PATIENCE, PERSPECTIVE AND PERSEVERANCE

Not enough wins means the Edmonton Oilers aren’t progressing at the rate they should in the rebuild. Too many wins means the Oilers risk dropping back in the draft lottery. I’d say fans of the Oilers are a tough crowd, but fickle is more accurate.

In Oil Country, it seems many fans aren’t happy unless they’ve got issues to be unhappy about. Consternation is the constant. Some fans are of the mind that if the Oilers don’t show a marked improvement in Western Conference standings after back-to-back seasons of 62 points and 30th-place finishes, the rebuild is off the rails.

Others, eye-balling an opportunity to snag the highest possible pick yet again after welcoming Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in the last two drafts, won’t be impressed with today’s 6-3 win over the feeble Columbus Blue Jackets because it puts another top-two pick in jeopardy.

Of course, considering the Oilers are coming off a season in which they went 25-45-12 and finished a $50 cab ride short of the playoff spot in dead-last, they can improve significantly in terms of points – and it looks like they will as they have a record of 31-36-9 for 71 points with six games to play – without actually moving up many places in the standings.

As for their place in the lottery, there’s every possibility the Oilers could land as good a prospect with the third or fourth selection as with the first or second. Only time will tell. If it works out the balls fall the right way and the Oilers get one of the first two picks, we’ll have gnashing of teeth over choosing Nail Yakupov or Mikhael Grigorenko and debate about choosing either one of them – because they’re Russian.

Oiler fans are passionate. And fickle. A bag of mixed nuts.

SIX TO GO . . .

I’m not going to start waxing poetic about the rebuild or the job that GM Steve Tambellini has done because the shortcomings and warts on the team that he’s put together are many and have (and will continue to be) discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere. There is much work remaining.

That said, despite the shortcomings in personnel, a spate of injuries and a couple of months where nothing went right, the Oilers are going into their final six games with six more wins and nine points than they had in 82 games last season. That might be in spite of Tambellini and coach Tom Renney rather than because of them, but it’s a fact.

Having gone 3-0-1 on the road trip and 5-0-2 in their last seven games overall, the Oilers are headed for the wire on as much of roll and playing as well as they have since getting off to a 9-3-2 start. Right now, they’re doing it without Taylor Hall, thanks to a lot of really good work by Jordan Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

There is progress here. Not enough of it, no doubt, for dreamers who were talking about playoffs-or-bust in pre-season, but progress nonetheless. It won’t necessarily be accurately reflected in the standings or even the final points total, for that matter. Still, I can’t imagine anybody actually believes this edition of the team is not decidedly more talented and better equipped moving forward than it was one or two years ago.

Patience. Perspective. Perseverance.

ABOUT RYAN JONES

For a guy who’d been written off more often than a three-martini lunch heading into this season, Ryan Jones continues to SIUTBOHC in a way even his backers couldn’t have foreseen. Good for him (I haven’t rubbed that in as often as Lowetide has used the photo of Ms. Oklahoma yet, have I?).

Snagged from Nashville by way of the waiver wire, there wasn’t much love for the former Miami of Ohio captain when he first pulled on Oilers silks. Despite tallying 18-7-25 last season, many still weren’t convinced Jones was a very good hockey player. Cynics eye-balled the underlying numbers and didn’t hesitate to blow-off Jones as a poser and pretender. There was plenty of insight like this bit, from a poster calling himself OilLeak:

"Jones was shooting at a unsustainable rate last year and will not duplicate those efforts this year. Jones will also have far less ice time with the added depth to the roster. Jones is also a terrible hockey player, true story."

OilLeak couldn’t have been more wrong, of course. With a goal and two assists against the Blue Jackets, Jones now 17-15-32 with a half-dozen games to play. His shooting percentage is only down marginally at 13.0 compared to 14.3 last season and his ice time is up to 15:16, compared to 13:50.

Jones is an effective third-liner who can move into the top-six in a pinch, as he’s doing now with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, and a good penalty killer who brings some hustle and energy to the line-up. He’s a good player. True story.

WHILE I’M AT IT

— Sam Gagner sits at 17-29-46 and has a chance to reach 50 points for the first time in his career. His previous best was his rookie season, when he tallied 13-36-49.

Considering Gagner has missed seven games and had a difficult start to the year because of a sprained ankle, I like the determination he’s shown, even if it’s been an uneven season full of ups and too many downs. Has he answered questions about being a fit in the top-six mix?

— Still on Gagner, if you’re not sold on him, fine, but skip the asinine argument that goes, "Yeh, but if you take out that eight-point game . . ." You can’t just "take out" that eight-point game because it messes up your argument, just like you can’t ignore a stretch of bad games. It’s all part of the body of work.

