Gut-check time for you…

I think it’s fair to say that the last 16 games have really tested the loyalty of many Oiler fans. One win in 16 games will do that to you; so don’t fret — you aren’t alone.

The final 26 games of 2007 were tough when the Oilers went 4-19-3, and they won their last game of the year to finish 25th and draft Sam Gagner 6th overall. In those 26 games, the Oilers were shut out seven times, scored one goal nine times and were outscored 85-37  the Oilers did win two shootouts so you could give them 39 (but it was only 37 goals in regulation).

Fast forward to now and I wonder if you feel the same way? That team was decimated by injuries and had Sebastien Bisaillon and Bryan Young playing defence for goodness sakes. Joffrey Lupul finished at -29, Shawn Horcoff and Matt Greene were -22 and Petr Sykora was -20.

Ryan Smyth led the team with 53 points despite only playing in 53 games before being traded. It was a dreadful final 43 days of the season, but here we are on Jan 19th, the drought is already 35 days old and looking like it will extend another 86 days until the season ends on April 11th.

Many of you said you could handle a season or two of re-building if it meant getting a franchise player or two. Do you still feel that way? This is a test of your endurance, mettle, loyalty and passion for your mighty Copper and Blue.

You thought 40 days and 40 nights was tough, hell you’re five days away from kicking Josh Harnett’s ass and could destroy that by reaching 119 days by season’s end.

The fact is, Oiler fans, for most of you these next 86 days will be the toughest test of your fanhood. Even if you were around during the 92/93 season — the lowest point total in Oiler history — you can’t compare because the three previous years you saw your team win the Cup in 1990, and lose the conference championship in 1991 and 1992.

The 1995/96 season is the closest comparison to the despair you are witnessing right now. Back then it was also the fourth straight season of missing the playoffs. However the previous three years saw you draft Jason Arnott 7th overall in 1993, Jason Bonsignore 4th and Ryan Smyth 6th in 1994, Steve Kelly 7th in 1995 and you were once again in the hunt for a top-five pick, which turned out to be Boyd Devereaux, 6th overall in 1996.

At this point in 1996 you still didn’t know for sure that Kelly and Bonsignore would be busts, and Doug Weight was on his way to 100 points, Zdeno "No chin" Ciger and Arnott were on pace for 30 goals… Arnott got hurt, missed 18 games and finished with 28 goals while "No chin" potted 31. Even that season wasn’t this much of a test.

We are in hell right now

I wonder if Quinn will make a speech similar to this to get the boys through the rest of the season. While the rest of this movie was unrealistic, Al Pacino’s speech was spine-tingling.

You guys are the players. You won’t make it through the next 86 days alone. You’ll need Nation readers to get you thought it. You’ll need the humour, the stupidity, the asinine trade requests, the reasonable replies and the level-headed responses.

You’ll need to know that there are many feeling the same pain while watching your team get pummeled again. Now is not the time to be a quitter or a bandwagon jumper. Hell, now is the time to be more vocal than ever. It would be easy to slip into the shadows of real life, start helping around the house or spending more quality time with the missus, or taking that cooking class you always wanted to or reading a self-help book. But what good will that do you? Nothing I tell you, NOTHING.

Because the minute June 1st rolls around you will be playing catch-up, trying to immerse yourself in the knowledge about the upcoming draft on June 25th. Oh sure, you’ll go to a house party and proclaim you watched the horror of the final 86 days, but you’ll do it with a guilty conscience because deep down you’ll know you couldn’t stomach the horror of those days. You didn’t dig deep down and play through the pain, like you expect the Oilers to do themselves.

If you walk away now you’ll be giving up on the one thing that brings you true joy, but also a pain that only compares to when your first girlfriend dumped you for the guy with a cooler hockey jacket. (Don’t pretend it didn’t hurt because we’ve all been there… in grade seven or eight, or last year for my buddy, but we’ve all been there).

Giving up now and turning off the TV, or not listening to sports shows or not reading the Nation would be easy, but like in life, doing the easy thing is sometimes the wrong thing. It will be hard to drag yourself to the game, or watch it at home without channel surfing, and you might cut down your visits to this lovely site that Wanye built from two batteries, some hair from his ex, and a mixture of a 1993 BL and a half a glass of White Zinfindel.

