What go-to guys?


When the Edmonton Oilers miss the playoffs, they’ll look back on losses like Thursday’s indifferent 4-2 shoulder shrug against the feeble Ottawa Senators and untimely no-shows by their best players as the reason why.

It’s fine and good that GM Steve Tambellini did what he could to address the Oilers lack of secondary scoring with the acquisitions of Patrick O’Sullivan and Ales Kotalik Wednesday.

But, really, doesn’t that amount to an exercise in futility when the primary scoring has gone south faster than a charter bus loaded with grey-haired grannies packing cupfuls of quarters destined for Reno?

Having welcomed O’Sullivan and Kotalik with Thursday’s gritty, determined throw-down against the Senators in a game they absolutely had to win, the Oilers didn’t get much out of the new guys. Understandable.

But what’s the excuse for Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and Sheldon Souray? Craig MacTavish’s go-to guys haven’t done much of late in the name of a playoff push, just when the team needs them most.

The go-to-guys have gone away.


O’Sullivan and Kotalik can fill the net — they won’t — but it won’t be enough unless Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner and Souray start producing again.

Horcoff has one assist in his last five games. Hemsky has two goals in his last eight games. Penner doesn’t have a point in eight games. Souray has been held off the sheet in four straight games.

Fernando Pisani has one assist in the four games he’s played since returning from a broken ankle. Robert Nilsson had no sniff in seven straight games before MacTavish yanked him from the line-up three games ago.

The only veteran who has consistently pulled his weight of late is Dwayne Roloson, and he looked like he’s wearing down against the Senators after making 20 straight starts.

With the deadline come and gone and 18 games to play, there’s no help on the way as the Oilers cling to eighth place, for now, going into games against Toronto and Montreal to wrap-up a four-game road trip.

Early tee times beckon.

It takes time

Expecting a player acquired at the deadline to contribute offensively right away is a risky proposition, even when a team’s supposed go-to guys haven’t had their hands turn into frozen blocks of wood.

As often as a player comes in an makes an immediate impact the way Olli Jokinen did with Calgary, it takes players a handful of games to settle in. That’s why O’Sullivan and Kotalik, who hadn’t exactly been tearing up the pea patch when acquired, are in a tough spot.

Some players have arrived at the deadline and contributed right away. Sergei Samsonov comes to mind during the 2006 Stanley Cup run. Sammy scored 5-11-16 in 19 games down the stretch.

Petr Nedved also lit it up on his first tour after being acquired in 2004 from the New York Rangers. Nedved tallied 5-10-15 in 16 games, although he wasn’t enough to get the Oilers into the post-season.

For others, the transition hasn’t been as seamless. In 2003, Radek Dvorak managed 4-4-8 in 12 games, but Brad Isbister didn’t pack as much punch with 3-2-5 in 13 games. In 2002, Mike York arrived from Manhattan and struggled to 2-2-4 in 12 games.

While it’s not like Erik Cole was burning out bulbs in goal lights when he got his return ticket home, the glare of the spotlight on O’Sullivan and Kotalik will be intensified as long as Hemsky and Co. are impersonating Todd Marchant in a non-contract year.

Just asking…

  • If a player’s name is “O’Sullivan,” is there something wrong with referring to him as, well, “O’Sullivan?” What is this debate between “Patty-O” and “Sully?” Both are so witty, so brilliant, does it matter which one you use?
  • With almost two full seasons in the books since Penner hit the Oiler version of the Pay Day Lottery, is there anybody out there who still thinks he’s going to earn his salary during the life of the contract? Anybody?
  • What’s this I hear about Ladislav Smid and his agent asking for a trade on two separate occasions?

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

  • Bruno

    When you go to the corner store and check your lottery ticket they make you sign it first, right? So… it's no different for R.F.A's who are grossly overpaid for "potential". It's one thing to not produce with a full effort. But when i see a player stop moving his legs when going in the corners and is always seconds behind to start moving his legs on the backcheck thats F@#k@n EFFORT!! Thats frustrating to watch. and pay for to see live.You really see it at the games. I wish they would put the camera on Hemskys face during the game, you will see the frustration towards Penner. Ive seen it. I dont think he will ever earn his salary unless he changes his effort which I can't see happening under this coaching staff.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Rick:
    Not at the deadline.
    As for trade value, Smid is probably under-valued right now and wouldn't bring the kind of return that, obviously, a Gilbert or Grebeshkov would.
    Smid's season has been all over the map. He's been in the press box, he's played left wing and he's had limited stretches where he's looked capable of being a 4th guy.
    There's a logjam in front of Smid that might well sort itself out and allow him the opportunity to rise above the third pairing — any one of the top 4 now, plus a throw in, would go a long way to landing the Oilers scoring help in the top six.
    And, let's face it, Smid could make a great case for himself by playing lights out the rest of the way. People tend to remember the final 20 games of the season rather than the first 20.
    Again, this isn't a case of "Get me out of here no matter what."

