DONE IN 41: NOW WHAT?

The Edmonton Oilers are halfway there. Halfway where?

Their latest John F. Kennedy impression in Dallas in the books after a 4-1 loss to the Stars at the American Airlines Center today, the Oilers finished up a seven-game stretch away from home with a 1-6-0 record to hit the halfway mark in their schedule with a record of 16-22-3 for 35 points.

And with the players they just lost on this trip — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tom Gilbert In Chicago and Jordan Eberle in Dallas – a much bigger story than the six games the Oilers lost, they’re going to have to go some in the next 41 games to match their first-half points total and avoid being a lottery team for a third straight season.

A playoff spot? That was never a reasonable expectation for a team that’s finished 30th the past two seasons. The stated goal of playing meaningful games in March? Only if salvaging some pride is considered meaningful, which isn’t quite what coach Tom Renney had in mind.

With Nugent-Hopkins out for the balance of January with a shoulder injury, Eberle gone for an undetermined period with what looks like an injured right knee, Gilbert banged up and no good news coming on Ryan Whitney, fans are likely in for a miserable second half, meaning angst, consternation and demand for change will be cranked up to an ear-splitting high.

This ought to be a barrel of laughs.

DEMORALIZING SWING

With the lone win on the road trip coming in Chicago, of all places, by way of a 4-3 win over the Blackhawks, the Oilers got two of a possible 14 points from the seven games. Renney was hoping for at least eight.

Despite the disappointment and being lobbed a hanging curveball in a post-game scrum today – somebody asked if fatigue was a factor in the third period – Renney resisted the urge to make excuses, including a hideous injury situation that has again knocked hoped-for gains in the rebuild sideways.

"That’s how it goes," Renney said when asked about the losses of Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. "That’s why you have a system of play, that’s why you work on special teams, you work on doing things collectively.

"It’s not an individual sport at all, so we have to step up now and play a strong team game to keep ourselves close to the pack here and to make up ground." Added Renney about the road trip overall: "We came up a little short, for whatever reasons, there’s no questions about that.

"I’m not doubting anybody’s work habits. I’m not doubting our ability to want to win. I’m not doubting at all, you know, our game plan, if you will, and our ability to execute it. At the end of the day, it’s a long trip and, in some cases, we weren’t able to kind of finish things off like we wanted to.

"We’re closer to doing that now than maybe we were in years past, but we’re still far enough away when it doesn’t get you any points, so we can’t kid ourselves, either."

WRETCHED STRETCH?

The real kick in the groin is what happens next and any hopes this team had of having something to play for down the stretch after the losses of Nugent-Hopkins, the leading Calder Trophy candidate, and Eberle, who is leading the Oilers in scoring with 43 points.

Gilbert, a bright spot on a dreary blue line until being vaulted into the boards by cheapshot artist Daniel Carcillo, should be back relatively soon. Not so Whitney, who I suspect, as I wrote the other day, might have to be shut down for an extended period of time.

Add it all up, and this could be a wretched second half. It wouldn’t certainly won’t be one that sees this team make sizeable gains on the 62 points it had the past two seasons – I wrote last week I thought this team could be 16-20 points better before Nugent-Hopkins, Gilbert and Eberle went down. Given the mood of Oilers fans these days, the injuries won’t do much to mitigate a things if the team finishes 27th or 28th.

If that’s the case, rest assured the futures of Renney and GM Steve Tambellini, who didn’t put this team together the right way in the first place, are destined to be hot topics on call-in shows between now and April 7.

"We’re at the mid-point of the season and we assess as a coaching staff, we assess every five games," Renney said. "We look at our segments and we try to draw some conclusions there.

"Our objective, quite honestly, as coaches is to coach what is in front of us, you know? We’re lucky we have a voice to the point that we do. That said, I’m always willing to talk about where we are and where we need to go. Our compass as a coaching staff is clear. Get your group ready to play, go after wins and, in this case, continue to develop."

Yes, I’m guessing a lot of fans want to talk about "where we are."

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

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Also losing isnt what bugs me, that comes with rebuilding. Its the inability to address glaring weakness properly. It takes time to do this right, but complete ignorance to the problem is unacceptable………..

  • Matheson just tweeted that Oilers have 17pts out of the last 58 (29 games)

    That’s a points percentage of .293

    Last year they had a pts % of .387

    Whitney was out most of last year too. Hemsky as well.

    So while some gains are being made on special teams (although PP SH% is due to come down to earth a bit), and goal differential, they are not making gains on winning hockey games.

