Lost Weekend

This is Ray Milland. He’s on his way to pawn his typewriter. He’s in Lost Weekend and that’s one heavy 48 hours. Edmonton Oilers fans know the feeling, headache and all.

This is the first time in the 2010-11 season that the Edmonton Oilers resembled last year’s disaster. Previous to Hockey Day in Canada, the club seemed to display more spirit and a sense of never giving up–despite being WORSE in actual fact than the Quinn Oilers of 09-10.

This weekend the Oilers went back to Nat’s Bar on Third Avenue and drank deep from last season’s movie: a sense of absolute defeat, a deer in the headlights performance and the same damn blank looks as one year ago.

So, who’s the culprit? Is it those season-ticket holders, for telling the Oilers to fix it and get it right this time? Did they know their grandchildren might be paying for their seats before things got better? What about Steve Tambellini? He’s been hired three times now and appears to be slower every time he’s hired?

Is it the veterans? The kids? The veteran kids? 

Some of us predicted hard times (my look at the NW division isn’t spot on, but the overall gloom of the Oilers portion fits the current mood) and specifically in regard to the blue:

  • The Oilers should be able to score goals at a solid clip, but the blueline as it currently stands is the weakest in the division. Gilbert and Whitney are backed up by role players (Vandermeer), still developing shutdown hopefuls (Smid), men on the comeback trail (Foster) along with a dozen prospects trying to gain traction. We can take heart, as we’ll know more a year from now than we do currently about this bunch, but as it stands there are going to be a lot of saloon-door nights along the blue.

Saloon-door nights like this weekend. Ripping Petry and Peckham is ridiculous, in fact I think we’re at a point where pointing fingers at any of the defensemen is beyone the pale. Enough.

They’re simply not good enough as constructed.

As luck would have it, the best defenseman on the depth chart (Whitney) went down with an injury and chaos blue ruled the day. I don’t think we can blame Tom Renney because the foundation isn’t there. In country music parlance "the money ran out and the engine blew." We can point a finger at the coaching staff for lots of things (line matching, the special teams) but they don’t have the horses on defense.

Steve Tambellini? HE’S the guy to blame? Well, yes and no. Tambellini’s job is to build a winner, as described by the fanbase as "get it right this time." Tambellini’s style appears to be "wait and then wait a little longer" which fits the style of a team selling out their barn while losing most of their home games. A big part of Tambellini’s job currently appears to be making sure Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor’s computer doesn’t run out of juice. There’s no help on the way for these Oilers; in fact the only deals talked about are in regard to dealing off some of the last actual NHL players.

The Edmonton Oilers problem now is the same as it was in fall 2006: not enough actual NHL players. At some point, we’re going to have to agree that Daryl Katz is responsible for the current state of the Edmonton Oilers.

He’s the boss.

  • Does anybody really think that draft picks alone will make the Oil a playoff team in 2 years and then a cup contender in 4-6. How may players do the Oilers have now that we want to keep in the future 6 maybe. No grit, no intensity,that’s the culture of this team.Finishing 30th place 2 years in a row is embarrasimg, missing the playoffs for what I think will be 7 years is a joke. I can’t believe the building is full every night watching this crap…

  • Ribs

    Gilbert’s skating is a joke? Are we watching the same player? The guy is playing 20-25 minutes a night while babysitting Theo Peckham. Give the guy a break. Sheesh.

    I hope last nights calling out party was a bit more constructive than last years and I think that’s all that really matters coming from their repugnant performance.

  • This is why it might not be a good idea to deal Hemmer, Penner, Gilbert and Smid. These are actual NHL players. What are we going to look like next year with even more rookies and AHLers in the lineup? Brutal.
    Let the tree grow. Let it grow, stop chopping it down just as soon as it sprouts. We are not in a perpetual rebuild here people. Just leave it alone, it will grow.

  • Chris.

    I’m seen as somewhat of pessimist by many on this site… but every year since 06 the Oilers have managed to underperform my somewhat jaded, and very conservative expectations. In reality we have all been drinking the koolaid and anyone who thinks this team has a real legit shot at the playoffs next season is already drunk. Memo to Katz: take the keys away from Toonces!

