The way I see it, the Edmonton Oilers seem like a decent bet to improve by 16-20 points in the standings over last season.

The bad news is that won’t be nearly enough to get them into the playoffs and will likely leave them closer to a third straight lottery pick than eighth place — without a shot at the first overall selection in the 2012 Entry Draft.

So, no playoffs for a sixth straight season and, unless GM Steve Tambellini can jettison spare parts and sink the Oilers in the standings, there’s little likelihood of landing a franchise prospect like Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in a draft class that will be topped by Nail Yakupov and loaded with quality defensemen.

At this stage in the rebuild, the Oilers aren’t good enough to be a playoff team and they aren’t bad enough to finish 30th overall for the third straight season. In between, they are.

Is this progress?


With 33 games in the books and a four-game losing streak on the go as they face the Minnesota Wild Thursday, the Oilers are sitting 13th in the Western Conference with 31 points from a record of 14-16-3.

Despite a 9-3-2 start to the season that had some fans getting ahead of themselves and talking about a playoff run, that’s not in the cards. As of today, the Oilers are just one point ahead of the 30 points they had after 33 games last season and they’re actually three points back of the 34 they had in 2009-10 on the way to last place overall and the chance to snag Hall.

That said, this edition of the Oilers is better than those teams despite their struggles and some issues – notably the inability of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney to find their games after shoulder and ankle surgery and current slumps by Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. We’ll see soon enough how much better. Still, I don’t see a serious playoff push shaping up.

While the Oilers are only six points out of eighth place, they have five teams to overtake (San Jose is eighth with three games in hand) to get in. Jonathan Willis did an item on the likelihood of a playoff spot at the Cult of Hockey 

As for playing meaningful games in March and April, as has been the noise from Tambellini and Tom Renney, I suppose it depends on how you define meaningful. Playing games that mean something beyond the end of January might be a victory, given the Oilers play seven straight games on the road after they face the Wild.


— Of the Oilers 49 remaining games, 24 are at home, where they are 9-6-2 for 20 points, and 25 are on the road, where they are 5-10-1 for 11 points.

— Of those 49 games, 26 are against teams that currently occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference or Eastern Conference. Nine of those games are against teams leading their divisions.

— In the unlikely event the Oilers manage 51 points from their final 49 games, they’ll finish with 82 points, which is 20 more than the 62 they had in each of the last two seasons.

— No team has made the playoffs in the Western Conference in the past five years with less than 91 points. Counting back from last season, the eighth-place totals have been 97, 95, 91, 91 and 96.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • paul wodehouse

    Empee…how we gonna get anything for most of the veterans when they’re covered in FRAGILE stickers?

    83’s not worth jack right now and the longer he plays the shorter the time is until he’s out injured again…Whitney needs to get off his feet

    … two buyouts merry christmas my friend

    • Quicksilver ballet

      It just doesn’t make sense to me. Rebuild, let’s all buy into a whole new era of Oilers hockey…and Tambellini is hoarding his MIA veterans like they’re prized possessions. 83 and 89 should’ve been outta here a year ago. He’s overvalued them and now 83 looks to walk without the Oilers getting anything for that asset.

      They’re heaping the weight of this hockey club on the shoulders of those 3 kids when they should be motivated to getting them more lottery type help. Instead of bringing in 5 more useless vets last summer, Tambellini should’ve shipped 4-5 players out in an effort to land another lottery pick.10,89,83,6 and 91…..all epic fail this season. I’d hate to think where the Oilers would be without the additions of 93 and 94.

      • Oilerbill

        I don’t think it was ST that overvalued 83 and 89. I think he knows exactly what their value is and that’s why they are still here. Two issues ST has been facing in the last 2 years and the piles of injuries they have had.
        1) Other teams don’t want injured players… suprise suprise
        2) When all your top point getters get hurt you can’t just trade what you have left and put no product on the ice at all.

  • Oilers21

    I think this point in the “rebuild” is what will define Tambellini as a GM….when we’re not bad enough for a lottery pick and not good enough to go for it all yet. It’s one thing to pick a can’t miss prospect first overall and sit back and high-five smugly and another thing to identify role players on other teams that can get us over the hump and which prospects we can deal to make it happen. We’re not going to go “worst to Cup” in one year so this level of inactivity can’t continue if we’re to improve. -Pictures Tambellini snoring loudly in a hotel room while daylight streams through the curtains and an alarm blares loudly in the background-

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    RB, with the Hawks and the Penguins rebuild, they at some point made one of their budding superstar the captain of the team. I’m hoping the Oilers make this move next year. I think it signifies a turning point of sort in the rebuild process. I think that’s when the culture really starts to change.

