DEAD-LAST OR DEAD AND LAST?

 

It seems ridiculous to say the Edmonton Oilers can forget about the playoffs for the eighth straight season after just 21 games, but that’s exactly where the Oilers find themselves with 61 games to play after a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Friday.

Fact is, you could have said that, and many have, three or four games ago. The loss to San Jose, coupled with a win by the Buffalo Sabres, leaves the Oilers 4-15-2 and dead-last, 30th, in NHL standings as they prepare to face the Calgary Flames Saturday in a provincial showdown of have-nots.

I’m not going to trot out the threadbare "playing for pride" bit coaches tend to default to when it’s obvious their teams are also-rans as the Oilers already are, but there’s no doubt Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish are going to learn a lot about the players on their team in the games that remain – aside from the obvious, that this roster isn’t good enough.

Frankly, given the frustration bubbling over as the defeats mount, like that articulated by Taylor Hall after the loss to the Sharks, it’s going to be a long and challenging string to play out. That said, Eakins and MacTavish will find out a lot about who’s-who and what’s-what.

FRUSTRATION MOUNTS

The Oilers played some of their best hockey in several games after the Sharks took a 3-0 lead, but that was cold consolation to Hall in the dressing room as the Oilers packed for a quick flight to Calgary.

Gene Principe of Sportsnet Tweeted this quote from Hall after the game: "I’m just so tired of coming in here after games and having to give a reason why we lost. We just gotta win."

Surrounded by reporters, Hall added: "We played well for the rest of the game, but it doesn’t matter. It’s for nothing.

"I’ve been around for so many losses that you kind of put yourself in a tailspin of wondering what it is. It’s really hard. We’re trying really hard in here but we’re not winning games. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters."

While it’s foolish to try to read too much into what Hall said just minutes after another disappointing defeat – one wouldn’t expect him to be tap dancing with glee — it doesn’t take a vast intellect to figure out Hall and his teammates are just as sick of losing as fans are. The question now is what he and his teammates do about it the rest of the way.

LONG WAY TO GO

The way I see it, there’s a big difference between being dead-last in the standings and dead and last in the 61 games that remain. What I want to see is who digs in and battles the rest of the way. Who fades away? Who flat out mails it in? I’d imagine Eakins and MacTavish want to know, too.

This isn’t about saying, "Don’t give up boys and everything will be OK." That’s naïve. This team is flawed in the way it’s been put together, as has been pointed out for a long, long time, and a bunch of "try-hard" efforts isn’t going to make the deficits in this team’s make-up go away.

Addressing the shortcomings by position and in personnel falls to MacTavish, but he’s going to get a good, long while to assess who fights and who folds from here on out, and that does play into where this team is going in the long term.

Is Hall up for it? Is Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov and on and on? Who is resilient and stubborn enough to suck it up and go balls out with the post-season again a pipe dream? Who has been broken, or is close to it, by all the failure? Who says, "I’m sick of this and I’m not going to take it?" Who says, "I’m sick of this. I quit?"

Who has a heartbeat? Who is dead and last?

PARTING THOUGHT . . .

I wonder if MacTavish is seriously considering bringing in an experienced NHL coach to bolster his staff and I wonder if he still has Paul Maurice’s phone number?

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

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    solid article but…

    we know who the floaters are. we know who the guys are with talent who play with some guts (it’s not many). we know who the Fancy Boys are who overpass, sit on the perimeter and are too weak to get greasy. having 61 games to figure that out is ridiculous.

    the defense is so over-matched by any team that isnt symmetric with the Oilers caliber of roster. “puck moving D” is a farce. “puck losing D” – the non-red wings model.

    there’s way too many walking dead on this team. theyre not even passengers. passengers rely on a driver and no one is driving this team.

    this is just a game of politics and money now since we all know that the management team should be completely wiped. theyve all had their fingers in this too long. “We gave them dumb contracts so now we have to eat our humble pie of crap while we wait patiently.”

    and WTF are the coaches teaching these kids during TC and pre-season? Eakins not being able to “implement” some facets of his system? if this was the NFL that f-ing coach would have been fired for getting partial (or non-existent) systems in place.

    rebuild FAIL.
    this is the Atlanta Thrashers at expansion time through the early 2000s. the fact that an established NHL team has a roster as poor as an expansion team even after multiple attempts at free agency, trades and drafts (where’s the help there outside of obvious picks?) is a massive disappointment.

    instead of seeing who has the guts on the ice, lets see “authority” in the franchise has the guts to get rid of some of these faith-based flunkies running the show.

