Saturday, November 22, 2014

These Guys Need Your Help

There is no question fans of the Edmonton Oilers have every right to be pissed with how things have gone to start the 2014-15 NHL campaign. After suffering through eight consecutive seasons with no playoffs and coming off a year that was arguably the most disappointing of all, sitting with a 6-12-2 mark at the quarter pole on the year is simply unacceptable. 

With that being the case, the anger Oilers fans have shown towards this team is understandable. We keep hearing about words like “accountability” when it comes to these players but at the end of the day, it comes down realistic expectations. Hockey is a game of mistakes and in every game those mistakes are going to happen and last night’s 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils was a perfect example. 

An absolutely horrible turnover from Taylor Hall led directly to Adam Henrique scoring the game’s first goal on a breakaway midway through the second period. It is the sort of play we have seen from the former first overall pick on countless occasions since coming in the league back in 2010 but to be completely fair, if you watch other skilled players around this league, you will see the same exact sort of play from almost all of them. 

Now that does not excuse the turnover in any way shape or form but again, it comes with the territory. The difference in Edmonton, is they almost always seem to end up in the back of the net. Same goes for Tuomo Ruutu’s goal which came roughly four and a half minutes later, thanks to what was frankly an idiotic pinch from defenceman Justin Schultz. 

The mistake was obvious and as always, in the back of the net. A large portion of this fan base has taken to Schultz as their new whipping boy and while he has struggled, pointing to him as this “black hole” that is costing this team hockey games is simply inaccurate. As usual, the vast majority of these players are put into situations they should not be in and because of it they keeping failing. 

Over the last season and bit, many have accused me of being overly negative when it comes to the Oilers but in my mind that has not been the case whatsoever. After watching this team get off to the sort of start they did to start 2013-14, I decided to take the rose-coloured glasses off and try to look at what has gone on here from a rationale standpoint and not from the point of view of a fan. 

Those who read this blog with any sort of regularity are well aware of my ongoing concerns with this teams goaltending. However, in my mind, that has never been on Devan Dubnyk, Jason LaBarbera, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth. At this stage of their careers, none of those players are good enough to be a starting goaltender for a successful National Hockey League team and yet that is the situation this franchise has put each and every one of those guys in. 

The same thing applies to the rest of this lineup. Anyone who felt this group was going to be “significantly better” than the one we saw last season was kidding themselves. How a team with no legitimate starting goaltender, arguably nothing resembling a legitimate top three blueliner and two of their four centres being Mark Arcobello and Leon Draisaitl could have been expected to compete in the Western Conference is beyond me. 

For god’s sake, this is a team that just used Taylor Hall on a line with Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell last night!!! Think about that for minute and let it sink in. With the reality of the situation being what it is, what purpose is exactly being served by booing these players and jumping all over them on a nightly basis? I get it…the masses are frustrated and rightfully want their pound of flesh but guess what, this approach is not helping these guys. 

As a collective unit, these players have already been placed into a near impossible situation by the owner and his management team and having the fans all over them makes it that much worse. Regardless of how ugly the Oilers record may look, outside of a handful of games, this group has essentially found a way to keep themselves in games on a nightly basis. 

Which brings me back to the same thing…”realistic expectations”. Yes a 6-12-2 record is not good but when you honestly look at this roster, it should surprise no one. On the whole this group could be a bit better but not much than what we have seen. It may not be what fans want to do but at some point you have to accept the reality of the situation and adjust your expectations accordingly. 

The reason this team stinks is not on the guys on the ice and to a lesser degree, it is not even on Dallas Eakins and his coaching staff. This mess is on Daryl Katz, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson and it is up to fans of the Edmonton Oilers to find a different way to start voicing their displeasure in what they are seeing because the current approach is not working. 

Contrary to what some may think, athletes do care about winning and losing and this team is no different. Problem is, they are not good enough to get out of that hump and the atmosphere inside Rexall Place harder. While the idea behind the fans approach may be to send a message to the owner, he clearly is not listening but it cannot be argued that it is having a negative effect on these players. 

At this stage of the game, fans have to start hitting this organization where it hurts most. Be it not going to games or not buying Oilers paraphernalia or something else, the approach has to change. It really is that simple. It may not be easy but the time has come for everyone to try and separate the team we see on the ice from the organization itself because these players need all the help they can get. 

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