SUN Hockey Pool

They win ... they lose

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

They win two games in their last 20, and the second one costs them the first pick overall.

The latest kick in the pants in a season that's left boot marks all over the Edmonton Oilers came yesterday at the draft lottery.

The team they leap-frogged with that meaningless, season-ending win over Calgary, the Chicago Blackhawks, ended up winning the first pick overall, with ping pong balls that could have had Edmonton's name on them.

Somebody asked GM Kevin Lowe if he cringed when the Hawks won, moving up four spots from fifth to first.

"Yes, absolutely," said Lowe, whose club went from 27th and a 10.7% chance to pick first to 25th and a 6.2% chance on the last Saturday of the season.

"You have these thoughts as management, heck, if we're going to be this bad, we might as well go all the way, because it's going to be a benefit to the hockey team.

"But going into that last game we're sitting fourth (last), which in our estimation is pretty safe.

''To win the hockey game ... for our fans, it's always a good day when you beat Calgary. If they get enjoyment out of that, I'm happy."

Edmonton has three first-round picks.

The highest is sixth (the remaining picks will be determined by the order of finish in the playoffs).

But Lowe isn't certain he'll be drafting three times in the first round.

He's just as likely to use them in trades.

"We want to take advantage of the high pick," he said.

"But to say that we'll have three first rounders might be a stretch."

ON HIS COACHES

Head coach Craig MacTavish accepted a lot of blame for not getting the most out of some of his players, which Lowe found that to be commendable.

But the GM said he wouldn't change a thing about the staff.

"I don't think people need to look too far back in their tenure as coaches to see what they can do when provided with a team.

''Last year they had a team and they went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

''A number of veterans said it was the best coaching staff they ever played for.

''I'm fully supportive of that group."

ON GETTING HEMSKY HELP

Ales Hemsky, a pure passer, needs to play with two naturally gifted snipers.

Finding a couple will be one of Lowe's biggest off-season priorities.

"No question we have to do a better job of getting him some players to play with," said Lowe.

"That's not a slight to the players who played with him this year.

''But we're going to make additions and those players would have an opportunity to play with Ales ...

''That's anticipating we're going to be looking for two top line players.

"To look at the standings and see that we're the 30th- place team in goals scored ... that's the most unbelievable thing."

ON HIS OWN CRITICS

Any time a team slumps, people start calling for heads on platters, and it was no different this year.

Lowe has no problem accepting criticism for his performance.

However he dismisses suggestions that the current management and coaching staff isn't good enough.

"Would I trade this year and last year for a little more in between?

"I really don't think I would.

''That ride we had last year ... that was the best thing this city has seen in a decade and a half.

''We were all part of that.

''That same group is here today and we're all a part of this year.

"For the people who believed in our ability to do what we did last year, good for them.

''For the critics and dissenters, I really don't have much to say.

''I'm the same guy I've been, with the same group of guys who have brought a lot of pride to this city for many years, a lot of championships, a lot of good times."


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