LOWER EXPECTATIONS? NOT AGAIN

It’s not often I disagree with Jason Strudwick, and I certainly can’t remember a time I’ve disagreed strongly enough to write about it, but his suggestion today fans of the Edmonton Oilers should lower their expectations is as wrong as a comb-over in a wind storm.

Step back from the ledge and lower expectations? After six consecutive years out of the playoffs, including back-to-back 30th-place finishes and a bump up to 29th last season, fans should lower expectations? No chance. No way.

Now, to be fair and keep things in context (if my comprehension isn’t out of whack) Strudwick was directing what he wrote today toward fans who went into this shortened season EXPECTING the team to make the playoffs after finishing so far out of the race in 2011-12. That’s fair enough.

I, among others, picked the Oilers to make the playoffs this season. I did so knowing that a lot of the cards would have to fall their way. I did so thinking eighth place was probably the best they’d do, given that I didn’t see a bunch of playoff teams from 2011-12 falling off the map.

For me, it wasn’t a matter of "playoffs or bust." Having picked them to miss for the last six seasons — not that it took a vast intellect to suggest so — I can hardly be categorized an over-optimistic fan. I am neither.

At the very least, with the core of the team playing in the AHL or Europe during the lockout, with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall being a year older and with the addition of Justin Schultz, I expected Ralph Krueger’s team to be contesting a post-season spot in the final dozen games of the season. To push the issue. I don’t see that as unreasonable.

PROGRESS . . .

With all the above said, and allowing that optimism (often in the extreme) springs eternal with many fans, telling people to lower their expectations after six seasons on the outside looking in is going to be a tough sell in this town. For me, it’s not even primarily about exactly where the Oilers finish – it can be a fine line between eighth place or ninth and 10th in the Western Conference.

Today, as has been the case many times in the last couple of seasons, I’m seeing holes in the way this team is put together. I’m seeing lack of production at even strength. I’m seeing too little urgency in pressing the pace. I’m seeing a lack of willingness to impose a collective physical will, or at least the ability to do so, which goes back to how the team is put together.

Even with a power play that was ridiculously hot to start the season, even with some stellar play between the pipes from Devan Dubnyk and even with all their supposed firepower up front, the Oilers are 5-5-3 for 13 points and sitting 11th as they prepare to face Colorado Saturday. That could be a high-water mark if you look at the schedule between now and March 12.

Lower expectations? No chance, at least not as they pertain to expectations GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will round out the roster by finding the right pieces to complement the young talent. They’ve had three seasons of a rebuild to move this team along. If they can’t do it, then they should get out of the way and make room for somebody who can.

Like I said, while I figured a playoff spot was possible, I don’t care as much about being right or the exact order of finish as much as I do about what I see out on the ice, and that’s a spectacle that’s wanting in too many areas too often to simply write-off concerns about this team as panic by over-optimistic fans.

It’s not unreasonable to expect better than what we’re seeing now.

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 teams expectations should be to be to win every night.Anything less is unacceptable.That being said before the season started i stated the team needs to go 8-2 or 7-3 at the worst to make the playoffs.That did not happen. So here is to them winning another lottery draw with the Oiler rule.

  • Milli

    I don’t think it is quite as bad as some are thinking. I think if you look at it we are real lucky to be hanging around while Ebs and Nuge find there games, and they will, they are getting real close. Hemmer and Gags have been great, that is a huge bonus, and Dubby, I mean WOW has he been a rock. So, I think a young team on a long road trip will help and when they come home, they will be right in the thick of it, and that is really all you can expect this year. Does Tambo need some parts, HELL YA, but we still should have a real shot at 8th this year. Oh ya, and how GOOD is Taylor Hall, GODAMN RIDICOULSLY GOOD!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Please be aware there may be a slight delay this evening during this Oiler bashing extravaganza. System may be down for updating purposes this evening starting at 8pm on CBC.

    Prepare for Glory/Gory Oilersnation.

  • McDavid's Comet

    I think it’s time to approach Holmgren about Couturier. The kid is a perfect fit for the Oilers because of his two-way game. He can play second or third line and has shown he can handle tougher minutes.

    GMs do silly things when they see a season slipping away and the Flyers sit in 10th.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    Nice to see that DSF brought his/her ‘A’ game today. Hillarious comments stemming from insecurity and the need for attention are always welcome. Pure comedy.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Tamb is a terrible GM the man is unbearable. Things won’t improve until he is gone and we get tougher. I miss the era of Mike Grier, Guerin etc.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    You think of all the first rounders Edmonton has playing for them, and it is still not working.

    This is like a Stock you buy and you get emotional with it. Any good news regarding the stock you put much more weight on that news then you should. Any bad news on the stock you discount.

    Fans have been saying next year for far to long.

  • DSF

    When Glen Sather was the GM ………..not for one nano-second did he ever stop looking to improve his team.

    You always knew that he was on the prowl trying to improve his lines. His formula was simple, have a playmaker, a shooter, and a puck retriever on the top two lines. The third line was always comprised of guys who could hit and defend and the fourth line was bascially reserved for the heavy hitters and the enforcers.

    The defense was always a combination of mobile puck movers to the pillars of strength. Guys would come in and out and rarely were we lacking in any position.

    Fast forward to the current Tamby era………we all know he is incapable of moving assets so we are all told to be patient and let the re-build take it’s course. This would be fine if we were watching him surround the team with players who are recruited for certain roles. Just how long have we known we need depth players who can take draws, police a game, hit and defend, and fight?

