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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Hellfire

I don’t know if you heard what Allan Mitchell had to say about the Edmonton Oilers during his radio show on TSN 1260 yesterday, but if you haven’t, you should have a listen. It’s right here. What makes Mitchell’s seven-minute, straight-from-the-heart rant money is that it rings true.

At least it did for me. I’m guessing it did likewise with legions of fans, given the action it generated on social media, in the wake of the Oilers’ heartless, effortless and utterly emotionless 5-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday. Mitchell’s take, simply put, resonated with me because it spoke to some basic values that likely had a lot of listeners saying, “Damn right.”

Teams can’t always win, but they can always try. Teams can’t always execute — the reality is that happens — but when what’s been drawn up on the whiteboard goes sideways as it will from time to time, players can always work hard to mitigate what the hands or the brain or the talent might be lacking on any given night. They can always give a damn.

Win or lose, can players look in the mirror confident that they put in an honest day’s work? That’s the very least, as Mitchell said so well, Oiler fans should expect from the team they invest so much money and so much time in. Well, fans got shortchanged big-time against the Sabres as the Oilers dropped to 21-24-23. It’s not the first time that’s happened this season.

HEARD IT BEFORE

Jan 8, 2017; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan follows the action in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Oilers 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The timing of Mitchell’s righteous rip job was perfect, if not overdue, and that was particularly true for me. I heard it, fittingly, while on my way to the Oilers Entertainment Group offices at Rogers Place for a meeting that included former Oiler coach Ron Low. Nobody, and I mean nobody, delivered a better dressing-down of his team than Low when he finally decided he was sick of what he was seeing.

On the record, off the record, it didn’t matter. When Low decided enough was enough — that happened more than once with some of the teams he coached here in the 1990s — you had better have your notepad ready because it was epic. As often as not, what made Low seethe was the same stuff Mitchell talked about, At the absolute minimum, players owe fans who pay their salaries and drive in from all over Alberta an honest effort.

All that said, I want to be clear here. I’m not for a second suggesting that trying hard and doing your best is the end game for the Oilers or that actually winning games is somehow secondary. At the NHL level, where those on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office are paid handsomely, it’s about results. Win games. Win divisions. Win conferences. Win Stanley Cups. That’s the bottom line.

If it’s about lack of talent or having enough depth or the right mix of players, that falls to GM Pete Chiarelli, or whoever is doing his job down the road. If structure and process or game-planning and use of personnel isn’t what it should be, that’s on Todd McLellan and his coaching staff. If it’s about failure to execute, to work and hustle and battle, as was the case against the Sabres in what was essentially a collective shoulder shrug of indifference, that’s on the players. That’ll make fans crazy, and it should.

Here and now, while Chiarelli works the phones, while McLellan and his coaching staff search for special teams clues with a map and a flashlight, the absolute least the players can do when the Calgary Flames come calling tonight is put in the sweat and honest effort that shows — win or lose — they care as much as their fans do. Same for the next game and the game after that and the game after that. It’s not too much to ask.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  



  • Jordan88

    I hate losing it sucks. But show up to play… there is no excuse. There is no tomorrow. If you can’t atleast show up with the attitude to give a honest effort, you might as well stay home.

    I hope that was played at a player meeting. We used to say “Just Win”

    Now we say “Just show up” Unacceptable to even make that statement.

    • That's My Point

      It all starts in school; can’t fail kids for any reason anymore. They just show up and get rewarded.
      Then it’s in sports; everyone gets a participation medal.
      Everyone has to be politically correct so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings but in the NHL you have to hurt others, and put yourself first and be better than your competition or you sit in last place every year. (even here the worst team gets the best draft picks available so they can squander the most talented players with the rest of the team’s losing mentality)

      • wiseguy

        That’s a good theory…. except why is it all the underserving “participation medal” kids who would otherwise have failed all ended up playing hockey on the Oilers? The other entitled, underserving kids seem to figure it out and succeed on all the other teams.

      • GK1980

        That’s a whole topic all together. Participation awards are nice but kids still need to feel a little humility once in a while. Without being challenged or embarrassed, they will never learn to push themselves to be better.

