Oil down the Hall-way

TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

All is well that doesn't end well.

Whew! That was close. For a while there it looked like that they might win this one.

It would be just like this team, wouldn't it?

Just when the fans are beginning to buy into the idea of the Oilers being last in the league to put themselves in prime position in the Taylor Hall Sweepstakes, it would be like them to go and win the game that would take them out of last place in the Western Conference.

There is a theory that the reason no Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did it in 1993 is that Canadian fans and media won't stand for the lack of success to make it possible to draft the kind of players to put together a team like the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will bring to town next week.

But the cry here is becoming "Do Nothing!"

And this is working out just dandy as long as Pat Quinn doesn't screw it up with his mini-camp starting today.

QUIRKY

While there's admittedly little entertainment value involved, there is something quirky in watching two teams like Columbus and Edmonton last night with the Oilers eventually losing 4-2 and a percentage of the populace not particularly unhappy with the result.

When it's No. 14 versus No. 15 in the Western Conference and a loss puts you in better position to have a better chance to pick Taylor Hall in June, in at least one city --unbelievably, the Canadian city -- the fans seem to becoming just fine with that idea.

Especially after the World Juniors.

But one doesn't expect Quinn to buy in.

"You'd like to think you could conjure up a way to beat a team that's battling you for last place," said Quinn.

Columbus had only one win to show since Dec. 10th and came into the game with a 13-game road losing streak.

But no fear. The Oilers, who have only one win since Dec. 11 -- and that one against the Toronto Maple Leafs -- were down to the task.

"That's why we're 15th. You saw the goals. The way the goals are going in is so repetitive it would be hard to understand why we should be anywhere but there," Quinn said of the usual mess the Oilers made in their own end.

"I had trouble giving anyone good grades."

Maybe they were just saving themselves for that mini-camp that starts today instead of taking a four day trip to California to golf with Oilers sponsors.

"I don't care if you're playing Columbus or a first-place team, if you don't show up to play, I don't care," said Quinn.

For this scribe it was not easy to come from a thrilling gold-medal game at the World Junior to a "relegation game." It was difficult to adjust from a gut-busting pace between two teams playing for pride of country to a pair of NHL clubs with guys carrying $7-million salaries counting down the days to the Olympic break without busting a gut.

One can only imagine what it was like here the other night with Canada-USA on the big screen and the Oilers labouring on the ice below.

"It wasn't a pretty game. Columbus wasn't that pretty, either," he said.

"We have not come together as a team.

"We have some skill here, but skill does squat. We had five guys on that last goal, three forwards up the ice, who did squat. What is that? Lack of work? Lack of interest?

"I'm still trying to figure that out. It's been half a year.

"Skill doesn't get the job done. We're not good enough because the heart or attitude isn't good enough. We're not playing like we have drive and work ethic. We're not paying like we care what our occupation is. And we're in 15th place."

SWEEPSTAKES

The heart transplants can wait. Taylor Hall has heart.

The next big game in the Taylor Hall Sweepstakes is here Feb. 1 featuring the 29th-place overall Edmonton Oilers against the 30th-place overall Carolina Hurricanes.

(Hard to believe that four years ago these two teams went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.)

Last night's loss allowed the Oilers to keep pace with Carolina who lost to Nashville.

Early in March the Oilers play in Toronto and in Columbus back-to-back.

Those will be big ones to lose, too.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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