EVEN WHEN THEY WIN, THEY LOSE

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.

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.

JUST WIN

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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.

WHILE I’M AT IT

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. . . 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.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Some people are never happy unless they’re miserable. I’m sure we all know at least a few people who are like that. Same with fans. After all the losing we’ve seen over the years in Edmonton, why are we complaining now about winning too much? Winners win. Losers lose.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    The die have been cast, and we need to accept the Oilers fate for what it is. We have many theories on why we are once again near the basement. Maybe it was the goaltending, defence, too soft to play against, terrible defence, too many of the same type of players, a system that wasn’t working….the list is endless. For the last several games, we are holding our own and have been successful. If this continues, regardless of where we finish, my hope is that the UFAs are keeping an eye on the Oilers and will want to play here in the Fall, God knows we have the skill and talent and finally it looks like we are connecting the dots. The Oilers just need to be as determined and as focused as the Blues. The fans are waiting.

  • I personally don’t care about the pick. It would be nice to have Ekblad, but I’d rather see this team showing that they give a Damn. I’m not sure this team has turned a corner like their recent record suggests, but it is a step in the right direction. I just hope MacT doesn’t get too fooled by recent events. Mr. Dithers would use this promising end to the season as a reason to take no action in the off season. I think it’s still important to bring in a stabilizing D force.

    This good record of late is a great thing though. I’m more tired of the dumb fans here than this team losing. There are more ways to improve a team than picking #1 overall year after year. I’ve had enough of that routine. I also don’t like the pressure on the players. Half the city wants them to lose, it seems, and the other half justifiably is pissed if they lose. It’s a no win situation for them. All they can do is just ignore this Bi polar fan base and do what athletes are supposed to do.. Try to win. Breaking their defeatist mentality is the best thing they can do with the remainder of this year.

  • All those whining that we’re “winning too much” are the reason the team felt a full-on tanking strategy would fly here in Edmonton. If we had fans like Montreal the head office on Kingsway would be nothing more than smouldering pile of cinders by now.

  • 2004Z06

    It is only on “fan sites” like ON where tanking is discussed. If they were to actually tank the Oilers would lose sponsors, season ticket sales, and merchandise sales.

    You never become a winner by losing.

    • You can’t be serious. The Oiler “rebuild” is a textbook case study in tanking. They’ll be talking about this one in GM school for the next twenty years.

      The reason the team got away with it is the Oilers are the only big ticket game in town. There’s still a waiting line for season tickets and corporations fall over themselves to buy suites and ad space no matter how the team does. Not to mention that we have some of the highest viewership %-wise for our region in the whole of the NHL.

      What made it seem legit was the beauty of hiring the perfect patsy – Steve Tambellini. He only did what Lowe/Katz told him to do (or not do) to acquire top draft picks. Seriously. If Joe hockey blogger can see obvious hockey moves a mile away what makes you think guys actually in the business for decades don’t see the same thing?

      • Serious Gord

        Au contraire mon ami. I saw empty boxes and sold but empty seats since even before the Olympic break. I think the bottom line is being affected. I wonder if there is a record for the 50\50 draw prize. That is a good barometer.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    The thought of this team playing a 7 game series against LA or St Louis is straight up frightening. That kind of says it all right there.

  • 23 of 34 = 110 pts.
    An impressive run.
    Realistic for this crew over 82? No, but 90 is/was with the psychology of good tending. It’s not as bad as all are saying. 3 or 4 solid moves more and they will play StL in StL to start next year’s playoffs. We all know how that will go, but it’s something.

  • I also agree the time to lose is over. This team need to win, and win against the tough pacific teams to show themselves they can play and win with anyone.

    I think this year should have marked the end of rebuilding through the draft anyway. Every successful rebuild spend some time in the basement to get their high end talent, drafts expertly through the later rounds to find the complimentary pieces, and then goes out and fills in the holes as necessary.

    The Oilers have certainly gotten the high end talent. Unfortunately I think the complimentary players are still developing and may be a few years off.

    So, now is the time to get the other pieces using other methods. Yes it would be great to get Ekblad, which essentially would make our defensive prospect pool one of the deepest in the entire league. But that is not going to help the team win come October 1st next year.

