PLAYOFF CONTENTION: EYES ON THE PRIZE

The misery fans have endured since the Edmonton Oilers lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes has included seeing their team hopelessly out of playoff contention more often than not by the time the first day of spring rolls around.

Not so during this lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign as the Oilers host San Jose Wednesday, the official first day of spring, with a 11-11-6 record for 28 points and in the hunt for a post-season spot in the Western Conference.

Yes, there’s a great big asterisk beside that because this season, of course, is just 48 games, but I’m guessing that, after six years out of the post-season fun with the stretch drive providing lots of bitching and precious little intrigue, fans will happy look the other way on that front.

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Jump back one year to last season and the Oilers were 28-36-8 on March 18 and out of the playoff picture. In 2010-11, they were 23-39-10 on March 19. In 2009-10, they were 22-42-7 on March 19. The only question as spring arrived these past three years was where the Oilers would finish in the draft lottery – the answers we know.

So, a bonafide playoff race, even allowing for special circumstances, beats the hell out of the alternatives Oilers fans have had in recent years. That said, let’s keep our eyes on the prize – seeing the Oilers again become legit Stanley Cup contenders, not sneak-under-the-wire playoff pretenders.

BIG PICTURE

You don’t have to look far on message boards and fan forums to see that a big segment of Oiler fans are pumped at the prospect of having something to yell about heading into the stretch drive. Fine. It’s completely understandable. I get the sentiment.

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It’s a fine line between that possibility, though, and falling into the tempting trap that goes something like this: "Man, if Steve Tambellini would only get off his backside and trade fill-in-name-of-player-here for a puck-moving defenseman or a big winger who can score . . ."

Despite a decent run over the last eight games that’s built some optimism, this is a flawed roster in need of more than one or two pieces to make it whole in terms of building a team that can contend over the long haul. And that, even with the excitement of a possible run at the playoffs in the air, is the real prize and where the focus of Tambellini has to stay.

It’s a cliché for a GM to vow he won’t mortgage the future for the present, and it’s a cliché for a reason – some GMs can’t help themselves at times like this. "If we just got this-or-that we could make a run . . ." Given the possibility Tambellini gets a can tied to his tail if this team falls flat again, I can see how short-term fixes might be tempting. Tempting? Yes. Smart? No.

THE LONG RUN

Might Tambellini be presented with a trade opportunity between now and April 3 that would help the Oilers get into the playoffs? Sure. Should he make that deal? Depends what the asking price is. If it means giving up a young core player – definitions on that will vary depending who you talk to – or a player who can play an important part with this team two years from now, I say no.

Forget the no-brainers – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov aren’t going anywhere. Beyond that, it gets trickier. Should Tambellini, for example, move Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky for a better shot at seventh or eighth-place now?

Again, if the player you’re giving up can and likely will be an important part of the team two years from now, then no – unless you can say "yes" to the question plugging in the player coming back. If that’s the case, then you have to take a look at it. Seems obvious enough. It’s seldom that simple.

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It’s one thing for fans jacked about a playoff push to take it all in, live for the day and concoct trades that might put the Oilers over the top here and now without an eye to tomorrow. It’s quite another matter for Tambellini to take his eyes off the prize in the name of one playoff run. Been there. Done that.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.


  • Bucknuck

    Playoff run?

    You cant be serious.

    To get to 56pts the oil would need to finish 12-4-4

    No way that happens.

    The quicker oilers fans pull the pipe from their mouths and realize that trades should only be made with future seasons in mind, the better. They should be pressuring K,L&T to move the quality spare parts that they have – Hemsky and Gagner ASAP before their value depreciates even further.

    Making moves to improve the team in the here and now is idiocy – an idiocy outranked only by fans urging management to do so.

    • Klima's Mullet

      We’re two points out of a spot with the same number of games played as the team ahead of us. They have to go 11-5-4 to make the playoffs? Your logic is flawed. 53 points is easily as likely as 56 to be the playoff cut line. I would say they have a 1 in 3 chance to finish 8th. A win tomorrow and they’re in at least a tie for 8th and have the most home games left of any of their rivals.

      • The Oilers Shot Clock

        Okay let’s look at it a couple of other ways. Though I don’t think in the history of the current conference playoff format it has ever gotten below 55 pts on a pro-rated basis.

        Their are 5 other teams in eight of below that have better or similar records than the oil: San Jose,Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, and Columbus. Calgary is also on that list but if you listen to the media in that city they already have largely come to terms that the team has no chance. Columbus has the same pt ttl as the oil but has played one more game. But they are on fire – 6-0-4 compared to the oil.

