EDMONTON -- The Oilers have cancelled today's skills competition. No skill.
City police decided not to issue speeding tickets to Edmonton drivers for the rest of the month. Instead they are issuing Oilers tickets.
A seven-year-old boy involved in a custody case told the judge he'd been beaten by both his parents and several close relatives. The judge granted temporary custody to the Oilers. They don't beat anybody.
My e-mails are getting good.
It was after the Oilers lost in San Jose last weekend when one came from Edmonton fans at the game. With an attachment. A picture. The two fans had bags on their heads. The name bar on the back of one sweater one read: "I know". On the other it said: "We suck."
How did this happen?
How did it get to this?
The Oilers haven't won a hockey game yet in 2010.
They have one win to show for their last 18 games and that one was against the almost equally awful Toronto Maple Leafs.
They could go on an eight-game winning streak now and quite likely remain in last place in the Western Conference. They went into last night's action 11 points out of 14th place in the West.
If you need 94 points to make the playoffs, then do the math. The Oilers could be mathematically eliminated by the Olympic break.
They haven't come right out and admitted it yet, but Daryl Katz, Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini have decided to blow this up.
Just about anybody other than the kids are going to be shopped and shipped in an attempt to clear out contracts and stockpile draft choices between now and the March 3 trade deadline.
If they can find any takers, that is.
Sure, their current spot in the standings has something to do with injuries to Ales Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin, the never-ending flu bug and 289 man games lost. But there's every evidence the Oilers, er, braintrust has decided this is a blessing in disguise and has decided to choose now -- because they really have no other choice -- as the time and place to push the detonate button and make it all go boom.
They haven't told you yet, but this is the beginning of a two-, three- or four-year plan -- hopefully coinciding with the arrival of a new downtown arena -- to try to get superstars the old-fashioned way, by drafting them.
There's only one way to get them. They weren't coming here post-Pronger and they sure as hell aren't coming here now.
The Oilers haven't told you yet, but they've decided that after four years of missing the playoffs and two decades of eighth-place-or-bust, they're going to go the Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington route.
If you sat Kevin Lowe down and poured him three fingers of truth serum I believe he'd confess that in retrospect the biggest mistake he made was not blowing this all up back when Chris Pronger left town the year after leading the Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
A superstar (which Pronger was then) and goaltending can take you a long way. Not being able to attract another superstar despite many attempts and overpaying the supporting cast to stay around -- signing them to long-term deals which has made them almost impossible to move -- is what has sunk this team to the bottom of the barrel.
Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky have already offered to waive their no-trade clauses to get out of here -- and Visnovsky doesn't have one. There's no way they can keep Ethan Moreau here as captain and they know it.
As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pointed out here the other day, there have only been six teams that have played in the Stanley Cup final since the lockout and the Oilers were one of them.
Lowe was a genius back then. He'd landed Pronger. He'd made the deals for Dwayne Roloson, Michael Peca, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom and Sergei Samsonov. If Roloson hadn't been hurt Lowe quite likely would have won a sixth Stanley Cup in Edmonton.
But who wants you to blow up a team after you came within one game of winning the Cup? And two years ago with Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and the kids winning 14 of the last 20 games of the season with a long list of the veterans out, everyone in Edmonton got fooled.
Lowe no longer looks like much of a genius (except the timing of getting himself promoted upstairs), although the Dustin Penner deal looks a lot better lately.
Signing Shawn Horcoff to a contract that is paying him $7 million this season is Lowe's biggest criticism. Pour the truth serum in him and Lowe would probably tell you he made a massive mistake in letting Ryan Smyth get away over $100,000. Then following it up after all those whiffs trying to get a superstar and having to way overpay his veteran corps because, well, you've got to have players.
And they almost all went bad before their expiry dates.
New ownership hurt, too, in a way, because the Oilers could finally spend to the cap. Prior to Daryl Katz, all contracts had to be movable. Under the 38-man ownership group they couldn't spend to the cap and had no interest in 31-year-old free agents of the time, almost all of whom underperformed.
Thats the model they're going to get back into now.
Except they haven't told you yet.
This organization needs to be a lot more open, honest and, more than anything, accountable with their fans about it.
Feb. 1, 2008: Trade Dick Tarnstrom to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Curtis Glencross. Excellent deal.
April 11, 2008: Sign Tom Gilbert to six-year, $24M extension. He's still growing into that fat contract.
April 12, 2008: Re-sign Robert Nilsson to a three-year, $6M contract. Inconsistent ever since.
April 14, 2008: Re-sign Denis Grebeshkov to a one-year, $1.5M deal. Good deal.
June 6, 2008: Trade Dan Syvret to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ryan Potulny. Both are unproven at this point.
June 30, 2008: Trade Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene to the Los Angeles Kings for Lubomir Visnovsky. Gained a star puck-mover, but lost muscle and penalty-killing prowess, from which they still haven't recovered.
July 1, 2008: Trade Raffi Torres to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Gilbert Brule. It's a wash. Trade Joni Pitkanen to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Cole. Should have been a good trade, but Cole fell short of expectations.
July 3, 2008: Calgary Flames sign Curtis Glencross to a three-year $3.2M deal after the Oilers were unable to fit him in their financial plan. If not for the Pisani contract, Edmonton could have locked up its best energy player.
July 10, 2008: Sign UFA Jason Strudwick to a one-year contract. Versatile vet an inexpensive addition.
July 15, 2008: Re-sign Zack Stortini to a three-year, $2.1M contact. Essential deal for a big guy on a small team.
July 16, 2008: Sign Shawn Horcoff to a six-year, $33M contract extension. One of the worst deals in the NHL.
July 31, 2008: Name Steve Tambellini GM. Kevin Lowe moves up to the role of president of hockey operations. Tambellini inherits a mess.
Jan. 17, 2009: Trade Mathieu Garon to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Ryan Stone and Dany Sabourin. Garon goes on to win the Cup.
March 4, 2009: Trade Erik Cole and a fifth-round pick in 2009 to Carolina for Patrick O'Sullivan and a second-round pick in 2009. Trade second-round pick to Buffalo for Ales Kotalik. Only a good deal if O'Sullivan becomes a legit top-six forward, something which hasn't happened yet.
April 15, 2009: Fire head coach Craig MacTavish. A change was inevitable after third straight playoffs missed.
May 26, 2009: Hire Pat Quinn as head coach, Tom Renney as associate coach and Kelly Buchberger as assistant coach. Power combo hasn't been able to squeeze blood from a stone.
June 28, 2009: Trade Kyle Brodziak and a sixth-round pick in 2009 for a fourth-round pick (Kyle Bigos, 99th overall) and fifth-round pick (Olivier Roy, 133rd overall) in 2009. Still waiting.
July 1, 2009: Sign UFA Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year, $15M contract. Re-sign Jason Strudwick to a one-year, $700,000 contract. Khabby day has turned into a nightmare of lost games.
July 21, 2009: Re-sign Denis Grebeshkov to a one-year, $3.15-million contract. He earned the cash last year, this season, not so much.
Aug. 12, 2009: Re-sign Ladislav Smid to two-year, $2.6-million contract. Re-sign Gilbert Brule to one-year, $800,000 contract. Re-sign Ryan Stone to a one-year, $600,000 contract. All cheap and tidy. Solid plays.
Aug. 25, 2009: Name Wayne Fleming as assistant coach. More veteran help can't hurt.
Sept. 4, 2009: Re-sign Rob Schremp to one-year $715,000 contract. Waived and picked up by N.Y. Islanders, where he's playing well.
Sept. 10, 2009: Sign UFA Mike Comrie for one year ($1.125M). Took a risk.