  • M22

    Here’s a thought:

    If, hypothetically, you could give Daryl Katz two scenarios to chose from:

    1) Continue the current model of building a mangement group (stocking the group with your idols of yesteryear), then one day come close to winning the Stanley Cup, but never actually win it.

    or:

    2) Clean house and build a managemnt group based on best available hockey minds (do I even need to say it doesn’t include anybody currently employed by Katz?), and then one day actually win the Cup.

    ….I truly wonder which scenario he would pick. Hardly anybody really knows this man. I certainly don’t. What motivates him as an owner? Is it winning the Cup? Or is it the experience of NHL ownership? It must be very satisfying to do this with a bunch of his close buds; people he knows and trusts.

    In fact, I wouldn’t even criticize what his motives are. It’s his team; he bought it, and can run it how he wants. I, as all of you do, sit and ponder far too much about how the hell this team remains, after all this time, a disaster, with little tangible evidence to provide hope, and plenty of historical evidence to prolong dread and doubt.

    We won’t be completely satisfied until we win the Stanley Cup. For Katz, that might be just the gravy.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      Katz is the only guy who is a bigger loser than Kevin Lowe. Howson is number 3.

      None of them care about winning they only care about scmoozing in fancy places and eating lobster stuffed with caviar.

      • M22

        “None of them care about winning they only care about scmoozing in fancy places and eating lobster stuffed with caviar.”

        Highly doubtful. It’s not that management doesn’t care. It’s that they are NOT CAPABLE!

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I’m not so sure it is just players who may ‘mail it in’ as you say. I think Katz, Lowe, GM and coaches have already ‘mailed it in’. Neither Mact nor Eakins seem to have a clue on how to build or coach. Sorry, but the above listed are an epic fail.

  • **

    I would much rather see some of that arena money spent on building a better building for the Golden Bears. They are a much older tradition, win consistently, and are part of a very important institution in the province.

    And boy does Clare Drake need an upgrade.

  • M22

    PAUL MAURICE
    Career coaching:

    Games coached: 1084

    Games won: 460

    Games lost; 457

    Games tied: 99

    Games lost in OT: 68

    FIRED 3 times. 2 by Carolina. 1 by Toronto.

    Thats 65 games under .500 over numerous years.

    Sad attempt at humour there Robin.

  • Dockstaff

    People talk about passion on the ice, I like the little bit of passion we are seeing off the ice. Even the little grumbling from Hall and Yakupov this week cannot go unnoticed by Lowe, Katz and management. After all a disgruntled employee is a bad employee and these guys are the cash cows the management is hoping to keep around for a long period of time. Sure, it would be great to see it on the ice, but these guys are 20 something and when I was in my 20’s I think I showed my passion in the wrong way more than once. Get a few more guys to show their disgruntled pleasure at how the team is going and you’ll see quicker movements in management than any financial hit. Here is some interesting stats on the Oilers financial situation: Forbes rates the Edmonton Oilers as the 14th most expensive NHL franchise, that means Gary Bettman has 16 other franchises to worry about financially before the Oilers (don’t think there is much fear about Edmonton not having a NHL team, it’s a good market) By the way, the lowest valued team in the NHL is the St. Louis Blues, I don’t think anybody in Edmonton would mind if the current team moved out and that owner put his team where he can make a profit. The hockey would be good and something we could be proud off. Also, the Oilers have a positive gross income above about 20 odd teams. One team that has traditionally lost money year after year is the Anaheim Ducks, wonder what position they are in the NHL?
    Here is a suggestion, rather than empty the seats, boo the team like crazy in the second and third period, they take care of the score line. You’ll definitely see some reaction from the players. I’ll bet MacT will try to put differences between the fans and the players to make the players feel like he is their buddy but I really like what Dallas had to say about the fans – that they have a right to boo and expect better hockey. If you look at him, you can see he wears every loss on his shoulders, he hates it as much as the players and we do. I do not see the same expression on the Oilers of past.

  • Dockstaff

    Leaving with 4 minutes in doesn’t solve anything. Most of our games our half empty by the last few minutes anyways. I’m a season ticket holder and I have no problem giving up a game or two to have 2 empty seats there, but I’m not doing it in a small group.