        And the Oil HAS TO HAVE A BETTER RECORD THAN ALL OF THEM TO GET IN THE PLAYOFFS.

        If we only had one team to play better than that would be one thing, but we have to outplay 5 or 6.

        2. Look at the sched: we play ANA 3X; Van 2X; Min 2X and CGY 3X. Even if we lose just once to each of them we can’t lose any others – and we have to play LA and CHI and PHX.

        Mathematically the oil are long way from being eliminated, but for practical, hardheaded, winning-the-cup-is-the-goal purposes the oil’s interest in contending for eighth died somewhere out on the road…

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          you can take your practical common sense “math” elsewhere mister.

          the oilers are highly unlikely to make the playoffs, but for gods sake, can we not sit back and maybe enjoy a few weeks of somewhat meaningful games, even if they dont make it?

          gimmie a 5% chance and a case of beer. its way better than the yearly kick in the bag we usually get.

          p.s. unless tanking gets tambo fired, then im game for that

          • Quicksilver ballet

            53.27 in 07-08, 08-09.

            And when it comes to qualifications like this you only round up to the next integer (IMO, but also – if my stats course memory is correct – that is the mathematical fact)

            And thus most prognosticators are saying 54-56 will be needed. The avg after the lost season is 54.52 (55).

            as a commentor on this site posted a few days ago and it meshes what i heard somewhere in the radio universe, most of the contenders that the oil would have to beat to get in they will have to beat by a clear margin – a single point – because of the number of OTLs the ols likely will have(?). thus 56 is the number. But even at 54 the oil would have to go 11 – 5 – 4 or 12 – 6 – 2.

        • Ryan14

          Whoa…wait a sec. You mean to tell me the Oilers need to win games to get into the playoffs. Teams that have proven themselves to challenge for a playoff spot for the last few years?

          C’mon man…of course the Oil need to beat them. So what? That’s what hockey is about. This team when it’s focused can beat any team…inconsistency is our biggest issue, but over a short schedule we can get hot like any other team. Calgary is the only team that has our number, but Iggy is the one that fires them up, and he’ll be gone for most of those games. We’ve proven we can beat Vancouver, who might seem like a top notch team for winning all those presidents’ trophy’s, but they’ve been letting everyone else walk all over them. LA can’t score, Phx is even worse, and we’ve proven to be a real challenge for the might Blackhawks (seems to be a good matchup) over the last 6 games or so. That leaves Minnesota and Anaheim…while Chicago is a good matchup, Minnesota is a bad one…and Anaheim is unknown.

          2 pts out is enough hope for me. A lot of the teams above us are falling flat while the Oil are just getting charged. If Nuge and Shultz find a 2nd wind, we’re golden. If not we ride the coat tails of Dubnyk, Hall, Gagner and Horcoff.

          No need to sell anything to get us a little farther up the playoffs, but just battling for a playoff spot feels good to me. I see them making a strong case.

          Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that there are more home games than away down the stretch. We have a legit shot, I know that it’s scary to let your hopes up, but it’s ok to feel good every now and then.

          This is a much better team than last year.

      • DSF

        They actually have a 1 in 5 chance to make the playoffs.

        And they would only be in a tie for 8th if:

        Phoenix loses in regulation tonight in LA.

        Dallas loses in regulation tomorrow night in Colorado

        If the Oilers are to get back into real contention, they need to win their next 4 straight.

    • Why so serious, Gord?

      Nice guess on the record the Oilers will need, but it’s a guess — based on ???? The record needed will be heavily impacted by success or lack of same head-to-head against teams in the wanna-be playoff pack, no?

      Not saying the Oilers make the playoffs. Not saying they won’t. You, on the other hand, appear to be sure. That’s based on what, aside from sounding like somebody sour over the futility of the past several seasons? Don’t confuse being pissed off with having a crystal ball.

      • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

        Just looking at the numbers needed to get into the playoffs in past years Robin…

        And that there as so many teams in contention that most are far better configured than the oil to make a serious run if they do get in.

        And I’m being serious because i think that this is a critically important opportunity for the future of the oil. Because things are so tight this trade period is going to be a huge sellers market. We could get very good – top-of-the-market value for hemsky and gagner. More than a few GMS and coaches butts are on the line to boot.

        Fan attitude is a critical determinant in this as well. Just look south to calgary and you will see thatthe fan pressure on Feaster and Iginla et al is make a move – to blow it up and start the rebuild in earnest.

        And judging by the scouts at calgary games something seems to be afoot (iginla? Boumeester?).