  • ubermiguel

    Ron Low was a beauty. Lowetide really spoke for me and many fans yesterday. I don’t have a lot of disposable income but I try to get to a few games a year, and each one of those games is a significant dollar amount to me. Throughout the 90s I never went expecting a win, but always expected an honest effort. For the last decade I cant even reasonably expect an honest effort and it’s killing my love for this team. Losing is the culture of this team now and I’m not sure how much longer I can support it.

    • Rhettzky

      Same boat. Not a lot of extra money at my house, but still manage to take my wife and son (future fan) a couple times a year. And the $400 + ( tickets, parking, a pizza and drink for each of us) is a car payment. To watch the team go through the motions. It’s frustrating and makes us doubt if it’s worth saving for a month to take the family to a turd game like the other night.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      “The worst penalty kill in 100 year league history with a team that does not echo that statement” they are much better than this… coach, please start benching… make them sit in the stands with a spotlight on them…

  • Hemmercules

    When you know you cant/wont win (i.e. make the playoffs) its human nature to let off a bit. We have been seeing if for years with the Oilers. Their money is guaranteed and already in the bank. Why go to war when you can hit the perimeter and stay safe? Why block that shot when it doesn’t really matter? Why take that hit when you can just dump it in?? Its a bad mentality but it happens and we see it. Losing breeds losers.

    • Dr

      What about pride? Work ethic? Professionalism? What about honing your craft and improving your weaknesses? What about developing and maintaining good game habits so that they don’t repeat this debacle next game, or next season? These are professional athletes, and they should be giving it all they have each game. Like Mark Messier said, “What are you saving it for?”

      • Hemmercules

        I’m not denying any of that, just saying with some players it happens. Notice how Nurse is playing awesome all year? Needs a contract. Notice how Lucic gives up on plays? Signed to a guaranteed 6 mil a year for many more years. I’m sure guys like mcdavid and russel still go full effort but it’s evident when the going gets tough that some guys give up for the night.

      • Big Nuggets

        I think it comes when the team has an identity and feel pride in the Oilers and each other. I think Vegas is doing so well because all the players on the team had something to prove to the teams that didnt protect them. Thats good motivation to prove people wrong and play with pride. Edmonton has no identity, the players aren’t playing for the right reasons. We need a coach thay can change the mindset of these players. We have the skill just not the execution to win games.

  • camdog

    Whatever’s going on with the team it was evident in Game 3. That was the game against Winnipeg were they were completely out out worked. The kicker was the next game against Ottawa where they lost 6-1 on home ice. We can debate the construction of this team and the holes that were evident going into the season but the work ethic is many loses just hasn’t been there. They have lost 9 games at home this season by 3+ goals, and on the road it’s 4. In those 13 games they for the most part haven’t even looked interested. And that’s not including the home game against Carolina where they looked bad and a win against Arizona where both teams looked like they didn’t want to be there.

    There were some late 90’s early 2000’s teams that weren’t very good, but I always remember them working hard to the end, that hasn’t happened this season.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        I still don’t quite understand what the Oilers were trying to do there?
        An undersized, rookie with no pro experience on the 1st line and PP. When you know he has to go back to juniors after 7 games, and needs to get stronger to have a chance in the NHL.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      The late 90s, early 00s teams would beat the current Oilers in 7 games. Those teams brought lunchpails to the rink and beat high-powered teams like the Avs and Stars.

  • Consultant

    The PK is horrible and the coaching staff can’t seem to find any answers but again it falls on Chia. How can you get rid of proven PKer’s such as Pouliot and Lander, not replace them and just expect things to work out. The failure of Chia over the past year is mind boggling. Sure players need to give 100% but if your Letestu and you only have so much reach and speed you simply won’t be a top PK’er. Not his fault. I have decided not to invest anymore money into the team until Chia is gone. I also will only watch when I have time instead of making time to watch. It’s a minor thing but it’s the best I can do. In my mind Chia is the primary problem.

    • ubermiguel

      Pouliot’s a frequent healthy scratch with Buffalo and Lander is no longer an NHL player; those were far from Chia’s worst moves. All the current players are capable of getting sticks and bodies in lanes and not being a pylon, but they’re simply not doing it.

