Tick, tick, tick...

Robin Brownlee
November 24 2008 07:26PM

If the Edmonton Oilers can't get it done in the next 20 games, then they likely can't get it done at all, and owner Daryl Katz should take a look at why that's the case and who's responsible.

When you look at the next stretch, it's as simple as that from where I sit. There's no ridiculous schedule, like the 14 road games the Oilers played in their first 20 outings on the way to a 9-9-2 record. There's no Murderer's Row in terms of opponents. Quite the contrary.

Between Wednesday's game against Los Angeles and Jan. 9, when they close out the next 20-game stretch against San Jose, the Oilers have 13 games at home and get a steady diet of teams they should get fat on.

They play the Vancouver Canucks, who just lost Roberto Luongo for as long as five weeks, four times. They play the Dallas Stars, who just lost captain Brenden Morrow for the season with a knee injury, three times.

They play the Kings twice and St. Louis, Phoenix and Colorado—all teams below them in Western Conference standings—once each. They play the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, a trio of teams that, as of today, are out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Would anything less than reasonable facsimile of an encore of the hair-on-fire stretch drive of last season—a 14-5-1 record over their final 20 games—be palatable to Katz?

I'm guessing not.

No excuses

The Oilers finished their first 20 games 7-7-0 on the road and 2-2-2 at home, a skein marked by three straight losses at Rexall Place. While .500 on the road is OK, that doesn't cut it at home. Not even close.

"We haven't been playing up to our potential," Sam Gagner told me after today's morning skate. "It's got to be better.

"The good thing for us is we know we're going to be better. There’s a confidence in this room that we're going to be more successful."

Given all the negatives, it's somewhat remarkable the Oilers are .500 as they begin the next stretch.

For the most part, Erik Cole and Dustin Penner have been awful. Gagner has struggled mightily. Shawn Horcoff hasn't done enough. The penalty killing has been abysmal. GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe haven't been able to move a goaltender to get down to two.

There's been a total lack of continuity with the forward lines because, outside of Ales Hemsky, nobody has played well enough long enough to convince an impatient Craig MacTavish to keep them together.

Still, there is hope, I think, because it's difficult to imagine Cole and Penner being less effective. Penner will get another shot alongside Horcoff and Hemsky against the Kings. Likewise, Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson, the Kid Line, will be reunited Wednesday.

On the clock

The Oilers insist the bar has been set higher and that they've under-achieved. While I'm not sure about that, being the Mr. Poopy Pants who picked them to finish ninth—I had them pegged at 8-10-2 at this point—Katz, who was at the rink this morning and has the only opinion that really matters, expects results.

"There's lots of room for improvement," MacTavish said.

"If we get through the next stage of our season and develop the way we should and get the results we expect of ourselves, it would be very easy to look back and say, 'What was everybody so upset about?' We've got to see that game."

And if we don't? I didn't talk to Katz today—although I can tell you he is squarely in MacTavish's corner—but it stands to reason the same old, same old won't please the boss. If the Oilers don't play well above .500 in the next 20 games, I'd imagine he'll want to know why.

As he should.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 baggedmilk
November 25 2008, 01:22PM
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shakey: There's always room. Toss on your Lupul/Sykora/Pitkanen jersey and hop aboard. I'll be installing track lighting and shag carpet shortly.

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#52 RobinB
November 25 2008, 01:31PM
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baggedmilk: If you've got a Pitkanen jersey, keep it in crisp shape. He's a future Norris Trophy winner, you know.

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#53 baggedmilk
November 25 2008, 01:47PM
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Robin: I keep it next to my framed 6 foot tall Pronger poster that was handed out to everyone in that game against Vancouver.

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#54 Chris
November 25 2008, 01:51PM
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"They're in my corner...It's nice to have the support of my teammates."

Dustin Penner Nov 19.

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#55 Travis Dakin
November 25 2008, 09:29PM
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MacT only won 3 cups with the Oilers. 1 with the Rangers

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#56 Dennis
November 25 2008, 09:44PM
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I've been a mact go through and through but it's taken him a long time to get to where he is now: employing lines that make sense.