        That oil fans are all atwitter hoping to make a run only encourages the feeble-hearted K,L &T to hang onto the well-performing spare parts (H&G) to keep the run alive.

        And an epic opportunity – one that might cost us a cup one day – will have been lost.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Trade as in rent-a-player, no. But if its a trade that addresses one of our many needs for years to come then yes. Why are the 4 kids untouchable? They should be the most in play. If the return is good and it fills a hole then why shouldnt one of them go? Tambellini hasn’t had to make a hard decision yet. I wont fault him for it but he gets no credit for it either.

  • TayLordBalls

    with the league in parity now, what matters more is how the players mesh together.

    I saw it long time ago, when a lesser Calgary team beat the dynasty Oilers.

    Although I will never forget the feeling after the infamous Smith goal, it came down to a better bonded team that beat the Oilers.

    As the Oilers are now, it’s not parts that are missing, but rather parts that have not yet meshed together.

    • The Oilers Shot Clock

      That Calgary team was in no way lesser. If it wasnt for the Oilers they would have won atleast three cups themselves. They were giants and owned us a few years in the regular season. We just had their number in the playoffs. Im surprised they only beat us once actually.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I totally agree with Robin.

    Why are the 4 kids untouchable? Because the Oilers are building their team around them. They are highly skilled and exciting and pro hockey is all about entertainment, besides winning. I wish it was possible to have added PK Subban to the roster as he would fit in perfectly today and in two years time with the 4 kids.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Get serious Brownlee you homer. We are nowhere near close to competing for the playoffs.

    To suggest Tambo makes a short term trade just to make the playoffs this year is just plain harmful to the long term health of the team. Even if we get in the playoffs, what are we expected to achieve? It’s way more practical to make short term rentals when the team actually has something to gain.

    It is nice to see this blog still employs someone stuck in the 1980s. You are the Don Cherry of Oilersnation.

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        How so, he doesn’t take a stand against making a rental now.

        “Should he make that deal? Depends what the asking price is. If it means giving up a young core player.”

        So he is saying not to trade one of our young stars, but he is open to other players. Giving up any asset with value for a rental this year is a HUGE mistake. We should be the ones selling our rentals this year, not the other way around.

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          I can see how short-term fixes might be tempting. Tempting? Yes. Smart? No.

          i could be wrong. it has happened once (or several hundreds of times) before

    • First, I’m not a homer.

      Second, I’m not suggesting Tambellini make a trade to make the playoffs this year at the expense of the long-term “health” of the team. The entire slant of the whole item is that HE SHOULD NOT. That you didn’t, or couldn’t, comprehend this before commenting makes you look like a buffoon.

      Third, your last paragraph in concert with your complete and utter failure to comprehend the point of the item — or your decision to ignore it so you could take a poke at me, which you’ve done before — gets you gone.

  • Bucknuck

    Considering that Sam Gagner is currently the leading scorer on the team, I don’t think trading him gives the team a better chance at getting to the dance. There are only 19 players in the league scoring more than he is.

    It wouldn’t make sense to move him, unless management is thinking the Oilers are out of the playoffs, in which case his value will never be higher IMO.

    • MarcusBillius

      Joe thornton had 33 pts in 23 games when he was traded to SJ.

      Phil Esposito had 127 pts 76 games the year before he was traded (after playing 12 games with 16 pts).

      Gagner is small fry compared to either. The question is: do KL&T have the guts to pull the trigger? Sadly there is absolutely no evidence that these guys have the guts of a Harry Sinden or Doug Wilson.

      • Bucknuck

        Boston finished 26th the year they traded Joe Thornton.

        What point, exactly, are you trying to convey?

        Mine was that trading Gagner would be a Seller’s move, not a move that was trying to get the Oilers into the dance.

        • Bucknuck

          My point as well. The oil should be selling to make for a better balanced and thus better team. Trading gagner is not some thing you would do if you are trying to make the playoffs this year.

    • DSF

      Agreed. I for one, was part of the crowd that was for trading Gagner while his stock was high. The thinking was, he is too small to be effective in the playoffs.

      I have changed my mind. Gagner proved me wrong. He has become a solid second line center.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Waiting for the defense to catch up to the forwards in developing is going to be a nightmare. I have faith one or two of Gernat, Musil, Klefbom, or Marancin will become legit, but it just takes too damn long. Chicago already had Keith and Seabrook when they added Toews and Kane. I just dont think it works the other way around. Yakupov would get us a solid defenseman under 25. Possibly more with the right package. We are not going to develop one in time for this team. Tough decisions need to be made soon.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Dude is that serious gord guy one of your disciples? He seems very angry and bitter as well. He seems to have the same view as you when it comes to the Oil and us fans but he doesn’t seem to have your gift of properly formulating a post to effectively convey his message. He’s like the copy of a copy. Not quite as sharp.

