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.


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.

  • Spydyr

    The entire Eskimo program is in disarray. It has been for years.The Oilers is not much better Other than ending at the bottom of the league for far to long.What has the Oilers so called brain-trust done.Everyone wanted Schultz that was a no brainer.

    Pro scouting is atrocious. Not having a farm team for years is unforgivable.

    Now the arena mess.

    What is next trading too much for Loungo?

    A second round draft pick is too much IMO.

    • book¡e

      Yeah, everyone wanted shultz.

      Which team got him again?

      Also, in case you haven’t noticed, the team now has a pretty good farm team and very impressive development system.

  • Skidplate

    It’s so easy to be a Horcoff hater. Yet when the deal was signed, I’d bet not one of you complained at the time…(I know I didn’t, I am always on the lookout for bad deals)

      • Maybe I turned a deaf ear to all the criticism, but all I remember is:




        Albeit, those comments could have been mine…

    • Spydyr

      At the time I honestly said way to much and way to long… What kills me is you see Horcoff up front behind Fehr in the negotiations… I know he’s a union member but really but really anytime u pay Shawn horcoff 5.5 mil the league is in trouble.

    • Dipstick

      WARNING–extremly long Couch-Coach reality check breakdown!!!Must have hockey sooooon!!!…

      I wasnt a Horcoff hater and when we offered him the contract I was shocked,I didnt think we were that desperate even then,and to top it all off Lowe dragged Horcoff to a few high profile international games using his influences to shine him up before the sales job.I dont want to ruffle Lowe right now because he has evolved so much in the last year,he is in a different league right now.But the facts state that there was a lot of salesmanship and tactical planning surrounding the entire Horcoff issue,some of the things Kevin Lowe did back then may be the reasons we have the stud core we have today.I refuse to second guess a record like this one,it cannot be fairly done ,questions can be asked but only to learn how to pull off this kind of generalship.Kudos to the master Sensei Lowe.

      And I have historicly found it easier to critique Lowe than credit him,but if integrity is used and the focus kept forward where it belongs,you have to admit its dam nice to have Kevin Lowe on your team when you are looking in the rear-view mirror.I recently watched some very early Oilers games and I had somehow forgotten the presence Lowe had on the ice and the tough as nails effort he gave every night,very Pronger-like.Its almost better to look the other way and just let him do his thing,he finds a way to win.

      And the Horcoff debacle is over anyways because now he is a perfect 3rd liner on what is looking like a Championship team.As a 3rd liner he fits in perfectly.He could definately play up like Smyth and Hemmer but from the 3rd line these guys will be devestating.

      The Eskimos have no identity,no esprit de corps,they need a catalyst that can be initiated quickly and really gel them together,the contracts and longevity of players within specific systems makes the CFL a very generic difficult place to operate a superior system in.So many players come and go that you realy need a system that can captivate everyone and be understood by all but not be so generic as to be less than superior.We had a very good team this year,excellent personell,and we showed a last second burst at the end of the year,when we somehow found a rallying point,you would need to ask kavis what it was,but it nearly worked,we were just a few adjustment from a five game win streak to finish the year,i didnt watch the Playoff game as I knew we would start our more experienced QB and that alone was to much to stomach—there is a time to call a spade a spade,Niclols rocked and should have been given the team.

      The Eskimos experimented with some dynamic managment tactics when they righted the ship,when Stamps lit it up and they began to view the field a little differently,but the change wasnt early enough apparently.And kavis didnt have the support he needed to make a dynamic managment strategy work 100%,close and he tried it on his own ,but not quite.

      You need to take risks sometimes and go with what is working for the entire team without trying to micromanage to much, and as I knew the QB duties would go to the traditional player as opposed to the current dynamic leader on the field I wouldnt even watch the game,I knew Nichols would be asked to come in and clean up a mess,which as I hear is exactly what happened.Kavis needs a better system,we have good enough players,we need a superior system consistantly executed,one based on dynamic managment which is the best way to engage teams in the CFL–an offense first league.Maybe Kavis needs to call moma2 and ask about the NewAge Football System??Ha ha ha.

