The Oilers now have 30 games in the books and while relative to the rest of the league they are situated above where they finished last season, they actually have fewer points than after 30 in 2011-2012.
Yeah, you read that correctly. After 30 last year the Oilers had 31 points, as of right now the Oil have 29. Despite that fact I dubbed this stretch of games “Meaningful Games in March”, though I could have also called it “To Hell and Back” just as easily. This set of 10 games may prove to have been the most emotional of the season from an on-ice perspective. With the trade deadline set occur in the next block there is an opportunity for more emotional torture from this club, but I would bet that this 10 game block was as bad and as good as it gets for Oiler fans.
It was after the Heart of their massive 9 game road trip when the Oilers were shut out in consecutive games against the Red Wings and the Predators that I think the team hit its Rock Bottom. The Oilers sat dead last in the West and 28th Overall when Steve Tambellini (through the company’s public voice of Bob Stauffer) announced that there would be no trade on the horizon to bring help to the troubled squad. Edmonton had to turn it around on their own. Yes, the team that finished 30, 30, 29 over the last 3 years and was sitting last their Conference was being trusted to turn it around. As far as I was concerned the Oilers had just announced that the Tank was on for the 4th year in a row.
Like any time you hit Rock Bottom, though, there is only one way to go after that. The most unlikely of victories occurred at the end of the Road Trip when Edmonton managed to hand Chicago its first regulation Home loss of the season. That win was the beginning of a very solid run for the Oilers. The Oil have points in 5 of the past 6 games. That run is the only reason that the Oilers have managed to play “Meaningful Games in March”.
The Legend of Horcoff
This block of games also gave birth to the Oilers approved Legend of Shawn Horcoff. As Horc came back to the lineup from injury he brought with him leadership, experience, depth down the middle, and the support of Oiler rights holders propping him up to be a Hercules of sorts. Every day, every goal, every good shift, it seemed, was due to Horcoff’s incredible Captaincy. The narrative was entirely driven by the Oilers themselves. Bob Stauffer, Dan Tencer, and the Oilers rights holders pushed it forward and while the Oilers were winning improbably. It made for great TV, Radio, and Print.
Now that the Oilers have blown their last 2 games you wont be finding those who gave Horc all the credit for winning assigning the credit for losing on him though. It seems credit only flows in one direction when it comes to the Captain.
The West is a dog fight. Teams are still bunched together but falling behind isnt an option. The last two games were must wins for the Oilers. With an opportunity to seize a playoff spot the team absolutely crumbled. First they turned a 3rd period two goal lead against the Sharks into a loss that cost them the 8th and final playoff spot. They followed that up with a lemon of a game against the Blues in which they were shut out. Two must win games blown in consecutive games. The last one so disturbing that the 16,000 plus in attendance for the Hockey Night in Canada game saw fit to let the Boo Birds fly.
Tyler Dellow writes about the Club’s reaction here. In short Dan Tencer of 630 CHED (Oilers Rights Holder) complains about the fans booing and suggests that the team really needs the fans to support them more.
For a team that has felt such unending financial commitments from fans that have had no prospects of seeing the playoffs since Pronger last wore Oiler Blue, it shows a lot of Hubris to demand more.
Being upset with the Oilers failures isnt just limited to the team’s fans. Last night PJ Stock of the CBC expressed his complete disappointment with the Oilers. How many 1st Overall picks do they need? More than anything though he was angry with himself for believing that this year they would be better.
Well they arent. They are behind where they were at the same time last year and blowing the only games that have mattered in the Tambellini era.
The next 10 game stretch will likely see the Oilers’ playoff fate all but finalized, and barring an incredible winning streak it doesnt look good. And because of the bunching in the standings a bad 10 game block could see them right near the bottom of the league yet again. The next segment also contains the NHL trade deadline. What will the Oilers do? I dont know, but I’m not sure Management has much longer before all the losing becomes unacceptable to Ownership. The biggest change on the Horizon may be the man at the Helm. If we are lucky.