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.

  • A-Mc

    It doesn’t seem to matter where we are in the season, the Summer is the often stated best time for trades; yet it doesnt happen for us.

    As a fan I’m emotionally worn out from all the hope, crushing defeat, waiting for summer and the disappointment that summer brought nothing of value. When does something get done? anything?

  • 1979

    I wish you wouldn’t sugar-coat the Oilers’ record by stating they have a 0.313 “points percentage”. The plain truth is that they have a 0.219 winning percentage.

      • Paq Twinn

        Points percentage. Good one. You either win or lose. Black and white. The Oilers don’t win enough. I couldn’t care less if the Oilers finish 10-15 points out of playoffs with 82 points but zero wins. It is ONLY about wins. It has always been about wins. Nobody cares how many times you kissed your sister but that hotty at the end of the block, you get credit for her.

        • I listed the black and white you talk about. It’s right here:

          “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.”

  • Personally I love Hall’s comments because it’s showing that he’s maturing as a player and a leader. I miss the days of Doug Weight, when the team was playing lousy he would call an all players meeting and carry the whole team on his back. The other players respected him and got results because of it. Can Hall become a Doug Weight? I sure hope so!

  • El Pindo

    Can’t wait until August, when I’m just so antsy to watch hockey again that my judgement of this team is horribly clouded and I make another homer prediction that they will be competitive

  • BubbaZanetti

    In all honesty I think mact t fired eakins to get the players attention. Specifically hall and the young core. Everyone in the world has reasons why the oilers are a losing team at this time but the truth remains with the players. And none of us will ever know. I argue that all the losing is opening the eyes of the young core on how much dedication and commitment is really needed to have a winning team in the nhl. And at this point the blame is on nobody but the players, there’s no one else to blame. For them to look at the organization and feel like it’s a losing one and leave that’s a cop out. Cuz the truth is they haven’t played there best hockey to bring the organization up. Regardless of the coach. Thers been like 5. It’s not a coach thing. Nor a management thing. It’s the players all being committed and focusing on the task. Tom renney had them so ready for that first game against Calgary I was impressed. That’s the team buy in they haven’t duplicated since then. I feel the young core feel the need to right the ship not leave. They know the oilers invested everything into them and I’m sure they wanna prove it to themselves let alone the organization that they aren’t losers and “can’t get rights”. Nelson knows almost the whole team. This could still end positively.

  • WTF2

    Brownlee says, “Losing. It’s an ugly place to be”.

    Ugly is looking at Lowe and his six rings.

    Ugly is watching MacT make his bold moves.

    Ugly is listening to Nicholson repeat the company line of BS.

    The fans live through this ugly mess everyday.

    Now let’s do something meaningful about it!

  • XL Lebowski

    Robin… The losing is on those players you mentioned.. If they were pulling their weight this would not be a problem.Columbus has done alright in the Nash trade.. I have no problen in trading any of them…

  • XL Lebowski

    If I was Katz, here’s what I would do: I’d bring in a new GM next year. I’d go hard after Mike Babcock with $. I’d let the new management group evaluate the assets and make hard decisions before/during/after the draft. I’d hire a new PR/Ad Agency to bring the brand back to life. And I would keep the length of my hair about where it is at the moment. But, I’m not Katz. I’m just a fan since the Gretzky WHA days.

  • 24% body fat

    For about the tenth time ! Reunite the Nuge /Hall / Eberle line.

    We will not know if Eberle or Hall should be traded ( especially Eberle) until they all are on the first line.

    Free Eberle!

  • bwar

    Brownlee : I think your stats point to the obvious problem with the Oilers . It’s not the digression so much of the young players , as much as it is the surrounding core that is making this club digress even more . The intensity for the most part is even higher than last year for that matter . Clean out the ones responsible for the lack of a decent core before dealing the youngsters away . I’ll give you Yakipov if you can get a decent return . MacT. has set us back 2-3 years . Your not going to make D.Brown’s out of the likes of our youngsters , so you better find a better way to use them or they are going to lose their scoring touch which has happened last two years by the looks of it .

  • Spydyr

    Realistically this management is here to stay at least until Mr. Katz has had enough of failure. I think MacT is going to stay the course by keeping the core in place and build through free agency and the draft despite limited success so far. He can’t really trade without getting hosed but if Eberle keeps playing soft he might be the one guy who is expendable and would bring back the coveted 2nd line centre.

  • Spydyr

    I think the worst thing you can do is give a player a big payday before they earn it,i think this may be the case here,there are few players making 6 mil a year.Didn’t Sather say he had to dangle a carrot infront of his young guys? Are they really 6 million dollar players.Your high end players have to be your best players or any team will fail.