      Both of these teams need intuative dynamic managment consulting done immediatly and that is ALL they need done,both organisations have everything they need from a structural organisational standpoint to produce Championship results,the real problem is that they have no team personalitys,they are stuck in mediocre-land with the pack.There is a need for a new vision and managment style one catalysed by something that cannot be defended against–intuition and dynamic tactical awareness.Both teams play a possesion/transition type of game where you need to initiate as much offensive punch as you can for the entire game,there is no room for defensive mindsets in sports like these.And this means there is a need for a new managment style,an unconventional one that produces superior results.Same problem every pro team has—this type of assistance doesnt grow on trees,isnt advertised in the book as “Intuative Dynamic Managment Consultant” and doesnt come knocking on your door either–you need to go find it.And even when you find such help how do you validate the potential results??MMMMmmm,same old problems.

      I think the Oilers could very well be in the three bottom spots come draft day again,because unless we see this exact dynamic managment I described above executed by the organisation we will pick up exactly where we left off last year,I havenet even read a fair and descriptively accurate assesment of last years implosion.

      The Oilers havent fixed anything at all yet,we are fresh off of watching the Kings execute “our” best gameplan to a Stanley Cup,thats all we have done so far,waiting for the kids to suddenly and magiclly mature is a pipedream,the future looks no brighter than two years ago,frankly.We cant expect to rely on the big three and expect to make the playoffs unless they all show marked improvement soon on faceoffs and on o-zone penetration with terminal results.So far only Magnus and Yakupov are showing an elevation of their games in terms of youngsters,Omark doesnt count until we hear Krueger endorse him but he has done something special this year ,he was always penciled in for me he has an amazing special type of small mans game like Fleury had,special.Tuebert has evolved markedly as well.

      I have no reason to believe that the Oilers are capable of choosing or initiating a superior system of play that can eclipse the sucess levels they achieved last year,I have heard statments by Ralph Krueger about an increased offensive awareness and some excellent sales pitches that are expected from someone with dynamic communication experience as he has.I have every reason to take Ralph at his word and will continue to do so until he encourages me otherwise.But this is still just my own decision to be loyal to Ralphs intentions,I have no results based data to use to support the potential improvments.There are no historical NHL results to base anything Ralph may be theorising on,its all unproven at this point and simply conjecture and high hopes.

      In my opinion the Oilers last year were forced to accept a transition away from defensive minded hockey to spite managments wishes.there was a catalyst present that kept pushing the team in a new direction.They finally late in the year aknowledged a catalyst that was attatched to the bulk of their sucessful play, once they identified it and found it to be unconventional but accurate they made a tactical decision to recruit as close a’conventional” facsimile to the original source or catalyst of that positive change as they could find—enter Mac T– a solid respected Professional hockey mind.Excellent choice that brings reason for hope.

      At this point I expect to see the exact type of system that Mac-T always wanted to use.When we went to the final with Mac-T we didnt have the skill we have today,people dont know how offensive that system really was just remember this,had we opened it up in the regular season like we did in the playoffs Pisani might have scored 40 goals and he had the shot to do just that.

      The problem is that the entire NHL systemwise has evolved a lonnnnng way since then,and the adjustments that mac-T was ahead of the curve in making back then are just buttered toast today.The most consistant execution of Mac-Ts system would at best give us an result equal to last years,simply because the league has evolved so far beyond those adjustments.

      Personally I do not see anything encouraging other than Ralph Kruegers brave stance.I am watching the kids all one way or another still failing to improve on the details of the game,face-offs,positioning,adjustments,60min focus,I see them playing in the AHL and reverting back to old habits from last year to support that system.Nelson finally split them up to force them to evolve a little individually with new linemates,good job Jelly–I mean Nelly–you gotta know moma2 is coming for you sooner or later.You keep up the good work,things are on track.

      I am seeing some vets doing exactly what the kids arent doing,Laddy is making a focused effort to step into the play when it is obviously open and he is working on doing it only when it is a bang on opportunity,his decision making is evolving very well,Petrell has made a choice to work on his offense as has a favorite of mine for his work ethic and cojones Omark,Yakupov has continued to work on his overall game and bring it up a notch allround,Peckham has gotten into the best shape of his career,Hemsky has gotten healthy and is working on his shot,his stats lie he has hit a LOT of posts so far,Sam worked out hard this summer in a new environment and with a new focus,Whitney seems to be healthy although with him and his mobility issues nothing less than 100% will do he MUST be able to engage a rush game but he has worked especially hard in the off-season.There are lots of examples of hope,but not all is as it could be yet.