    My question is when do you think the Oilers are going to make this move and who of the three budding superstar would they make captain? assistant?

  • A-Mc

    I hope you people don’t mind but I’m going to hold onto the dream that the Oilers can make the playoffs.

    In doing so, I’m setting myself up for disappointment but i truly believe they can do it if they believe in themselves. We’ve seen what this team is capable of, and it’s not unrealistic to expect Work Ethic every night (Other teams do it, why can’t we?). IMO, the only reason we’re NOT in the top 8 right now is because the team has abandoned all that was good to them previously. We don’t need a miracle, we just need some hard work. All i ask is that we play like we did the last 2 games; great games even though they were a Loss for the boys. I’m willing to bet we’d win more than we lose if we can sustain that kind of play.

    In the event that it becomes a mathematical impossibility of making the playoffs, my next ‘goal’ will be to have a .500 season of 82pts. Get yourself Even-Steven and build on it next year.

  • Oilerbill

    Tom Gilbert
    Sam Gagner
    Ales Hemsky
    Shawn Horcoff
    Theo Peckhem
    Ladislav Smid

    Those are the players left from the first season that “Mr. Dithers” took over as Klowes puppet. I mean GM. Many of you called him a puppet. He has clearly cut the strings.
    (Two of those had contracts that made them essentially unmovable)

    So after a rash of injuries, some locker room issues and difficult contract he was left with. He gets the OK to full on rebuild. Now we have some great young talent and in order to accommodate their growth we have rented a bunch of filler pieces.

    Are we improving? Yes. The young players are developing before our eyes. We are forming a nucleus. With 6 UFA’s after this season and 3 more after next. In 2 years this team is going to look vastly different. Years 2013,14,15 are shaping up well. Most of the knowledgeable have said from the beginning a full rebuild is a 5 year process. I think ST knows this and is in it for the long haul. I hope he has the support of Lowe and Katz.

    Not that it matters but he has mine.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Thank you for this.

      I’m not sure if I like or dislike ST as a GM yet. But I don’t understand the people saying he hasn’t done anything or just sits on his ass. He made some moves this off season and in the first 15 games he was looking like a genius. Then November came. Again,I’m reserving judgement til next year.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Nice guys finish last ? Lowe, Tambellini and Renney are all nice guys , but their results are not . Why ? Maybe they are all to similiar and thus share the poor results ? I can’t imagine another team putting up with their results for so long ? Change in player personality over the years, but not management that formed it over such a period seems to be an oddity that maybe should have been addressed first ?

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      well i think Willis’ post on Milbury showed that petulant, aggressive hot-heads can make terrible decisions at a pretty decent clip…

      THat being said every fan wants to see some testicular fortitude from their team.

  • MrCondor

    If Tambi had overpaid for a defensemen, people would be complaining just as much.

    Why is everyone so certain that there are #1 defensemen out there for the taking?

    Tambi does not need to make a trade, he needs to make a good trade.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Well, I dont think its time yet to call in Daryl Sutter to clean up the mess.
    We are still a young team. With this team, you just never know. They beat Chicago 9-2 and Nashville 6-2. They have the capability to do great things, just inconsistent.
    They could rattle off a 7 game winning streak here and get right back in it. You just never know with these guys. give them time.

  • Brownlee, looks like you’re changing your stance a little bit here. Last week you said “This team won’t finish last. It likely won’t be a lottery team”

    Now you’re saying there’s a chance the Oilers could be a lottery team.

    If Tampa Bay wins tonight, the Oilers are officially in the lottery standings.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    couple of thoughts…

    didn’t LT (I think it was him) do a piece recently on fall/early winter Oiler trades and find there were basically none.

    I don’t know how much that matters, but my guess is the market is simply dry right now. No one buys a house around x-mas… maybe no one wants to deal too? I’m guessing it’s just convention that trade season heats up as the as winter stretches on… the more action in the GM rooms the more options and the better deal available.

    So maybe Dithers is just following convention and waiting for better deals?

    Gomez… what happened to that guy anyway. he’s like the NHL’s Eric Hinske… one amazing year and it just happens to be his rookie season. what are the odds of that?

    I’d love to join the Koolaid club… but i’m too much of a mush to pick a team decisively between the KC and the Hateraid House… but I like mixing it up with both sides!

  • Oilerbill

    Hey Brownlee,

    Not sure why you expect a 20 pt increase Vs. last year? Aside from the terrific start the Oilers have been the worst team in the league.