  • Spydyr

    Been a fan of this team since day 1. These past couple of years have been horrible as a fan. I keep hearing how hard it is on the organization by the talking heads. Let me correct the organization on who is feeling it more. The FANS!

    Loosing has crept into the psyche of every fan, young and old. The only way to restore any resemblance of order is for this to win and win consistently. Anything else is pure horse manure.

    I have not bought any type of merchandise with the Oiler’s logo on it. Singular me may not make a whole lot of difference to profits for the Oil but me X thousands and you bet your sweet A$$ the organization will trip over itself to right the wrong.

    I don’t think there will be as many Oiler related gifts under the tree this year as there were in years past. Profits are shrinking Mr. Katz, bit by bit maybe but eventually, you will not be making a profit if the loosing mentality does not come to an end. The ball (puck) is in your court Sir.

  • Spydyr

    Sakic missed the playoffs his first 4 years, got bounced in round one in year 5, missed the playoffs in year 6, got bounced in round one in year 7 – then won his first cup in year 8.

    just saying….

    • Just saying what, exactly? That Sakic overcame playing for some lousy Quebec teams has little to do with Hall, Eberle and RNH, but if you want to bring him up, let’s look at the difference in circumstances.

      — Quebec had 104 points in Sakic’s fifth year, 1992-93, doubling the total of the previous season. That was significant progress that caused him to believe a corner had been turned — I know because I’ve talked to him about it. Hall’s fifth season here stands to be the WORST in his time here, not the best. Progress? Any reason to expect the Oilers will make the playoffs next season?

      — Sakic entered the NHL at 19. He wasn’t going anywhere, except by trade, until age 31 under the old CBA. He could request a trade but it was up to the team. Hall came in at 18 and, under the rules of the new CBA, will be a UFA after the 2019-20 season. He’ll be 28. If Hall sees little or no progress he can simply wait until UFA status and still have some prime years left. If he requests a trade, this regime is a lot more likely to consider it because they have so many more holes to fill than Quebec did after the 92-93 season.

      Quebec was showing signs of becoming a powerhouse before moving to Colorado and, as you pointed out, won the Stanley Cup in Sakic’s eighth season. What are the Oilers showing? Any guarantee the Oilers will make the playoffs, let alone win a Cup, in the next three seasons?

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Get rid of eberle, he provides nothing for the team. If your really bored one night and have to pick between a fishing show and an Oilers game just watch eberle. Soft, doesn’t create anything, never checks and is flopping on the ice more then he skates.

        • BubbaZanetti

          Here we go again, your right they’re not winning with current line ups just like they were not winning with the original line ups. Did you not watch the Arizona game !! Eberle should be in the effing press box let alone on the first line. To answer your previous question about how you received so many “trashes” about Eberle being on first line, well it goes something like…Eberle doesn’t deserve to be on the first line, it needs to be earned, what you’re talking about is entitlement and that is the reason why this team is a mess ! Answer your question for ya ????

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I sincerely believe that MacT does not have any control now. I believe that he needs permission to take a whiz never mind make transactions. Convince me otherwise.

    Also, he should be made to coach this team to the end of the year for 3 reasons:

    1. This is his team. Coach it if he thinks it’s good enough.

    2. This is unfair to Nelson. Make him the head coach with a contract or not. The interim tag with this roster is unfair.

    3. MacT coaching means he would have less time to convince his bosses to let him make anymore stupid moves.

    • 2. Absolutely not! This is a huge win for Nelson. It’s a no-lose situation. He can’t do worse than the team did under Eakins. If he roles up in here and the ship is turned in the right direction ever so slightly his value goes up in NHL circles. It’s the perfect storm!

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m sure many are sick of hearing this, but maybe we are seeing what Krueger brought to this team that was not as obvious. Perhaps his ability to motivate is better than first realised. He did have a book about motivation and was paid to do motivational speaking when he wasn’t doing the hockey stuff. It maybe made the Oil punch above their weight and without that we are seeing what a demoralised and demotivated team the Oil currently are.

    I’m guessing the players are questioning themselves, the management and everything and it leaves them in a state where nothing really makes sense or there isn’t that solution. It’s a messed up situation overall and I think that the only way out is a proper change in management.

    The Oil need someone from the outside who can see the issues and be merciless with organisational changes. No old boys club, no “former player” nepotism, nothing. The Oil need a fresh reset if they want to change things.

    I don’t see any of that happening sadly.