    Credit to Mac T for shoring up the goal tending issue. He made some strides to balance out the top 6 with the addition of Perron, but needs to go one step further. Given the free agents on the market this year, and the assets we have for trade, there should be no excuse to have a more balanced top 6 next year.

    As for the D, well outside of time waiting for said prospects to develop, Mac T is going to have to pay someone, and pay someone a lot. Fingers crossed Mac T can sort out these two issues before the beginning of the season.

  • 2004Z06

    Personnally, I am between the two camps. I like the wins of course, I really do. But there is usefulness in losing sometimes. And its not just the draft. It’s more about the fact that a hot streak will create the illusion that all is fine in the eyes of mr Katz.

    Comments by Ales Hemsky and Lad Smid after they were traded point to the fact the Oilers need a change of philosophy. The goalie coach in Nashville pointed that Dubnyk needed to “unlearn what he had learned”. Thus, this relative success in the end of a wasted season will erase the writing on the wall that some individuals in the front office and in the coaching staff need to be removed.

    Other than that, an Oilers win DOES make me feel better, so I can imagine what it does for the young players.

    P.S. Marincin looks like the real deal.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I sort of understand the consolation-prize mentality of those who don’t want to see the Oilers winning their way out of a high draft pick.

    But it’s just wrong. They’re asking the players to mail it in. “Trust me, it’s for a good cause, they’ll draft a future #1D”. Sorry, there’s no justification for an athlete to screw the pooch in front of the paying public. When players aren’t trying, good fans boo. That’s when they SHOULD boo, because the level of effort is entirely in the control of the player.

    Also, I like how the team has played in the last couple of months, but the last dozen games are mostly against top teams. We have fans worried that the Oilers will do too well against these teams? Really?

    I hope they play as hard as they can and get as many points as they can. Then take their chances at the draft, wherever they are drafting from.

    If you want consolation when the team loses, just bet against them. Either you’ll have some money or your team will have won.

    • 2004Z06

      Completely agree! Thats what ive been doing for years and its almost like having your own money tree in your back yard, or like printing your own money in your basement!

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    The biggest reason for the recent record is the quality of opponents they are facing. This team is definitely better in net and improved on the blue line as well with Marincin in the mix (which, as nice as it is to see, is also an indication of how bad the blue line really is), but still does not have the size and skill to play the top teams in the West.

    That being said, this is a weak draft year so unless they win the first pick I would rather see the team win as often as possible instead of tank the rest of the way. The younger players need to start developing habits required to win consistently in the NHL and the sooner they can do that the better.

  • Good read RB…I agree with ya and being an all-time Oiler fan I have to say that it is tough for me to watch them play much better now and win…. when all that is left s the upcoming draft and getting that Ekblad kid.

    Don’t get me wrong as I do want the Oilers to win and make the playoffs every year and waiting these last eight seasons has been draining. I do not ever like the idea of purposely tanking in any sport or league myself.

    But, the Oil need to see what their kids can do right now (i.e- Klefbom, Pitlick, Lander, etc… Marancin has been outstanding already), and….if the Oil can somehow get first or second overall with the draft coming up, then Ekblad coming here is virtually a given. That being said we would have the (arguably) top two of three defensive prospects of the last couple of drafts….with him and Nurse against Seth Jones. I do like this possibility very much.

    I would like to get a Nikitin or Tyutin this summer along with Moulson and/or Matt Greene as new free agent signings or even trades to compliment the team big time as well.

    I sadly and necessarily think that one or two of Gagner, Yakupov, Petry (along with prospects like Gernat, Musil, Davidson, etc), will have to be traded to then super improve what the Oil are now….for next season

    Last but not least, Prior to MacT being the GM…. I completely believe that we (Oiler fans) suffered mostly for the last four years for sure (out of eight)because of Tambellini’s hugely suspect deals, signings, and non-actions….and his ideas of the coaching system/hirings/firings.

