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.

  • 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

    everyone needs to simmer down.
    random trade speculation will only make it worse…
    personally i think that however they get there is fine and however they do it is fine.
    So let the people actually in the oilers do the decision making and dont get too wound up.

    • “So let the people actually in the oilers do the decision making and dont get too wound up.”

      Clearly, you haven’t been paying attention.

      Do tell, what have the people making the decisions with the Oilers accomplished since an eighth-place finish turned into a trip to the Stanley Cup final after the season-long lockout? What have they done with the even playing field they asked for and got with the salary cap? Picking Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov with first overall picks doesn’t count.

      Make a list of the solid hockey decisions, personnel moves and hires. Then make a list of the same decisions that have proven to be failures. Tell me which list is longer.

      Simmer down, my eye. Expect more, not less.

      • PutzStew

        “Simmer down, my eye. Expect more, not less.”

        Good luck Robin, this just wont happen for so many Oiler fans. It wont happen for the same reason they all came back after the lockout and no one can even remember let alone speak of it now. It wont happen for the same reason they were willing to build the arena at any cost, not matter how outrageous (funny, we dont see those who thought giving Katz the 6M/year subsidy mention that anymore, eh?) It wont happen for the same reason that nobody even bats an eye when former oilers are continuously shuffled around the organization regardless of performance. These fans are so desperate to revive the glory days of this franchise that they will forgive any mistake and forget any inconvenient truth in the blind faith that the magic will simply occur again and make their team a winner. It was not magic that built the oilers dynasty, it was hard work and sacrifice by not only the players but also the management. That entire organization was simply NOT CONTENT to lose, and they made the hard decisions needed to improve.

        There is an undertone to the entire conversation that implies that losing now is OK, because losing now begets winning later; this is fallacy and frankly, insane. Losing now does nothing except serve as an indicator that ‘you aren’t good enough’. Losing now does nothing to improve your team unless you actively pursue a track of improvement. That means identifying the shortcomings within the organization and fixing them. Turn weakness into strength. Never be OK with being out shot, out chanced, out played, out scored. And when you do lose, you better damn well figure out why and how not to lose that way anymore. I dont see this organization truly dedicating itself to improving. Instead I see a franchise that is HOPING that things will get better next game, next month, next draft, next season, next coach, next generation of fans…

      • GVBlackhawk

        “Simmer down, my eye. Expect more, not less.”

        Good luck Robin, this just wont happen for so many Oiler fans. It wont happen for the same reason they all came back after the lockout and no one can even remember let alone speak of it now. It wont happen for the same reason they were willing to build the arena at any cost, not matter how outrageous (funny, we dont see those who thought giving Katz the 6M/year subsidy mention that anymore, eh?) It wont happen for the same reason that nobody even bats an eye when former oilers are continuously shuffled around the organization regardless of performance. These fans are so desperate to revive the glory days of this franchise that they will forgive any mistake and forget any inconvenient truth in the blind faith that the magic will simply occur again and make their team a winner. It was not magic that built the oilers dynasty, it was hard work and sacrifice by not only the players but also the management. That entire organization was simply NOT CONTENT to lose, and they made the hard decisions needed to improve.

        There is an undertone to the entire conversation that implies that losing now is OK, because losing now begets winning later; this is fallacy and frankly, insane. Losing now does nothing except serve as an indicator that ‘you aren’t good enough’. Losing now does nothing to improve your team unless you actively pursue a track of improvement. That means identifying the shortcomings within the organization and fixing them. Turn weakness into strength. Never be OK with being out shot, out chanced, out played, out scored. And when you do lose, you better damn well figure out why and how not to lose that way anymore. I dont see this organization truly dedicating itself to improving. Instead I see a franchise that is HOPING that things will get better next game, next month, next draft, next season, next coach, next generation of fans…

      • Milli

        The list on the negative side is longer. The list begins with NK,Ryan Whitney, Ben Eager,Darcy Hordichuck,Potter,3 year deal for Belanger? Linus Omark? Poorly handled. Even if he didn’t turn out the way he was handled turned out such that Tambo depleted any value for him as an asset.Souray.Heatley. That was on both parties though IMO. Fraser deal? The hiring and firing? of Pat Quinn. The hiring and firing of Renney. which was dragged out to long. should have done what Davidson did in Columbus with Howson. just get it done. The whole training staff fiasco.

