Gloomy Gus: the bad old times

craptacular-hockey2

The Era of Ineptitude that was 1992-93 to 1995-96 for the Edmonton Oilers was supposed to be a low point never to be duplicated, but the 2009-10 edition of the Copper and Blue is poised to earn its share of infamy.

If head coach Pat Quinn and associate Tom Renney can’t coax the Oilers into the playoffs this season — and you can make a reasonable argument they won’t — it’ll mark four straight years out of the post-season, tying the franchise mark for futility set by the 1992-96 teams.

You remember the bad old days, right?

Four straight seasons in which the Oilers managed 30 wins just once. Four seasons with 12,000 people in the building a lot of nights. Four seasons of watching coaches Ted Green, Glen Sather, George Burnett (for about 15 minutes) and Ron Low age before your eyes as stalwarts like Geoff Smith, Ian Herbers and Len Esau took a twirl. Paper Bag City, baby.

No way that could happen again, right?

Encore?

Now, I’m not about to suggest the 2009-10 edition of the team is going to be anywhere near as bad as the group of misfits and stiffs that marked the 1990s, but four years out is four years out and the team that’ll take the ice to start this season is at three and counting.

Having duly documented the lean years — I remember doing report cards on each player for The Journal, a task that made me immensely popular when “D” represented head of the class — it was a humbling time for an organization that had won five Stanley Cups in its first 11 NHL seasons.

How bad was it? Well, Peter Klima led the Oilers in scoring in 1992-93 with 48 points, a season in which the team played 84 games and won 26. It was 25 wins in 1993-94, 17 wins in the 48-game season of 1994-95 and 30 wins in 1995-96.

If that didn’t make fans mental enough, you could sing and clap along, or maybe just yank out tufts of your own hair, to Cotton Eye Joe just after Bill Ranford fished another puck out of the net.

No, this team, even if it misses, won’t be that bad. But it goes without saying that being less lousy will be cold consolation to fans if Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Company can’t get it done.

Naming names

For the record, nine players played on all four non-playoff teams from 1992-96. Doug Weight, Zdeno Ciger, Kelly Buchberger, Igor Kravchuk, Louie DeBrusk, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson, David Oliver and Ranford had the honour.

If this edition misses, 11 players — Hemsky, Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Steve Staios, Marc Pouliot, Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert, Zack Stortini, Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson and J.F. Jacques — stand to make it four straight.

Like I said, there’s no chance this group will be as bad as the stumblebums that previously stained the ice. The Oilers are coming off a 38-win season and 85 points after years of 41 and 32 wins. No comparison.

Likewise, the building is full, Cotton Eye Joe, like Esau, has long been retired, and Daryl Katz actually has enough money to ensure the Oilers are on solid financial ground, which was hardly the case at a time when Peter Pocklington’s financial house of cards was collapsing.

But, while these might not be the bad old times, four straight years out of the playoffs is four straight years.

It’ll take some doing to avoid it.

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

  • trying to be a fan

    What is the point Robin? You keep getting the same hate the Oilers responses from the same bunch of negative fans every time I log on and read one of your stories.

    I am amazed by the negativity of the so called fans but more amazed by the fact that you just keep playing into it, inciting even more criticism even before the team loses 1 game.

    Ever here about or have a boss that was never happy no matter what you did? How about one that continually told you that you weren't good enough? Remember or imagine how that would have motivated you? Right, you probably quit…so let's hope the players don't do the same.

    There has to be a story out there that real Oiler fans might want to read. Maybe one that makes the players feel welcome and excited about the upcoming season. We have some great young players who deserve better than a constant diet of negativity and 20/20 hindsight.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ trying to be a fan
    I'm writing a nine-part "Don't Worry Be Happy" series later this month and it'll be full of great quotes from players . . . "It was a long summer and I can't wait for the season" and "We're a better team than we showed last season and we're going to prove it" and it'll have Pat Quinn stuff, too: "I can handle young players and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
    It'll be facking riveting. I promise.

