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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    They did have 11 players hit the ground running when the season began. Even with this so called “advantage Oil”, they’re still only a .500 hockey club out of the gate. Time for a heart transplant before it’s too late.

    The Oilers aren’t trending upward, they’re trending towards an infinibuild. Tambo best get off his duff and error on the side of caution, or clean out his desk in 10 weeks.

    I do appreciate your sense of humour though, having a guillotine delivered to the front doors of their offices on Kingsway was a nice touch. Someone needs to hold their feet to the flames.

    • Jason Strudwick

      Higher expectations, absolutley. Heart transplant, seriously!?!. I think the team should do a promo for ankle braces for all the “fans” who are suddenly dumping on them. Unless I’m missing something they are 2 points out of the playoffs with a game in hand. And oh yeah they lost their 2 veteran centres who do the dirty work and win draws on 2 weird plays… and the their first call up, who it’s fair to say was meeting expectations by doing an ok job holding the fort ok considering he was primarily designated for AHL duty this year – because you know he’s still all of 21.

      Let’s not let the Leaf fan mentality take over, and instead of throwing mud support the boys when they need it.

  • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

    • Bi-Curious Gord

      I find it amusing that every year we want to fire someone. Maybe firing someone may no be the answer but patience as struds eluded to in his article. Trust me, I waste way too much time reading and watching the Oilers to start from scratch over and over ….. Lets see where this new ride takes us as its not like the last 20 years where promise was only in the minors it’s her now …. Pour a double and relax as this is not the Schremp era folks

  • We see all kinds of interviews, in ink, video, audio etc of all the players, coaches, amateur scouting staff. We rarely, if ever, hear a peep from the pro-scouting staff. Can some in the media out there track these guys down and see just what the heck they are up to? Comrie, O’Sullivan, Kotalik, …?????

  • 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…

  • I only expect the athletes to do the best they can, the coaching staff to empower their athletes’ success and a front office 100% dedicated to doing everything they can to make the team the best it can be with an absolute passion for winning.

    You can see where I’m going with this, right?

      • McDavid's Comet

        If results matter then the wild are also in dire need of filling some holes; with all the money they have thrown at Parise and Suter they are definitely not getting the results they are expecting.

          • McDavid's Comet

            Nope, Iam just making a point, the wild are sucking pretty bad compared to what everyone expected from them. Truthfully, I too figured after signing Parise and Suter to such ridiculous contracts that they would at least be challenging the Canucks for the division; however the season is only a quarter through. The Oilers are right where I expected them to be: struggling. I agree with Browlee, I believe that they won’t dominate but scrape into playoffs and that’s if, they can do that.

          • GVBlackhawk

            You repeatedly make incorrect and flawed statements. And you are egotistical about it. People will always get satisfaction when a know-it-all is wrong.

            For example, you picked the Minnesota Wild to win the western conference. You lauded their center depth and their big UFA signings. You overlooked their glaring weaknesses (eg. they had no offense and their defense was marginal). Your conclusions are illogical, yet you continue to stand by them with conviction. That’s not intelligence — it is just being contrarian and stubborn.

  • Word to the Bird

    While I agree that knee jerk reaction trades seldom help the over all cause, a good GM will not alow the same results or lack there off with out some activity. I think apart from the Gilbert/Shcultz trade he has not made a top half of the roster trade in his tenure. Sitting on your butt doing nothing is not how good teams are built. Tambo is a Bust!!! I liked the Fistric deal but lets be honest he is not the answer to all that ails this team.

  • 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.

  • Poolanov

    Why is it everyone is saying Dubnyk is doing great??? He lets in a softie every game and 3 against Dallas All he had to do was look behind him for petes sake. Bantam 101!!!!. You could tell by body language that even Bulin is a better opt. He was solid vs Detroit and has no panic in his game. Hope he starts vs Col as I am going to game.

  • DSF

    You know what’s really funny?

    The St. Louis Blues, who finished with 109 points last season and are currently thrashing the Flames 4-0 in the first, have $84 million in free cap space at the deadline. Think they have room to add a couple of players for the stretch drive? 🙂

    Now THAT is good management.