas cake hits the trash.

Bing and the losers

With Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background and my son Sam bounding about the house fuelled by another load of holiday-issue sweets, it was disconcerting seeing the Oilers so thoroughly outclassed by Ovechkin and the Capitals in the third period last night.

When a good team, let alone a great team like the Caps, plays anywhere near as well as it can, the team Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini have assembled for coach Pat Quinn doesn’t have the dimension, drive, talent or gamesmanship to do anything but hang on and hope.

Jonathan Willis nailed it with his assessment in his post-game wrap-up, That’s Not A Choice, It’s A Lack Of Options:

"I just don’t know that I can scrape for positives when Washington sends out Ovechkin and Co. and the best Edmonton can manage in response is (one-armed) Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O’Sullivan (in a slump to end all slumps) and (NHL rookie) Ryan Stone.  Looking for a bona fide checking line, that’s the best Quinn can do, and I can’t even call him on it because there aren’t any other options.

"Seriously — look down the roster. There’s nobody. Hemsky would help a fair bit, but despite the sheer volume of forwards on the team there isn’t anybody proven who can handle a checking role. It’s Horcoff, O’Sullivan, rookies, the Ghost of thecaptainethanmoreau, and the faint hope of a healthy Fernando Pisani."

Like watching Uncle Arthur crack open his belt after too much turkey and stuffing and then pass wind while mom divvies up the pumpkin pie, the Oilers shortcomings have become tradition — at the very least for the past four years running. This isn’t a one-off.

What to do?

  • Where is the shutdown line the Oilers need when it’s 2-0 and the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin rev it up? Can you name three forwards on the roster Quinn could put together who could lock it down?
  • Where is the centre who can kill penalties and win face-offs? He was at Rexall Place last night, but David Steckel, who went 13-9 on the dot, wears No. 39 for the Caps. He doesn’t count. There is no reasonable facsimile here.
  • Where is the defenceman who can settle things down in the defensive end? Who, aside from Sheldon Souray, has shown any ability whatsoever to clear the front of the net without getting out-muscled or out-smarted? Laddy Smid doesn’t count, yet, because face-washing after the whistle doesn’t qualify.
  • How many hacks at the puck would Ovechkin have had at the 4-1 goal last night if he didn’t bang it past Jeff Deslauriers on the third try?
  • Speaking of Deslauriers, he’s gone from sitting for months between starts last season to making 111 straight appearances with Nikolai Khabibulin waiting for Santa to deliver a new spine. Anybody have a plan?

The sad reality is there won’t be anything under the Oilers tree on Christmas morning to bolster the ridiculously flawed line-up Quinn has to work with, the team loyal fans keep paying good money to see.

And there’s not even a gift receipt to ease the pain.

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

  • Gerald R. Ford

    this is so dumb. its just re-hashing the same old crap from last season that cost MacTavish his job – because it was "coaching" – not the roster. any real observer knew the roster was beyond bush. now you guys get the same crap but with a new old man trying to spank the kids asses.

    the Oilers traded in their old milieu of "lets overwork to get mediocre results" to "lets try to look fancy getting crappier results."

    this article doesnt spell anything out regardless. the only way this team changes is when it makes a radical change to its core and they can ween in players to that core as supplemental players. about the only "core" players they have are Hemsky and Penner. their still needs to be about 2 more elite players above those two in the forward department to have an actual scary team.

    the Gagner paper tiger is a laugh for people waiting out for him to mature into some star. maybe with massive roids and some radical reconstruction surgery to his body. enter cyborg sam to make up for his extreme deficiencies that keeps him as a Vulture type offensive player. he circles until he has an easy corpse to gnaw on otherwise he cant do crap out there.

    its going to be patience. building the "core" is going to take drafts (Eberle and MPS?) or some extreme luck in the trade/UFA department. but right now they have some secondary star players and a bunch of wimpy turds. their vets and defensive forwards are all mediocre at best.

    was a checking line really going to win the game last night? who knows. its impossible to say. you cant throw variables into situations that have infinite possibilities. you can if you want to just change the results to your own agenda but we all know thats not how "chance" works.

  • Hemmertime

    Where is the centre who can kill penalties and win face-offs? He was at Rexall Place last night, but David Steckel, who went 13-9 on the dot, wears No. 39 for the Caps. He doesn't count. There is no reasonable facsimile here.