But why?

Because the team sucks?

Because you know that JDD and DD are overwhelmed at this point and will give up a questionable goal or two?

Because the veterans have decided that taking penalties is the only way they’ll get on the score sheet?

Because Pat Quinn’s pressers aren’t as emotionally charged as they were two months ago?

Because the PPVs are more painful than the games?

Because you truly don’t know who will be better in the long run for this team: Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson or Andrew Cogliano?

Those are just excuses; they aren’t real reasons to abandon your love of hockey.

While you ponder what to do instead of watching the Oilers remember that you wouldn’t be the fan you are today without those inconsistent, infuriating bastards…

And things could always be worse. Watch one of the most inspirational sports-related speeches of all time right here:

"If you laugh, you think and you cry that is a full day, that is a heck of a day," Jimmy Valvano.

Keep your dream alive that the Oilers will one day return as a powerhouse in the NHL and that they will do so in your lifetime.

That sums up exactly what it is like to be an Oiler fan right now, I’d bet. You laugh when your buddy tells you they will win. You think hard about which players Steve Tambellini should keep for next season, and then you cry when you watch another trouncing like last night in Colorado.

But wow what an emotional day you will have by maintaining your loyalty to the Nation, the Oilers and hockey talk in general.

And the silver lining is that while the Oilers lost last night, the Leafs, Blue Jackets and Flames all lost. The Oilers have a six point bulge on the Leafs for 29th, and a ten point lead on the Blue Jackets, while the Flames got crushed 9-1 in San Jose and are two points from being out of the playoffs.

And don’t fret if you thought about packing in the season, there are lots of people who have much more stupid ideas than that every day. Check it out and feel good about your decision to get back in the shallow end of the pool with the rest of the true fans.

You’ll feel better about it on June 25th… Unless of course the Oilers go on a winning streak and finish out of the top three.

  • GSP

    Jason…another good post. I am a season ticket holder and my will has been broken. I have sold off most of the games I have left as I cant handle taking the time to go to Rexall, pay for parking, pops and some food to just get more frustrated and angered at how these "hockey players" and management dont care.

    I am all for the dive for five and total rebuild but at the same time, I would like to see a team that TRIES everynite and last nite was just plain embarrassing as Horcoff said after the game.

    I think fans would have apathy for the Oil if you could see they were putting in an honest effort every nite; however, this is definately not the case here.

    I will renew my tickets in hope of better things on the horizon but for now, I just cant justify the time or money to attend anymore games this year.

  • Harlie

    i like the 40days and 40 nights reference Gregor. I almost fluked into a role on that movie.

    I lived in Vancouver back in 99-01 and I worked for a industrial supply company that specialized in Safety equipment. In my previous training and jobs I had been trained as a breathing respirator trainer and fitter. In Vancouver the WCB regulations stipulated that Movie Smoke (used in scenes) was carcinogenic and that everyone on a movie set must be fit tested for a respirator and supplied with one for every crew member.

    I went to the Production Office for 40Days and 40 Nights and I was waiting to meet the Production Coordinator and I was told to grab a seat on a couch outside a bank of offices. As I'm sitting and waiting the office door next to me swings open and this guy comes out while talking on his cell phone and he gives me a head nod and the one minute sign with his finger and then he goes back in the office. Two minutes later he comes out and says come on in. So as soon as I get in the office he says nice to meet you and to "go for it!". So I go, "uhh…ok…umm…go for what?" I'm thinking to myself that this guy seems pretty jacked to hear my boring respirator spiel but that he may be mistaking me for someone or something.

    Then he says "oh, I guess your not here for the part then, eh?". And I was like "oh…umm…welll I could be but no I'm actually not here for that". So then I asked him what the role was for and what the movie was about (a guy who goes 40-40 without doin it) and after a few minutes of small talk he said he had another appointment so I had to go.