        On the positive side he fleeced DL for Penner. Sutton was a good signing. The MacT firing was good and we’ll get even better when Tambo is fired and MacT takes over the GM position. hopefully sooner than later.

        Tambo can’t score the goals or stop the shots. Or anything else. But he is accountable for all the other deals.Or non deals that have passed him by. His decisions ultimately are the ones that are reflected in the team roster.There is/was ample opportunity for better deals,players signed,more opportunity to put players in positions to succeed. The record reflects that Tambo has about a 70-30 failure to success rate in his decision making. Its not good enough.

        If the Oilers continue to perform at this level over the next 12-15 games and nothing is done but shuffle players in/out of the lineup from OKC it will more than likely be Tambo’s final season as GM of the Oilers. I have no like or dislike for the man personally.I don’t know him from boo. What I do know is that based on his record.”Body of work”. That if I was his employer and he was running my company I would be looking for a new manager sooner rather than later.

        Robin you own a new business.When you leave the business for other duties do you leave it in the hands of someone competent or in hands of someone who affects the business negatively. How long would your business survive? Not long. Just sayin. If the Oilers model is based on continuous mismanagement how long till the wheels fall of the cart.Or are they off already?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I agree Robin. Unless your expectations are unreasonable, which I don’t believe challenging for a playoff spot within the last 10-15 games is, then there is no reason to lower them.

    It seems painfully clear to everyone what this team needs going forward, and if the current management team is unable to acquire those pieces, then they should be replaced with someone who can.

    This is a make it or break it year for signs of progress.

    • I’m of the opinion that this season would be a waste to do any trading. The Oilers needed Hemsky and Gagner to have good years for them to have value to use as trading chips this summer.

      I think it was always in their best interest not to finish in the playoffs this year but to add one last piece before the Oilers started to add the last pieces.

      If they don’t add anything from the draft to day two of the UFA season, then everyone in this organization should be dismissed.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Improving your hockey club is a 365 day a year job. The opportunity often comes from an unexpected source/working, doing their job. I’m not in favor of your opinion nothing can be done.

        Very little progress this season (27th or better finish) will land Tambellini a player who’s 3 yrs away from helping his hockeyclub. Edmonton needs players now, not AHL’ers to take over for the likes of Horc,Belanger,Smyth,Whintey etc.

        Can you say infinibuild……..sure you can.

        • You mean like a player like like….Hall….RNH….Yakupov?

          Barkov is a gem, not to mention once the Oilers get Weber-Clowe and get Dubinsky.

          The Oilers needed Hemsky and Gagner to improve so they can trade them.

          who said anything about continuing a rebuild after this year.

          I seen this season as a wash.

          The Oilers coming into the season never knew about.

          Yakupov-
          Schultz-
          Dubnyk-
          Whitney-
          Gagner-
          Hemsky

          Does that sound like a team wanting to make the playoffs?

          • It could happen…….I actually would be over the moon with just Weber or Clowe.

            Edit: I did know, plus he’s to receive a boat load of cash up front, the sole reason I think the Predators will never be able to afford* him, thus making him a prime trade asset.

          • Word to the Bird

            I don’t mean to crush your dreams but the likelihood of Weber coming to Edmonton is from slim to none and slim just skipped town. He could have one of the highest trade values in the entire NHL, unless you had some trade involving names like Eberle, Yakupov, etc. I bet Nashville wouldn’t even trade Weber for one of the kids straight up. Also, Weber’s contract would absolutely demolish our chances of locking up the fab 5 (or 4 once you got Weber). As much as any Edmonton fan would love to see another star come in to Oil Country, we have the superstars that we want on our team already.

          • DSF

            No it couldn’t.

            The Oilers won’t be able to pay a defenseman that much unless they unload Hall or Eberle.

            Clowe’s cap hit is $3.6 million and he’s going to get a raise.

            Dubinsky is at $4.2 million.

            No room at the inn.

          • The Oiler can shed a lot fat off without worrying about unloading any of the kids, they can afford Weber.

            Not to mention the cap will go up.

            @ Hall For President

            You mean Slim like……………….one and a million chance?……….So your saying there’s a chance!

            Really though, kind of like Pronger for Brewer slim?

            Really how do you think these trades get done?

            Just spit balling here, but what does Petry-Gagner-Marricin-1st in 2015 and a 2nd in 2016 sound?

            I say it’s pretty darn close.

          • Ok, then what if the Oilers draft Barkov, or trade that first overall pick?

            Then use a combination of Gagner, Paajarvi, Hemsky-Petry- for Weber?

