Having made a decent living for 28 years by asking questions, many of them less-than-brilliant, I’ve got a whole bunch of them rattling around my oversized cranium regarding the Edmonton Oilers in the wake of that hideous 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday.
It’s not that the Oilers lost, because they looked every bit as short on gamesmanship as I expected they would without Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky in the line-up, and I’ve already said I’d be surprised if the finish December with more than 13 wins.
It’s how and why they lost that grabs me. The reasons were many Tuesday, although there are enough recurring themes from game-to-game to make one wonder why we keep seeing the same mistakes and flaws — especially when so many of them were predictable.
As always, feel free to enlighten me with your opinion on any or all of the issues that have me befuddled, amused, curious and wondering why I’m not raking in $1.2 million a season to put a team like the one we’re seeing now together.
YOU TELL ME
— Did GM Steve Tambellini go into this season actually thinking the personnel on the blueline was remotely close to being good enough to allow this team to compete? Did he not see the holes beyond Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert?
Night after night, this group of rearguards makes opponents look like the 1957 Montreal Canadiens. The Oilers have been outshot in 24 of 30 games. While not all of that falls on the blueliners, much of it does.
— With offensive types like Whitney and Gilbert already in the fold, how was Kurtis Foster, a third-pairing guy and power play specialist, seen as the best option as a free agent signing?
— How bad would this paper-thin group be if Theo Peckham wasn’t vaulting along the learning curve and Whitney wasn’t on pace to match his best offensive season?
— If Tambellini was set on taking a stance on Sheldon Souray — a stance I applaud — why didn’t he make sure he had enough actual NHL defencemen in the fold beyond Whitney, Gilbert and Ladislav Smid to pull it off?
I DON’T GET IT
— Remember how the Oilers passed on drafting Zac Parise and took Marc Pouliot in 2003 because they thought they were too small down the middle with Todd Marchant, Mike Comrie, Mike York and Shawn Horcoff? Whatever happened with that?
The centres the Oilers dressed against the Maple Leafs were Sam Gagner (five-foot-11), Andrew Cogliano (five-foot-10), Gilbert Brule (five-foot-11) and the immense Colin Fraser (six-foot-one). I know, I know, Kevin Prendergast is long gone and Stu MacGregor is here now . . .
— Has not being an every game player this season knocked the edge off Zack Stortini? Is it just me, or did Stortini look like he was on the way to becoming a reliable fourth-liner a year or two ago? Does he look like one now? Is he regressing?
— How many games a season does coach Tom Renney need to dress Stortini and Steve MacIntyre? Thirty? Twenty? None at all? I thought loading up on toughness, even given MacIntyre’s obvious limitations, was a good idea with all the kids in the line-up. How is it a good idea if Dion Phaneuf still has all his teeth today?
— How many people out there picked Brule to have his best NHL season offensively after tallying 37 points in spite of Pat Quinn in 2009-10? Thumbing through the Lucky 13 predictions, I know the answer.
— Will J.F. Jacques ever figure out what it takes for him to stay in the NHL? And if Jacques can’t do it with a bottom-feeding outfit like the Oilers, can he do it anywhere?
— What does Fraser do for the Oilers that 20 free agents available at the NHL minimum salary last summer couldn’t do? What, exactly, aside from a startling plus-1 rating, makes Fraser an NHL player?
— For all the buzz Linus Omark got for his shootout spin-o-rama in his debut, is the rest of his game NHL-ready? Did you even notice Omark against the Maple Leafs? Remember how Fabian Brunnstrom scored three goals in his first game with Dallas?
WHILE I’M AT IT…
— Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will be on Oilers Lunch with Bob Stauffer live for an hour on Friday. Here’s hoping Stauffer opens up the phone lines so fans can have their say.
— If you listened to Stauffer today you heard that Jeff Petry, and not Shawn Belle, is the likeliest candidate to get the call from Oklahoma City if the Oilers call up a defenceman with Jim Vandermeer out.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.