    Everyone has said it often, and Robin was probably the first MSM to mention it often, but the Oilers lack in competent, non-flashy Dmen.

    The fanbase has a lot of patience, but even season ticket holders who have bought in to the rebuild are grousing about another season where going to the games in Jan-Apr mean nothing, and the fact that its the 6th year in row where there’s no playoffs.

    6 years

    Lowe and Tambellini have tried hard to press the magic reset button and say “2nd year of the rebuild” every chance they get, but the season ticket holders who are paying the freight are finding it tough to find people to take very good tickets in January again.

    I don’t think Tambellini gets the pipe this year, but I wouldn’t bet on him being here for the 2013 draft.

    • BigE91

      Non-flashy d-men?? Smid, Sutton, Peckham, Tuebert you’re calling these guys flashy? Oh boy. This team needs a serious defensive upgrade but non flashy isnt something I’d be looking for. Competent on the other hand…………

      • Non-flashy d-men?? Smid, Sutton, Peckham, Tuebert you’re calling these guys flashy? Oh boy. This team needs a serious defensive upgrade but non flashy isnt something I’d be looking for.

        Please show me where I called those you listed “flashy”

        They are incompetent at the NHL level.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    @Robin Brownlee

    Your absolutely right about the points, but for me when your in the playoffs you would rather have Sutter than Gagner. I guess we will have to wait and see, hopefully not too long.

  • I hate to say this, but, this afternoons game was the 50,000th hockey game I’ve watched(TIC). Either live or on the tube. What a waste of a monumental achievment. First of all, there is no rebuild plan. The joint is sold out every home game, who neeeds a plan. It’s not Renney, you can’t teach Clydesdales to be Thoroughbreds ( 3 budding stars aside), but Laddy Smid (bless his progress this year) is now our #1 D. Tambo started with a very suspect soon to be proven bare cupboard on D. So now we all blame a bunch off guys who should be in the A because they suck in their end. The Oil have no depth, anywhere! If they want to nurture young talent, they have a very strange way of doing it. Looks like the “sink or swim” school of teaching to me. In my experience, the surviving swimmers just want to get the hell away from the pool ASAP!!! And IMHO, Benn slew footed Eb’s on purpose. He may not have intended to injure him, but he intended to slew foot him. No respect because there is no reprecussion. Rant over!!

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I’m pretty sure Ralph Krueger would be next in line, well before the AHL coach anyways.

      Seems to me it’s Krueger coaching these kids on the bench. Many commericial breaks, time outs, prior to a penalty kill and power play it is Krueger writing up the plan and speaking.

      The PK and PP are good. That’s what Krueger has been in charge of. Maybe if he was given the reigns other aspects would improve as well.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Why would Renney get the axe? How can this even remotely be considered his fault? We have the OKC Barons on defence and lost our top two scorers.

    • Yourmomthinksimhot

      He got his foot tangled up with a dallas foot on a nothing play – looks like maybe he hyper-extended his knee, in my uninformed opinion. Freak accident, like The Nuge.

    • Fire Tambo and Lowe.

      It’s their mess and it’s quit obvious they dont know how to fix it or are unable to.

      They have no clear path forward and then tell us that the expectation is to make the playoffs and not to be a lottery team? This is either a bold face lie and therefore they should be held accountable! or they believe the crap they spew out of their mouths in which case makes them completely incompetent.

      Now what?

      Top three pick? Hope to win the lottery and draft # 1 yet again.

      Nail Yakupov? Mikhail Grigorenko? Ryan Murray? Mathew Dumba?

      Go the UFA route try and fix our defense, assuming Tambo thinks it needs fixing!

      Trade for two top 2 Defense man, assuming Tambo can make even a deal on his own.

      Find a legit # 1 goaltender, assuming Tambo knows Dubnyk will never be that guy.

      Maybe he’s still “evaluating” and it’s a “process” maybe he’s “looking at the body of work”

      I digress, but the list goes on.

      Wasn’t meant to be directed at @Oilers4ever just a general rant I suppose.
      Sorry.

      • I don’t know if I see a top three pick here despite the gloom and doom of this road trip. although how long Eberle is out is going to play a big part in that.

        If Eberle isn’t out beyond a handful of games, say more than five, Nugent-Hopkins returns by the end of the month and nobody slips in the shower and dislocates a hip, I still see the Oilers likely finishing ahead of CBJ, ANA and CAR and possibly ahead of NYI and TB. In any case, we’re probably looking at 25th-27th.

