As contrasts go, they don’t get any more jarring than the one that exists today between the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos, whose CFL season just came to an abrupt end in a 42-26 ass-kicking against the Toronto Argos.
While nobody is humming Happy Days Are Here Again where the Oilers are concerned after six straight years out of the playoffs — and no clear picture of when we’ll even have an NHL season with owners and the NHLPA locked in a stalemate — only the most jaded of critics would deny the Oilers are headed in the right direction.
For all the consternation in hockey circles around town during these last six lean years, and there’s been plenty, there’s a stockpile of young talent here in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and free-agent gem Justin Schultz, to name just four. Holes? Sure. Questions? Obviously. There is still much work to do after the puck eventually drops in NHL rinks again.
Even with the questions and allowing that some cards to fall right, there’s not a lot of doubt that better times are ahead for fans of the Oilers. There is reason for optimism. While frustration and impatience occasionally clouds the ability to see that pending change in fortune, the disarray the Esks are in these days provides a juxtaposition that brings things into focus.
One team is on the rise. Another is plummeting.
THAT WAS UGLY
The CFL in general and the Eskimos in particular have been a nice distraction during the NHL lockout, but if your interest wanes as mine now does with the Esks out after getting stomped in Hogtown, what remains is to wait for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr to pull their heads out and strike a deal. That, or to duly note what a helluva mess the Eskimos are.
Eric Tillman is already out the door as GM. Can Kavis Reed, a good man with a knack for making bad coaching decisions, be far behind after what we saw against the Argos? Is there a sane reason behind sitting out Hugh Charles for even one series in favor of Cory Boyd? How many other calls by Reed this season fall under the category, to be charitable, of questionable?
And what of the key position of quarterback, which started to go south with Tillman’s decision to trade Ricky Ray to Toronto, thinking Steven Jyles was the answer? Jyles didn’t get a sniff today. Kerry Joseph is 39 years old, Matt Nichols, thought by many to be the quarterback of the future, will have to overcome the horrendous looking dislocated ankle he suffered today to factor into the mix next season.
While the Oilers have pieces to add and tweaking at certain positions to get the mix right, I’d rather face the task that awaits Steve Tambellini and Ralph Krueger than the tear down and overhaul the Eskimos need to undertake if they hope to return to respectability.
Fans of the Oilers have already endured most of the short-term pain that comes with the do-over they’ve been treated to in recent seasons. The pay-off is coming. Even the most strident fan of the Eskimos can’t say the same about their football team. It’s ugly, and likely to get worse before it gets better.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.