  • Abdullah the butcher

    The Oilers don't play like a team.

    No consistent hustle. No effort.

    After dogging the last couple they will no doubt turn in a brilliant effort on Saturday night. That is their MO.

    We've seen over and over again how they can turn it on during the last five mins of a game so it's not like they aren't able to play.

    What's up with that?

    I am praying that like any successful business person Katz, has a plan B for the organization from top to bottom and is letting the season play out before change occurs.

    He certainly isn't going to deliver us a championship quality team if he stays the status quo.

    Abdullah the Butcher, OUT!

  • Rick

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Sorry for the double post but just to add;

    Have you heard anything in terms of what kind of trade value he holds?

    Good on Smid that he sees himself as more than a bottom pairing guy but what do the other GM's in the league see him as?

  • Chaz

    Robin. Is it normal practice for an NHL coach to throw newly aquired players into four on four situations? Mac T did this last night in the first period with both O'Sullivan and Kotalik. This was troubling for me for a couple of reasons:

    1. Both of these guys were tired and throwing them into a 4 on 4 situation seemed risky, especially considering this was their first game with the team and I doubt they had time to practice such a scenario in yesterday's practice.
    2. What does this communicate to the other players? "We're in 8th place in the West, but I still have more faith in two brand new guys running on 2 hours of sleep than I do with all of you." I know that guys have been underperforming up front, but come on!
    3. It shows that Mac T is pulling at straws and willing to try anything, even that early in a game, to generate something. It comes across as a desperation move, when it wasn't necessary a desperate time in the game.

    Mac T often does this with call ups from the Minors as well. He'll throw a guy right onto the first or second power play unit when they're called up. He's coming across as a very desperate coach right now, even more desperate than our situation calls for. It's his job to have clear systems in place for certain situations and I for one have no idea what these are. I don't think the players do either. This is a team with no identity and I think Mac T is to blame.

    Sorry for rambling. What are your thoughts on all of this? Am I just coach-bashing?

  • Rick

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    You guys have been kicking this around for a while but this is the first time you mentioned the number of times he has asked.

    Do you know when these times were? Was one of them as recent as this trade deadline?

  • Robin Brownlee

    Matt N wrote:

    Ladi wants out?

    I'd imagine that was the sentiment at the time the requests were made.
    I've touched on this before in recent items. My understanding is that this is a case of Smid wanting an opportunity to develop and not be cast as a 5-6 D-man in the long term.
    With Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Staios ahead on the depth chart, Smid is not going to be more than a third-pairing guy unless the personnel changes (which it could). Plus, the Oilers have Peckham and Chorney etc on the way.
    This isn't about not liking Edmonton or blah, blah, blah ala Pronger and Comrie. This is about fit and wanting to know if there's a chance here to be elevated as a top-4 guy.

  • Matt N

    What’s this I hear about Ladislav Smid and his agent asking for a trade on two separate occasions?

    Not sure what you are saying here. Is this information you are putting out? Ladi wants out? I sure hope not. I really like the way he has come along. He is starting to add offence to his physical play.

    Does anyone really beleive that this team has a shot at beating the top 4 in the west (let alone 2 of them)? I would prefer tanking the rest of the season to get a good draft pick, like they did to get Gagner.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    So, hypothetically of course, if a certain hockey team was having an extremely lackluster season, had a lame duck coach who was clearly on his way out, but had a young squad that maybe had some hope for the next year, might said hypothetical team consider bringing in a coach that maybe they were considering for next year for the last 20 games of this season so they might have a better idea of what the team might look like on the ice next year and what they needed to do in the off-season? Just saying…

  • Drago

    Move over Curse of The Bambino…the Curse of The Human Rake is here to stay.

    Lupul, Pitkanen, Cole have come and gone now Smid just as he is developing into a very solid defenceman has asked to be traded. If Kotalik turns out to be a rental as has been intimated then he will be added to the list. The hope now remains in O'Sullivan and Eberle, I am afraid to get my hopes up.

    Also, way to go Oilers. Tambellini gives the fans plenty of reason to get excited and optimistic about the upcoming stretch drive and they subsequently go out and lay a giant rotten egg to a lottery team.

  • Bruthah

    phattj wrote:

    hope we dont lose him..

    Agreed, I think Laddy didn't get the chance in the last couple years. Overshadowed by Gilbert and Grebs. Laddy smashing people in front of the net is fun to watch.

  • phattj

    In full Agreance with u Robin, Why is there no want or urgencey? My question would be wat is the Oilers system play? Turnover hockey? pond hockey or are they just not listening anymore a reused question that still has no answer.. As for laddy smid I can see why he gets no chance and when he did he thrived so y is MacT limiting him and playing an over age staios in the top 4 when at best he is a 5-6 guy hope we dont lose him..