        — Trade for a top two defenseman? Sure. Great idea. Easier said than done.

        — I’d be drafting Ryan Murray.

        • Thanks Ruben, The only reason I say trade for the defensman is it’s quicker then “organically growing them in the process”

          I really should have just said, does Tambo become aggressive on the UFA market for a top D-man.

          I was all about Ryan Murray myself until that last WJC game, I can see the speed of Yakupov with Hall, of course this also depends on us finishing dead last and winning the lottery.

          • One bad game and you don’t like Murray? It was more so a game of tough breaks, the kid is legit and probably could play in the NHL next year (If the Oilers get him then he is already better then all but 2).

            Oilers just need a shakeup, I know its easier said then done but when Lowe traded for Pronger (Yes it was a robbery and he was unreal) but just making that splash brings something extra with it. Just shake things up and keep the kids and Gilbert and Smid, and please dump Peckham in any trade they make.

          • No, I should clarify, I liked Murray prior to the WJC and still like him, I think he would be a great pick no doubt about it! However….Yakupov just has that balls out speed. I have to admit to never seeing him prior to the WJC but he made an impression that’s for sure!

          • French Toast Mafia

            After one game you don’t like Murray anymore? You don’t think that guys like pronger , lidstrom, and weber have bad games with some crappy bounces? Murray is an unreal defenseman and is going to be a hell of an NHL defenseman one day. I don’t think that one unlucky game should make you like him any less. Those games just happen sometimes in hockey. If the oil don’t have one of the top couple picks I think Murray would be a perfect pick

          • Romanus

            I agree we need a defenseman! But why bother now? To move up to 24th? At this point you have the draft and FA. Unlikely to get a top dman from a playoff contender at the deadline.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          Drafting a defenseman in the top 5 I think is a mistake. You can not have enough skilled forwards. Picking up a mature defensman who has completed his elc and reached ufa is a proven way to get a top guy. It happens all the time. It can work out well but always always always draft bpa. In my mind that has to be the top flight forward if available and there will be one there to take. If I had to choose a defensman I think I would take Griffin Reinhart. He is big and mobile and has a cannon.

  • LDD:I was wondering that myself.

    Unless Eberle escaped with something very minor, was just held out to be on the safe side and will be back by Wednesday, then subtracting him plus Green and Hartikainen suggests we’ll see another move at forward.

    Somebody is coming in — either from OKC (likely Paajarvi and Petrell) or from ??? Hmm.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      It was suggested over at Lowetide that since our next game is Wednesday they were sent down to help OKC. I think OKC has a game or two before the Oilers play again so it’s possibly a move to get them some more bodies?

      I don’t know if this is the real reason behind sending them down but it does make sense to me at least. Call them or a few others back up before Wednesday as needed.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        you could very well be right… but doesn’t that seem like over playing our hand… I mean are we suddenly that hands on in our asset management that we are flying players back and forth between leagues for each and every game? Didn’t Teubert get called up and sent down a couple of times in one week recently?

        I’m starting to think we are as over-managed in terms of our inter-league movements as we are under-managed in our intra-league acquisitions.

    • justDOit

      As others have already stated, they are probably going back to help OKC for a game or two. I think players are paid by the game, so if they go down and play a couple, it’s also some $$$ in their pockets.

      But I’ve also read rumours that Nashville has asked to see Hemmer’s medical reports.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Robin, is your sense that Whitney’s injury is career threatening? or is there a decent chance that by October he will be ready to go? I had read when it happened last year it was a 14 month recovery.

    That being said, have you heard if Ryan Murray is actually ready to be in the NHL next year like Adam Larsson or Drew Doughty, just step right in?

    So many failed or not as good as expected lottery dmen it is hard to believe (Cam Barker and many others)he is ready. But if he is really the next Scott Niedermayer, draft him please.

  • Don’t pick dmen early in the draft. That doesn’t lead to success.

    Regardless why are we talking draft? There are deals to be made. If we’re out of the hunt who wants who and what are they willing to give up.

    PS. We were out of the hunt from the start, but I pretended like everyone else.

    • Jerk Store

      Certainly I agree that would be exciting, but who is getting the puck on their stick while they are moving in a forward direction? Oilers, as stated ad nauseum, need a stud D – period. The rub is, where or how do we acquire this mensch? Ideally, we could move a few spare parts ala the Pronger acquisition from the Blues, but that is wishful thinking.

