I’m not sure if what I saw on the ice at Rexall Place today was an exhibition of frustration or a sign there’s still some fight left in the Edmonton Oilers, or maybe both, but I didn’t mind the display of nastiness a bit.

With two meaningless games remaining to play out the string in a season that’ll see the Oilers miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year (again by a $5 cab ride), and team going through its paces under Tom Renney, Darcy Hordichuk and Ryan Whitney got after each other and Andy Sutton took a nasty swipe at Linus Omark. One, I’m guessing, that left a welt.

First, Hordichuk pounded Whitney into the side boards during a one-on-one drill with a hit he clearly didn’t appreciate. Whitney picked himself up off his pants and launched himself at Hordichuk with everything he could muster. Hordichuk dropped his shoulder and buried him again for good measure. Whitney hasn`t been hit that hard in a real game this season.

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Later, Omark got under Sutton’s considerably bigger skin – I’m not exactly sure how because I saw only the end of the exchange – prompting the big blueliner to deliver a two-handed chop to the back of his leg. Omark didn’t look back, perhaps for fear of another, but Renney immediately went over to Sutton and gave him a WTF?

I hope the Oilers have some of that left for the Anaheim Ducks Thursday in their final home game of 2011-12, and for the Vancouver Canucks, against whom they close out the season at Rogers Arena Saturday.

Where was this piss and vinegar in, say, December?


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About the only thing as bad as losing as often as the Oilers have the past three seasons is becoming a loser, and there’s a difference. Indifference often means acceptance, and I wasn’t seeing any of that on the ice today or hearing it with the players I talked to.

While it’s cold consolation for fans who’ve been sold a rebuild and bought into it in the absence of success on the ice or something as novel as playoff contention in February, March or April, the players I’m talking to aren’t shrugging off the defeat and ineptitude we’ve watched. Not a substitute for actually winning now and again, but better than the alternative.

"Everyone in here is a competitor. That’s why we made it to the NHL," said Jordan Eberle. "As hockey players, you want to win. A winning attitude is huge for us.

"You can’t let a losing mentality creep into your game because that’s when it really starts to hurt. For the most part, we’ve kept that out. With inconsistent play and injuries, we haven’t had the season we wanted. We’ve definitely made progress, but we have a lot of work to do."

While the Oilers are 11 points ahead of the 62 they managed the past two seasons and there are indications of improvement, what fans don’t want is talk about the process of rebuilding to become a crutch. That’s fair ball. Improvements in points and goal-differential and all the other silver lining stuff you can find if you look hard enough doesn’t make all the losing OK. The players I talked to seem acutely aware of that. Again, a good sign.


"Our goal is to make the playoffs and that’s it, really," said Sam Gagner, who hates losing as much as anybody on this roster I’ve talked to, which is understandable since he hasn’t had a playoff sniff in five years here. "You can talk about improvement or different things like that, but, at the end of the day, that has to be our focus. You have to have that fire that, you know?"

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Sure, fire is a good place to start. You also need leadership, skill, depth, chemistry, a little size and a lot of luck, although good teams seem to make their own far more readily than teams like the Oilers do. This edition of the Oilers doesn’t have any of the above in sufficient quantities, and that’s the work in progress GM Steve Tambellini is charged with.

Like I said off the top, Hordichuk knocking Whitney on his backside twice and Sutton giving Omark the business end of his lumber doesn’t change the reality of what’s been a disappointing season for the Oilers and or serve to mask some obvious shortcomings. There’s no sure way of saying it’ll be any type of catalyst for success down the road. But it is an ingredient.

A bit of fight and frustration long-suffering Oilers fans can relate to, and a sight I was happy to see.

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

  • There is absolutely no reason the Oilers can’t be a competitive playoff team next year with a few good signings, trades and the draft. This “develop our talent within” bullship has got to stop its getting freaking old!

    TSN- asked the pannel what Canadian team did they think would be in the playoffs next season? Two picked MTL and the other picked the Jets. They picked MTL over the Oilers and they are only two points ahead of us right now! That tells you what the outside world thinks of the Oilers, until proven otherwise I tend to agree with them.

  • DieHard

    By mindset, I’m actually talking about organizational mindset. One that everybody adheres to in achieving a successful end. One that we are half way thru.

  • O.C.

    A schooled individual with a proven business mind should probably be the Director of Operations. He would implement a sound business protocol that includes due diligence.

    Hiring jocks to prepare this brings expected results.

  • bazmagoo

    Last season everyone complained about the Oilers getting pushed around too much and losing too many faceoffs.

    This season we win more faceoffs (47.8% compared to 44.2% last season), we don’t get pushed around as much (note: as much, we still get pushed around more than I would like) and we complain about the signings that changed that.

    Here’s hoping we take some more steps towards consistency next season.

  • bazmagoo

    Some interesting dialogue between Die Hard and Tiger…. First off,,, I am not a huge fan of Tabelilni…When you discount the gimme first rounders .. there’s not much that he has done over the four year period. You can debate when the rebuild started, but the fact is the guy has been here 4 yrs.. still floundering in the 28/30 spot in the standings. Putting up with Renney, who should have been fired in December.
    I always have burning question… is Tambelini
    a REAL GM, or is he Lowes Puppet.Anyone know?
    Or is this dumb notion on my part.

  • bazmagoo

    BRING BACK BIG STEVE MACINTYRE!!!!!! Or sign BIG JOHN SCOTT and/or GEORGE PARROS and/or BAD BRIAN MCGRATTAN!!!!! RESULT= no more messing with skill players = less injuries =PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!