  • Ducey

    I think we have enough young horses in the barn. We need to make some trades. Trade our first pick plus Hemsky, Penner and Smid to the kings for Schenn, Simmonds, Green, Smyth and Stoll. Then trade or put on waivers The Wall. Trade Gilbert, Foster, Vandermeer for picks. Trade Cogs and Brule to New York for Del Zotto. Put Jauques on waivers as well as Strudwick. Trade Fraser and a later pick to Toronto for Colby Armstong. Trade Omark for a decent defenceman. Theses are pipe dreams but Tambelini needs to get active and aggressive. Others wise boot him and hire someone who will get this rebuild done this century. The way it is going before we get anywhere Hall and others will be UFA’s and will want to bolt. I have stopped watching games because it is pathetic. The kids playing shinny hockey on the weekend could have beat the Oilers. 12 shots is pathetic and they should be ashamed. This is the NHL start playing like it.

  • It is pretty early in the game to be blaming Katz for anything, he isn’t even through his second full season yet. He may have had time to evaluate Tambo et al against successful NHL management teams but he hasn’t had time to do anything about it.

    Tambellini and Renney however are another story.

    Tambo made a lot of changes last summer, maybe he intends to finish the job this summer. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But he missed big time on Fraser and Foster, mishandled the Souray thing, and has done nothing to correct the size issue that has existed for several years.

    Renney has done a passing job bringing the kids along and has been hamstrung a bit with the loss of Whitney. But has completely blown the use of his physical guys, can’t seem to design a powerplay that works, and in 5 months and 56 games hasn’t been able to teach anybody to win a face off. All the top face of teams say they succeed because the make it a priority yet we apparently do not, and watching Taylor Hall get cross checked to the ice with 40 seconds to go in a 5 – 3 hockey game is inexcusable.

    We can blame Katz if this continues and he doesn’t do anything about it, but for now lets blame the guys who are directly responsible.

  • BarryS

    The most unfortunate part of the incompetence running the team is the fact it will continue indefinitely until the regular (non-internet) fan decides to act and show their frustration by abstaining from the games.
    Saying that though I am willing to give Tamby until the end of this summer. If he can pull off some amazing trades and sign some quality people to help the team grow then I will lay off.
    If he trades Penner or Hemsky for magic beans and expects a team of rookies to succeed then the call for his head should truly begin!
    Draft picks are great and quality prospects are great but they aren’t actual “players” and this is what this team needs.
    Something simple last year like adding a veteran like a Bill Guerin (who still speaks positively of Edmonton) would have helped the kids so much but we get Jason Strudwick.

  • A couple of things:

    – Tom Gilbert had a bad weekend. I was yelling at my TV on Saturday, because he was that bad. That said, things like ‘buddy can’t even skate’ are crazy. And before we bust him down to third-pairing defenceman, let’s try and remember that right now he’s the #1 defenceman, playing the toughest minutes, while trying to babysit Theo Peckham on the losing team. Any second-pairing defenceman is going to look bad doing that, and Gilbert has. But try and maintain perspective.

    – At some point, we have to stop using the word “culture” like it’s synonymous with “winning.” The problem isn’t culture, and it never was: the problem is that this team has been sent out undermanned every year since the summer of 2006.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      I have been watching tom “gibled” gilbert for two seasons now and I am constanly amazed how bad he is. I am sure he majored in the tom poti school of how not to be hit how not to hit.For a guy making 4 mill a year it is atrocious

    • VMR

      Good points but the question is how do you get the players so that the team isnt undermanned. Everyone talks about adding depth veterans and sure that may have helped a bit but how much can you expect 3rd and 4th line guys or a couple 3rd pairing defenceman to add to a team?

      They tried bring in “top end” talent in the Nylander signing and with Khabibulin but it’s obvious that Khabi was a mistake and Nylander isnt even playing in the league now. Heatley fell through, Hossa didnt happen. I cant imagine a roster they could have built out of spare parts that would be a true contender. They might have been able to get us back to the point where we were fighting for 8th spot every year but that’s about it. In the end all we’d have achieved is a little more excitement for hockey in March and April and a worse spot at the draft table.

      Unfortunately the draft is the only way to get talent to a sad sack team like Edmonton. This tailspin was necessary. The only question is whether the combo of Lowe and Tambellini can pull us out of it.

