A Tying situation

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

DENVER -- It's easy to be a standup guy if everything is going your way.

It's no sweat to be a team player when it seems you can do no wrong.

It's a walk in the park to deal with reporters when everybody is kissing your backside, telling you how great you are.

Try doing it when nothing is working. Try buying into the team concept when people say you suck. Try answering the same questions over and over when it feels like your career is on the line without wanting to shove a microphone up some smarmy TV guy's left nostril.

Ty Conklin is living exactly that these days. And, with the way the Edmonton Oilers goaltender is conducting himself under trying circumstances, you don't have a heart if you don't feel for him.

DRESSED AS BACKUP

The writing is on the wall where Conklin's future with the Oilers is concerned, but within an hour of clearing waivers yesterday - 29 teams passed on him - he showed no hint of woe-is-me.

When the puck dropped against the Colorado Avalanche last night, Conklin dressed as backup to Mike Morrison and was ready to play for a team willing to let him go for a waiver fee.

Grace and class, is Conklin.

"We'll see what happens," Conklin said. "I don't know what their plans are. You have to ask them. It's kind of back to waiting, I guess."

If Conklin, 29, was looking for reasons to feel sorry for himself, he'd have plenty. A season in which Conklin hoped to establish himself as the Oilers go-to guy long ago soured. His confidence has waned.

Twice sent to the minors with the Oilers performing roster gymnastics trying to juggle three stoppers, he's fallen behind Morrison and Jussi Markkanen in the pecking order and out of favour with fans.

"The opportunity to play is what I'm looking for," Conklin said. "Right now, it doesn't look like that fits in here with me. Things change quickly. Something could happen.

"Keeping a good attitude, I think, is as important as anything. It's not a situation you want to go through. It's not something you enjoy. It's part of being a pro. Sometimes, things don't go your way."

REMAINS IN LIMBO

Yesterday was Conklin's chance for a fresh start somewhere else. He admitted Monday that was his preference. No takers. No thanks. Now, barring a trade or being assigned to the minors, which is unlikely before the end of the Olympic break, Conklin remains in limbo.

"All our goalies are really good people," coach Craig MacTavish said. "In terms of their character as people, they're first-rate guys. Their work ethic is very intense and very high.

"Ty is certainly a guy who has the mental toughness to survive this. He's a good NHL goalie and I'm sure he'll be a good NHL goalie in the future. It's just a matter of getting an opportunity again. The way he's conducted himself has been impressive to everybody."

If you want to say Conklin hasn't been good enough, there's no argument here. At 5-5-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average and saves-percentage of .872, the numbers speak for themselves.

After reporters scattered and before meeting with agent Kurt Overhardt for lunch yesterday, Conklin talked about his plight. There wasn't one shred of self-pity about how, despite his efforts, he's on the outs.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself," he said. "When I do start playing again, wherever that is, that I'm going to play well.

"It's not easy. It's not fun. It hasn't been enjoyable. At the same time, if you get an opportunity you have to be ready for it. Sitting around moping and feeling sorry for yourself isn't going to help, either."

Conklin may get a chance to stick around beyond the march 9 trade deadline. It's more likely, however, he'll have to regain his game elsewhere.

"I'm still an Oiler," Conklin said. "I'm more than happy to be here. I love playing here. I love this group of guys. It's not like I'm dying to go somewhere else. That's not the case."

Conklin is a pro. He's a good teammate. He's an example that bad things can happen to good people. Conklin cares. Before you applaud his exit, you should know that much.


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