    After watching Steckel play last night and a few other WSH games this year I am happy as hell we didnt trade Cogliano (though hes done crap this year) or someone for him. Hes average.

    Where is the shutdown line the Oilers need when it's 2-0 and the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin rev it up?

    Moreau did a good job shadowing Ovechkin in the first couple periods when they were on together. Having POS on the Horc line was idiocy, Moreau Horc Stone should have been it, until Pisani comes back then he replaces Stone and we have our shutdown line.

  • Hemmertime

    Why can't management simply admit that a makeover is due? Continuing to sign players such as Khabby, Souray, et al. is a sign of desperation that has killed this club. Not good enough to make the playoffs, yet too good to get a high draft pick. This blows!

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Like every Oilers fan, I want the Oilers to win every single game. It makes my Saturday night a lot better when I can pre-drink watching the Oilers win on HNIC and then black myself out at the bar not being angry.

    I really enjoyed watching the Oilers win 5 in a row. However, I knew that in the back of my mind, this 5 game winning streak really accomplished nothing and if in the off chance this started a major drive for the playoffs and the Oilers were able to scrape into 8th (only to get devastated by the Kings, Hawks, or Flames in the first round), is it really actually a good thing?

    Please Oilers do me a huge favor and DON'T change. Keep all of the mediocre players, don't make a single trade. Please bomb this year, finish bottom 3, trade away the many worthless bums for draft picks at the deadline and try and draft at least 2-3 players who will be NHL ready in a couple seasons.

    I've already sat through 10+ seasons of mediocre to bad teams. I can deal with a couple more.

    I am tired of seeing a 10th to 8th place team in Edmonton. I'm tired of cheering for the underdog. I want to be a front runner….

    • *One clap so loud it makes Christmas non-existent*

      I'm glad to see there seems to be more people who have the same thoughts as you and I, rather than people who are fully behind the "lets win 4 extra games now. Who cares if we finish in 10th place again, at least I'll be happy for an extra day" plan.

      On another note, we've seen more or less what JDD can do. He's inconsistent but every once and a while he'll make the saves when he needs to. So when does Dubnyk get a look? Is there really anything to lose? Management is going to have to choose between the two eventually so why not throw him in the deep end while there's an opportunity and see if he sinks or swims?

  • Harlie

    The problem with this team is that their not strong enough one way or the other. Even Brownlee who suggested on air this past week, that Edmonton not need to make quick alterations to the goalie situation, now make a plan thanks to Deslauriers consecutive starts and win-loss record.

    The Oilers need to be either good enough that they actually contend for the playoffs each year, or they are bad enough their draft selections are good ones.

    Not being able to do either means a consistent 18th-22nd or 23rd in the league. That means little help at the draft and more mediocre free agents that don't actually improve the future of this team.

    • Phil

      The Oilers need to be either good enough that they actually contend for the playoffs each year, or they are bad enough their draft selections are good ones.

      Not being able to do either means a consistent 18th-22nd or 23rd in the league. That means little help at the draft and more mediocre free agents that don't actually improve the future of this team.

      Thing is though, as long as the money keeps coming in, that's all that really matters to ownership IMO.

      The people – or more specifically, the hockey fans – of Edmonton are for the most part a simple folk. It's like temporary escapism, or a "fancy night out" for them. Sure there's the diehards, the truly rabid pockets of fans, but overall, for the people who buy the tickets and go to the games – it's simply something to do. Better than nothing sorta thing.

      They can be frustrated with the on ice product but at the end of the day they'll still show up. And for every group of season ticket holders who don't renew, there's 2 or 3 families in line just waiting to sub in for them and to pay the money.

      As far as I'm concerned, it looks like they're content with battling for 8th, or 7th, almost every season as long as they can sell the fans new hope every season, something to latch onto. Status quo is just fine for Daryl Katz because at the end of the day, he'll be making his money, or coming closer breaking even (don't know the financial details). The city and it's people eat everything up for the most part, no matter how sh*tty the quality is, because the bottom line is it's a novelty in this small city of ours.

      Trading away assets, committing to a rebuild – or in other words accelerated losing/giving up, proving the fanbase they're in for a long, bleak haul = losing money, losing season ticket holders, general fading interest and an even cheaper on ice product. So as long as they can maintain things the way they are, it looks like it will be good enough for both the fans and the ownership.