    RB – How can something like this be organized to get across to the entire fan base / season ticket holders? If something is planned for a specific game or two obviously some people will still go, but if we got the word out – I’m sure the majority of fans would stay home.

  • Dockstaff

    I was at the SJ game lady night and it was sad to see the crowd reaction. Nobody cares. Ref made a few bad calls against the oilers and nary a peep in the crowd. NOBODY CARES ANYMORE. Would one power play make a difference? Nope. No emotion from the players or crowd. Pathetic.

  • reaperfunkss

    1st tier fans please hear me. I know you are going to the game tonight but send a message. Don’t buy anything at the game until you see how they perform. If it is a good performance buy a beer/food/pop or whatever. If it is bad DO NOT GIVE ANY MORE MONEY!!!

    If they still suck at the end of the 2nd just leave. Dont boo dont shout just get up at the end of the 2nd and keep going.

    Although do it with 5 minutes left in the period will get better media coverage.

    I know this is just my pipe dream but you have the power 1st tiers. I know you are better at being a fan than I am (since ’79) so please fix this.

    There that outta do it. 🙂

  • Dockstaff

    I think the idea of Paul Maurice is intriguing. Anybody with some experience with winning at the NHL level would be fantastic. It’s unfortunate that a guy like Taylor Hall would be on his 4th coach if Eakins is not brought back next year. Of all the so-called young guns, he seems to be the only one who really cares if the team wins or loses. I hope the kid doesn’t ask for a trade but I wouldn’t blame him if he did. Right now, it looks like Eakins’s has lost the room he needs to be removed before next year begins. It’s time for Daryl Katz to step up and take control of a franchise that is moving backwards. Although I’d love for the Oil to be competing for the playoffs, I’m enjoying seeing well-deserved fan backlash against this horrendous management/coaching group. Edmonton fans have been so loyal and patient through the last 7 years of incompetence. We’re only 1/4 of the way through too. It’s gonna be ugly. And, to make matters worse, the Olympics will make the season even longer for Lowe, MacT and the crew.

  • arsenaloilerbarca

    I’m so sick of this playing for pride nonsense. We will start to play better when we realize how far out of it we are and that there is no more pressure. That won’t be the take when next season starts up again.

    By now I think we know the makeup of most players on this team, at least the ones who have been Oilers for a few years. As long as the players stay the same, expecting the game to change is foolish.

    • What playing for pride “nonsense” are you referring to? If that’s directed at me, I’d suggest you read the item again.

      This team still needs considerable turnover on the roster to have any chance at becoming a contender.

      Part of the process in deciding who stays and who goes and making this team harder to play against (something that’s been identified as a need) is finding out who is willing to play wire-to-wire for an entire 82-game season and who folds up or fades when it gets tough, like it is now. See who keeps bringing it and who takes the easy way out. That matters.

      If you’re “so sick” of everything that you can’t see that, too bad. It doesn’t make that part of the team-building process less valid.

  • Gordie Wayne

    I have been a season ticket holder for the Oilers since 1976, the old WHA days. Been through some rough times and some great times. I can honestly say I have never seen a team more poorly run than this organization. I have seen George Burnett coach a bad team but he did a better job than this Eakins clown with nothing to work with. I have stopped going to the Oiler games and will give my season tickets up next year. Don’t care if someone else gets them, good luck with them. Can’t stand MacTavish standing in front of a a mic and saying F#@#ALL He is clearly incompetent in this job. Katz has to step in and fire everyone from KLOWE all the way down to the last assistant coach and scout. Joey Moss is the only one that needs to stay. Only way this embarrassment of a team will every climb out of the toilet. The Islanders in their embarrassing days were a class organization compared to this joke here. Sick of it and will not take anymore.

    • You have had tickets 15 years longer than me(of course I missed all the cups) and I agree with you completely, I can’t believe Mac T’s presser when he said we believe in our core of 8 or 9 guys and are going to ride it out, in my core there would be Hall, RNH,Yakapov,Eberle ,Perron, Nurse,Schultz and possibly Petry.They need a top six forward with size and grit and at least two d men that will hit, fight and shut things down and one of them have to be a lefty with a decent shot for the powerplay, they can be #3’s and can be had.