    • Nail on the head stuff LT…but i wanna thank JW for the clarity…Gilbert’s playing the same game as say, Hall would be playing if 83, 27 and 10 were all out…now that’s an intensely whacked perspective.
      Imagine if Hall had to ‘babysit’ someone…?

      Gilbert should never be exposed to this…he’s not qualified and that’s mostly managements’ fault and they chose not to get anyone to help …it’s turned this 4D softer than most others, into what looks like a Keystone Cop…it’s shameful & hard to watch…Petry’s even starting to show fatigue and his game has turned stressful imo…can you offer any good reason, i can’t think of a bad one unless it’s waiver wire stuff, why Renney can’t shuttle these kid dmen back and forth to OKC where each gets five tries in these last 26…Petry looks lost@times now…he might need a rest where he can gather his game again without the sick speed,that has to take it’s toll on a kid.

      here’s your truth JW …”the problem is that this team has been sent out undermanned every year since the summer of 2006″…and you even bottom lined it in your piece LT, that being the pivotal time as the fall of that year…so i’ll pose this question to both of you if i may …how do we get another pronger…y’both know every team needs one, it’s why we talk about Shea Weber like we do or Malkin [like i do]…who would you have as this teams’ next pronger if there was such a player? not who we’d be willing to trade for but who would it be right now to anchor this ‘rebuild’
      Both of you pondered and scribed a time line and both time lines involved the same player…i’m just saying

  • BarryS

    lighten up. Its a team game. Just getting rid of the player(s) you don’t like does nothing until the Oilers become an actual team. What, there are 6? 7? new guys on the team. Will take more than a couple months for them to actually become a team, not just a collection of 20 or so players. Yes some players need to be changed, but every change means a longer time for the Oilers to become a team in every sense of the word.

    ten years becoming this way likely means ten years to become something else.

    Just look at how few dead line deals actually make a team better and make them win the cup? Usually the team plays about the same or a little bit worse. 2006 was a fluke, not the norm, and the Oilers never won the cup.

    And 4 to 6 years to rebuild an organization to bottom is quite likely accurate. Not so sure it takes that long to get a competative team, but a deep organization is likely that long.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Bad post, speak for yourself. Look at the Aves and Coyotes, and how they turned there teams around fairly quick. And if it is just a game for you then why blog here?

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    4-6 year was given as a timeline for Stanley Cup contender, not for the playoffs. To his “credit”, Lowe did express that playoffs were the goal this year. Apparently he hadn’t checked the roster in September.

  • BarryS

    I’m a fan of 77 and while I’m disappointed at his lack of offense, just go back and look at how many goals were scored this weekend by the guy who was supposed to be checked by 49.

    and that’s not me slagging 49 either because I love the hell out of the kid but he had a brutal weekend checking his man and 77 was along for the dive.

    adding another 4-6 years sounds like something right up Lowe’s alley because he won’t allow himself to be judged – unless it’s the wonderful John Short:) – until he digs in his heels and proclaims that’s “now’s the time when we’re actually trying.”

    until that time you keep moving the chains further and further away and who really cares if in the blink of an eye you expect 4-14 to be the new 27-83 while hoping the latest picks turn out to be the next 4-14. Just keep gambling and biding your time and I’m sure every draft pick and prospect you pick up will turn out because that’s just the way things work, right?

    I mean it’s really smart to deal off vets who are on value contracts because those guys are easy to find anyway.

    plus, this crew is good at finding D as well. I’m sure the next Kurtis Foster is right around the corner and perhaps Burke has another Smid in the Leaves pipe that he can deal for 27.

  • BarryS

    anybody rememember it took 3 years to have a good team even with 99 and 4 other world class players on it? Ain’t no 99’s on this team, and unlikely 4 other world class players yet on the team, maybe never will be again.

  • Ender

    John Chambers wrote:

    4-6 years? Is the implication then to draft high for a half-decade and hope it will all work itself out? When’s the last time we won on home ice? Who in their right mind is going to buy season tickets?

    That’s not a plan. You can’t select “being uncompetitive” as a strategy … at least not long-term. That’s a recipe for having Penner, Hemsky, and anyone else who matters walk away thinking ‘Good Riddance’ at the first opportunity.

