SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers continue losing ways

Edmonton Oilers' Theo Peckham checks Chicago Blackhawks' Jack Skille.   (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Edmonton Oilers' Theo Peckham checks Chicago Blackhawks' Jack Skille. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 AM ET

In trying to show their fans, and perhaps themselves, that they’re not really as bad as they were last week, the Edmonton Oilers looked every bit as bad as they were last year.

And that’s saying something for an organization coming off the worst season in franchise history.

In the first game back after the disastrous 1-3-1 road trip that saw them outscored 28-10, the Oilers had a chance to prove that they’re not the weak and hapless wimps who look for a soft spot on the canvas the minute things get tough.

They didn’t.

Instead, they were every bit as bad in the 5-0 loss to Chicago as they were in New York (8-2) or Detroit (6-2), or Carolina (7-1).

“This is embarrassing,” said Ales Hemsky, who’s glad he didn’t have to shell out $200 to watch that mess. “I kind of feel bad for the fans and for everybody. We have lots to prove. We have to play better as a team, be hungrier. I don’t really know what to say.

“We sit on the bench and everybody is waiting for somebody else to do it. We’re scared to play with the puck. We don’t have any confidence right now and I don’t know where we’ll find it.”

The Oilers are now 4-10-3, having lost 13 of their last 15. They’ve been outscored 30-8 in their last five games and have given up 12 straight goals going back to the second period against New York.

The concern now is that in this year of learning, the young Oilers are learning how to lose.

“We could be close to that,” said head coach Tom Renney, whose club was down 2-0 on the scoreboard and an astounding 20-4 on the shot clock and would have been force-fed a double-digit loss if not for Nikolai Khabibulin. “You have to give yourself the best chance to win by playing hard and being emotionally connected to the game. When we lose that we’ve got a problem.”

He scanned his bench and saw a few players were dialled out early.

“There were some of them,” said the coach, who only handed Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff five shifts each in the final 40 minutes. “Your leaders have to show by example and they were having a tough night tonight. It’s safe to say our better players on the night were our young people.”

If there was an intermission pep talk after 20, it didn’t take, because Jonathan Toews completed the natural hat-trick 72 seconds into the period. A shorthanded goal late in the second and the 5-0 goal early in the third completed the night.

“We’re all searching for answers,” said Horcoff. “It’s tough. It’s obviously not going to happen quickly for us, but we still have to believe that it will.”

It’s starting to look like an unhealthy situation here. It’s hard to learn anything, except how to lose, when your team is continually being used for target practice.

“I wouldn’t go that far, I’m still learning a lot this year and believe it or not I am having a lot of fun,” said Taylor Hall. “As a player and as a team it’s not always going to be sunshine. We know that in this year there would be ups and downs and right now we’re going through a down period, for sure.

“We’ve shown the ability to win games, we’ve shown the ability to play. It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s not that we don’t have the pieces of the puzzle, we just need to put them together.”

Or it’s another six months in 30th.

“It’s hard not to think about it,” said Hemsky. “I don’t care about rebuilding. It’s nice to rebuild but I’m here to win games and play hockey. It’s just excuses, that we’re rebuilding. I don’t really want to get into that.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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