JUST ASKING: I DON’T HAVE THE ANSWERS

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.

QUICK HITS

— 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.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    “…there is a reason that there is $14,000,000 cap space on this team and its not because we are trying for 8th place…”

    …it’s because they had to have enough money to get all the right pieces for the Octane Cheerer Dames…meow

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    – the entire team looks like Fabian Brunnstrom when the D rarely gets the puck out of their zone on shifts. why single out Omark? especially when early in that game his line had some great shifts and Omark had a couple nice passes for scoring chances that turned up as fails. kind of like Taylor Hall’s Gravy Breakaways that he has so telegraphed out in advance he does them regardless if the goalie doesnt react and eats the goal.

    – Foster is a Nice Guy. thats all he is. hes not a PP specialist in the least. passing the puck over to Stamkos isnt tough. aim for the inside of the back skate. goal. aside from that he shakes dudes hands down low and is afraid to shoot on the PP. he blows.

    – Stortini is toast. the rat has grown too fat in his comfy hole… also, no one should be allowed on this team if they cant skate. its a complete liability to any NHL team. this isnt 1970 anymore where you can ice men who have the skating mechanics of a 65 year old man. Mac, Strudwick and Storts are done in my mind. f-the nuclear deterrent idea. its easily neutralized. get mean A-HOLE players who can skate and think the game intelligently for the bottom 6. the bottom 6 is a REBUILD MODE just as much as a the precious top 6.

    – Brule, done. Cogliano, done. no more. move on. the real rebuild begins drafting a new bottom 6 or signing some guys who are intelligent, mean, and swiss army knives.

    • O.C.

      – 4 of 6 D are quality. One is the leading assist leader in the league. Problem is they should be slotted 1,3,4,5. The other two slots are completely void and what has happened is the wrong roles are filled and two pylons of the day are making up the other two slots.

      – positive players are all but Stortini, Brule, Jacques, and Fraser.

      – SMac is needed as the 12th player for a few select games, max 20 games for the year. He was guilty of being confused against Toronto but we can blame Zak for running around like a loose wheel, sticking his nose where it shouldn’t be, forcing SMac to have to cover the gaps in the lanes instead of intimidating.

      – Ginger or Giroux (or both) need to be up here. Problem is waiver problems… Trading has to occur first. Someone will jump on a Brule option, won’t they? If not, does it really hurt to get nothing in return? Do we really miss Schremp? All the pundits cried how that was mishandled. Maybe the NHL GMs knew more than we give them credit for.

    • Mitch

      I agree that Stortini is done in terms of trying to be a fighter in the league, if you let go of Mac they may as well rent a bed at the nearest hospital for surgerys. Cogliano is not done or for that fact nor is Brule. These players must redefine there game, except for Mac.

      The proper steps have been taken to rebuild this team, this doesn’t happen over 1 or 2 seasons. This is the new NHL, and the above mentioned players are here like it or not.

  • Oilers4ever

    Good article Brownlee.. and all valid questions…

    I think for Dmen, I’d even remove Gilbert from that list and say only Whitney.. yeah, Gilbert’s been playing better lately, but he still gives the puck up too much.

    Personally, if there was a way to swing a deal with Cogliano, Omark, and a 2nd rnd pick to get a big centreman and a solid stay at home dman I’d make it in a heartbeat.

    Omark is good on the shootouts for sure, but other than that one game he’s been invisible.. that being said, he is a rookie technically so we should cut him some slack for another 5-10 games because it took Hall how long to score his first goal and he’s obviously way better than Omark.

    And put Omarra back in… they brought him up because he’s big and can win face offs so why the frick did they sit him against Toronto. He would have done better that Stortini and then Colton Orr would have had no choice no who to fight. 🙂

    And I agree on the draft.. obviously hard to know then how they would turn out… but skipping Parise for a slacker… there is a reason Prenderpants is gone.. HE SUCKED. I think based on what we’ve seen in 2010, our drafting will be much better here on out.. but everything is still a crap shoot outside I’d say the first round, even the top 15 or so.

    Incidentally, is there any chance that Anton Lander could play on the farm team towards the end of the season? I know he’s across the pond right now, but he’s a bigger center too, so would be good to see what he can do.