    You’re right, but ELPH is only ‘the Plan’ here at OilersNation. Officially, anyway. I was shocked at the ‘4-6‘ quote from Lowe. Saying that on national TV is not sound team management. While everyone can reasonably be expected to know the truth by looking at the horses in the stable, the Party Line has to officially be Dark Horse for the Stanley Cup. Every year. Hope is the only thing that sells tickets on a regular basis. Heck, even Renney was still preaching the old ‘We’re still going to make the playoffs‘ line just a few short weeks ago. This year, with this team. Whether he actually believed it or not, well, you can ask him. The point was he HAD to say it, and he’ll have to keep saying it every year if this team doesn’t want the arena to start looking like the one in Glendale. Keep in mind, then, that the plan you’re hearing about from the team publically is not always really ‘the Plan’.

  • Ender

    Hungoverman wrote:

    I honestly think Mr. Katz is a quieter version of Harold Ballard and that as long as he owns the club there will be no winning. His only priority is cash. Understandable but sad. Just wait until he tries to buy the Eskimos.

    I think this is just flat-out wrong. While no one doubts that this has been a poor team under Katz, let’s give the guy the benefit of the fact that it wasn’t a great team when he bought it. In addition, the moves that he was supposed to have had direct control over (Lowe, Tambellini) have been met with fairly firm approval at the time he made them.

    When he bought this team, it wouldn’t have been a smart investment to pick it up because it was a big money-truck waiting to back up to someone’s door. That hasn’t changed.

    I’m sure Katz, like all owners, would like to see their investment turn a profit or, at the least, not haemorrhage red ink. To suggest, though, that Katz is deliberately being cheap and holding back this team’s development simply because it makes him more wealthy as an individual to do so – well, I think that’s WAY off-base.

  • Ender

    @ Zarf

    Excellent comments. People that can express a rational opinion, especially if they can do it using real sentence structure and punctuation, are always a special surprise. Props.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I knew that things would be bad this year, and that’s what we signed up for, so… OK, fine. That said, I cannot BELIEVE that we’re going to be even WORSE than LAST year! How is that even possible? That team had POS!

    Oh, and good movie analogy, Lowetide. Billy Wilder is my favourite director.

  • Ducey

    I have been watching tom “gibled” gilbert for two seasons now and I am constanly amazed how bad he is. I am sure he majored in the tom poti school of how not to be hit how not to hit.For a guy making 4 mill a year it is atrocious

    I am “constantly amazed” by lugnuts who pick on a certain player every year.

    Do you really think Gilbert is the problem? If they just replaced him with someone tougher who would “hit”, the Oilers would be in playoffs?

    Did you notice that his cap hit is irrelevant as they are nowhere close to the cap limit.

    Maybe some people can’t come up with an original thought to save their life. They hear someone complain about a player and then start repeating the complaint like some sort of mantra, (when they’re not yelling “shoot” everytime the Oilers cross the offensive blueline).

  • Dan the Man

    A few things…

    The effort on the weekend was inexcusable, I expect a fair bit losing but up until recently the effort, for the most part, has been there.

    I’m OK with that considering it’s year 1.5 of the “planned” rebuild and they are missing their best player.

    Gilbert is the new Poti, Arnott, Horcoff, etc…but he’s obviously been thrust into playing top pairing minutes due to injury and lack of other qualified personell. I think for the most part he’s done OK given the circumstances. He had a rough weekend but so did everyone else. Get over it.

    Anyone else think they should have given Plante a look instead of Chorney? He’s someone I’d like to see before the season is over.

    • Rogue

      They should be bringing Plante and others up for a look see to see where they are on the timeline to fit into this team. 3-5 games and then send them back to OKC.

  • Dan the Man

    Easy.Patience. Were we all like this when Wayne etal were crapping the bed? It was ugly this weekend but look on the bright side. Ottawa is now 4 points ahead of us with 14 days to go before the trade deadline. Yup. The Trade deadline. If we think that we suck now wait a couple of weeks and see what were left with after the deadline. I still think we can hold onto 30th place. Powerplay bites. Bulin bites. Defene bites. 5-5 atleast we compete. Sometimes. Maybe.

  • Crash

    So Daryl Katz is Harold Ballard reincarnate, huh?

    When Katz starts over-salting the popcorn and turning up the heat in an effort to get more people to buy pop, then I’ll believe you.

