Oilers' morning-after headache

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

They looked defeated.

They didn't want to be there to try and explain how it all went wrong. Not when the Edmonton Oilers were trying to figure it out themselves.

"Today is a tough day," said Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray. "It's an accumulation of two months of disaster, and then reality sets in.

"We've tried to maintain a positive attitude for the last couple of weeks because we've had to, we've still had a glimmer of hope. But it's tough when you expect to make the playoffs with four games left by winning all your games and having other teams to lose, when we had control of our own destiny a few weeks ago.

"That's a lot to ask to depend on other teams, and then we didn't help ourselves. We haven't been in the last two months. It's disappointing to a man and that disappointment is pretty evident today."

Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, combined with the St. Louis Blues' 5-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes eliminated the Oilers from playoff contention for the third consecutive season.

They were going to be hard-pressed to make the post-season anyway, considering going into last night's play they needed to win their remaining three games and for the teams above them to lose at least two.

Regardless, the reality of the situation finally hit home once they were mathematically eliminated.

"I think everybody is overcome by disappointment today and we have to give that a chance to run its course," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "Then we'll try and get a game plan going for the games on the weekend. But it's pretty tough right now. I seldom get caught in the moment, but I'm caught there right now. I'm just going to need a day, at least, to deal with it and give myself a broader perspective than what I can share with anybody today."

The sentiment was echoed throughout the Oilers' room. Despite all the frustration the Oilers went through this season, the belief in the room was that they would eventually turn things around and get into the post-season.

"It's a long season not to make the playoffs," said defenceman Tom Gilbert. "Especially when you have high expectations, it's frustrating. With the personnel we have we should have given ourselves a chance to compete every night. I don't know what it was, we needed to be more consistent throughout the year and I think that's what cost us."

The Oilers never did manage to put together that elusive winning streak which would have safely lifted them into the playoffs. They started the year winning four straight, but were never able to duplicate the run.

They also struggled against teams below them in the standings, which eventually led to their downfall. The Kings went into Tuesday's game with nothing to play for, but were still able to hold off the Oilers, who had everything to play for.

"Last year the guys made a great run at it, and came a little short, but still felt good about going into this season." Souray said. "This season, I don't know what positives we can draw, other than Roli (Dwayne Roloson) having an outstanding second half. I think to a man, no one's preformed to their capabilities besides Roli. So we're going to have a long time to sit and reflect on that. This is probably the most frustrating, disappointing and discouraging point that I've been through as far as playoff runs."

What makes it all the more frustrating is that the Oilers were in a playoff spot heading down the homestretch of the season.

They also had six of their last seven games at home.

However, they picked a bad time to go on a losing skid and dropped seven of their last nine to slide out of the race.

"We haven't been in a position like that in a long time," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff. "I thought we had the experience and the firepower to get it done. Obviously we couldn't and that's really frustrating."


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