    Hmmmm.. maybe we should crash and burn to get Couturier…. Nah… 🙂

  • Good questions Robin.

    Ill cherry pick a few.

    Zack looks bad this year.. weak, slow and lost. And his skating….. well…. Im 48 and I give myself a decent shot in a sprint. vs Storts.

    Omark…. same guy who was cut ie: the butterfly/waterbug crap that drove Renney nuts in camp is still there when the pucks not in our possession or more importantly on his stick. He reminds me a bit of Bobby Nillsson with a better motor. I hope for the kids sake he has some success tonight or he may be delivering another sound bite before boarding the plane. ALTHOUGH.. the Oilers kept a pet around a few years ago that was soft, ineffective overall but dynamite in the shootout…

    Having both storts and smac in the lineup is a waste, storts, smac and struddie… ~well thats just askin to get beat by the Leafs~.

    Finally… the Stauff/ Klowe thing will be interesting and opening the phone lines would be kind of cool but sadly would just end up being the opinions of Shaddie and Daily Doug…… Oilers Lunch designated representatives of Oil fans in general. (i think). Ill listen as I expect a bit of Oiler spin on the new rink and the general patience line. OH.. and a Hall love fest.

    I left the rink on Tuesday absolutely pi**ed off that no one rag dolled that douche’ Deon… it was a display of wimp on the Oilers part that was simply sickening. Normally it doesnt bother me but perhaps all those leafs jerseys in the seats of the so important season seat holders spaces was a tip. Take the money. I should have.

  • roggy

    I love reading what you guys have to say, quite entertaining. So for my fist post, I would like to throw this at woodguy.

    It just so happens that 6 out of the 10 players you mentioned happen to sign in a nice warm sunny destination away from -20 Northern Alberta weather.

    Not that I have any thing against Edmonton, but just thinking of the weather,…. hot, sunny, beaches, chicks in bikinis vs cold, snow, chicks in snowgear…

    • Oilers4ever

      Yo Roggy… while those things may have some value… most cities that would fill that void don’t have a hope in hell of ever winning a stanley cup (outside of maybe San Jose).. and last I checked.. those places in the west coast in the winter might not have snow but if your name isn’t Florida, you aren’t bathing suit weather from November to March… Seriously, players I don’t think care about that as much as people think. Besides… Alberta gals are so much hotter anyways.

    • I’d rather live somewhere warmer too.

      Most of these guys signed late in the summer, so there was some question as to whether or not they’d get an NHL job.

      Some lucked out and went where its warm.

  • roggy

    yo roggy…”… …. hot, sunny, beaches, chicks in bikinis vs cold, snow, chicks in snowgear…”

    hmmm light up the fireplace…remove snowgear…THEN play hockey

  • roggy

    THE SIMPLE SOLUTION . As simple as the nose on your face . Slice , dice or julienne all the excuses you want – but the main glaring reason for others success and our failures is the other teams did not have either Lowe or Tams as their decision making upper management ! Thats the reason we are where we are today and where we are headed in future . Lemonaid solutions surrounding our draftees seems inevitable by juris prudence and course of action taken over last 4 seasons .

    Say whatever you want for excuses, but the answer all boils down to others succeeded with managerial teams not made up of Lowe or Tams . Patience with those two ran out 2 years ago when their was only a couple of voids to fill – now there is almost an entire team . UFA’s etc. unlikely to come to an organization that fills it’s voids by a constant diet of lemonaid solutions despite talents emerging like Hall and Eberle !

    Look how fast some other teams turned their fortunes around from bad seasons – they all did it without Lowe , Tams and lemonaid solutions !

    • Mitch

      The mistakes made regarding roster I would blame directly on Kevin Lowe, this goes back to Pronger and Smyth. It was known at the time that players didn’t like Edmonton, so Lowe went and added players that weren’t well researced, should have never signed Penner to a offer sheet and Souray, also overpayment to the “core” man they were such great players, god I can’t believe we didn’t make the playoffs( I’m joking of course). We should have been in direct rebuild the moment Pronger left, there was no good return given for eitheir of the players, who I would consider cornerstones.