    Common sense would suggest that we are a shoe in for a lottery pick if not 30th place again. Is oils suggest to tank the season, but that has been taking place for weeks now.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Regardless of where we are in the standings, a competent GM should always be looking at addressing our glaring weaknesses.

    Goaltending, its blatantly obvious to anyone that our goaltending is not adequate to compete long term with. Although Khabibulin is on the books for one more year we need to address this by acquiring a good young goalie from another team ie. Bernier or Schneider.

    Defense, I agree it isn’t easy to acquire a #1 defenseman in the NHL these days. But if your picking in the top 10 of the draft all the time, eventually your going to have an abundance of prospects that you can use for acquiring such talent. Key word abundance.

    Trading players and prospects needs to be looked at from a business perspective, no emotions should be used. Using other teams financial poor/tight situations to our advantage should be a priority ie. Chicago 2010. Using the cap effectively, all things good GMs do.

    I hate Mike Gillis, but he has built a hell of a team in Vancouver by exploiting most of these examples. He didn’t draft the Sedins but, he got Loungo, Hamhuis, Ehrhoff, Booth and held on to prospects like Hodgson and Schnieder by using these methods.

    Tambellini is only competent at picking 1st overall and getting rid of players or contracts that any casual fan can see are useless. He is and always has been a terrible GM.

    • But had ST not done such a horrible job would we have 4 and 93 on our roster? Had he done a fantastic job (with the assets he inheritted) wouldn’t the Oilers be sitting in CGY’s position?

      • Yourmomthinksimhot

        Calgary is a terrible example, because;

        They’ve never had an abundance of prospects, they at one point had a great defensive core and they have had a good goaltender for the past couple of seasons. Tambellini never inherited the overall assets that Calgary had.

        What I’m saying is from the trade deadline of last season he has been fully aware of this teams weaknesses and has only addressed them with bandages. He never exploits other teams when their cornered. Never any initiative. LA came calling for Penner, Smyth cornered them and their hand was forced ( Tambo never initiated ), Anaheim came for Vishnovsky, Calgary came for Staois. At what point does he take the initiative to go after Bernier/Schnieder or Weber/Suter. As examples.

        When has he ever said we wanted player x really badly, so we went out and got him. He doesn’t, we’re finally in a position where we could overpay to get a franchise player from another team and still have an incredible core intact. I’m not endorsing this but it’s finally a possibility.

        Fans here need to realize that good teams can draft well too, being patient is great and warranted but we’ve assembled a good enough core through drafting that it’s time to address the weaknesses. Fans deserve more from their GM.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          Just curious how you know all those details about the Penner, Smyth, Vishnovsky and Staois trades?

          The only way you know that is if you are actually an assistant to ST and you were there every step of the way when these trades were being proposed. In that case, ST is the problem. He needs to get new assistants as the ones he has are too busy posting here on ON.

          I understand the frustrations. We’ve sucked for a while now. But for me, I choose to not focus on the past. I have never seen this much young talent on an Oiler roster since the glory years. Even as I type this I’m getting excited. SO I choose to be excited about the future instead of crying about the past.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Gotta remember this:

    Last year when we were stinkin’ we all said, “Meh, it’s only year 1 of the rebuild.”

    This year we’re all saying, “C’mon!! C’mon!! GAH!!! (slaps palm on forehead) Oh yeah. It’s only year 2 of the rebuild.”

    We are slowly getting better. We need to have some patience. I bet ya next year we will definitely be going, “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ARE ONLY IN YEAR 3 OF THE REBUILD! YEEEEEEHHHHHAAAAAWWWWW! (glug glug glug fall over drunk as we whup the Canucks)”

    I won’t go bonkers on them till at least year 4….

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    It’s unbelievable how the “first-impression stigma” forever brands itself among the fan base. Tambellini is patient in his first year as GM (likely trying to determine whether or not to full-out rebuild or not) and he’ll forever be known as Mr. Dithers – that guy that doesn’t make any moves. All the while, when he does make decisions (be it a transaction or a decision not to trade off a strong piece for a stop-gap), they do nothing to change his image. Faceoffs have been a huge problem so he signs one of the strongest FO players in the league. But you never hear how ST went out and did something about faceoffs. All you hear about is everything he hasn’t done right like building a successful team is so easy.

