March 18, 2007
10 straight losses and counting
By TERRY JONES
Maybe if Craig MacTavish had stood there and made the proclamation: "We may never win again."
Back in the World Hockey Association days, coach Brian Shaw managed to get the Oilers on a lengthy winning streak and made the declaration: "We may never lose again."
A losing streak followed.
For the modern-day Oilers it's now 10*. The asterisk is because it was a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues last night and the Oilers managed to get a point in the standings. So it is no longer "pure", this losing streak.
TWO OT LOSSES
But back in the fall of 1993 when Ted Green lost 11 in a row with the Oilers, there were two overtime losses in there. That losing streak absolutely gobbled Green up.
So far, MacTavish says he's not worried about that happening to him.
"I'm not close to slitting my throat,'' he said. "I'm one to maintain some sense of perspective. There aren't any teams around that could overcome losing 11 guys from the line-up.
"Tonight wasn't a centerfold,'' he said of the less than gorgeous game his team played. "But I've always been a guy to try to understand what's realistic."
Even the media would like to see these guys get a win if for no other reason than we could ignore them for the rest of the season.
It's become a compelling story. Will it ever end? Can they possibly lose their last 20 games of the season?
Last night we came to the game figuring, either they win and we could watch them skate around the ice carrying a garbage can like Ron Low and the Washington Capitals once did after ending a long losing streak.
Or they could have lost in regulation, watched Calgary win, and be officially mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
It's kind of like 16,000 people sitting on the embankment of Groat Road waiting to watch an accident.
At least the modern-day Capitals had been keeping pace with the Oilers. But after nine straight losses the Caps hammered the Maple Leafs 5-1 Friday night.
Now the Oilers are out there all alone.
"It's really disappointing,'' said MacTavish, pretty much the only person left in the dressing room you'd recognize right now.
The veterans, who are mostly playing worse than the rookies, are in hiding.
And the rookies are all just sitting there looking like deer in headlights.
"We played all right in the third period,'' MacTavish said. "In the first period, not so good."
It's tough finding positives.
"The power play got stopped,'' said MacTavish of the streak within the streak.
"The streak, I don't know what it was. It was nice to stop the mourning in here on that one."
The Oilers went 31 consecutive power plays without getting a goal until Shawn Horcoff scored. The power play has been so bad this year nobody would have noticed if somebody hadn't put the stat in the paper.
MacTavish didn't mention that the Oilers also actually scored two goals in a game for the second game in the now double-digit losing streak.
MacTavish says it's tough coaching his young talent in an NHL setting while this losing streak bogs everybody down.
"The message I'm trying to get through to our young players is to go out and work hard and play well and take some satisfaction out of that. Be proud of the way you played, when you do. I don't want them to beat themselves up and hate coming to the rink."
Me, I'd spring the news.
I'd get off the pot and make the announcement that next year the Oilers will have an actual farm team (not the Oilers themselves) in Springfield, Mass.
With 11 guys on this team finding out that they could end up in 'Wingy Springy' next year, they should find the inspiration they need right there.