    • Spydyr

      Yes Tambellini was a problem but six rings Kev pulled the strings on the puppet called Tamby. If anyone thinks that Lowe isn’t to blame for the abject failure that this organization has become, then they haven’t got a clue. I was a supporter of MacT coming in because I though he’d have the Autonomy to do what he felt right and not be subject to KLowes meddling micromanagement. Yet here today I hear Food Stuffer say they were both scouting the Junior game in Red Deer watching Draisatle…**^#%

      • Oiler63

        “Yes Tambellini was a problem but six rings Kev pulled the strings on the puppet called Tamby. If anyone thinks that Lowe isn’t to blame for the abject failure that this organization has become, then they haven’t got a clue. I was a supporter of MacT coming in because I though he’d have the Autonomy to do what he felt right and not be subject to KLowes meddling micromanagement. Yet here today I hear Food Stuffer say they were both scouting the Junior game in Red Deer watching Draisatle…**^#%”

        Agreed Lowe needs to leave MacT alone. But I doubt Lowe still has the same influence on MacT as he had on Tamby. MacT is too proud to be anybody’s puppet. Judging based on some of the recent moves he probably has more say than Tamby ever had.

  • Anton CP

    If anyone has problem with winning, they should stop watch hockey altogether. A team can pile as many prospects and draft picks as many as they want (ex. Islanders) but without the winning attitude in any situation then the result will be a never ending sucking. Many of the good teams in NHL were not build base on high picks, if a team cannot utilize talents then it will all go to waste. Hawks were a winning team because they had Hossa, Campbell, and Sharp. Pens were a winning team because they had Lemieux.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      Correct me if I am wrong, but the Pens winning with Lemieux happened in the early 90s when they built around a #1 overall pick……

      The Blackhawks also did not win until after they added Toews (#3 overall) and Kane (#1 overall), two top 3 picks. The supporting cast of Sharp, Seabrook, Keith, et al. were already in place.

  • Anton CP

    I disagree that Gagner is gone.Can’t see a viable replacement on the horizon. Plus I think Gagner regardless of media or public opinion Gagner has the faith of MacT.

    I think MacT sits him down at the end of the year and gives the Sam we need to talk about what we can do to make you a better player speech. Sam is in same boat that Horcoff was when he first arrived. He needs a gentle voice from the GM to say Hey we believe in you.

    Fraser. Nope

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      Completely agree with you.

      Based on the rumors so far, I don’t see anyone available thats actually a better option that Sam.

      Tie in the fact that he seems to have the coach, and GM’s trust. He’s 5th in points on the team, despite missing a large chunk of games, and is not the worst offender for giveaways.

      I think there will be lots of trade rumors this summer regarding him, but I’d still bet he’s in Oilers silks when training camp starts.

    • 2004Z06

      This isn’t kindergarten. At 4.8 Mil per, no one should have to sit down and explain to Samwise what is needed from him. He has had 7 years to figure it out.

  • CaptainLander

    Perpetually unhappy fans….we will call them “Brownlees”

    I kid, I kid… totally agree win, just win. Play as though it matters. Fact is Oil can win a lot over final games, they will still be in the lottery.

  • Anton CP

    only 4 maybe 5 wins in the last twenty or so games came against playoff teams. This has been an easy part of their schedule and that’s why the wins have came more frequently. They are playing better for sure and the goaltending has been all world but another season without playoffs has killed much of the positive energy toward this organization.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Well that is kindof true, but there aren’t too many teams that are playing for pride right now, there are quite a few who are playing for a playoff spot so they are playing even harder as they need the points.

      The Oil are winning against teams that are desperate to win so in a whacked out sort of way, they are a lot better than what they were.

      I just hope it’s gonna be a sign for next year and I also hope it doesn’t mess up the Oil’s draft position.

      What is really insane is that the Oil still have a chance to finish above .500 somehow.

  • ubermiguel

    Posted originally in the GDB Wrap-up, but it’s more appropriate here:

    “First off, win no matter what – learning to find ways to win and making a habit of winning are the most important thing”

    ^This a million times. The team reminded us last night the problem is not the absence of another #1 pick, it’s a lack of winners’ habits. Ference talked about this in his first HNIC After Hours interview months ago. It looks like the losers are starting to get it and are slowly becoming winners.

  • John Chambers

    Get ahead of Florida, The Isles, and Cowtown.

    Draft Del Colle. Trade Yakupov for a young D, and Gagner for a carton of cigarettes. Sign Markov, Winnik, and Grabovski.

    Plan the parade.