LOSING

Loser

No matter what your walk of life, consistent failure stains and diminishes everything and everyone it touches over time. Fighting the good fight day after day after day, with failure doubling success, will knock the starch out of the best of us sooner or later.

A fat pay cheque or a reasonable measure of fame, peripheral benefits and entitlements might take the edge off and extend the time you’re willing to tolerate that failure, but if you can get the same money and perks someplace else, why stick around and get your teeth kicked in?

I was thinking about that after the Edmonton Oilers lost 2-1 in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes and I found myself wondering what Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are thinking with 50 games remaining and the Oilers, 7-19-6, about to miss the playoffs for a ninth straight season.

Specifically, how long until Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, the core around which this team is being built and around which hope is being sold to fans more faithful than this once-proud franchise deserves while being run into the ground, check out, decide they’ve had enough?

In parts of five seasons since Hall and Eberle arrived to start the 2010-11 campaign, the Oilers have played 326 games. They’ve won 112, or about one-third, of those games. In the case of Nugent-Hopkins, who arrived to start the 2011-12 season, it has been 87 wins in 244 games.

By the numbers, the yearly record looks like this:

2010-11: 25-42-12 62 pts .378 points percentage.

2011-12: 32-40-10 74 pts .451

2012-13: 19-22-7 45 pts .469

2013-14: 29-44-9 67 pts .409

2014-15: 7-19-6 20 pts .313

FAILURE AND INEPTITUDE

Failure

A media horde picked Hall’s brain on exactly the above issue in Arizona Tuesday. Is all the losing getting to him? Is Hall still all-in on what seems like a perpetual rebuild? Here’s some snippets of what Hall, the subject of much trade speculation over the last few days, had to say:

Q: “Are you still fully engaged and in on this project? Are you still ready to ride this thing out?”

HALL: “Absolutely. I’ve said this off-camera to many people: It would be a shame to leave the group now. It wouldn’t feel right. It wouldn’t be a good feeling to leave the group in the stage we’re at. We want to make it to the final stage; we want to be a contending team in this league.”

Hall was then asked about seeing Dallas Eakins dismissed, the latest casualty in what has been an ongoing carousel of coaches since he arrived in Edmonton.

“There has been almost zero success since I’ve been here as an Oiler,” Hall said. “Maybe one coach, you think, ‘OK, maybe the next one is going to be the guy to bring us there.’ But after a while you start looking in the mirror, and wondering how much you’re bringing to the team, and what I need to do to be better. Certainly this year has been an example of that. I haven’t been my best. I’m looking forward to getting my game back.”

You can read the entirety of Hall’s quotes here.

WHAT NEXT?

WhatsNext

None of any of the above is intended to offer a “Poor babies, they’ve got it so tough with all this losing” crutch. Hall, Eberle and RNH are professionals and are paid handsomely, $6 million a season, to produce results. They make more money in one pay period than most fans make in several years. A bad day at the rink, and there have been many, is still better than a good day at the jobs most fans work at to pay the bills. They are not hard done by.

That said, Hall, Eberle and RNH will make their millions no matter where they play in the NHL. At what point, if at all, do they decide it’s not going to work here? At what point do they decide they’ll have to go someplace else to have a chance to win as they enter the prime of their careers? At the end of the contracts they’re inked to now? Sooner?

At what point – and speculation about this has been growing – might the people calling the shots in hockey-ops decide one or two of the pillars this rebuild was supposed to be built on might have to go? Was captain Andrew Ference referring to any of the Big Three when he spoke out about players sulking around the dressing room as the defeats piled up yet again? 

The problem, as I said off the top, is consistent failure over an extended period of time diminishes everyone it touches. How will Hall feel after he completes his fifth season with the Oilers without even the faintest sniff of playoff contention?  

Even if GM Craig MacTavish decides it’s time to dip into his core to make a change and address holes in the roster between now and next season, he’ll be dealing at cents on the dollar. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t make a move, but he has to know going in he’s not going to get full value.

Losing. It’s an ugly place to be.

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

  • Serious Gord

    Losing and more significantly losing worse than you have lost before is extremely corrosive to the one thing that youth has over age:

    HOPE

    Prior to the last two seasons though there was plenty of losing the rate of loss was decreasing and these “core” players only had a couple of seasons under their belt and some promising young players around them who seemed to be coming along as well. They were full hope for themselves and their team. And bouyant hope becomes a huge anchor to hold ones loyalty both to their team and to the growth of their careers.