  • trying to be a fan

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ trying to be a fan
    I’m writing a nine-part “Don’t Worry Be Happy” series later this month and it’ll be full of great quotes from players . . . “It was a long summer and I can’t wait for the season” and “We’re a better team than we showed last season and we’re going to prove it” and it’ll have Pat Quinn stuff, too: “I can handle young players and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
    It’ll be facking riveting. I promise.

    Brilliant response Robin – your sarcasm just proves my point.

    Maybe if the sports critics/ writers didn't revel in negative stories the players might give you some better quotes and insights.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ trying to be a fan:
    Actually, it doesn't prove your point but if you feel better sulking then have at it.

    The problem now is players are out of town and Steve Tambellini and the coaches are laying pretty low, so there's not a lot new to say and much of what's being talked about has a negative tone because Tambellini hasn't been able to get much done at this point.

    When the players start filtering into town we'll be able to get their perspectives and much of it will be the kind of thing I had some fun with in my last comment. But, hey, at least it won't be NEGATIVE.

    And before you get carried away, you night note my newest post about THN picking the Oilers 11th. It hardly represents me piling on the team and slagging them before camp even opens. Quite the opposite.

  • cableguy

    trying to be a fan wrote:

    I am amazed by the negativity of the so called fans but more amazed by the fact that you just keep playing into it, inciting even more criticism even before the team loses 1 game

    3 straight years out of the playoffs and little being done over the summer is pointing everything towards a 4th year out of the playoffs.

    but, you can sip your happy fan kool-aid as much as you want.

    being a "fan" doesnt mean you cant be negative towards the team or the players

  • Wanye Gretz

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Sadly though the dancer doesn't bust a move anymore the person in charge of the music at RX1 still considers Cotton Eyed Joe to be worthy of remaining in rotation.

    It blows my mind the crappiness of the playlist at Rexall.

    In dark times like these it might serve to dull the pain for the thousands in attendance.

  • Wanye Gretz

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    And before you get carried away, you night note my newest post about THN picking the Oilers 11th. It hardly represents me piling on the team and slagging them before camp even opens. Quite the opposite.

    I really need to read all the comments before I throw out one of my own.

    @ trying to be a fan:

    If you want to read positive tripe you can bounce over to one of a handful of mainstream sites that will be pleased to force "Stortini looking fantastic in summer windsprint training" or some such nonsense.

    I for one prefer an objective take on the team, even if the outlook for the patient isn't the most positive thing I have ever seen.

  • Travis Dakin

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    The problem now is players are out of town and Steve Tambellini and the coaches are laying pretty low, so there’s not a lot new to say and much of what’s being talked about has a negative tone because Tambellini hasn’t been able to get much done at this point.

    Speaking of that, where are all the players? Are they all down in LA again doing their training? and if so who is down there? Are any of them training together? Where is PDP? I want to know these guys are working their asses off. It would comfort me.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Travis Dakin:
    They were never "all" down in LA in any off-season.
    Not sure where everybody is as of today, mainly because I'm not the beatman at the dailies any more so I don't have to know.
    I haven't read much from Ireland or Tychkowski, and it's their job to keep tabs. I'll start picking off guys next week when they arrive in town for skating camps etc.

  • Travis Dakin

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    They were never “all” down in LA in any off-season.

    HA thanks for ripping me on the exaggeration and thanks for answering. I'm hoping Hemsky comes to camp with an extra 6 or seven pounds of muscle "In the best shape of his life" like Smid and Pisani did last year.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Travis Dakin:
    No rip intended. The number of players working out in LA has fluctuated greatly from year to year. Sometimes it's as many as 8-10, other summers it 4-6. Some with Chad Moreau, others on their own.
    Plus, with the change in personnel, some of the guys who used to go down regularly — Stoll and Torres, for example — aren't even Oilers any more.