Oilers fans

When the Edmonton Oilers reek like overripe cheese and lose too much, fans are unhappy. When they get their act together and win too much, as they’ve done over the last month, fans are unhappy. Tough crowd.

It’s all about timing, of course. When the Oilers dashed expectations they would contend for a playoff spot and all but cemented an eighth straight year out of the post season by staggering to a 4-15-2 start, the crap hit the fans and they tossed it back at Dallas Eakins and his team. Too much losing.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

With Tuesday’s 5-1 stomping of the Nashville Predators at Rexall Place in the books, the Oilers have now won 10 of their last 17 games and have picked up three additional loser points during that stretch, giving them 23 of a possible 34 points since January 26.

That’s a pace that would’ve put the Oilers in the playoff picture had it started in October instead of late January. Obviously it’s a case of far too little, too late. All the Oilers are doing now is screwing up their chances at the highest possible draft choice. Some fans are unhappy. Too much winning.

It goes without saying, or should, that the vast majority of fans have every right to be unhappy without another face-plant out of the blocks and another year out of the playoffs. I’m on board with them. The too much winning crowd now? Not so much. Not at all, actually.



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I’ve said it before, as has Jason Gregor and others, and I’ll say it again: this group of Oiler players needs a taste of success to build on. This group of players needs to know what it feels like and what it takes to win and win consistently. Winning games, whenever those victories come, is a part of moving along the rebuild that management has been selling fans for years now.

I know where fans who’d like to see the Oilers stink now as badly as they did when it mattered are coming from as it pertains to the NHL Entry Draft and the order selection for also-rans and non-playoff teams. At the rate they’ve been winning lately, the Oilers chances of getting one of the first three picks in June are diminishing. Aaron Ekblad would look good in Edmonton silks.

From that standpoint, a late-season surge can throw a wrench in the works. That said, I see significant value in Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the rest of the Oilers putting the failure of yet another frustrating season behind them by finishing up on a roll.

Can I put a hard value, as in points or specific progress in development, on getting on a roll now? No, I can’t. Do I see a strong finish carrying over in terms of “momentum” to next season? No. It doesn’t work that way. What I can say is I’ve been around NHL dressing rooms long enough to know you can’t shake a loser’s mentality by continuing to lose.

From where I sit, winning now, even with playoff hopes a distant memory and every point gained at this juncture being a poke in the ribs for a sizeable segment of “tank it” fans, is the only way to go. Let the Buffalo Sabres, who come calling at Rexall Place Thursday with a death-grip on 30th place, be the dregs of the NHL. This team has been there and done that.



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

. . . Sam Gagner has 2-7-9 in his last eight games. I’ve always liked Sam, warts and all, and I always will, so I hope he stays hot. Not because I think he has a future here, but so that he regains something approaching value on the market. With Ales Hemsky gone, he’s the most likely top-six forward to go on the block when GM Craig MacTavish goes shopping this summer.

. . . I like the way Mark Fraser competes and he’s got the kind of mean streak the Oilers need, but it’s obvious to everybody he needs to pick up a step or two. I’m not sure if Fraser can accomplish that, but I’d like to see him after a summer spent with Steve Serdachny. Fraser will never be a gazelle, but he could be a useful sixth or seventh D-man if he can improve his mobility.

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

  • Johnnydapunk

    @ Brownlee, have you quit replying to comments on your blog? I certainly hope not they are very entertaining in the least. Didn’t your little Sam come on the scene about the same time as Sam Gagner?
    I know you always liked Gags and for some reason thought he gave you the idea for his name, I hope I’m not crossing the line asking you?

  • CMG30

    The Oilers need to win for the simple reason that they need to sign free agents in the off season. Free agents will be much more likely to want to come to a team that shows promise rather than simply a paycheque. More wins = better free agents signed for less money!

  • Johnnydapunk

    The worst thing about this whole discussion is that strategic losing is even in play. Dare I say when Sather ran the organization it was all about winning…period. In my humble opinion losing to capture high draft picks is no way to build a winning organization let alone a winning team.

    Pro-tankers argue that is the only way today. Tambellini and Lowe were real effective at putting the Oil into a nosedive. What they didn’t correctly calculate was their ability to pull the nose up before the Oil crashed face first into the prairie sod. The casualties in all this are the fans who bought tickets for this disastrous ride into hockey oblivion.

  • Serious Gord

    Since the Olympic break the oil has played 4 out of ten games against teams in the top sixteen.

    I will withhold judgement in whether this team has truly begun to improve to a level where they will be in the hunt for a playoff spot next year until they have played the last ten games of the season when they are playing 8 of those games against top sixteen – read: playoff quality – opposition.

    And I agree learning what winning tastes like is a priority for this team.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Just keep going back to the well…

    High draft position, High draft position, High draft position, High draft position…

    I swear it’ll work one of these days.

  • Spydyr

    Keep Gagner? Nooooooooooooo!!!! Over the last 2 years a lot of ink has been devoted to speculation of what the Oilers will get in return if/when he’s traded I’ll be totally pissed if I have to read about it again all next year. He’s been in the league 7 years, he doesn’t play well in his own zone which means he’s not a true top 6 forward and 6 rings is paying him as if he was which diminishes his trade value. If it’s a 2nd round pick so be it. Trade him, free up $4.8 million and move forward.

    • Spydyr

      Agreed!!! And pick 18 year old 235lb SKILLED STEAMROLLER NICK RICHIE from Peterborough if you can’t get EKBLAD MACT!!! Acquire your big 2nd line center (COUTOURIER???) via trade.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    A little bit above .500 the last month and everything is fixed now, is it?

    Maybe they could come to camp in the fall again without a top pairing blueliner, along with question marks in the 1st and 2nd line center spots now. Yeah,that’ll be progress. Play .600 hockey the rest of the season and select a kid who’ll be ready in three yrs like Nurse.

    Who cares about winning a few ship games that have little importance when it’s likely to cost you a kid who can help you out next season. I’ll take the kid who will start contributing next season, however unintelligent it may appear to those who in their own small minds, know better.

  • BigE91

    Will always root for the Oilers to win, no matter the position they are in. Obviously, it oversimplifies things to believe another #1 overall could be the answer. They had 3 consecutive and still haven’t turned the corner.

    Win as many games as they can.

  • I agree with you RB. I’m all about the win. I don’t care if it’s the beginning, middle, or end of a bad season. I want to see some passion and some goals. Winning will help to better unite this team – remember that 59-save game by Scrivens? It was a bit of a hot mess but somewhere in that game, it clicked that they could shutout the Sharks and their play changed. They were playing with some life and camaraderie, some cognizance to help Scrivens get the shutout; the team had a reason to win. That’s the kind of team I want to watch even if they’re #29.

  • Rdubb

    Robin, why so high on Ekblad?
    Wouldn’t it benefit the Oilers much more to draft a big skilled C? I think so, as it would Ekblad too long to make it to the NHL, by the time he would, I think some of our guys would be nearing their ends in contracts, and some may be moved, some may re-sign and others won’t. As you, Gregor and a host of others have ALWAYS pointed out, it takes a d-man way too long to grow into an NHL calibre d-man and a forward can, and higher picks generally do, can step up and play the following season and only grow from there on.
    I think it’d be easier for MacT to get a top D than a bigger skilled C, both of which the Oilers need. He can use Gagner, Yak, some of the younger up & comers and perhaps a combo of all of the above to get that top pairing guy as I feel there are more of them available than big skilled C’s.
    Plus, a top pairing D seems to come more often from the later rounds in the draft than big skilled C’s because they just seem to take longer to develop….
    just my thoughts, what do you think about them Robin, or any ON readers?