      That's my opinion anyways.

  • Slapshot

    I have paid good money to watch this team over the years and I have 1 Stanley cup final playoff appearance to show in the last 10 years,I have left Rexall the last 3 games early and pissed off,I am already tired of Quinns post game rants and have no more patience on waiting for Tamballini to do anything,last year the excuse for him was that he was watching and observing.What is his excuse this year? And dont tell me its because the team is up against the cap all he needs to do is look in the mirror, it was him and K lowe that created this mess and they continue to do F-ck all!!!

    • BarryS

      Time to find something else to do, perhaps, since hockey no longer seems to give you pleasure, unless complaining is all the pleasure you need.

      Trouble is, once we were top dog and did't have any money behind the team, trouble now is we have money and there does not seem to be any players to buy. All deals now are four way deals, two GM's and two players (at minimum) who will consent to be traded. All players have defacto no trade contracts, all it takes is an indication of unhappiness with coming and the desire to leave the new team as soon as possible if traded.

  • Harlie

    why does Lionel Ritchie's suck ass song come in my head when I think of Steve Tambellini?

    "Hello!

    Is it me you're looking for?

    Because I wonder where you are,

    And I wonder what you do"

  • Before we get the folk who come on and bash RB for his eternal pessimistic views of the Oilers, give your damn head a shake and look at what this team really is! I dont know why RB, but you sharing my sentiments actually makes me feel less grumpy about this whole crying shame that is the Oil! I am actually semi-motivated to commit Harakiri by walking out the front door to attempt Xmas shopping on what is sure to be a retarded shopping Sunday here in Grande Prairie. Have a great Sunday and I hope I don't get too impatient with the other morons going shopping in this town today!

    • I haven't heard that, but then Tambellini is laying low. If true, I'm sure he'll get on that right away and a deal will be done in minutes or hours.

      Bruce Garrioch has tossed it out that Tambellini is trying to drum up some action, but with bad contracts and under-performing players, that's a bit like a guy with bad teeth and a comb-over looking to wheel a hot dame at closing time after the lights come on.

      • Shaun Doe

        Garrioch specifically mentioned Horcoff, Souray and Lubo Vis. regarding the Oil shopping big ticket players in his blurb on the Score.com. I wonder if Stumble-ini would consider moving a healthy Khabby on or before the trade deadline if it keeps looking like this team is going to be blown up?

        Cheating while trying to re-build doesn't even sound as if it could work. I think the Oilers need to be up front and honest with the fans which for them would be a new paradigm. They keep pushing vain hope when no one is buying it. I don't see them doing a Pittsburg or Washington until all the money and approval for an arena is in place. I don't think they want to jeopardize that project until they at least reach the point where the new building is in a secure stage of development. How many pissed off fans are going to support them if the organization throws up their hands and decides to go with going to the bottom of the standings and obtaining high draft picks.

        A friend of mine went to a game at Rexall a couple of weeks ago and 4 gold tickets cost him close to a thousand bucks. Plus he travelled 5 hours to get there. How long will people be willing to do that and watch the gong show Lowe has created. Never mind the increased tax bill for Edmontonians in specific and Albertans in general.

      • that's a bit like a guy with bad teeth and a comb-over looking to wheel a hot dame at closing time after the lights come on.

        Bin dare Dun dat. RB – that rolled off your keyboard just a tad too smoothly. That happened a long, long time ago in a bar on Whyte Ave. N'est pas?

  • "All that remains for fans before the NHL's official Christmas break is for Santa to sh*t in their stockings with an overtime loss to the feeble St. Louis Blues Monday and fifth straight defeat in Minnesota Wednesday."

    Oh man, my gut hurts from this one. Things are bleak.

    • Bar Qu

      Easy. You wait out the rest of the season, to see where they draft, you express yourself in any public forum (like this) about your frustrations with the management and you cheer for your team when they play. To a certain extent, it is not the fault of the players or coaches the team has a flawed roster. Or that the flaws have been obvious since Oct '08.

      In all likelihood, as this team limps into the off season with a good pick (I am calling slot #3) having done nothing movement wise to slow the collapse, at least Steve T will be out the door. If not, well there is always hope that the draft class of '11 is a strong one too.

      But, and this is the most important thing, you cheer your team on a game day. That is why you are a fan. {props to Steve for inspiring this fan perspective}