    Drafting talent like the Fab Four is not rocket science…….in fact you have to have a totally incompetent team to achieve that. I can wait for the kids to develop and I’m sure everyone has a long leash for them.

    Its the defense and the bottom six that need a total re-build and Tamby has shown he does not understand that situation. To think you can take former top six guys and turn them into bottom six players is wrought with problems……..thats where we are now.

  • DSF

    Something I think has been overlooked by everyone here is the “Creeping Rebuild”. We are NOT in year 3 of a rebuild! The “rebuild” started when Lowe realized how deep the sh*t was he had put the team in and promoted himself out of the way. When Tambellini was hired in 2008 he talked “rebuild”. I remember the team “rebuilding” when Gags was rushed onto the team too soon, along with Cogliano/Nilsson. When Jason Strudwick talks about going from 29th to 8th in a season, he’s probably right. But the context is all wrong guys. The spotlight needs to be on the fact that it’s 5 years later and we’re struggling to make the playoffs. Enough “assessment” aleady!!!

  • DSF

    Have the picks in the drafts been wrong?

    Have Oilers made good or bad trades?

    Have Oilers had bad luck ie injuries with their picks and players ?

    I would think generally they have done a decent job in trades and picks.

    So what is wrong?

    1. They need more time, wait till next year

    2. Management has no idea how to build a potential Stanley Cup team.

    3. A bit of 1 and 2.

    My answer is mostly #2.

    How long has Lowe and Tambellini been at it ?

    Where has Edmonton finished in the standing?

  • Slapshot

    For me, a few realities exist….

    1) Tambellini is “despensible”…I can see where he tried to do the right things…add a “past his prime” Tier 1 Goaltender to give us a chance to win while we waited on our drafted talent. Result “B-” (partly due to injury and inconsistency of team)….Tried to add toughness with Eagre, Sutton, Hordichuk, N Schultz, Harti, Fistric….Result B- (partly due to injury and inconsistency of team)…Tried to build better development system B+ ( Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Harti, Magnus, Smid, Petry, Gagner, all progressing..OKC looks better even if results are not immediately apparent)
    So he gets a “B” or “B-“….and there’s got to be a few A’s out there somewhere (MAC T?)
    2) There are very few people who would argue that we need to get grittier/tougher physically and mentally. Any disagreement comes only from the HOW we should do it….not THAT we should do it.
    3) Most of us are “moderates” when it comes to the rebuild…we have excersized patience ( difficult as it is) but we want to see CONTINUOUS improvement both on the ice and in the front office decision making (be proactive on the trade front/UFA front to fill holes/upgrade the weakest links). Do your best and then some to make the playoffs…If you get there you gain invaluable experience…if not you get another good/great pick that will help a hole within a year or two.

    Completely agree with Brownlee….It’s NOT unreasonable to expect/demand better than we’re seeing now. But it’s not a heaping pile of dung either.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    I find it often helps to think outside the box as a way to gain perspective.

    Right now….living with the result for the next 10 years….

    Would you trade the ENITIRE OILERS team ( Roster Players and Prospects) for these other Canadian teams (keeping in mind that you will have to watch/cheer for them for the next 10 years)

    1) Oilers for Senators ? Yes/No
    2) Oilers for Canucks ? Yes/No
    3) Oilers for Habs? Yes/No
    4) Oilers for Leafs? Yes/No
    5) Oilers for Flames? Yes/No
    6) Oilers for Jets? Yes/No

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    Trade what? Bulin,Whitney,Hemsky they are always injured,Horcoff bad contract,i just don’t see anyone that you could get a good player back in return.the oilers could start trading their draft picks now,but only the 1st will be worth anything.i think that is why the vets are being scratched ,Kruger has had enough of the poor play from the vet and finally can do something about it.this summer i beleive will be the big sweep,Bulin,Whitney,Horcoff,will all be gone.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    I beleive the Oilershave 13 points and have given opposing teams 19 points. That is platying hockey at a 400pct clip. For the talent on this team something is broken, that is clear to see. It is up to mngt to fix it. They are doing nothing. I am not happy.

  • 30,30,29, *BAM* Stanley Cup™. No. This year is the last ‘gimme’ year. One more top 10 pick and away we go. We’ve come much too far and endured far too much to abandon the plan now.

    The worst thing we could do is a WOW trade: some sort of Burkeian horsecrap shortcut gamble with the future.

    Can you even imagine what a Leafs fan feels like?

    Just calm down and sit your butt in that chair. Stop screaming and fuming like a clueless madman.

    *lights a cigarette and pours himself a drink*

    Have patience for one more year. It will all be worth it. I promise.

    • Hair bag

      I couldn’t agree more! The last remnants of the miracle run in ’06 and Lowe’s attempt to duplicate it are almost gone. If you were a farmer and looked at what’s coming, you would say ‘this new crop looks pretty good’. We’re still in late spring/early summer mind you and things can still go wrong but as of today there look to be a lot of sunny days ahead. And as far as the Tambellini bashers go, he still deserves another year or two because to be honest he is still cleaning up Lowe’s mess (and a big mess it was!). Realistically this team can’t be expexcted to make a serious Stanley Cup run for at least 3yrs (avg age of core then 25ish). So as long as they keep improving, gaining experience and filling in pieces in the next 2 yrs, I think they are on track. They should be expected to make the playoffs next year – this year would be a bonus…

      Patience is still the key – there will be lots of ups and downs but overall it really is an exciting time to be an Oiler fan,

  • Slapshot

    The only way there will be any urgency to make changes is when people stop showing up to games and there isn’t a waiting list for tickets.Until then we might as well become Leafs west!!!