    As I was leaving the building I'm walking down the corridor to the exit doors and I see this dude who looks like a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. A year later when the movie comes out I watch it and realize that the guy who walked past me and the guy who I almost stole the role from was Josh Hartnett.

    Crazy eh!

  • swany

    Gregor, have you heard anything about trades at all, even that friggen EK guy has NOTHING about the Oil and he usually has about 5 trade proposals on the Oil every day. Is anyone else starting to get worried that Tambo can't do anything, we keep hearing Souray well I wouldn't trade a whole lot for him right now he's sucking or Gilbert (soft as butter) D- man. Moreau who would take him he's been brutal. I bet all the calls Tambo is getting are for guys we want to keep Like Cogs or Gagner. I'm starting to think that if this team changes it won't be trading the vets it will be buying some guys out. IE not Souray but maybe Moreau, Steve, Horc. The lack of anything in the rumour mill has me thinking Tambo might be stuck.

    • Jason Gregor

      I will say this about the Oilers, excluding the Heatley fiasco most of the trades they have made in the last five+ years came without any speculation beforehand.

      No talk before, the Human Rake, Peca, Tarnstrom, Spacek or Roloson arrived. Visnovsky trade wasn't talked about…not even the Garon to Pitt deal, even though everyone knew the Oilers needed to deal a goalie.

      I know the Oilers have taken some calls and made some calls. I wrote that Ana and Ott were sniffing around for #18…Something will happen before the deadline, but I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly how many deals.

      I'd expect two players to be gone, Moreau and Pisani and I'm sure they will think about others. I wish I could tell you more, but Tambellini keeps things tight to the vest.

      • swany

        I see your point but I hope Tambo isn't holding out for a home run with any of these guys if this is a rebuild it's time to move what doesn't help 2 or 3 years from now I hope we see 4 or 5 deals and in the summer 2 buyouts.

  • Jmask5

    I would rather see this kind of line up.

    Penner-Hall-Eberle Cogs-Gagner-Brule MPS-?-? Stortini-UFA-Stone Potulny

    Fill in ? from trades or Free agency or if they look ready Lander and Omark

    Smid-Lubo, Gilbert-UFA, Pekham-Grebs Chorney maybe Strudwick(good dual purpose backup).

    Get rid of: Horcoff, Hemsky, Moreau, POS(not the right attitude), Nilsson,JFJ,MAP, Souray, Staios, Pisani.

    I have felt for a long time that Hemsky isnt a team player and I find, until this season, he took a lot of bad penalties.

    This setup should also leave enough cap space to make some major changes if needed. 2nd and 3rd lines might need more size and physical players. But this gives the team a whole new face with good potential young players but may need some defensive tweaks depending on performance.

    • Jmask5

      Hemsky has averaged 48 PIMs since the lockout and excluding this year. Thats not bad at all. In comparison Moreau had 133 last year alone.

      I think Hemsky is definitely a team player. Last year a lot of people ripped on him for complaining at the end of the year. I think he was annoyed that no matter how much he does for this team they keep asking for more. He works his ass off every game and takes more abuse on the ice than any other player on this team. There is nothing wrong with saying that you want more responsibility. If only every player on this team were like this then maybe we wouldn't be the laughing stock of the league.

    • swany

      For the first time ….Ever Hemmer might have some skill to play with next year and we want to trade him away and his 4.2 mil cap hit he is only 25 and would be a big part of our rebuild with the kids, you don't trade this guy you resign him. With the way Eberle and MPS can finish and Hemmer's passing well that's a thing I would like to see work out. If he can't preform with sopme new skill and get 80-90 points then look at trading him but to do it now or in the offseason is a backwards step.

  • Jmask5

    Last year when Vish went down. Tambo did nothing, thus making the team not make the playoffs. This year Hemsky and Bulin are out, no replacement, thus not making the playoffs. Am I the only one that sees that? I like the idea of a low draft choice, but really don't think Hall is going to make the differnce the oilers need.

    I have seen the same team the last four years, and will not watch anymore this year and next if the same team is in place. I'm never going to cheer for the Flames but I'm looking for a desent team to watch. As far as paying money to see the Oilers never. I used to like going to games but Rexall is brutal then crowds always blow. Has anyone seen the flames games ? Fans are into the game and they only score two goals a game. I think everyone here likes watching hockey, I just with the Oilers would play hockey. At least make the games respectable.