I would've kept 26 with 10-83 a little longer because even though they weren't scoring they were still creating chances and if you hit the ball hard enough long enough then you'll eventually start hitting it over the fence.

And if the club didn't have faith in either 51 or 78 for the secondary tough min then they should've picked up a vet pivot but maybe that goes back to there being a disconnect between the head coach and MGMT.

Right now I think we're close to maxing out our potential and that's something I would've liked to have seen tried awhile ago.

10-83 are going power vs power, 18-78-26 will take on the secondary tough role and then the kids will get the shelter. I thought this was something we should've been doing all along but macT had some other ideas out of the gate.

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#57 freeze
November 25 2008, 10:36PM
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you know, I find this blog post by Gilbert to be a little disturbing: http://tinyurl.com/58ms8k not so much for the high school musical garbage but because of how many times he refers to himself and his roomies (sam & cogs) as utterly lazy. this is awfully telling isn't it? I know it is not just these three but rather the whole team that is stinking up the effort dept. this season (and past?) but if you are lazy at home and have that reinforced by other people, wouldn't it seep into your time at the rink/on the ice? maybe I'm full of sh*t but his words rang a little too true to me.

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#58 esa tikkanen
November 25 2008, 11:06PM
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did anybody notice Glencross now has more points than any of the oilers forwards other than Hemsky? How incompetent is this team's mgmt that knows they need a gritty player to the extent they are calling up midgets to play physical roles and Tim (2 points) Sestito to play fourth line and kill penalties. This despite the fact the clear fact that the fourth line last year was the reason they had such a great record at the end of the year.

Look at your fingers folks. How many thumbs do you have? How many pinkymfingers? This team puts 3 thumbs on the third line and 3 pink fingers on the second line, then wonders why they can't score a goal. Then they have a fourth line from the AHL accompinied by a top 10 overall drafted defenceman playing tough guy!!?? WHen last year they had one of the best fourth lines in the league and they let it die because they didn;t want to play 1.2 freaking million?????

Hello we have $20 million dollars of forwards that don''t have 10 goals between them a quarter of the way through the season!!!

If they fire Mact I hope they fire Lowe at the same time because his stupid moves (penner money and no draft picks last year, no Glencross, nothing for Pronger) are almost as bad as Mact trying to fit three thumbs on the third line to check and three pinkies on the second line to score and a fourth line that is mediocre even at the AHL level.

i can't skate, i have never played hockey but i honestly think i would be a better GM than Lowe.

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#59 Al Hamilton
November 26 2008, 08:26AM
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MacT should be promoted to colour commentator for sportsnet. His quotes are his greatest asset. Hopefully that does not result in a demotion to coach for Louie.

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#60 freeze
November 26 2008, 10:25AM
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hey esa, Your grippe is about glencross? GlenX knew they were after Hossa and if he had waited a day or two they would have paid him that much. Would you honestly pay him that much with little proof of the return at the expense of signing Hossa? I have my beefs with some of Lowe's post-lockout moves too but he is no longer GM. He isn't working the phones and lining things up. That is Tambo's job now, even if Lowe still has veto power. Do you even follow the Oilers?

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#61 esa tikkanen
November 27 2008, 03:45PM
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lowe was the GM when they did not sign Glencross. Tambellini came a month later. The excuse that they were chasing Hossa is a load of crap. They signed Nillson, Gilbert and Grebs before June 30th. Glencross has said he was only asking for the same amount he got from Calgary. Lowe could have and should have signed him before June30. Even if he didn't is there only one person in the organization that could have signed Glencross in the first three days of July? Couldn't Olzcyk or Prendergast have done it?

Now we have freaking Liam Reddox playing the role? He is 160 pounds for God's sake and they are wondering why they don't have any grit? When their grit players are 160 pounds?

Letting Glencross go has been a major mistake and should be getting far more attention.

Yes I follow the Oilers - was it Lowe or Tambo who did not sign Glencross???

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