  • Tomorrow is going to be the most meaningful game we’ve seen this team play since 2006!!! what’s with all the doom and gloom? I highly doubt this team has a chance at making the big show this year, but what can you expect from a team that has been the leagues worst for 3 straight years? I look at it this way. Starting next year the clock on the “SC window” starts counting down (hall’s contract) any big game experience these guys get now should only help.

  • 106 and 106

    This is the 2013 Edmonton Oilers – beaters of Chicago and losers to Columbus.

    Sure, we might not go 12-4-1 or whatever Gord is getting angry about, but it’s worth a shot, guys. Eye on the Prize, but keep getting better.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers are just teasing the masses. No way they can play .750 hockey the rest of the way. This is just one of the few high points during this shortened season. They’re just in a peak mode right now, what little ground they’ve made recently could be given back before this homestand comes to an end. This management group couldn’t drive a spit up a dead pigs arse.

    Horc,Hemsky,Gagner,Whitney,Belanger,Smid,Khabibulin, maybe even Dubnyk…try and liquidate as much as possible of this group who’ve grown comfortible with losing.

    2-3 more rookies (potential winners) in the lineup next fall please.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Blow what up? How about we just move some of the deadwood out.

        Anything not bolted to the floor (fab 5) should be liquidated. Management has brought these wares to the last 3 entry drafts and tried to move them but to no avail. Maybe with Gags,Hemsky having decent yrs they may get a bite this summer on them. Smid (soon to be an overpay) and Whitney should be able to find a home in a couple weeks.

        Players like these you can replace at Walmart during the summer (free agency).

        • oilerjed

          Smid is only an over pay if you can replace his quality with a better priced dman who can bring the same skills. Whi is available to fill that spot this summer afte you turf a project we have been working of for 4-5 years.
          Same goes with Gags, who are you going to get that will replace his points and effort on a nightly basis. Even if this is his career year you still need a 50-60 point center next year or we lose the trade.
          I for one am excited to see if gags is really the big game guy he seems to be.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Edmonton already has one. Jeff Petry can do much more than Smid. Petry leans on people, blocks plenty of shots, quicker of foot and is much better offensively that Laddy……not to mention, at half the price as well.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        You’ve had it your way these last 3 yrs, hanging onto all this rifraf, and where has that gotten you? Yup, headed straight in the direction of yet another lotto pick. These kids should just compliment the existing group of veterans on this team the last 3 yrs. They haven’t because they’re already far better players than the amigos you feel are so irreplaceable. Shipcan em allll.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          exactly. the oil have lost their way to aquiring 4-5 stars (or rather potential stars at this point. MGMT has sucked at making tough decisions. And there is no proof that they are about to change their ways…

  • DSF

    Just beat San Jose tomorrow. Then StL on Saturday, and so on. If they lose, then win the next one.

    Just keep trying. I’ll be content as long as the effort continues. If it does continue, everything will take care of itself.

    . . . just no stinkers please.

  • DSF

    Also don’t think Whitney will bring us back as much value as keeping him gives us.

    I thought his brutal play last year and in the first 20 games this year was a clear indication that his injury/disability had become permanent.

    But his play in the last 6 games is like some kind of minor miracle compared to those first 20.

    The question then is “Which is the REAL Whitney”?

    If I were to hazard a guess at the 3 most likely guys to move via trade they would be 1) Habby 2) Hemmer 3) Nick Schultz

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      It goes back to that old saying, well I’m too young to know how it goes, so ill paraphrase it. It takes a long time to get back into form after a injury, just look at Hemmer.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think due to CHI and ANA dominating so much, the playoff cutoff line may be between 53-55. Pretty unlikely that EDM make the playoffs, but I’d be giddy if EDM picked 9th-10th overall. Baby steps guy, baby steps.

  • Ryan14

    Any moves that the Oilers make should be with a eye on future years. Most of our core is young so I doubt that there is a big deal to be made. If we make a big move, I suspect it will come in the off-season.

