As quickly as the Edmonton Oilers playoff bandwagon gathered steam with five straight wins, it is today upside down and on fire in the ditch after three straight losses, the last coming 2-1 against the Anaheim Ducks Monday.
Simply put, it was fun while it lasted, but the post-season drama is done and slim has turned to none. It’s over. No chance. No way. No cigar. The Oilers will miss the playoffs, long shot that it was, for the seventh straight season.
The question now, with the Oilers sitting with 39 points through 39 games and with seven of their last nine outings home at Rexall Place, is how close is good enough? Or is close good enough?
If the Oilers push the issue from now until game 48, if they give it the old college try and finish within two or three points of eighth place in the Western Conference, is that sufficient progress? Is that good enough for a team that’s finished 30th, 30th and 29th the past three seasons?
PLAYING OUT THE STRING
The Oilers weren’t nearly good enough against the Ducks – as far as the big picture, they won’t be good enough, period, until GM Steve Tambellini addresses the holes on this roster — despite a score dressed up by some terrific goaltending by Devan Dubnyk and a hope-and-a-prayer goal by Nick Schultz.
Outside of Taylor Hall roaring up and down the ice and the stellar play of Dubnyk, Oilers faithful had little to yell about during a game which at least provided comic relief when thick-skulled Anaheim fans mistakenly booed Nick Schultz (before his goal) instead of Justin Schultz for shunning So-Cal fans in favor of a city that actually cares about hockey, but I digress . . .
Thanks to an attack that went south the past three games, a drought that’s seen the Oilers outscored 10-2, you don’t need a spread sheet – really — or a vast intellect to understand the challenge for coach Ralph Krueger and his players now is to suck it up and play it out with as much gusto as they can muster the rest of the way. Finish strong. Don’t fold. Leave what needs to be done to those (Tambellini and Kevin Lowe) responsible for the make-up of this team.
Of course, we’ll hear plenty of that from the players and the coaches in coming days. What are they supposed to say? "We give up." As much of a kick in the teeth for fans as another year out of the playoffs is, I do see progress and I do see movement, slow as it has been, toward contention. Right now, that seems like cold consolation for those who wanted and expected more than "close."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.