      Kabbybulin is an anomaly we dont know what is brewin or not brewing with him ,ever,its like he is a media ghost.The guy who still could help us get into the playoffs hasnt been anything but transparent.Dubby seems to have become a politician,we never hear about him working on his game anymore,he is pulling his own version of a Cpt.Louongo–getting sidetracked to support other people–at the expense of his development.Just at a time when the real Louongo is literally breathing down his neck salivating the thought of ten years with this core group.Horcoff or Smyth or Belanger or whoever should have stepped up and gotten Dubby out of that dam mess.So now our supposedly next One isnt even in the right mindset–its not about his ability,its about the situations SUITABILITY,this is our young goalie we need to micromanage him better.

      We havent addressed our 4th line scoring issues or our deterrant issues,the wolf-pack mentality is fine but its not the entire solution to system integrity.Laraque hasnt been actively recruited and he is an obvious requirement,for his puck possesion and scoring ability believe it or not.We will likely miss Sutton and his size and deterrant value is very hard to replace.

      I am not sure we are able and willing to support any system we play because there is a historical unwillingness in E-town to rush in replacements,we play guys at 90%–85%–75%-its like Vagas on a Saturday night– there is zero system continuity confidence here anymore–guys on the farm are not properly respected ,so I cannot help but forcast another year of excuses and injuries across the board,the catalyst for those excuses hasnt been removed so why should they disappear.maybe Ralph will promise us he will only play guys who are 100% healthy—ooops i forgot the old BS line”eveyone plays with little dings and nicks its part of hockey no ones really ever at 100%”ha ha ha ha.

      I am not even sure our support staff are on par now,there were a lot of equipment issues last year for some reason.Skate problems stick problems,ice issues,logistics issues with travel and hotels,players getting sick in bunches from improper isolation, the list goes on and on.

      I think the Esks and the Oilers have the POTENTIALS to go in championship directions,however actualising those potentials will require a component neither organisation has been able to quantify,identify,and personify,there is a missing key they both require.Intuative Dynamic Managment–the Teflon Don of the world of competative tactics.Its the majic in a can all Championship team find a way to open up on opponents.

      When you are losing the logical thing to try is something new,the illogical thing to do is the same things just slower,that what getting back to basics is,its illogical,these Pro teams need something NEW.Something that incorporates all they now embrace and ADDS a new component.

      Look I am just some fan who doesnt know anything about pro sports,I can only sit at home and play couch-coach,and we all know thats just for entertainment purposes,fun.

      Its nice to have somewhere to vent the free time thats hanging around with no HOCKEY available.

      • Wanyes bastard child

        “WARNING–extremly long Couch-Coach reality check breakdown!!!Must have hockey sooooon!!!…”

        No worries dude, I never read what you have to say anyways 🙂

        • This is like the final harrah for NewAgeSys,alas I am taking a shot at returning to the workforce after a very long and still very real injury stoppage,uhealed,unhealthy and rarin to go,just like WCB likes it to be!!!Partially subluxed Necrotic hips -check,chronic recurring soft and connective tissue damage–check,fractured spine- check,thorough and complete nerve dissassociation and tweaking-check,recurring bouts of high end inflamation -check,all kinds of really cool freaky compensatory muscle growth in the oddest places-check.Just look at what could happen to you if you get caught up in WCBs crooked web of deciet.Thousands of Albertans and Canadians are in my boat,but I am not taking the conventional route and rolling over,I am reaching out to EveryMan and EveryWoman here and other places to keep my perspective moving forward constantly.

          I tend to be a nigh-owl,writing is better chronic pain therapy than Pharmacuticals which i havent used in six years,yes that right I unequivoclly said NO– no thanks– to the Oxycocet and the Percocet and the myriad of really intersting anti-inflammatories doctors have to give you,those things make you numb and comfortable but tend to reduce your lifespan dramaticly if you “google”them—and to think pre-injury I didnt even know how to turn on a computer!!!Sometimes one door closing simply opens another to somewhere new.

          All you regular writers here many who make a living at it I think ,can obviously tell when someone who hasnt spent their life writing and communicating beyond a blue-collar working class EveryPerson level is posting—I am proud of my background and newly discovered hacking/ writing skills and have had lots of fun using my interest in Hockey as a sort of curative therapy.

          I understand that everyone doesnt post long messages,but variety is the spice of life isnt it?

          What I can say is thank you to everyone , thanks for your patience and acceptance to all the regulars here and to anyone new, this is an incredibly informative,interactive and generally great place to hang your hat if you are an Oilers fan or a hockey fan in general, it is what it is I guess–scroll through long posts if you choose–if you are bored hang around theres usually something for everyone somewhere in my diatrades.