    But today what does Taylor hall have to look forward to? at least a couple of years of roughly the same. He looks down the bench and sees Petry on his way out; yak failing and also on his way out; eberle dragging his a$$; RNH fighting but with no support – never smiling anymore, burdened by his sense of duty; shultz seemingly uncaring, uncommitted and a disappointment.

    And then he goes by the executive offices and sees the klowen who lives like a hermit and seems to be avoiding any of the responsibility for what is happening and for not delivering on what was promised to him and his team.

    Taylor hall is at a very brittle point in his relationship with the oil. If he sees a greater future elsewhere – a place where he can regain hope for the glory and achievements he dreamed of for as long as he can remember – and he sees no substantive commitment – no change in the very gut of this team’s culture, then he could indeed be in another teams silks next October.

    The first step in regaining hope for him (and oil fans) is for katz to fire Lowe.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Great Scott! I have the answer to the woes of the Oilers! It’s the jerseys! They can’t win with the retro jerseys because that style will forever belong to the Greats of yore! It is impossible to win with these jerseys as the souls of Gretzky and Messier and Kurri have rendered all others who wear them impotent! Time to go back to the 2006 jerseys or a variation on them. They were sharp and I liked them and they will lift the curse . MR KATZ, YOU CAN PAY ME THAT MILLION BY CHEQUE. YOU ARE MOST WELCOME!

  • oilerjed

    Mr Negative…..this is a message from somebody that has no concept of ‘the process’! I really want to hear from you Brownlee in 2017 when everything will have some maturation. Sensationalism sells I guess! Interesting to hear what you have to say in 2017!

  • You know Robin, I get it I do. There’s a losing culture here, no question. But don’t you think a guy worth his salt sticks it out? I mean, the re-build is built on the core of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and sadly slower to join the party are Yakupov, Schultz, Draisaitl, Nurse, Klefbom. That is the core. If Hall leaves now, quite simply…. he’s failed. You can’t walk out now, before primes have been reached.

    Trading any of these core players is a huge mistake at this point as painful as this process has been. Don’t blow it up before the core reaches it’s prime potential.

    As a huge fan, it makes me sick to think they won’t see the playoffs for 2 more years but I have to believe this core surrounded by the right supporting cast can be molded into winners.

    If in 2 years they aren’t fighting for a playoff spot, then…

  • The Oilers biggest mistake was when they decided “to rebuild” and built the team the wrong way. You build from the middle out. Take Seguin. Take RNH. Take Galchenyuk. Add Gordon as your 4th C and you have one of the top groups of centres in the league. You’d still have Eberle on 1RW.

  • All these comments about the core potentially giving up are alarming. These are all world class athletes. They are highly competitive. They have fame now and want more fame. They have money now and want more money.

    The second they throw in the towel they are finished. Any time you quit it is easier to quit the next time.

    I, for one, don’t think they will quit.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I think I actually agree with all of this Robin – though I think this and arguments like it give the three 6-million dollar men too much of a pass. They play the most minutes, are expected to succeed the most, lead this team.

    One of the billion mind-numbing hockey cliches…

    “You are only as good as your best players.”

    The Oilers are pretty damned terrible. Soooo…..

  • GCW

    Just this season MacT has passed over the following players on waivers:

    Centre –
    Chipchura (51.8% corsi)

    RW –
    Brunner (53.5% over the past two seasons)
    Nestrasil (56.4%)
    Frattin (50.7%)

    LW
    Conacher (48.9%)

    These are players he could have had for free.

    He could be running two lines with easier zone starts and competition

    Hall – Nuge – Eberle
    Purcell – Arcobello – Yakupov

    And two lines with tougher starts and comp

    Perron – Gordon – Brunner/Frattin/Panik
    Hendricks – Chipchura – Nestrasil

    That would be a much more competitive team and wouldn’t waste a year of Draisaitl’s free agency.

  • 1979

    I disagree with your statement Robin that Mac T won’t get full value for the core. I think any of Hall, Nuge, and Eberle would bring full value but their values are all different with Hall worth the most on the open market and Eberle worth the least. Yakupov and Schultz would bring in less then they might be worth in a few years if they sort things out, but the others trade value has not been diminished significantly because of the Oilers losing ways. The teams know they are trading for players who have most often persevered through intense losing and at times have played extremely well despite their terrible team.

  • ….Robin perhaps you could tell me why the Oilers make continually wrong decisions from management to players. We have not had an NHL goalie since Rollie, Scrivens is not dependable, looks worse than before, Schultz has had too long a rope to prove himself and has squandered the opportunity. MacTs bold moves have been busts except for Hendy and Gordy…….