    When he fires the coach, re-hires him and asks him to stand on the bench with a paper bag on his head, then I might buy that.

    When he hires 30-year-old Gord Stellick as his GM, then yeah, maybe.

    For now, I’ll go with my hunch: Quiet guy with a lot of money and a love for hockey.

    I won’t speak to his patience level or his tolerance for losing or his penchant for meddling in hockey affairs, a la Mr. Ballard. That’s mostly because he rarely makes his public feelings known.

    An earlier post suggested that the “plan all along” was to tank for the No. 1 pick. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s my belief that the only plan for this year was this: Play the Kids a Lot and Live or Die With How it Turns Out.

    If it’s last place, so be it. If it’s 25th, so shall it be. If it’s three points out of 8th, great.

    But I don’t think the organizational philosophy – at least for this season – was really any more complex than that. Play the kids a lot and see what happens. Sell hope through a rebuild.

    The thing we’ve all got to realize is, rebuilds don’t really have an “end-date.” Heck, I’d bet that if you looked back, you’d find a lot of the “great” teams didn’t have a “start-date” on their rebuilds.

    That’s why the shrieking over-reaction to Lowe’s claim of “4-6-year” rebuild plan on HNIC is just as laughable as Lowe daring to put a number on it.

    It’s obvious that we’re in the very-early stages of a rebuild right now. But the big moves – both in terms of trades and in terms of player development – are yet to come. The Oilers obviously control the former, but not really the latter – and it is the latter that matters most.

    But you don’t always know when it will all come together – sometimes, it just comes together on its own. We’re not at that stage yet with this team … clearly! But it’s not a panic-point either.

    A rebuild is a living, breathing thing – it’s not a “plan” or a set of blueprints or a road map. It’s something that grows and shrinks, advances and regresses and wins and loses along the way. It’s almost impossible to put a figure on when it will “end.”

    • As well written as this was, I have to disagree with your assertion that the strategy this year was “Play the Kids a Lot and Live or Die With How it Turns Out.”

      “Devan Dubnyk” first comes to mind. Then a plethora of other little things like not pulling Khabby when he sucks and the game is still in reach, starting Khabby in winnable games when he’s in the middle of a suck run of starts, Reddox with Penner and Hemsky, no line matching, no mid-season upgrades for a paper-thin D, Fraser, SMac, JFJ, Vandermeer, Strudwick and on and on and on.

      This team was built to lose. We all know that. It was built so that if one single key player goes out, the lack of depth will guarantee a crapload of L’s. If you need any more evidence, then look at Petry being demoted for Chorney. The popular though being he’s more valuable to Oklahoma in their quest for a playoff spot. WTF? Or is it just coincidence that Khabby plays in the game where we might have a 4 point shift in position with the next closest team in the race for disgrace?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Gilbert gets a free pass from me, he’s in over his head with this role he’s saddled with since the halfway mark. Have to give the guy credit for still being able to whistle while he’s at work.

  • 4-6 years sounds like they want to draft all of the pieces they need. I can’t think of a team that has done it without key deals.

    If that is actually the plan, it will take at least that long, and probably not work any better than it has for anyone else, which is it hasn’t. Well struck trades to acquire needed elements is actually what separate the really good teams from the others. The perennial bottom feeders always draft well and get nowhere. It’s not because they trade all the good guys away, it’s because they trade talent or potential and get nothing back. Or can’t fill out the roster properly.

    Pittsburgh can’t be a model because they got Crosby. If they didn’t I say they would not be what they are. Good but not Cup good.

    The Hawks drafted some great players but deals put them over – Hossa, Sharp, Ladd, etc.

    Washington – hasn’t plugged the holes and are good but I doubt Cup favourites.

    Flyers – some good drafting and lots of trades.

    The team closest to doing it via the draft is Detroit, and they had so much luck in that they even admit it. Yes they develop players, but you don’t usually get two league top centres out of 7th round picks and a generational defenseman out of a 3rd rounder. Not usually. Probably not the model to follow Steve-O. The Oilers don’t seem to have that kind of luck lately.

    Detroit has been excellent at acquiring needed players which is what keeps them good. Show us what you’ve got Steve-O. You can’t lottery draft every year.