    You guys can discusss Hall or other top picks all day. Thats just what the Oilers Brass wants.

    I'm not happy and want change. That means players gone and Management changes.

    Lets make rexall look like and southern states team, no fans.

    • Ninjafoot

      Don't let the door hit ya in the @ss on the way out.

      Have you considered "cheering" for Florida?…or maybe the Islanders?

      If you are only happy when the team wins, and do nothing but whine if they lose, you may as well go cheer for someone else.

      We will still be here when you feel like crawling back up on to the bandwagon.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I'm wondering (out loud), how much of this is a simple sales pitch to give the disillusioned a reason to keep listening to "Just a Game" or read articles on this site (aka keep advertising revenue up).

    If it isnt, and you actually are serious about the above, I'm also wondering how you can possibly make that argument and still expect some credibility. What's needed now is not unconditional support for the Oil, but a sincere apology from the organization to season ticket holders as well as a rebate to the effect of AHL prices. If they plan on tanking and underperforming the rest of the way (and with the current state, that's their best play), and if they plan on playing with an AHL skill level then fans should only be expected to pay that much.

    The

    This has gone on long enough. A 3-4 year rebuild doesn't start today, it should be concluding come April. This organization has been dwindled down to the laughing stock of the NHL and it's about time upper management and ownership addressed this. Katz can hide no longer.

    • Banger

      Because your a ticket holder means you get an apology? Thats the chance you take. Its not like the team wants to suck, thats just how it is. The season ticket holder card is bush and gets used way to much. Because im a season ticket holder the world owes me something…. blah blah blah. News flash for ya, if you dont like it then give them up cause there are many people that will take them no questions asked, even with the team like this.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why I even bother to respond to less-than-intelligent posts like yours I have no idea…but…

      This has nothing to do with my show. I actually talk all sports not just hockey.

      Are you a season ticket holder.?If not, then zip it and stop asking for stupid things like a rebate. You buy a ticket to a movie and it sucks, do you get a rebate? No.

      You buy a pair of jeans and for two months they are great, and then they start to fade in your washer…do you get rebate. No.

      If you don't want to buy the tickets, don't. It is your choice. I buy mine, with the KNOWLEDGE that not every game will be exciting. That is the risk. Deal with it.

      So Katz isn't a talkative owner. So what. Name a owner in the NHL who has come out and apologized in the last ten years. I don't recall many.

      Try to read the article and actually understand it rather than whine and complain that it is a cash grab. Is everything a cash grab for you? Move on.

      If you have a direct beef then state it, and I'll address it, otherwise go join a "complainers are us" group and feel better about yourself.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Season ticket holder of almost 10 years. We don't all get in with a press badge, Jason.

        I wish I COULD return the tickets for the rest of the season because it isn't worth $145 / ticket / game. There's alot else I would rather be doing with that.

        I'm not saying your article is a cash grab (not entirely anyway…although if it were, I couldn't blame you…) What I'm saying is: to expect fans to stay committed to a product that is hopeless is just sad. If a movie sucks, I'm not gonna keep watching it 81 more times for the rest of the year.

        2cents.

        • Jason Gregor

          I actually have season tickets and give them away every game to friends, clients and to many charities…

          A rebate just won't happen…You are right you have the choice not to go see the movie again and you don't have to go to the games. It is your choice, but realistically you know you won't get a rebate. No company does that. Buyers risk…

      • swany

        I agree Jason but if Katz doesn't then Tambo should us as fans are very loyal in Edmonton but this silence crap and treating us like "we can't handel the truth" is getting old. I own my own buisness, and you address problems for CUSTOMERS staight on that's who pays you, you don't ignore there request. I believe most fans have requested what is going on with the club WE pay for. Katz owns them but we pay for them we should be treated with some respect. I'm not talking about comming out and saying "we suck and are going for Hall" I'm saying that it should be "we know there are problems with this club we are working on things to make us better for next year and beyond.

