DISTRACTIONS

BrightSide

When a team has been as inept as the Edmonton Oilers have these past nine seasons, it’s human nature to try to look past the misery occasionally, to seek a distraction from the drudgery whether you’re witnessing the carnage from the press box or paying good money to see it from the seats at Rexall Place.

I used to do it when I was covering the beat and I find myself doing it now as the Oilers crawl to the finish line on their knees yet again. I try to find a storyline, even a tidbit, to provide a break from duly documenting the dismay for the umpteenth time – how flawed the line-up is, how incompetent management is, that Kevin Lowe must go, how just about everything sucks.

That’s not to ignore another year of defeat after defeat, the latest being a 3-1 loss to San Jose Thursday, and the issues that lead to the same old, same old, it’s simply to take a break from banging one’s head against the same wall, or walls, day after day. We’ll carry on with that soon enough.

Thankfully, there’s been a few of those distractions to ease another early exit. For me, it’s been watching Brandon Davidson, David Musil, Richard Bachman and, last night, Laurent Brossoit. Stories about people who may or may not play a significant role with the Oilers moving forward.

BEYOND THE SCORE

I’ve found myself pulling for Davidson, who at the age of 23 has overcome testicular cancer to continue his hockey career and make it this far. A sixth-round pick by the Oilers in 2010, the former Regina Pat was a longshot to even play an NHL game before the cancer struck him. How, or if, he fits in down the road, I don’t know. He now has 11 NHL games on his resume.

When I watch Musil lumber up and down the ice, I can’t help but think of him and his little brother Adam hanging around the rink in the days when their dad, Frank, was playing for the Oilers. Time flies. He reminds me of his dad, a tough, honest defensemen with limited skill. I don’t know if David will ever be able to live up to where he was drafted, 31st overall in 2011, or become a regular player here, but if he doesn’t it won’t be for lack of trying.

I cringed the other night when Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings blew a slapshot past Bachman from centre ice in his first game back in Edmonton’s line-up after dealing with the death of his older brother. Bachman prevailed, however, making 25 saves in a 4-2 win. I don’t know about you, but it did my heart good to watch the Oilers embrace Bachman, the undersized underdog in Edmonton’s goaltending picture, after the game.

Then, there was Brossoit, a former member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, taking his place between the pipes against the Sharks last night in his NHL debut. Playing behind a mostly AHL blue line group, he had every reason to be absolutely shaking in his skates. Brossoit had the local faithful roaring in the stands, making 49 saves. He was brilliant. Might Brossoit be the stopper the Oilers need? Maybe. But not now. Not yet.

With the Oilers closing out the season in Vancouver Saturday and GM Craig MacTavish facing the media early next week, we’ll get back to dissecting everything that is wrong with the team, and there is plenty, soon enough. From where I sit, Davidson, Musil, Bachman and Brossoit have provided welcome distractions.

THE FLIPSIDE

FlipSide

While Brossoit was knocking himself out to script what should have been a feel-good win, too many of his teammates chose to stand around and watch it rather than give the kid some help. I get it that the Oilers are undermanned and overmatched and playing out the string, but that’s inexcusable.

“He was outstanding,” coach Todd Nelson said of Brossoit. “But I was really disappointed with the lack of support in front of him. We had way too many passengers tonight.

“That was one of the best performances I’ve seen all year . . . It was a bit concerning. There were a handful of guys who worked hard, but it wasn’t enough. It was disappointing because it would have been a great story.”

Leading the list of those along for the ride was Justin Schultz, who lost an edge on Patrick Marleau’s goal to tie it 1-1 and all-in-all played yet another game looking disinterested. Frankly, guys like Schultz drive me nuts. He’s got all the talent in the world, but doesn’t have a ticker to match.

I wonder what plough horses like Musil, Matt Hendricks and other pluggers who are short on talent but long on try think about Schultz, a thoroughbred who only runs when he feels like it and spits the bit too often.

WHILE I’M AT IT

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I know I’m in the minority here, but I was happy to see the Calgary Flames clinch a playoff spot last night. For me, it’s not about rubbing Oiler fans’ noses in it, it’s that I like the way the Flames play. Specifically, the way they play for each other and that they never, ever quit. What a concept.

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

  • J-Dogg

    I liked the horse analogy, very apt.

    I’ve had the impression that management has been doing everything they can to reward Schultz for choosing Edmonton, almost to wash their hands of responsibility if and when he’s a bust.

    I think it’s safe to say that time has come, unless he magically develops work ethic and defensive responsibility overnight.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Disappointed to say the least we won’t be able to see Brossiot try and improve on that .961 sv% tomorrow night. Dosen’t make sense sending the 961 guy to the AHL and keep/reward the sub .900 guys by keeping them here. Why waste that next start on a guy whose a goner when the next 82 game death march begins in October. The kid has shown he can play/star at this level, even behind this group of blueliners. This obviously is a developemental team, and why can’t he further develop at the NHL level like the rest of these kids. Especially when he appears more capable than the veteran goaltenders. A 2 game glimpse is better than one.

    Really like Davidson as well. That kid is going to be a top 4 guy by the time he gets his 300 games in. He certainly isn’t afraid to sink his stick into opposing forwards.

  • J-Dogg

    I certainly admit the Flames have created a skilled, young, character-based team. They are very well coached and well managed and we look like sad sacks by comparison. I refuse to pretend they have not done a terrific job, but that does not mean I like it. I can no more root for them than I could root for the Oilers to lose and get a better draft position. So NO Flames NO!

    • BubbaZanetti

      Perhaps the young players they have are just “better” than the ones the Oilers have ? Good example; see Sean Monahan. I wonder why he is doing well, perhaps because he is surrounded by so many seasoned veterans, and is sheltered and was “taught” how to be an NHL’er.
      Oh maybe it was due to the fact he spent 3-4 yrs in minors learning the game?
      Or maybe it’s that Calgary drafted a guy with some character and who actually gives a crap.
      31 goals, 62 pts, +8 , not bad for a “kid” only 22 yrs old.
      And he’s not the only young guy Calgary has that apparently has figured out how to win hockey games.
      Oh and one more thing, in Calgary they don’t refer to any of their young players as the “Core”, they’re just part of the Team, whose expectation from start of the year was to make the playoffs which is exactly what they did. Good on them.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    @ Robin Brownlee

    ” know I’m in the minority here, but I was happy to see the Calgary Flames clinch a playoff spot last night. For me, it’s not about rubbing Oiler fans’ noses in it, it’s that I like the way the Flames play. Specifically, the way they play for each other and that they never, ever quit. What a concept.”

    Robin, I couldn’t agree more. I am a ten year season ticket holder and last Saturday when Calgary came to town my son and I threw on a pair of Calgary jerseys and showed our support for the Flames for the all important 2 points. For us, it was all about supporting a team who plays with heart, grit, determination, and each other. It was refreshing to say the least. I am not from Alberta so I do not have an internal/automatic hatred for Calgary like most people do. I am an Oiler fan, but a hockey fan first. The Flames play the game the way it was meant to be played. The Oilers…………………