      • Gravis82

        both of those players are better on the PK than what we have now. Heck, Magnus Pääjärvi is as well and is on waivers. This is how bad our penalty killers are on this team

      • Consultant

        Lander is having a really good year over in the KHL. He can win faceoffs, hates losing, sort of player I would be calling right now to ask how he likes the KHL if I were Chia. I’d give him a two-way contract with a rich AHL salary.

    • Spaceman Spiff

      I’m not sure I would build a case on firing Chia by citing his decision to get rid of Pouliot and Lander. The latter isn’t even an NHL player … and there are 31 teams in the NHL right now.

    • Green Meanie

      The only way for the fans to force major change is to stop going to the games. If Rogers Place is empty maybe then it will get the attention of Katz. Until his pocket is affected nothing will happen

      • winteriscoming

        Nothing happened in the DOD for people not going to the games why do you think the lambs will stop now?? I have stopped watching the games as I can tell I have stopped the insanity and the s$$t shows have continued.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Been saying this since about, oh, mid-November and I’ll repeat it. The story of the 2017-18 will be about a lack of effort, execution and energy on behalf of the players.

    It’s not all on the GM. It’s not all on the coaches. It’s not all on Paul Coffey or Wayne Gretzky or Kevin Lowe or Daryl Katz or Bob Nicholson.

    But it is 100-percent on the players. They are the most responsible for what’s happened and hasn’t happened this season. Remember that if/when GMs and coaches end up being railroaded out of town this summer. This was a 103-point team that moved out three players – one of whom could be reasonably labelled as having some impact. There was enough personnel here to get the job done again.

    But the job wasn’t done. Tuesday was the perfect microcosm of that.

    It’s the players’ fault.

  • RossTheBoss

    Colorado has a worse team and has surged into a playoff position. This is not a makeup problem. This is a character and coaching problem. However 4 non-playoff teams are in? Why is Vegas top of the division? Character. Coaching. Playing above their heads. This is the worst season in my lifetime (maybe other than 06-07), and I am glad I stopped paying for NHL subscription this year. Done watching and paying for this garbage fire. So sad. Lowetide is right.

  • Gravis82

    If we had a few more good players, perhaps there would be some to carry the load when everyone else takes the night off. Then, we wouldn’t have noticed any of this laziness, as it would have been masked by a few ok performances. The more good players you have, the less you will notice the players who will inevitably take a night off. Randomly, they will all take a night off together.

    Add three more top 6 wingers in this group and nights like this wouldn’t be so obvious.

      • Ginbaby

        I think fans take this way harder than most players. Is Pat Maroon that worried the team is losing? My guess is his only concern is his next contract. Lucic has been awful and yet he stands to pull in more than 10M w bonuses this year and my guess, he is sleeping just fine at night. This season and the last game have been a huge gut punch and while I only get a chance at two oilers games a year, it means taking a ferry to Vancouver. I don’t know what happens with this team moving forward but these fans deserve a better organisation from top to bottom and I hope that is not lost on Bob Nicholson and co.

  • DOD BEGINS AGAIN

    As much as I am against assault of any kind, the players need to bent over and spanked like a four year old that just told their mom to F– off. Completely unacceptable behavior by the group that was on the ice against the Sabres. Bend them over, pants down and spank their behinds.

  • SourGrapes

    As a season ticket holder since the days of equalization payments, I’ve realized in the last few seasons that I’m an enabler. I encourage this because I put my money out there win or lose. The LA game was the last straw. I’ve given away the rest of my tickets this year and will not be back next year or ever again. I took a year off from hockey a few seasons ago and enjoyed it – looking forward to spending my time and money on things I enjoy!

  • 1manwolfpack

    I found it hilarious that some donkey fan was chirping those of us that left after the 50/50 draw as “bandwagoners”. If the players get paid millions (AND MILLIONS) don’t give a crap, why should I? It’s sad that this is the second time I’ve paid to be at a Buffalo blowout in the last 9 years and I only go to 8-12 games a season.

  • Retired Secret Agent

    Thanks for that Robin. I just listened to Al’s rant again. He was spot on. Those millionaire slugs should have to listen to it over and over in the room. Not some hip hop rap master!!!!

  • Kaplan

    I’m sorry, you’re telling me Oilers season ticket holders aren’t rich? No, they’re not Katz-level rich, but they’re comfortably above the poverty line by a couple miles.