          I am ok with the OP deleting any posts they feel take away from their articles,I will not complain–I generally try to respect the direction the OP is going,but I am not perfect by a longshot.No harm no foul,I am just a fan having some fun,and the professoanl writers here are earning a living,the last thing I would want to do is take anything away from that dynamic.I think the quality of their work is generally so high that it stimulates good discussion,every time.I dont want to interfere with that I want to add to it if i can.As a writer its probably pretty hollow to not hear any discourse about your work.Stimulating thought and conversation is kinda the point of writing,right??Replys are like than yous.

          Hey!!!Its Monday morning and no matter how you spin the dice we are one step CLOSER to NHL hockey,arent we!!!

          • Czar

            “This is like the final harrah for NewAgeSys,alas I am taking a shot at returning to the workforce after a very long and still very real injury stoppage,uhealed,unhealthy and rarin to go,just like WCB likes it to be!!!”

            At least you didn’t take a gun into the WCB office dude. I’m pretty sure some folks here would have used one on you after a few of your lengthy posts if given the chance. Cheers and good luck,but I suspect it’s not the last we’ve heard from you.

          • book¡e

            Thanks for this post NAS! I think its great that you take the time to comment and to join the conversation. I am glad that people don’t feel like they need to be a professional writer to comment here. I come from a rural background with a Dad who can barely read, but who did a damn fine job raising me and my siblings. I learned a tremendous amount from that man who never got past grade 8.

            I just happened to stumble down another path spending far too much time in schools and universities, so I can write without fear of being harassed for ‘comma usage’ or other such semantic crimes (I wait with great anticipation for someone to point out some egregious error in this very post).

            Your comments add to the discussion and are perfectly readable – even if you commit a few grammar related fouls here and there.

            I think that those of us who have had the advantage of a good publicly funded education and who are writing in our first language perhaps need to take some caution in our attacks based upon spelling, language, comma use, and so on.

            I would rather that people feel comfortable and welcome to join the conversation regardless of their writing abilities. One of the things that I find so great about ON and Lowetide’s site is how many different individuals I ‘meet’ here. This site crosses many boundaries in terms of age, livelihoods, gender, geography and so on.

            So, no more comma comments from me. I will argue with people based upon the arguments they make, not on their elegance in writing. With that said, people who cannot spell Gagner correctly at this point deserve to be excommunicated from ON, whipped with piano wire and then thrown in a pit of salt-water.

  • Oilertown

    Have to agree with Brownlee the Fab 5 are going no where. There is other places to cut to make things work. Such as all the Contracts coming off the books in the next few years.

  • Dipstick

    Sadly, I am old enough to remember the ’80s, when both teams dominated. We came to expect that just by naming Edmonton “The City of Champions” it would remain so forever. We were so naive.

    • Mark-LW

      You’re taking it with me right now,ha ha.Maybe they need me in the room with Bettman and Fehr??Whattda ya think??Lock em both in there and let NewAgeSys have at em??

  • RexLibris

    First, I actually have to hand it to NewAgeSys, that takes time and commitment, and trust me, I know. That is perhaps the longest comment I’ve ever seen on the Nations – and I think I was the previous title-holder.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand…

    The rebuild phase in the CFL, so far as I know, takes less time on the field than it does in the NHL on the ice. Players are drafted later, move around more, and there is the massive talent pool south of the border.

    That being said, the toughest part of rebuilding a hockey team is drafting the right talent at the right position. The toughest part of rebuilding this football team has been and will continue to be finding the right management people for the right positions.

    The organization has been misguided or dysfunctional in the management department for some time now, and the problems on the field have been taken as a problem when in fact they have been only a symptom, in my opinion.

    I’m a hard marker on the Eskimos, far more so than I am for the Oilers. And I have been thoroughly demoralized with this franchise for the past twelve years.

    For what it is worth, I’ll be cheering on the Argos and should they fail, the Alouettes. Ricky Ray deserves another Grey Cup and I’m not too proud to cheer for his success in another city. Anthony Calvillo is a deserving athlete and person and I have great respect for the organization Jim Popp has built.

    If Calgary wins I may vomit.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    Unfortunately (especially for this Alouettes fan) in a 6 team league it is far easier to re-build, re-tool, and regain superiority. 4 of 6 make the playoffs, and 3 good games with a healthy squad can win the cup. It’s a different scenario, and even though the Esks seem to be in an unintentional self-destruct mode, they likely have a a shorter road to contention than the Oilers do (and certainly shorter than the Oilers did).