    Has Tambellini made decisions that, in hindsight, didn’t work out? Obviously. Both in the areas of making a move and not making a move. Having said that, are there any moves that have worked out or look good for a potential win on the deal? Let’s see:

    – Cogs for 2nd round pick – great chance to win deal as Cogs has been quiet and MBS has been solid with picks
    – Signs Potter – early indications appear a positive signing for D
    – Sutton for Foster – Sutton adds toughness factor everyone’s clamoring for, Foster already traded again
    – Smytty for Fraser, 7th – A unique deal given Smytty’s request but, even still, no one forced Lombardi to take Fraser/7th. Could Lombardi not have demanded more?
    – Pens for Teubert, 1st and 3rd – Even if Lombardi sought out Tambellini (which would likely be the case given ST had the asset), is this not a clear win for ST? And I mean clear? Given the way Pens has turned out in LA, the quality of the pick and the progerssion of Teubert?
    – Choosing Dubnyk over Deslauriers – still unknown but early indications are it looks to be the right choice.
    – Sending out Moreau and Nilsson – people say this was a slam dunk that anyone would’ve done. I wonder if that’s so true. Waving your captain? More than a slam dunk decision IMO.
    – Claiming and signing Ryan Jones – Any credit here? Team won’t ever win or lose solely because of Ryan Jones but was this not a steal? Assuming he gets to 20 this year, was it not a great move to get him signed this summer? With the abundance of forwards, would’ve been pretty easy to let him walk.

    We won’t know who won most of any of these deals until all players tenure’s with the team come to a close but it appears Edm could be on the good side of the ledger for quite a few moves in recent past.

    The main point here is that there seems to be nothing but complaints about all the things ST has done that fans don’t agree with or things he hasn’t done that, apparently to most, are as simply as picking up the phone while there are ZERO props for any of the moves that have proven successful. Even with drafting, is it possible to screw up a 1st overall pick? Ask Ottawa. Is it easy to screw up a 1st round pick? Ask Edmonton.

    Now before the visious replies come through with all the moves that didn’t work out, yes, I know; there have been moves that didn’t work out. Point is that it’s just so unbelievable to me that ST is given zero props for any of the positives that have come about in his tenure and nothing but heat and disdain for any moves/non-moves that don’t turn out to be gold. Is the team in better shape now than when he inherited the team? If so, does it have ANYTHING to do with him being the GM? And do people think it’s honestly so easy to wave your wand and fix everything? How about a legitimate suggestion for a Hemsky trade rather than the standard “Trade Hemsky for a #1 D.” I wonder what people are looking for. Who on your team would you trade for Hemsky right now if he was playing on another team? Regardless of how it works out with Hemmer (be it he’s traded for pucks, Steven Stamkos, resigned or let go via UFA), you can be certain the fan base will be applying the heat to ST for it.

    • Well done Sir!!!!!! I am on board with you on this. I can just imagine the uproar if ST was to swing a deal to get a Topend Dman and gave up a young star saying to the masses you wanted him this is the only way I could get him. Run out of town because he couldn’t get the player for leftover players. Fans?? go back to making your deals on NHL12

      • Yourmomthinksimhot

        I never once mentioned getting rid of anyone of the core that we currently have on our roster. I used those players as examples, never did I say it would take a bunch of spare parts to get them. Your interpretation of my post is almost as insulting as your love for an incompetent GM.

        I love the kids that we have now, but moving forward these bottom five finishes can be avoided and a strong team can be built. Tambelllini is not going to be the guy doing it, I firmly believe that. Plain and simple he does not stack up to the GMs of the successful teams in this league.

    • Yourmomthinksimhot

      If you honestly believe he is doing a good job then your standards are too low. He has made one move that has been proven successful and that is Ryan Jones. As a fan I do expect more from a team that’s finished in last place in back to back years consecutively.

      I’m saying that I look at the moves that the GM’s of the best teams in hockey over the past couple of years have made, and I don’t think Tambellini stacks up.

      • Yourmomthinksimhot

        Care to share examples of these successful “moves that the GM’s of the best teams in hockey over the past couple of years have made?” Also, care to share some realistic trade options/ideas involving Edmonton that would, in all seriousness, make some sort of sense for both teams?

        I don’t disagree that ST hasn’t been the #1 GM in the league since he arrived in Edm. I’m just not sure what fans expect. People are all over ST about no deals but what exactly do fans want to see? Eberle for Suter? This is my beef – fans complain (yet offer no realistic alternative to the current situation) while implying it’s as if these “home-run” deals that will fix everything are a phone call away but assume mgmt is too lazy to answer the phone.