      The first question for an incoming GM may be: are you willing to part with one of the big 3 (Hall, RNH, Eberle) to acquire a mid twenties stud D-man who can play conistent plus hockey 30 minutes a game, move the puck and be a physical presence? Would it be prudent to do that? Maybe drafting one of the Russian forwards makes it bearable. Tough to do – all three of these kids look so good. You can try throwing cash at a UFA (assuming they sign here) but then are you tying your hands when your young forwards want to get paid.

      ~Screw it. Let’s trade Hemsky and Eager for Lucic, Dubnyk and Petrell for Lundqvist and Horcoff and a 2nd Rounder for Shea Weber. Problems solved.~

  • I believe Tampa Bay will do something sooner than later to improve thier team. I also think that Montreal needs to do something. Philly might look to ensure that thier secondary scoring is at par with the rest of the conference.
    Our misfortunes are our opportunity to make this team better moving forward. We must look at this as a time to evaluate more of our prospects.

    The Summer of Steve has turned into the Winter of WTF. Staying positive will be hard in the next few weeks but hopefully the veterans on this team will finally show up and we might still have a chance to play some meaningful games in March. If not…..

  • I understand the frustration of our hockey fans in Edmonton, losing sucks! But from the moment in 2009-2010 that the decision was made to rebuild, we are only 2 1/2 years in to the true rebuild, which I’ve read from every hockey mind takes 5 years on average. Not two. The Oilers still need some pieces. For comparison look at Pittsburg, it took Fleury in 2003 all the way to Staal in 2006, with Malkin, Letang, and Crosby in between to draft and mature. With emphasis on mature, to win the Cup in 2009 (they also challenged for the cup in 2008). So far Edmonton is only had 3 years of quality picks (Hall, Eberle and RNH) with the 2 years of maturing. There has been no focus in draft/rebuild on a top quality Goaltenders or defencemen. I Understand it will take a few more years of drafting high to win. I want a team that wins the cup.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      We aren’t quite their yet, but if he can stay at even 85 % of his recent pace he’ll have SIUTBOHC.

      For all the negatives from this year, at least we’ve got 2 positives. Omark is in the AHL and its reasonable to think he’ll be back overseas after this year and Gangner looks like he might have a .75ppg season dispite the poor start.

  • I have a solution to help improve our teams situation………let’s all stop watching the Oilers until Lowe, Renny, and Tamby get fired? We all have to do this collectively or it will not work. When the network sees no one is watching, all he’ll will break loose, and this will be the catalyst needed for Katz to figure out something is wrong!

    Now back to reality, we have been told to be patient. You see Lowe and Tamby have a plan………the problem is, it is s secret. We are in year three of a rebuild and it is a five year plan …….so we only have this year and two more years of frustrating hockey to watch……yipeeeee!

    Now if we had a real GM, ( Tallon or Burke etc) that could sell us the real vision of a re- build, we might not be so cranky. Instead all we are told is to be patient, so I guess we have no other option.

    Just how Lowe and Tamby thought we were going to contend this year for a playoff is a total mystery. All the experts, and armchair critics saw gaping holes in our team but not Tamby and Lowe, to them this is a process…….you see we abandoned the notion of trading, not to mention bringing in UFA’a. All elite players know that this is the organization that traded Wayne Gretzky for five no names and a bag full of money……….why would any UFA want to come to an organization that had that kind of reputation……..any ways I digress.

    Where do we go from here?……….nowhere but up.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    All of these guys could be traded by the deadline. The only player in this list that has potential to be a bad trade is Gagner. Oilers need to put these guys soft games soon.

    Khabibulin

    Hemsky

    Smyth

    Omark

    Gagner

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Management is thinking how can I protect my job, putting in their opinion the best players available.

    Fans are thinking how can this team get better in the next couple of years.

    That list of players Stan puts up, are players that make this team better. That is why they have not been traded.

    Oilers need a forward thinking GM with a plan. Until that happens Oilers will have high picks in the drafts for quite awhile.

    • justDOit

      That’s a unique opinion. But don’t let those thoughts get the best of you – Chicago this team is NOT!

      The Bleakhawks’ former GM made some horrible mistakes wrt contracts: he gave Campbell and Huet way too much money, and he missed getting the qualifying offers to 3 of his RFAs. He had to then dole out the $$$ to them or else they would have gone UFA and he would have lost them for nothing.

      While Pittsburgh has had to move some good players to manage their cap, they have tasted quite a lot of NHL success without have to ‘dismantle’. Rest easy.