“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
As rants go, they don’t get much more epic than the beauty actor Peter Finch delivered here in the film Network. While that’s a little old school for fans of the Edmonton Oilers who weren’t even born when the movie was released in 1976, it’s obvious reading the comments section of the website this morning more than a few of you can relate. With good reason.
The problem for fans, assuming those of you grinding your teeth yet again after a 4-3 loss the Arizona Coyotes choose to keep leaving the porch light on waiting for the team to contend again, is you are going to take this some more as the Oilers stagger toward a 10th straight season out of the playoffs and wait-until-next-year time approaches.
I’m damn sure not going to sit back and tell fans they shouldn’t vent after paying to watch what they’ve seen for the last decade – the swear filters here are getting a workout and I’m guessing some of the moms reading over your shoulders are nodding in approval. Not surprising.
What did catch my attention, though, was head coach Todd McLellan’s post-game interview after watching the Oilers cough up a two-goal lead against the Coyotes. McLellan was clearly frustrated – more candid than going Full Finch – and he’s been watching this team for just 44 games.
WHAT HE SAID
“It’s so friggin’ frustrating right now because we leave without points and yet there’s positives,” McLellan said. “You know, at some point you get concerned about the belief system. We talked earlier in the year. You get concerned about that.
“The frustration level was up a little bit, I thought, near the end of the game tonight. We’re fighting that, but as long as we keep the belief system where it should be, we’ll keep working.” You can listen to the full interview here.
We saw what unfolded in Phoenix. On a night the power play finally got something done, the penalty killing hit the ditch. With the Oilers in a stretch that will go a long way in amping up or silencing talk about playing meaningful games into the New Year for the first time in what seems like forever, they are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. If that doesn’t turn significantly, even a soft Pacific Division won’t matter. They’ll be right back in the also-ran category they’ve occupied before Connor McDavid returns.
That’s not the fault of McLellan or GM Pete Chiarelli, because nobody can be expected to clean up this mess in 44 games, but it is their problem. When McLellan mentions concern about the belief system, he knows that what he’s pitching becomes a tougher sell without some success to lean on, especially for the players who’ve been here for years and have done nothing but lose.
With so many holes till to fill and flaws to remedy – let’s start with an overmatched blue line group just for the hell of it — finding that success, even when McDavid and Oscar Klefbom return, is going to take time, and that’s something fans, understandably, don’t want to hear.
On one hand, there’s a rightfully pissed off fan base and probably a few players who’d tell you they’re sick as hell of losing and aren’t going to take it much longer if you gave them a shot of truth serum. On the other, there’s McLellan and Chiarelli, both smart enough to know significant changes are months away. That’s an uncomfortable juxtaposition if ever there was one.
CALL GOES IN FOR KASSIAN
Until Chiarelli can pull the trigger on a trade, his only options come from within the organization and we saw that option exercised this morning with the recall of reclamation project Zack Kassian from Bakersfield of the AHL. Didn’t see this coming so quickly.
Kassian, who turns 25 on Jan. 24, has been summoned after playing just four games (1-0-1) with the Condors. Most people thought Kassian, acquired from Montreal for Ben Scrivens and not far removed from completing a three-month stint as part of the NHL’s substance abuse program, would need at least a month to knock off the rust. Apparently not.
Kassian’s calling card has always been that he brings size and nastiness, and the Oilers certainly don’t have an abundance of that. That said, the timing of the move seems to fall into the desperate-time-desperate-measures category based on everything we heard from the team about having Kassian earn his shot at a return to the NHL.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.
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