        ** For the record, I most certainly don’t have the answers myself either – hence the lack of baseless complaints.

        • Yourmomthinksimhot

          Fair enough, I don’t believe trading Eberle for Suter is a viable option either. This is definitely not what I’m saying, but I do believe there is value in this organization and moving forward it would be nice to see that turned into proven talent where we are weak.

          I just feel moving foreward, there can be no more excuses. I don’t want to see the easy sideways moves anymore. Take advantage of teams with young players that are redundant. Why couldn’t he have traded Penner AND Hemsky last year as an example? For now we have a young core, adding to it and challenge yourself would be nice.

          I don’t expect instant results and also it’s unrealistic that we could aquire every top end talent available, just don’t insult our intelligent by trading away guys that we know won’t be here long term and selling it as though that’s the best he can do.

        • Yourmomthinksimhot

          Just to provide an example for you, as we now know LA wanted Hemsky bad and settled for Penner.

          The rumour was he was asking for Schenn in return, this is exactly what I mean in terms of what I as a fan would like to see. Make teams in a bind pay for what they want, let them have buyers remorse. Obviously giving up Schenn wasnt viable to Lombardi, but I wouldve preferred to grab Bernier over the package we received.

          It wasnt a big deal for Lombardi to lose Teubert and a 1st+3rd and I dont like that. It sure would look good to have two young goalies going forward, and to have addressed a weakness we have while aquiring an NHL calibre hockey player.

          I feel we couldve moved both Hemsky and Penner to seperate teams for a young goalie, and a comparable package of young defenseman and picks like the Penner return. We could be further ahead with the rebuild had he made the hard decision to trade Hemmer then, as opposed to know where he is of almost no value..

          • Oilerbill

            First the return for Penner was a steal. ST fleeced Lombardi twice. As for Hemsky. Everyone seems to forget that Hemskey was hurt and playing hurt. No team would have taken him. Last year he had a groin injury a concussion and the day or two after the trade deadline he went out for shoulder surgery. He was essentially untradeable. Now do you really think he was worth anything in the offseason? He still hasn’t fully recovered from shoulder surgery. He is worth almost nothing. If ST trades him now he loses that trade.

          • Yourmomthinksimhot

            “We could be further ahead with the rebuild had he made the hard decision to trade Hemmer then, as opposed to now where he is of almost no value.”

            I said then, as in at the deadline before he went down with his shoulder injury. Also said he has no trade value now.

            The return for Penner was good yes but at the time it wasnt a steal. With his poor performance after the trade it now looks like a steal. Trading a guaranteed 20 goal guy for a prospect and two picks didnt look like a fleecing at the time…..

          • Oilerbill

            The thing is Hemsky wasn’t worth anything last year at the trade deadline. He was hurt before the deadline and playing that way all season.

            The following was printed in the Sun on March 15th last year:

            The choice between playing hurt or not playing at all was no choice for Ales Hemsky.

            So he played through the shooting pain of a torn labrum all season before finally succumbing to the injury.

            “I knew I had it for a little while,” said Hemsky, after doctors informed him that he needs surgery, and nearly six months of recovery time. “I tried rehabbing last year and this year but it didn’t do too much.

            “I was kind of in pain the whole year, but I missed last season (after surgery on the other shoulder) so I didn’t want to say too much. I wanted to play.”

            Do you really think he would have been worth anything in a trade?

            I can hear ST now: “Oh yeah Hemsky is fine just don’t ask him to lift his arms above his head! So how about that Schenn?”

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    This is the last year of a grace period for me.6 years without the playoffs is becoming to Leaflike or NYI like.We still have many holes to fill.We need some size.Defence is a big issue.Some first rate role players would be nice.Dubnyk is starting to play like he did in junior always letting in that killer soft goal.If we dont see a dramatic improve ment next year bye bye Tambo and possibly Renney.

  • Oilerbill

    I’d rather see the fanbase screaming for more wins than a fanbase screaming for more lottery picks. After all, there is more than one way to rebuild a franchise. So the discussions of the past few weeks have been encouraging.

    We now have the future core in RNH, Hall and Eberle, and the scouts should be able to find a solid young Dman in the next draft, even if we’re drafting in the 5-10 spot. The key is whether Tambo can find the supporting cast to fill the roster with winning players from top to bottom. The penalty killers, the bangers, the net crashers, the shutdown defencemen. Developing them or signing them or however you acquire quality role players is just as hard as tanking every year and using lottery picks to pick scorers. Just ask the Islanders (or is it wrong of me to compare us to the other team that believes perpetual lottery picks will lead to contention?).