The fun has fizzled

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

This used to be fun. But this year, it's no fun at all.

It's the annual Edmonton Oilers late season down-the-stretch, eighth-place-or-bust, roller-coaster ride.

But maybe you noticed that this year it's different.

It's like you've been on the roller-coaster so many times, you're starting to feel sick.

After all those years of winning Stanley Cups around here, in a weird way these years of being in the middle of a mad scramble for a playoff position has been OK.

It was like the rest of the league was missing out on what Edmonton was experiencing every season with the excitement, the excruciating highs and exasperating lows, the agonies and the ecstasies of everything involved - including watching the out-of-town scoreboard, which produced similar sensations two or three times a night.

But this year, despite the fact the Oilers sit there in eighth place as usual and go into tonight's game against St. Louis just a point ahead of the Blues, Edmonton fans are going to Rexall Place looking a little like Peter Pocklington looked the other day getting out of jail.

LOOK DEAD

Too often the Oilers look dead and the out-of-town scoreboard watch is being done with dread.

There have been a lot worse Oilers teams over the years, but this one has set the record for the number of games they've been booed off the ice in their own building.

The frustration level has seldom been as high as it is as the team takes to the ice tonight, the fine line between loving them and loathing them coming with the next penalty kill or lost face-off.

Maybe it's like that old line: "We're with you win or tie - and don't tie too often."

The Oilers have tied too often.

Three straight overtime losses in a run of winning just three of their last 12 in regulation time will do that to you.

Whatever, the roller-coaster ride just hasn't been the same so far this season even though the standings would suggest it's exactly the same.

"It doesn't seem as much fun," said Shawn Horcoff.

"I think with everybody involved, it's because there have been much higher expectations this year not being fulfilled.

"We all feel that way. Everybody is frustrated."

Added Sheldon Souray: "You'd think it would be an advantage for this team having been through this so many times before.

"In a way, it's the way the games have gone.

"I don't know how to put this, but if you're losing games the 'right' way, it's a little better. If you lose three or four in a row the 'wrong' way, and in overtime, it's hard skipping into the dressing room saying, 'We're still in it.'

"We are still in it, but there's no skipping. Everyone has been disappointed, from the fans to the players.

"We all know it's all still there for us. All we need is to put together a little run and suddenly we're chasing sixth. But that's part of it; we haven't done it."

The kids have only had the one experience from last year.

"Last year at this time was the best time I had playing hockey in my whole career," said Andrew Cogliano.

"We had so many veterans injured and so many new faces and were so far back that there wasn't really a lot of pressure.

FRUSTRATED

"It's just so different this year. This year I'm so frustrated that things aren't going overly well."

This year, it's no fun at all.

"I don't know that I'd ever classify it as fun," said coach Craig MacTavish. "We'd be pretty masochistic if we thought this was fun.

"Our objective is to play ourselves out of a situation we're inevitably destined to be in - or so it seems.

"We want to draw conclusions quickly. We're waiting for a real flat effort or a real good effort to say 'OK, they don't have enough' or 'OK, they're on a roll now.'

"We've just been in limbo the last little while with three overtime losses.

"It's the classic half-full, half-empty scenario. Generally after the game it's half-empty and the next day you try to turn it into the half-full scenario. That's where we are."

And it's no fun at all.


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