  • what i gather from the Eskimo, “If its broke dont fix it”.”We are smarter than everyone else”.”Its Not Kerrys Fault”.Putting Nichols in down thirty points meant he had to stand in the pocket longer to try for the big plays.Reed has to go

  • “Kerry gives us our best chance to win”. On what planet? Reed went to the wall with Joseph and lost. Fine.Move on. New GM.New QBs.New OC. New Coach? The Eskimo’s have not developed QB’s for years. The Ray era put a kibosh on that aspect of the Eskimo’s player development.Will Nichols be the guy? Who knows. We know Jyles and Joseph are not. Joseph would make a great coach.Bring him back as a QB would send the wrong message.

    Reed? Body of work? Tough call. Definitely room for improvement. Would I keep him? I would. But the rope would be a short one.

    GM? Ed Hervey has earned his stripes and its his job to lose.

    OC? Would Matt Dunigan consider the job? OR is he happy in the TSN booth.

    Oilers/Barons. A lost NHL season might just be what this team needs to develop their players properly. Certainly great as a team building exercise to have all that youth and talent on the bus in OKC. Boys on the Bus 2.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I think the Eskimos have been, historically, a far more arrogant organization than the Oilers. And that’s saying something. They’ve taken the fanbase here for granted for decades, and were far more skilled with manipulating the system in the pre-cap years than anyone else, simply because they were far more flush with cash than anyone else. Now that there’s a significantly more even playing field, and they no longer have the Trappers as a revenue stream to fill roster holes at the most convenient of times, things have changed, and they can’t adapt. Tilman was an embarrassing desperation hire, and said a lot about how far the Eskimos have deviated from their core values. Regardless, when they sold the Trappers, I was done with them. They can deal with the curse of Homer now.


  • Chainsawz

    Totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but I normally count on twitter to let me know there are new blogs here at ON. I can’t stand the ON twitter account. Before I’d come by once every couple days, now once every couple weeks. Lockout effect, maybe. Annoying twitter account, I can say certainly.

    BTW, good read, Brownlee.

  • book¡e

    Tillman – when he was hired, I though it was a good move. Apprently I was wrong on many fronts here.

    Ray – I like him but I don’t think the Eskimos were going win with him. I don’t think Toronto will either but using the running game is going to allow him to get further.
    I applauded the trade BUT I was sure Tillman had a QB lined up. He didn’t. Unbelievable.

    Watching the Esks yesterday with their time-count violations, illegal procedure, too many men . . . makes me doubt Reed. I like him, his attitude and he’s a good interview but holy-moly man, playoff time and we still don’t know what to do. It’s a fire drill with no direction. Maybe a combination of Reed and LaPolice would do well.

    Skipping through the Calgary/Saskatchewan game, what a difference. They looked like teams that deserved to be there.

    I had hoped the Esks would win. I’m not disappointed they didn’t. They’re just an awful team that ended up 3rd worst in the final standings.

    I really enjoy watching the Esks and the CFL. This season I wasn’t a frustrated as last year. Maybe it’s because my expectations are much lower.

    Rex is right. They’ve done nothing since the salary cap clampdown.

  • book¡e

    No doubt the Eskimos are in turmoil and have been in a slide since Hugh Campbell left us with a weak succession plan. Campbell elevated his buddy Rick Lalecheur (a person with no football experience) to be the head man; followed by the Machochia debacle and then the hasty Tillman hiring. The Eskimo mystique has been unraveling for nearly a decade. The Eskimos deserve the flack, but why is the mainstream Edmonton media intimidated to pounce on the Oilers with the same gusto. Even the dysfunctional Eskimo operation over the past few years does not match the Oiler’s ineptitude over the same time span.
    Sure Tillman should be taken to task for the Ray trade and his arrogance, but what about Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini’s longer record of incompetence. Lowe was never qualified to be GM in the first place–he had one year as an assistant coach and two years as head coach before he became Oiler’s GM, but no management or business background nor academic training to prepare him for the job. His legacy of poor trades, hiring pals and exorbitant contracts for average players suggest a track record of mediocrity–yet now we’re told to be happy because things are turning around. With so many #1 draft choices a rhesus monkey could make an improvement.
    The Eskimos criticism is warranted, but don’t be afraid to take on the Oilers as well given that their recent past performance has been much worse.