— Another concussion for Theo Peckham is a troubling issue at this early stage in his career. Peckham was knocked out of the Columbus game after a hit by Rick Nash and a follow-up collision with Colton Gillies. He missed games earlier this season with concussion-like symptoms and was concussed last season in a scrap with Nathan Horton.

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

  • Rama Lama

    Robin your article seems to suggest that Jones is the new Smyth, with youth on his side.

    I like Smyth but not in the top six……the question is, just where does he fit? I’m starting to think sigining him to a deal is not in our best interest, given all the prospects that could make the team.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    We’re not all as fickle as we seem.

    Heading into the season I wanted to see a 20 pt bump and coming out of the season it will be considered a disappointment when they don’t get there.

    Draft position be damned…

  • D

    I’ve always been a fan of Jones. Players like him are needed in the dressing room – they bring a certain level of fun to the game just by the way they look at life. He reminds me of Dave Lumley in many ways – not the best player on the ice, but an important element to a developing team looking for a spark.

  • D

    Robin how bad will the bloodbath be in Calgary when the Falmes are finally eliminated from contention? Will feaster survive the inevitable culling? The Flames are in dire need of a new direction.

    Speaking of cullings who survives to lead the Canadians next season? When I listen carefully I can hear the bloodthirsty screams from LA Belle Province all the way to my home in the east end of Edmonton. What has happened to the once proup Canadians franchise?

    Toronto? Is there a team out there more arrogant and entitled than the TML? Burke has soon wore out his welcome I think.Will they ever have a player from Ontario play for them ever again?

    The Oilers finish with 77-79 points and I will be very happy. The emergence of Eberle and RNH has been a delight. Hall needs a center better than Gagne. I like Gagne but Hall needs someone who meshes with his style of play better than Gagne. Dibnyk has shown me enough to feel comfortable having him as our #1 next year. Bulin if he returns needs to be regulated to 20 games next season. The D is a work in progress that might be help with the addition of a Ryan Murray. My biggest ? is who will coach this team next year. I do not think Renny and his staff return. Overall the Oilers have meet expectations and have shown improvement in key areas. The learning curve is huge for our big but this season has shown us that the kids are capable and determined to move this team in a positive direction.

    Lastly. Do the “yotes” move to Quebec City this fall? I say its 90-11 for a move to QC. Go Nordiques.

  • paul wodehouse

    For ClydeFrog:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    call me Harold Ballard but the thing of it is

    Russians quit…IMO

    they are quitters … y’can’t trust them to fulfill anything … look at the Great 8… he quits everything on a regular basis & he’s a coach killer … Radulov quit the Preds …there was a Russian who quit on DougMcLean in Columbus years ago…

    must be generational Frogman…back in the day the Russians came over here and played their bags off…and starred mightily… Makarov was the oldest Rookie of the Year at what 30ish…lotsa good ones Larionov, Fetisov, Fedorov and a bunch more…now they have that sense of entitlement that just pisses me off … just like Harold in his Bunker…imo Oilers don`t NEED a Russian

  • Quicksilver ballet

    When does Oilers management finally get involved in this rebuild?

    The league has done fine serving us up Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins on a silver platter. When will the Oiler brass get off their duffs and start doing something?

  • paul wodehouse

    Brownlee,

    You are the Jarome Iginla of hockey writers / bloggers. You’re a skill player, but you’ve got some sandpaper and you’re not shy to throw down.

    Well done, sir.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    Awesome. Can you do the same to Madjam?

    Just to add to your comments Gagner is ranked just outside the top 90 forwards in scoring. If we ignore where we think the offensive numbers should be and take into account the state of scoring in the new NHL Gagner is a legitimate top 6 forward being just outside a top line player in terms of offensive production. His numbers are close to players like Briere, Jagr, Stepan, Grabovski, etc.(Just take a look at the top 100 forwards in points on NHL.com)

    Jones is a solid hockey player who’s value will be seen much more when the Oilers solidify their bottom 6 by adding a couple of guys who have a defined niche to their game (hitters, hard forecheckers, good spade workers, sounds like Hartikainen!). I’m not saying they are the same player but a guy like Shawn Thornton has shown his value more in Boston because of good balance within Boston’s bottom 6.

    I agree that these two are not part of the problem so it’s interesting when fans/writers harp on these two. They’ve both been better overall than Ryan Smyth. The nostalgia has worn off on him, he’s lost at least a couple of steps and I’d be pissed if they brought him back for anything more than 2M for one year. He holds some value but he is a 2nd-3rd line guy, not a 1st-2nd line forward anymore. Before people compare numbers I’m basing this on the consist play and compete level and Smyth has been completely gassed out since around the half way point of the season. Giving him about 15 mins a game max seems better for the team and for him next season.