            Maybe not all that crazy, that’s all I’m saying, it’s a possibility that the Oilers do this very same thing.

            Like I said, it doesn’t have to be Weber, or Clowe or Dubinsky but the Oilers have to get players like this for next year.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Alex Plante was a “gem” too Walter. Barkov Smarkov, he’s nothing but alot of hot air right now.

            5 out of the 6 guys you mentioned have been where the Oilers wanted them to be this season. Despite those huge difference makers you mentioned (Yak,Schultz,Dubnyk,Gagner and Hemsky) they’re still a .500 hockeyclub.

            Looks to me like this is still very much a heart/leadership issue on this club. Put on your foam hat Walter (like i did)…..the sky IS falling. lol.

  • Kinger_OIL

    If ever there was a year to not make the playoffs, and get a high draft pick its this year: the Stanley Cup winner will always have an asterix beside it, and you could so quickly get another high prospect and not loase any fans. Why do the Oilers need to make rash trades or rent a player for a quick season. LEt the cluster get a year older, pick up another stud, fix the rest in the off-season. Virtually all temas are going to be within 5 points of playoofs with a few weeks left to play. I hope the Oil gets a high draft pick next year…

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    People are aware that the Oilers are two points out with a game in hand and that, by and large, they’ve played pretty well, outchancing the opposition and that it’s been some tough breaks at the start, right? Does everyone suddenly think the Nuge will shoot 0% and Eberle will shoot 7.3% all year long?

    I, for one, am tired of the Nuge and Eberle haters, behaving as if their low shooting percentages and the Oilers consequent struggles will continue indefinitely. They, and the Oilers, will be just fine.

  • NewfoundlandOil

    I would rather see the Oilers challenge for a playoff spot than suffer through another lottery pick. The lottery shouldn’t even be a consideration at this point.

    Rebuilding a team by adding one player per year will not bring success.

    Time for management to grow a set and make some moves.

  • Word to the Bird

    Trade Hemsky and Gagner for a Stellar 3rd line at the trade deadline… Draft a 2nd line Center in the top 6 of this years draft. And use all the savings we get to pick up a #4 or #5 d man in the off season… And life is grand. Call it what it is.. This team was not making the playoffs this year. Gagner is too small.. Hemsky needs to be sold high before the next inevitable injury hits… And we need a bigger tougher 2nd line center to combine with RNH. Expectations are too high. In a dream world where there are no injuries maybe this team snags that 8th spot? But this is reality and this team has holes and very little depth to handle reality. I for one agree with Struds… Things are pretty much on a trajectory i expected… we are basically 1 goal/gm away from a playoff team. Take a deep breathe exhale through your nose and enjoy the team for what it is… Young, exciting and mercurial .

  • OilLeak

    I’m tired of this team sucking, everyone and their dog could see the Oilers needed 1-2 quality defenseman on top of Schultz. But no, management added Schultz and Yakupov and the team was done with off-season moves. 2 rookies were added to this team, pathetic.

    Other thoughts:

    Ryan Whitney can’t play anymore, he can’t turn his ankle properly, he’s a nice guy, but I think we can forget about him ever being an effective player again. Whitney sucked last year, and is worse this year. Next.

    Fistric was a number 7 in Dallas(which is thin on D) Why would he be expected to be something more in Edmonton? I do like the Fistric pick up because he keeps Peckham out of the line-up.

    2 more god damn defenseman, if someone suggest Klefbom will fill a hole next season then you’re a part of the problem.

    Yakupov is a great hockey player, but he seems kind of lost at left wing at times. Constantly tries to cross over to center and right wing, has caused a few issues so far.

    Team shooting percentage is low, so we should expect a correction, however the same could probably be said for goaltending as well. Probably balances out in the end.

  • Slapshot

    Not a big fan of strudwicks commentary at the best of times – not very insightful or well argued and far too much a homer and backer of the oil establishment.

    Witness the blog post in question.

    Tambelini is in the firing line. He’s on his third coach in four seasons. Other than the three # 1s dropped in his lap (in part due to his own ineptness) what is his track record in getting the pieces for a playoff bound team?

    Go down the list:

    Khabi
    Whitney
    Smyth
    Barker
    Eager
    Signing hemsky
    And on and on and on.

    Three plus years and still huge question marks in several parts of the teams dynamics.

    And strudwick says we need to manage expectations…

  • 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!

  • 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!!!

  • 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.

  • 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,