  • Ninjafoot

    I am excited to see what Tambo does at the trade deadline, and I cannot wait (already) to see what kind of magic we can put together at next year's training camp.

    There is still enthusiasm left in my broken heart.

    **slow tear for 6-0 thumping**

    Am I pissed off about losing? Sure I am…but at this point we are done anyways, so why not make it spectacular, and maybe…just MAYBE…it will wake up those with decision making powers to make the really tough decisions and then we can go back to spending our days insulting Flames fans and planning for Stanley's return.

    It does not make me less of a fan to accept the painful losses (Blow Me, Dave Hodge.), and I have no plans to quit cheering for the Oil, even in last place.

    If you can only cheer for the Oil in the years they post a winning record, why don't you move to Vancouver? You will fit right in with the 'Sucks fans.

  • Jmask5

    I will start off my Comment with a Bold Statement "The Oilers will be the Next Canadian team to win the Cup".

    Having said that this is painful. I will never cheer for a loss but I am less annoyed when they do lose now than before. Its still painful to lose to Calgary and Vancouver and that will never change.

    How long this rebuild will last will depend on what management does in the off season. I think its very possible to put together a team for next year that is better than the Colorado team that is leading the division right now. It would look something like this.

    Penner-Hall-Hemsky
    Cogs-Gagner-MPS
    Brule-Horcoff-Eberle
    Stortini-UFA-Stone
    Potulny

    Smid-Lubo
    Gilbert-UFA
    Pekham-Staios
    Chorney

    Get rid of: Moreau, POS, Nilsson,JFJ,MAP, Souray, Strudwick, Grebs, Pisani(Unless he takes a pay cut)

    Based on what I have been reading Souray and Moreau are two big contracts that may be possible to move. I have not heard anything about Staios so we can keep him which is not such a bad thing since he is still useful.
    I would then make Hemsky Captain because he is obviously the MVP of this team and doesn't take retarded penalties that suck the life out of the team. Plus maybe for once we can have a captain who can put up more then 10 points a season.

    Fianlly I'd put Lander and Omark in the AHL and Omark would have the first chance at a call up when there is an injury. If he doesn't agree to this than he can go back to the KHL until he learns to be a team player which may be never.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Capt'n Hemmer…Now, that's an idea…
      How long has he been with this club again?

      And how many times did he's leadership style prevailed?

      Hmmmm, I do believe I heard the 'build-a-team- around-the-Hemmer' song before.

      How about we try something different this time around.

      Eberle for Capt'n anyone?

      • Jmask5

        Many times. I can remember a few games where Hemsky turned Super Hemsky and won us the game by himself. Getting 5 points to come back against Columbus or when he scored two late goals against Detroit in 2006. Our last 2 captains have something in common, and that is they don't ever show up on the score sheet except once in blue moon. Trying something new would be putting the C on Hemsky.

        • DK0

          I hear you, man.

          But in my mind the Capt'n should be the one that makes the TEAM better. Not the one that makes HIMSELF better by turning on (and a lot of time off) his super-powers…

          I do believe Hemmer needs a Hossa or a Heatly. But I don't see it happening on this team.

          Another-try time has passed.

          Let others have their chance…

          • Jmask5

            You can't be serious. This team is much better with Hemsky on this team. Look at Penner, what has he done without Hemsky? Horc can't function without Hemsky. When Hemsky is on the team he takes the attention off the smaller guys who get more favorable defensive matchups. Hemsky is the straw the stirs the Oilers whether you want to admit it or not. This team is boring as hell without him and is a joke. Besides Hemsky is a play maker so he when he turns it on it means the other guys on his line are scoring not him.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            These past 25 games give us a pretty clear look at how important Hemsky is to this team. The "dump Hemsky" crew needs to eat a little crow.

            Move him if the return is right, but their better be another offensive spark-plug coming back in that deal or a subsequent one.

  • Jmask5

    In 1976 I saw the Whalers pound the Oilers 11 – 2. While I may have been sold on the game for life, it was an abysmal time to be a Oil fan. Then, later, before the lock out, when the EIG was determined to run in the black, we thought we may lose the team and I figured that was worse still.