      Tambellini has done a great job, turning around the salary cap issues, Tambellini should be judged from trade deadline last yr and into the future. There’s gonna be alot of roster turn over in terms of drafted players coming in.

      Yes patience is most important, true oiler fans have this.

      • John Chambers

        Hmm,

        What don’t you like about the Penner signing? Seems to have worked out quite well for us.

        I agree with you that we’ve pursued a lot of “Plan B” type of players when Plan A didn’t manifest. Every FA or offer sheet that the Oilers pursued I was in agreement with at the time. With regard to the Pronger deal it seemed to be the best one on the table – the other was to the Leafs for Kaberle and Alex Steen. We ended up drafting Eberle with one of those picks, so in the long run we might actually win the Pronger trade.

        It’s easy to criticize management in highsight, but every deal we’ve made – whether it was for Lubo or getting maximum value for Smytty – was decent. The cupboard has been bare for some time, we’re just now making a concerted effort to re-stocking it.

        • Jodes

          So getting Robert Nilsson, O’Marra (who still might not be a full time NHL player) and Alex Plante (see above) is getting Maximum value for Smytty?

          I’m sure the Islanders are still greatful for taking Nilsson off their hands for them..

          I’m still not convinced we won that trade..

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

            It’s easy now in hind-sight, but rentals are almost always traded for futures. Whether they work out or not is obviously a risk, but we could have just as easily pulled a Giroux/Berglund/Stewart/Perron with that pick…heck even Plant still has a decent shot at being a solid 2nd pairing dman in a few years.

            Compare what we got for Smyth with what other rentals fetched and I think you’ll see we got fair value for what the market was at the time.

  • Personally I am OK with what is going on Some of the players whom are under-performing wont be here long term unless they learn to get tough on tough days. I see Cogs as having improved and even if that does not keep him here we may get a second round pick for him instead of a sack of rocks. We have cap space which will be very important and we have a ton of young horses in the barn. I like all of that we just cant get impatient and trade a young horse for a older one that eats cap space. Tambo was willing to do any thing at the draft to get Toronto’s pick from Boston that tells me much of what I expect is coming. The #44 story also show a lot of the future and ties back to the previous #44 they lost a ton of value on Pronger and I am sure vowed to not be held hostage again. Souray tries it and is in Hershey for the season. No player will ever try that on Tambo again. This is all good for our future. I expect at least two first rounders this year and maybe more. This looks just right to me and I only expect one player other than the kids to be fairly likely to be here next year and that is Horc as no one will take his contract. We will be drafting D men big time this year as well as centers.

  • Mikey "miraclehands" - Team FIST

    Hahaha wow all those defenseman that were mentioned are 6th defenseman ?? Someone is arguing that we shouldn’t have signed strudwick instead of one of these other 6th defenseman.sorry to let ya down but we got bigger problems than a 5th and 6th D-man,from what I see we got a full lineup of them.I hear strudwicks a great team guy and his wife does alot too for the team. He plays like 1/4 games anyways so the debate we should have signed another plug to take his spot is pretty ridiculous.There is a reason they all signed last minute and it ain’t because they were holding out for the oilers or more money.it’s cuz out of 30 teams only a few needed a 6th defenseman.

  • Mikey "miraclehands" - Team FIST

    Anyone one of you seen Phil. , Phoenix, Colorado , Chicago , Detroit , Pitts. , etc. fill their rosters with downsizing and lemonaid players to succeed ? Thats why they are where they are – they upsized around their emerging stars unlike us , and got players of value for fillins and special teams . We are not even on same path of any one of them . Chances it will happen by draft are equally dim considering our history with present group .

    You think Penner or Hemsky will want to resign if the club is still losded with lemonaid fillins for teammates ? Good luck .

    • S.Tambellini

      Way to pick a bunch of random teams with no connection or comparables to the Oilers. Are you really going to compare the talent in Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit to what we had at the end of last season?

      Also, resign means quit. I know for a fact that no one else does…but do you even know what you are typing anymore?

      Get a Speak-and-Spell. Type into that. It will always agree with you.