SUN Hockey Pool

Lowe's horror show

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Kevin Lowe knew there would be a sag after losing Chris Pronger in the summer, Ethan Moreau in the second week of the season, Jarret Stoll in February and Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline.

But never, ever, not even in his wildest nightmares, did he expect this.

One win in 18 games. One 20-goal scorer. Shut out five times in their last 17 starts.

The lowest goal total in the NHL. Players in contention for worst plus-minus in the league. Held to one or zero goals in 13 of their last 18.

In short, his Edmonton Oilers are the worst team in the NHL. By far.

For a proud, decorated organization, and the proud, accomplished men who run it, the 2007 stretch dive couldn't be more humiliating.

"Totally, totally," said the Oilers GM, who caught up with the smoking ruins in Minnesota after spending the last two weeks scouting players in advance of the NHL entry draft.

"It's a stain of monstrous proportions in our mind because I personally, and our organization, has a history of being successful.

"They say these things build character, but I don't know, man. This has been an incredibly miserable year. I don't even know how to describe it personally.

"The players, I'm too far removed to truly understand how bad it is for them. I can only speak for myself personally. It hasn't been enjoyable."

The Oilers heads are still spinning from the remarkable chain of events that turned a conference champ into a conference chump.

"If anything, at the very least, we expected we would be where Carolina is, at the very least," said Lowe, of taking a playoff charge to the last week of the season, not being out of it by mid-February.

"We've done it for 10 years straight. Even our biggest critics in other parts of the NHL said this is very un-Oiler-like. Hopefully it's just a blip.

NEED BALANCE

"We treated our fans to some of the best hockey they've seen in well over a decade last year, and this year we've rebounded with probably the worst hockey they've had in over a decade. We just have to find a little balance."

The search begins right now and, judging from what he's seen over the last 18 games, Lowe will need a bigger shopping basket than he originally anticipated. Management said they'd learn a lot about their players during this stretch, and they have. But much of it isn't very good.

"We have, in our minds, a clearer picture of how we see our team coming together next season, what holes we need to fill, besides the obvious ones."

Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul, who were supposed to be key components in Edmonton's season, have been key components in the swan dive the season has become.

Lowe says there's no getting around the fact they've been disappointments.

"Joffrey is a young guy coming into a tough situation, unfairly pointed at as being the Pronger replacement.

UNFAIR CRITICISM

"I think early on he had some unfair criticism when he did have 15 goals and was on pace to possibly get 25 or 30. He was tracking, but production-wise, hasn't done much since then.

"Raffi? Just chart it down to having an off year. But he has some good pedigree, and had good success in the past, and is still a young guy by hockey standards. So he can rebound."

Do you dare use them as core components on the team next year when you don't know if you'll be able to count on them?

"They're good players," said Lowe, adding everything will be re-evaluated in the summer. "I think it's safe to say that on our entire roster there are question marks of who will be here and who won't be here."


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