    This is way better than those eras if only because I know, down the road, we're going to have a team that can compete. I'll wait, I'm still here, I see the plan. For a game changer, there was Hossa and Heatley, now we're trying Taylor or Tyler. I get it. And I figured it out when I saw Kevin Lowe announcing the Olympic team. I wondered, if nationeers were largely right, and KLo was an idiot, then I wondered why Ken Holland would have him part of the selection team, and then it clicked: maybe Ken Holland is an idiot. Or, maybe, instead, I thought, maybe there is a plan, and the plan is to keep Moreau because really without him we have no shot at a game breaker at all.

    Getting the top pick is a delicate process, it takes losing the goalie and the #1 forward, at least. It takes key players, out of position for long periods of time.

    As for me I'm good to watch this chess game unfold. I wanna see what the next three years bring and anticipate some of the most entertainment possible from a pro sports franchise. Lately the Argonauts have been stellar.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    All I can say is I still watch most games and read all the articles, looking for trade rumors, and the only plus I can see to this year is that the winter Olympics are on and I get to watch Team Canada battle it out. I'm also a huge Alberta Fan so I do also cheer for the Flames. I'll still be happy to watch them in the playoffs this year.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Love your fire, Jason!

    Yes, Oilers is now a state-of-mind, more than a team on ice. They will be back and they won;t be alone!

    My European soccer team is almost bankrupt. I've cheered for them since I was 5 years old (that's a lot of years by now…).

    The Oilers did show us magic; it means they are capable of it. We'll see it again.

    BTW: what do you think is the main difference between the team that won 5 in a row on the road and the one today?

    I'd bet is the locker room…

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    If a goalie is to come here, does a Theodore really make us that much better? I mean you could always throw a game in the way the coaches play rookies.

    • Completly agree! This is my biggest fear.

      I bought all of the PPV games at the beginning of the year, so I'm still making it a priority to watch them, or at least record and watch them later. I'm still making trips to Edmonton to see occasional games and even the skills competition. Hell I still have a tip to Phoenix and LA in three weeks to go and watch three road games.

      I remember the ugly years, I guess I just assumed its my age that made those years ok and this one so tough. Oh well, now that that fall for Hall is publically accepted it has made life in Calgary a little easier to deal with.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I don't mind how the season is going and how we have a potential top 3 pick coming our way. That is the #1 thing I want, but at the sametime that can't be the only thing that is done.

    Time for tambo to do his job and make those tought decisions. Who does he keep of Nilsson/O'Sullivan/Cogliano, which offensive d-man is moved, which vet forwards does he move? Does he finally realize we have too many similar prospects and deal a Tony Rajala for a lesser skilled, but more rounded prospect?

  • HottScarrison

    So…how do you remain optimistic about a team/corporation thats only goal is to make money. They don't give 2 eff's about loyalty or anything. I still watch. They won't tinker with a gold-mine. And they will raise prices again, have the same amount of ppv's along with soon to be $10 beers. Who knows what everthing will cost when we have a tax-payer funded building. But go team go right. Spend you money on us. Katz needs a pair of new shoes!!! FTW.

  • Last night Tencer was mentioning the need for a goaltender to take some pressure off the young'ns in net. This (*edit* could – nothing is for sure I guess) would essentially kill the DFF hopes if a guy like Theodore came here.

    What if they traded for a guy to stop the bleeding & missed the lottery again, would you be even more pissed off about the season?

    FYI – David Steckel is a free agent this summer…

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    "Many of you said you could handle a season or two of re-building"

    I think this is key. You've got one faction wanting a 3-4 year rebuild from this point, and another faction complaining about the loses (and oddly enough you've got a few people that occupy both).

    This past 25 or so games have been torture, this team needs to be competitive Sept 1 2010. This year is a wash, cash in the top 3 pick…. but make sure the proper moves are made in the summer to get the team back in the mix.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      DFF is a very fragile game. You saw that team: they can string five in a row on the road, they can do it again.

      Any change right now will impact the DFF.

      Katz: do nothing! Wait until the summer. Then bring in some new leadership.