SUN Hockey Pool

Naughty and nice

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Have a Merry Christmas Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini. And enjoy Boxing Day as well. Just don't sleep in on Dec. 27.

That's when the Christmas cease fire, the holiday trading freeze, the employment location embargo, comes to an end. And the minute that happens, it's time to start making the moves which clearly now need to be made.

After 32 games, the Oilers brain trust doesn't need any more input to know what's wrong with their hockey club. It's time for both Lowe and Tambellini to now get to work and make the changes which need to be made if there's going to be a Happy New Year around here.

ABUNDANCE

The Oilers have an abundance of young, skilled, play-making future stars but they clearly haven't found a goal scorer to go with Ales Hemsky, are still seriously short on guts and remain at the bottom of the league in penalty killing and faceoffs. There's been a serious shortage of will and willingness to compete. Some of the veterans aren't as safe as they were at this time last year.

There's no need for Eric Cole to remain here playing on the third line or that he'll have a future fitting in on the first two. If you're scoring Lowe is oh-for-three trying to find Hemsky a mate.

First there was Joffrey Lupul. Dustin Penner keeps getting chances and keeps failing to claim the spot. And getting right winger Cole to play with right winger Hemsky didn't work either. Next.

They're getting full value and then some from Sheldon Souray. And Lubomir Visnovsky is working out well, too. But there's lots to fix up front.

And it's time to end the three-goaltender situation to open a spot on the roster, especially if there's going to be a steady stream of players being punished with extended visits to the press box like failure-to-compete Robert Nilsson last night taking the seat previously occupied by Penner and Kyle Brodziak.

Patience is a virtue. And nobody likes to see deals done a week or two before the Dec. 19 trade freeze kicks in. But after the trade freeze comes to an end on Dec. 27, patience translates to simply not doing anything. And something clearly now needs to be done.

When the Oilers took the ice to play the Florida Panthers back on Dec. 11, they had reached a point where they had 10 more home games remaining on the schedule than road games. They've only managed to win two of the following six games leading to the Christmas break.

It was a pleasant turn of events for the Oilers to jump off to a 2-0 lead after six minutes when it's been the opposite of a lot of nights. But then they took the rest of the second period off and allowed the Coyotes to claw their way back into it 2-2.

That the Oilers scored two power play goals in the third period, both on five-on-three situations, to end up beating Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 was nothing to sneeze at. But it was hardly reason for anybody to leave the building shouting "All's Well! All's Well!"

"That ended a whole lot better than it could have," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"After we scored those first two goals, we could have made a pretty easy night of it," he added.

When I asked him what his players should spend their time thinking about during the Christmas break, MacTavish was quick to respond.

"Not hockey!

"They need to get away from the game. They should enjoy their time with their families ... maybe get on a bike.

"They need a break."

THINKING ABOUT

I followed by asking what he'd want Lowe and Tambellini to be thinking about on their break.

"I've got enough to think about without thinking about that," he said.

"Players are not falling out of Christmas trees," he added. "My approach is we have enough guys to get it done in this dressing room. Let's get it done."

When the Oilers return to Rexall following a Boxing Day game in Vancouver, they'll play seven of their following eight games at home - 13 of their following 17 at home.

When you consider last night was home game No. 13 of the season, the schedule draws a map of where they have to make it happen. They can't wait for spring. They're going to have to do it now.


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