    I love how everybody is getting their panties all up in a bunch about how many points we need and how difficult it will be to make the playoffs. Of course it will be difficult but for fans of a team that has missed the playoffs for 6 straight seasons, can’t we just enjoy being in the hunt this late in the season? Shortened season or not. It’s fun to be scoreboard watching in March. There are lots of teams in the playoff hunt but most of them are really struggling right now. None of San Jose, Phoenix, Nashville, Calgary or Dallas are playing well right now. Only Columbus is really on a roll but as nice of a story as that has been, it would be hard to imagine them keeping it up. We are only 2 points out and only Calgary has more remaining games in the west. Predicting the playoff cut line is a moving target but we are in the hunt. Let’s just take care of our own games.

    • Marcus

      Good points. Game by game, and see how it plays out at the end.

      And to those pessimists that are so quick to point out that this team won’t go very far in the playoffs even if they manage to squeak in….still works for me. It will be extremely beneficial for these young guns to go through a playoff round even as an extreme underdogs.

      With the eye on the prize (Stanley in 4-5 yrs), much better to have their asses handed to them for 4 games of hard-nosed playoff hockey, than to pack it in and wait for the lottery. This young nucleus needs to lose in the playoffs if they ever plan on winning in the playoffs. Go Oil!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    There’s a good chance this unfamiliar excitement may last ALL THE WAY…. to this weekend…. dun dun dun….

    It takes one or two lousy performances by the Oilers (which we very well know they’re capable of) to straighten the fan base right out.

    Let’s see if this ship is still afloat by the end of the weekend.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Lets string together a few more wins before we start seeing who needs to be moved. maybe Whitney can pull his head out of where ever its been and be the best player he can be. That’d make a pretty big difference for the Oilers! So exicted for the next few games!!!

  • G Money

    – Just being in mid March and having debates about whether the Oilers will make the playoffs is a refreshing change from every year since 2007

    – If the Oilers have to go approximately 12-4-4 to get in the playoffs, might be worth bearing in mind that they are 8-2-1 with Horcoff in the lineup.

    – If the Oilers win tomorrow, they have to go (say) 11-5-3 to get in the playoffs. As daunting as that looks, what it means is that in the next 19 games, they have to have a 4-game win streak, and go 7-5-3 in the rest of the games. Not likely, but not impossible.

    Bottom line: OILERS: PLEASE BEAT SAN HOSER. Keep hope alive!

  • G Money

    I don’t know why Ganger has not played himself onto more people’s core list. He has proved to be a very good second line centre who is outscoring all the other centres. Who is going to play in the number two hole? 23 year centre who is just coming into his own … He is on my core list.

      • Wax Man Riley

        I think we have a winner here.

        He can definitely play the wing, although it doesn’t give you a big #1, 2, 3, 4, on the right side, it gives a lot of speed, talent, and scoring punch.

    • Phixieus666

      I agree, right now there is no way I trade this guy unless the return is just too off the charts to turn down. There are still some ? with him but they have changed. Can he get even better at faceoffs and his defensive play while maintaining the offensive production? That is one healthy gamble to take and brings a smile to the face.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I am starting to side with the “enjoy the ride” crowd. In the past – when Oil had a sniff of making the postseason, iI would be in the “wringing of the hands” group, watching the scoreboard, calculating the combinations and permetations of odds and percentages of making the playoffs.

    Screw it. Maybe I have matured (my wife would disagree). Maybe I have been beaten into submission by year after year of being out of the playoffs by Groundhog Day – how fitting. Maybe I don’t want to get disappointed. But I am going to enjoy “not yet being mathematically eliminated” from this point forward.

    So bring it on fellas. Show me the heartbreaking losses and the last minute wins. Lets see the great goals and the own goals – one is enough for you Petry. Dubey I know you are going to make the great save followed by the floater from the blue line over your shoulder. So be it.

    Just let me be a fan who can dream of a playoff crowd at Rexall – maybe this year, but probably not. But certainly a couple of seasons before the move to the new digs. Just give me hope. Cause there has been precious little of that over the last several years.

  • Bucknuck

    I’m with you on not trading gagner! This idea of trading him to fill a “need” doesn’t make sense cuz all we’d be doing is making another need at centre, the only thing I’m worried about is what he and his agent are gonna want to get paid.

  • Bucknuck

    Sam Gagner is currently 12th is center scoring. He has not been handed the heavy lifting or the soft minutes. He’s scoring like a 1st line Center the concerns are his face off % 160 overall for centers in the league. He is the right age. Has the offense. Just needs to spend alot of time on his defense and faceoffs and we have our second line centre for years to come.

  • Bucknuck

    Sitting tied for 8th spot in goals against , but third from bottom in goals for so far . Seems to me youth or maybe entire club , has to start picking up more goals in final games in order o make for a run at playoffs . Is it Kreuger’s system that prevents more goals for , and maybe over emphasizes defence to our offensive detriment?