    • Remarkably dim take, “Kaplan.” Fans who invest their time and money in a team deserve, at the very least, an honest effort for that investment — regardless of their economic situation. Is this a challenging concept for you?

      • SourGrapes

        I absolutely agree! And as investors, we need to take our money elsewhere when we don’t get the returns we expect. So far, there have been no consequences for this club – they make money despite the product on the ice, not because of it.

    • 3rdTierFan

      How can you possibly know that? I’m sure plenty of season ticket holders are well off, but you can’t truly believe that some don’t spend pretty much all their disposable income on season tickets and going to the games. I can say I know this because I split season tickets with friends for three seasons back in the mid-nineties when they needed to sell enough season tickets to get the equalization payments, which helped prevent them from leaving town. My friends and I were not even making average incomes, and almost all our disposable income went to the Oilers. We felt like it was our duty to help support the team and keep them here. So for you to group over 10,000 people together and label them as wealthy is a bit presumptuous. And what does it matter if they have money anyway? Does that mean they forfeit the right to getting their money’s worth for their purchase and for their investment in our team?

      • ubermiguel

        Most season ticket holders I know are like that. Not impoverished but not well off by any stretch. Sharing seats, selling a bunch of prime games (Leafs, Habs, Pens), selling playoff tickets, going to boring Tuesday night games against the Wild, all for the love of the team.

  • Coiltown Soilers

    Here’s a crazy suggestion: STOP GIVING KATZ YOUR MONEY!

    Every year people get riled up about the Oilers and every year they laugh in your face as they take every cent they can out of your wallet. If you are paying for this then stop complaining. You know what you are getting. Guys like Katz think they are better and smarter than everyone else. He doesn’t live in this city and he sure doesn’t care about how you feel. He would take the last nickel out of your pockets and laugh all the way to the bank. The only way to make him listen is to effect the one thing that matters the most to him: the bottom line. Stop going to games and stop buying jerseys then watch the changes happen.

    • 3rdTierFan

      So what do you suggest season ticket holders do then? Just burn their tickets? Or give up season tickets that they may have had for generations and lose the chance to get them again? How many people will scramble to get in line for those forfeited season tickets? Sell off your tickets – what does that do – someone is still paying for admission. It’s a catch 22 for these people – cancel your tickets in order to make a statement and someone else will just take their place and Katz still makes his money. It’s easy for those of us with no “skin in the game” to just not buy tickets or merchandise (which is, by the way, exactly where I’m at now) but unless the vast majority of people buying the tickets (seasons ticket holders) can cancel their tickets and no one takes their place there will be no financial kick in the pants for this organization.

      • Coiltown Soilers

        This line of thinking is exactly the problem. If people like the product they are getting then by all means, keep buying. If you don’t think you’re getting your money’s worth then stop. But don’t keep buying tickets then complain that the Oilers don’t put in the effort. You know what the Oilers are and you know how Katz runs this team. He hires cronies and ignores the fans. Guys like Lowe and Nicholson spit in your face and tell you outright that they don’t care what you think. The Oilers are arrogance incarnate and they are able to get away with it because people keep giving them money. The notion that season ticket holders are forced into a catch 22 is preposterous. Just stop giving Katz your money and things will change.

        Personally I love seeing the Oilers get humiliated. I hope all the rubes keep on spending. It makes for great comedy.

      • CMG30

        Well, if you’re so reluctant to give up season tickets you can at least stop buying Oiler merchandise. Eat beforehand and don’t buy food or drink at the game. More than one way to show your displeasure by dinging Katz’s bottom line.

    • Big Boss

      I agree with this. I was going to ask my wife for a new adidas jersey for christmas but one the effortless losses started to pile up, I asked her to find me something else because I’m sick of giving OEG my money until they can pull their heads collective arses.

  • The Dave

    I became a fan and cheered for the Oilers in the EIG era where they were hard working but out-financed by the big teams in the league. They still found a way to make the playoffs or at the very least come close, every time. We usually lost in the first round of the playoffs against the Stars, who had double our budget, but we made them work for it. I remember thinking that we could beat them if we could afford to retain our talent.

