Oilers 'not competing' at level should: Smid

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:23 AM ET

EDMONTON — It’s like a bad dream that won't end.

There is no waking up in a cold sweat for the Edmonton Oilers, even though they did a lot of perspiring at practice Tuesday.

Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers have dropped 15 of their last 16 games. Their only victory coming against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have issues of their own.

“I think we have a good team here, but we’re not competing at the level that we should, which is really frustrating,” said Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid. “We have pretty much the same team we had last year and we were in the race for the playoffs. I don’t know what’s going on this year, it’s hard to explain. It’s frustrating. We have to really stick as a team and start playing as team, that’s the most important thing.”

There is no joy in Oiler town this year with the team having essentially already struck out.

They’re playing for pride and judging by their performance Monday against the Colorado Avalanche, that is in short supply as well.

Tuesday, they were put through the paces by the coaching staff during an all-out skating session, which did little to lighten the mood in the dressing room.

“It would be more fun to be winning, nobody would be tired, it’s really mentally draining going through something like this,” Smid said. “We have to start winning then we can start being a little bit more positive. There is a lot of negativity in this locker room right now, so we have to change it.

“You saw when we won those five games in a row, it was amazing the energy in this locker room, and how much fun everyone was having. It’s the total opposite right now.”

With the Canucks coming into town Wednesday night, things aren’t going to get any easier.

The Oilers have lost three straight against their Northwest Division opponents. The Canucks are battling for a division title, while the Oilers are battling to stay out of the league basement — albeit not very hard.

It’s a matchup with an enormous amount of embarrassment potential.

“They got a great first line, they have the top scorer in the league right now and they’re very creative,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “But like any team that we’ve played, it’s all based on turnovers. The game now-a-days is so positional, if you make a mistake and unless you have guys in the right position for you, turnovers end up in the back of the net.

“This team scores a lot of goals, they have a lot of offence, they’re fast and we have to make sure that we control the neutral zone. That’ll be a big part of the game.”

Despite not having made the playoffs in the previous three seasons, the Oilers find themselves in uncharted waters being this far out, this early into the year.

It's been a monumental collapse for the team that started the season with such high expectations.

“They must feel like I do, you’ve been hit so many times with a right, you’re begging for a left,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “That’s the reason to draw the line in the sand for ourselves individually, keep coming back to the fact that yes, we’re weak in some areas and we’ve got to get better and there is no way around it. We can’t become better by just practicing hard and just learning the system.

“We have to learn about ourselves and those intangibles it takes to play at this level and to play well at this level. Then maybe we have a good chance to become a good team.”

Notes: Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios did not take part in practice Tuesday. Moreau tweaked a neck injury sustained earlier in the year, while Staios was sick, possibly suffering from concussion symptoms after banging his head on the ice in San Jose. Ryan Stone is still out with a knee injury, Brule is still sick and there is no word on when Mike Comrie might be available, still trying to recover from his bout with mono.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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