Patience is a virtue

The Edmonton Oilers are five points out of a playoff spot with 37 games left to play. (Edmonton Sun...

The Edmonton Oilers are five points out of a playoff spot with 37 games left to play. (Edmonton Sun File/Darryl Dyck)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- "Patience, my ass. I'm going to kill something."

Anybody over 40 remembers the T-shirt from the 1970s featuring two vultures in a tree.

That sentiment made for smirks in its day, but it's not a wise strategy with the NHL trade deadline six weeks away.

Tempting as it is for Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe to do something, anything, with his team languishing in Western Conference standings going into tonight's tilt with the Minnesota Wild, he won't rush into any deal.

The obvious is in order

While things will change in terms of long-term planning if the Oilers slip from playoff contention closer to the Feb. 27 deadline - Lowe could become a seller if it becomes apparent the Oilers can't contend - he isn't of the mindset anything beyond the obvious is in order.

The obvious, assuming the Oilers stay in the playoff hunt, means acquiring a puck-moving defenceman.

I know, stop the presses. That's a need, rest assured, Lowe is working on.

Patience - without the rest of the T-shirt.

"Well, I said 40 to 60 games at the start of the season," said Lowe, asked how long it'll be until he pulls the trigger. "We're assessing all the time. What we feel our needs are has stayed pretty consistent.

"What changes is, plus or minus, is how bold we get and what direction. Is it a short-term direction, a long-term direction? Those things change often during the season. Our overall needs, in our minds, haven't changed."

Lowe got a jump on things last season when he traded for Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek Jan. 26. Getting Spacek, especially, proved to be shrewd. That freed Lowe up to bolster his goaltending with Dwayne Roloson and snag Sergei Samsonov at the deadline.

If Philadelphia would hand over Joni Pitkanen or Los Angeles would serve up Lubomir Visnovsky for a fourth-liner and draft picks, they'd be wearing Oilers silks. What this team needs is no mystery. Finding the right deal is another matter. That's more difficult when you've got three wins in your last 11 games.

"I don't look at it as pressure. I never have," said Lowe, asked if he feels more compelled to make a deal with his team struggling.

"It's part of the job. Whether you're winning or losing, there's always work to do. It's all part of making sure that master plan is executed."

What will facilitate a trade quicker than anything is something resembling a winning streak. Lowe is loath to deal from a position of weakness, and 10th place in the conference is about as limp in the biceps as it gets.

It's up to the players here now to make that happen, but this is a team that too often is playing like it's waiting for Lowe to do something and waiting for that shoe to drop.

"It's up to us in here. We can't wait," said Ryan Smyth. "We've got games to play and we've got to get back on track. If you're thinking about trades, you're not in the right mindset. You should be thinking about your game, even with all the speculation."

If the Oilers are 10 points out of a playoff spot a week before the deadline, bet the farm Lowe will get busy - and he won't just be shopping for a defenceman.

That begs for wholesale changes.

Only five points out

Five points out with 37 games to play is another matter, as unpalatable as that might be to the growing patience-my-ass contingent.

"I don't think much has changed with the assessment and what we figure are the needs and what we're trying to do," said Lowe.

"I guess what's changing now is we thought all along this team is capable of getting in the playoffs and that we'd make a few changes and a few additions to improve things and help out the present group.

"I'm a little more concerned now whether the present group can get us to the playoffs."


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