December 29, 2010
Oilers growing pains persistent
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
New Oilers stat: Number of consecutive games lost since head coach Tom Renney said he’d be surprised if the Edmonton Oilers didn’t make the playoffs. Four.
Maybe it’s not fair to be scoring that.
And on a night where Renney lost his top scorer, top ice-time defenceman and top plus-minus guy in Ryan Whitney, it’s hardly fair to throw the prophecy back at him right now — especially if Whitney’s ankle injury is long-term.
But for the record …
With 30 points and 47 games to go, that means (using last year’s 95-point total of the eighth-place team) the Oilers will will need to go something like 30-12-5 the rest of the way. You do the math.
The Oilers looked like they were making progress when they lost three straight games on the road to top-of-the-tables teams Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Jose.
But the Buffalo Sabres came into the rink where the Oilers have only won six times so far this year for their patient fans. And after losing the night before in Calgary — but in doing so, failing to save the job of Flames GM Darryl Sutter — the Sabres took the opening faceoff only two points ahead of the 28th-place Oilers despite Buffalo playing in the NHL Least.
“That’s certainly not the effort we wanted,” said Taylor Hall, the rookie who had seven points in his first 17 games, 14 in his next 17 and started the next 17-game segment this night with a goose egg.
“After playing well in the three games on the road, we had an opportunity to start the home stand off right and we didn’t do that.”
Sam Gagner said they actually did start it off right, with Alex Hemsky setting up Dustin Penner on his first shift back from injury.
“We scored one but then we stopped playing like we can,” said the centre, who was 33% in the faceoff circle and, like Hall, a minus-three on the night.
This was a night where Pat Quinn might have provided the media with a “hind banana” quote or some other colourful comment.
But Renney has an entirely different style.
“We had a good third period and were strong in the first 10 minutes, but the white part of the Oreo wasn’t very good. It was awful,” he said, reaching for the cookie jar instead of banana barrel.
“This is the way the season is. As much as we don’t like it, we are still going to see this occasionally.
“What we have to do is limit the number of times this happens moving forward. Not just games but periods and even periods of periods, we have to shorten the look of this kind of stuff as much as we can and grow up in a hurry, and get back to being a good hockey team.”
If you found two tickets to that game in your Christmas stocking, Santa might as well have left you a lump of coal.
When it was suggested to Renney that he looked much more composed than some might expect after a game like that at home, to open a home stand, he said it depends on the angle of the viewer.
“I’m a duck on the water right now,” he said.
“This is our team and these are our guys and they know how I feel. That’s the most important group that needs to know how I feel.
“We’ll deal with it.”
With Ryan Whitney out for an unknown duration with a rght ankle injury suffered in the first period, the player who went into the game leading the team in points (27), ice time (25:58) and carrying the best plus-minus on the team (plus 13) left a defence which was already a disaster.
Oklahoma Barons call-up Jeff Petry, playing his first NHL game and registering his first NHL assists, but also ending up a minus three, may be around a little longer than the Oilers planned.
With Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark and Ryan O’Marra, the addition of Petry makes six rookies in the lineup. And that wasn’t part of the plan.
While it’s been mostly a fun year here so far watching these kids grow, there was nothing much enjoyable about watching them play Tuesday’s game.
If Jay Feaster was watching this one down in Calgary, on his first day as Flames GM with the idea to blow the team up like Steve Tambellini & Co. have blown the Oilers up, he was probably reminded that it’s not all fun watching a Canadian team going through growing pains.
On the other hand, the Oilers remain well positioned for another spot in draft lottery territory again.
Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones