July 19, 2009
Oilers, Eskimos caught in waiting game
By JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA
Patience is a virtue. Delay can be a curse.
It seems to me that leaders of the Oilers and Eskimos are both caught in this sort of conundrum.
Both teams have to let things play out -- the Oilers in the endless Dany Heatley saga and the Eskimos in their search for on-field cohesion -- but if they wait too long disaster is a likely result.
After ugly losses to Montreal and B.C. and what easily could have been an additional defeat by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, head coach Richie Hall has every reason to point out that it's early in the season and only three games have been played.
But three games can be a lot in the CFL.
The Eskimos' 1-and-2 start in this 18-game CFL season would be the rough equivalent of four wins and eight or nine losses in an NHL season.
It isn't hard to imagine the blog-inspired harangues that would tattoo the entire Oilers organization if the team dared to start as dismally as 4-and-8 or 4-and-9.
Coach Hall knows all about quarterback controversies. Nobody survives for long in his chosen field without realizing fans are impatient enough to want results yesterday.
Certainly, Ricky Ray is aware of it, and both are astute enough to understand that fans start bleeping only because they care so much.
Between them, Hall and Ray have to find some answers to a stop-and-go (mostly stop) offence. Otherwise an unsettling call by fans for Jason Maas to start while Ray prepares to come off the bench as a second-stringer is sure to gain momentum.
The situation for Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is more complicated, and no more pleasant.
Until Heatley finally decides where his unquestioned talent and much-questioned attitude should next take root, all Tambellini can do is wait -- but he, like Hall, can only wait so long.
The current roster shows clearly that this Oilers group is unlikely to compete on adequate terms in the coming season. They weren't good enough last year and the only on-ice improvement they've made was to bring in Nikolai Khabibulin to replace Rollie the erratic goalie.
Some misguided few are sure to convince themselves that installing Pat Quinn and Tom Renney behind the bench will turn this me-first throng of also-rans into a grounded group of winners.
Listen closely and you'll hear suggestions that Dustin Penner will suddenly become an adult, show up in shape and be ready to play hard every night.
The same kind of thing can be said, and has been, about Robert Nilsson. But don't hold your breath, folks.
Both of them went to the doghouse last year, and in previous years with previous organizations, for good reason.
Motor not running
I have to confess I'm out of step with everybody on the question of the Edmonton Indy -- pardon, the Rexall Edmonton Indy.
It doesn't excite me at all.
I would far rather spend time at Castrol Raceway watching Wade Fleming and Sean Moran race against other local speedsters than yawn through another follow-the-leader marathon like the one that will be here next weekend.
I'm happy that the so-called Indy is a big fan attraction. And that Northlands and the city are not likely to take a financial bath as big as last year's disaster.
As for the event itself, I'll pass, thank you.