    Fast forward a bit over a decade and call me crazy, but I preferred that group over this one. In a perfect world I’d like to have talent and work ethic, but honestly I preferred watching Smytty and Gator work their butts off more than I’m enjoying Connor race up the ice with no one to pass to. And the thing is, this crap keeps happening. I watch this team and it doesn’t seem that different to me from a few years ago when Taylor Hall would race up the ice with no support. It certainly resembles that more closely than it resembles the team from last year, that just flew around the ice.

    Anyway… I just miss the team that tried every time. I miss cheering for the underdog that took a pound of flesh from the rich kids every time they flew into town. It was more fun than watching my team get shut out 6 times and lose by 4+ goals 30% of the time.

    Thank goodness we identified the real problem and hired Paul Coffey.

  • Rob...

    I’ll begin watching the game tonight. If, once again, key players show that they don’t even care enough to look and see if the open player they’re passing to is wearing the same colour jersey then I’ll turn the game off and find something enjoyable to do with my time.

  • Book Em Dano

    This lack of effort, lack of compete…whatever it is has been apparent too many times this year. It will happen occasionally, but it shouldn’t be happening when they need every point to get into the playoff picture. The team has forgotten what it took for them to win last year…and it shows with their half assed efforts. They need a veteran or two (with Messier-like qualities) to keep everyone accountable and help a young McDavid out. I’m sure they’ll bounce back against Calgary with a better effort, but the damage has been done. Changes will need to come to this team.

  • Big Boss

    It makes me sick watching an effort like that. At least watching it at home, I was able to turn the TV off and do something else.

    But that wasn’t the case on November 5th 2017. That day was my sons 5th birthday and we decided to celebrate by going to the WEM water slides on the Saturday, then taking my family of 4 to Rogers on Sunday the 5th (my sons birthday) to watch the Oilers take on the Red Wings live. As we live in Calgary, I think I’ve done a fairly good job so far raising him as an Oilers fan. He is excited about the Oilers, Connor McDavid, watching games on TV etc. Being a house full of Oiler fans, we were pumped to go watch the Oilers up close and personal. The Oilers came out flat and showed absolutely no interest in playing that game, losing 4-0. We all felt cheated by what we saw live and left with a feeling of wishing I could get my money back and wishing we had done something else. Far too many games this year have been like this and it makes me bloody sick. If the Oilers cant turn this around soon, I wont blame my son for cheering for the Flames when he gets a little older like the rest of his friends.

  • Archer

    this is mostly the players’ fault – lack of effort, failing to “get up” for games, slow starts game after game, all of this is inexcusable in NHL pros. I’ve posted this before, to me this looks like players who are trying to get a coach fired

  • Kevwan

    I drove in about 5 hours for the game so I really appreciated this rant.

    I’ve never heard Lowetide worked up like that. He’s always so calm and gentle both on air and in his writing.

    I literallly spit my coffee out laughing at the “I’m like about 5 seconds from smelling burnt toast – that’s how mad I am about this”

  • hockeyartist

    Since the decade plus of darkness there have been a plethora of GMs coaches and scores of players go through the system. Each have had their share of faliure and almost all except for a handful of Oiler Alumni have moved on or been moved out. After everything has burned down (which has been often) all thats left standing is an indifferent Katz and his friends. The media shy owner lives in another city and has zero accountability to fans who fuel his Oilers machine. If the owner of your company never showed up your coffee breaks would get a lot longer and naps at the desk would be frequent. The problem lies all the way to the top. And he will never give up his toy or his friends that play withat toy called the edmonton oilers.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I want the coaches fired yesterday…but I’d take now in a heartbeat!

    As a side bar I think we should pick up MPS off of waivers. We need more talent, and speed. It’s awesome that we could pick up a good PK’er with size for free right now!

  • Oiler Al

    When 80% of the team has not shown up for a game,including the captain,
    tells me it could be more than talent or tiredness?Is there an agenda here?
    Have they quit on the coach.?They certainly don’t seem to be having fun at the game they love.Frankly I am tired of watching Drisaitl moping around.There is no edge to their game , its like a Sunday skate in the park.

    • T Ambrosini

      There is certainly something up with these guys… There is no way they should be this disinterested. I can’t wrap my head around it. Maybe they are pissed that talent was traded away for pennies on the dollar and are laying down in hope the GM gets axed. Not into conspiracy theories but you have to really work at being this bad… It doesn’t come naturally at this level