SUN Hockey Pool

A season of tragicomedy

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

DENVER -- It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

Or sad, if it wasn't so funny.

It's actually kind of hard to tell which right now as the season from hell continues to blur the line between comedy and tragedy.

With the Oilers on pace to post the worst point total in the history of the franchise, it's getting so bad they don't even need a puck to drop for something to go wrong.

No longer satisfied by tormenting Edmonton with simple hockey-related afflictions, the hockey gods are digging deep in the medical text books this season, scourging the club with everything from ulcerative colitis to mononucleosis to not one but two separate strains of the flu.

As if season-ending shoulder surgery, season-ending back surgery, multiple concussions and 265 man-games lost to injury aren't amusing enough, they have to turn the season into an episode of House?

What's next? Dangerously low estrogen levels?

"Just when you think you're over the bump or you've at least put the sickness behind you it comes back again," sighed Patrick O'Sullivan, after the Oilers couldn't muster up enough healthy bodies to ice a full team in Saturday's 4-2 loss in San Jose.

"I'm not a doctor, but it can't be the same thing, it can't be the H1N1 because we'd all be immune to that by now, from what I know. Your guess is as good as mine."

Throw in disputed bar tabs, cancelled golf trips, mini- camps and, of course, 14 losses in their last 15 games, and you wonder when the dark cloud is ever going to leave.

It's a good thing none of these guys live next to a bridge.

"It's tough, it's disappointing game after game," said O'Sullivan.

"You want to find something positive... We just need to get a win to feel better about ourselves."

You know it's a bad year when Gilbert Brule's had the flu more times (four) than Sheldon Souray's had a goal (three). He and Fernando Pisani, who missed 13 games with a back injury, then 23 more with colitis, both called in sick last game.

And speaking of sequels, Ryan Stone, just back from knee surgery, is out with a bad knee and Steve Staios, who missed 12 games with a concussion, might have another concussion.

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

"There are some reasons to look at what's happened to this group this year that are legitimate," said head coach Pat Quinn.

"But as you start each day, you keep telling yourself that in spite of all this, you really must perform well with whoever's here.

"In spite of the reasons you can collect, you still have to say, 'You know what, boys? We can ask ourselves to be better.' "

One thing is for certain; they've never been worse.

Edmonton's 37 points in 47 games (16-26-5) is the exact same number they had at this point in 1992-93 (15-25-7).

They went 11-25-1 down the stretch that season to set a franchise record for fewest points, with 60.

Watching them lately, a 59 seems well within reach.

It shouldn't be, said Quinn, but it is.

"We get some terrific performances, but we have a penchant for the big mistake that really hurts," said the coach.

"I don't know if I can recall that happening (on other teams) with such regularity. It seems to be throughout our group.

"Is that confidence? Is it growing pains? You're not sure what it is but it's there."

They've got to shake it, or start looking for that bridge to jump off of.

"It's been a rough go but we found ways to get wins at times when we had guys down so we know we're capable of it," said Sam Gagner.

"We're just a goal or two away. We have to keep our heads up and push forward."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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