Golf season for the Edmonton Oilers won’t officially begin until April 11, but they will get a two-day respite from the grind of a fifth straight season out of the playoffs with a two-day stint in Palm Springs, starting today.
Taylor Hall will tee it up. Andrew Cogliano will chip and putt. Sam Gagner will amaze with his sand play. And coach Tom Renney will gain valuable perspective on yet another difficult campaign, watching his men attempt to play a game they are REALLY lousy at.
The golf getaway is on despite a lousy, half-hearted performance in a 6-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Friday, a result that leaves the last-place Oilers with just one win in their last 12 games.
A year ago, you might remember, a grumbling Pat Quinn pulled the pin on a similar team trip to the links after a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Instead of cheating on their scorecards after a stretch in which they won just once in a dozen games, the Oilers were put through their paces with two-a-day workouts at Rexall Place. Sour? Oh yes…
Mercy, did the Oilers ever tear it up the rest of the season.
Of course, Quinn’s approach didn’t do one iota of good in terms of turning the season around. Letting his players and their wives lounge around the golf course and the clubhouse with the team in the toilet — the Oilers had a 16-23-5 record for 37 points — wasn’t going to help matters, other than to provide a mental break from the monotony of constant failure. Even so, with the standings just as bad now — 13-20-7 for 33 points — it’s no surprise Renney is fine with taking a couple of days to rest and hang out with owner Daryl Katz before the team moves on to get pumped by the Dallas Stars Tuesday.
Aside from the possibility of Ales Hemsky or Hall taking a wayward tee-shot in the temple from Bob Stauffer — Bob is the dictionary definition of a hacker (I’m no threat to get a PGA card, either) and a menace to anybody within his range of 77 yards when he has a driver in his hands — what’s the harm?
Quinn proved definitively a year ago that having the players pissed off at the coach won’t change the results out on the ice. The Oilers will be a lottery team this season, whether they play golf in Palm Springs or not.
The best news to come out of the no-show in Vancouver is that captain Shawn Horcoff will likely return from a sprained knee sooner than the two months he was expected to be out. From Jim Matheson at The Journal today:
"… Shawn Horcoff might be back much earlier than the original eight-week diagnosis after his MCL knee sprain.
"It’s coming along faster than I thought, said Horcoff. "It’s been four weeks, but it might only be another 10 days to two weeks before I can play."
Horcoff collided with Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry on a play at the blue-line on Dec. 7 at Rexall Place.
"The knee’s fully healed, but it’s just not strong enough yet. I need more skating, I need to get into some battle drills, get some timing back. If I can get three legitimate practices next week, I should be ready to go after that."
With Jordan Eberle due back from a sprained ankle during the current road trip and Horcoff likely ready to go by the time the team returns home for a game against Minnesota Jan. 18, Renney will have some decisions to make up front.
WHILE I’M AT IT…
— Andrew Alberts should be thanking his lucky stars Steve MacIntyre gave him a break and didn’t beat the tar out of him after Alberts took exception to getting crushed in the corner Friday.
On one hand, it was an honourable move by MacIntyre. Then again, given how cheap the Canucks can be, a right hand or two before the take-down was probably in order.
— Speaking of lucky, Hemsky got off big-time easy after hacking, hooking and poking at Tanner Glass after the Vancouver forward steamrolled him. The altercation ended in a dog pile with Glass at the bottom. If you’re going to react like Hemsky did, you better be ready to back it up. Glass would have taken him apart.
— So, Kurtis Foster was really upset about being a healthy scratch for the 2-1 win over the New York Islanders Thursday. Could have fooled me. it certainly didn’t show against the Canucks.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.