Oilers have nasty habit

Edmonton's Taylor Hall and Kurtis Foster celebrate with Jordan Eberle (middle) after Eberle's goal...

Edmonton's Taylor Hall and Kurtis Foster celebrate with Jordan Eberle (middle) after Eberle's goal against Chicago's Corey Crawford during the Edmonton Oilers game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Wednesday. (Codie McLachlan, Edmonton Sun)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:04 PM ET

EDMONTON - "When you can't climb your way out of a hole, you tend to crouch down and call it home." - Nikki Sixx.

In his compelling autobiography The Heroin Diaries, Motley Crue's bass player describes how the sheer hopelessness he felt in trying to beat his addiction eventually gave way to a numbing marriage of denial and acceptance.

Losing can be like that, too.

We need only look at the track marks all over Edmonton's loss columns — 228 in the last four and a half seasons — to realize it's a hard habit to break.

For all the improvements in talent and attitude and coaching and atmosphere, the Oilers are no better today, if you go by those minor little details known as wins and losses, than they were last year.

Forty points 55 games in 2009-10 and 40 points after 55 games right now.

And everyone is pretty OK with it. Fans, players, coaches, media and maybe even management are crouching down at the bottom of the league and calling it home.

Go 7-15-5 at Rexall? Oh well, lots of injuries.

Go two months between back-to-back wins? Oh well, they're young.

Outshot 18-5 through 30 minutes at home? Fall out of the playoff chase by New Year's Eve? Oh well, it's a process.

It's rare that you will find an organization and a community so bought into a party line that four wins in the last 23 games warrants little more than a shoulder shrug, but that's what we're getting here.

The Oilers have managed to reduce the season to one long training camp, where wins and losses take a back seat to just about everything else.

That's a little worrisome. Learning how to win, how to do that little extras that get you there, is every bit as important as learning where to be on the ice.

There is a losing culture in Edmonton, a five-year addiction, and at times it doesn't look like they're trying hard enough to change that.

It's dangerous to just assume they kick the habit next year, automatically, because Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are a year older.

The team is young. The injuries were many. It's all part of a process. All of that is fair. But losing, or at least the habits that lead to losing, can take hold of a player without him even knowing it.

We should worry that it's happening here. This team still doesn't seem to know, and we're not just talking about the rookies here, that almost doing enough to win and just doing enough to lose are the same thing. It's just that thinking you almost did enough to win is more comforting on the plane ride to the next city.

Mistakes, we can live with. But long lapses where passion and intensity and push-back are nowhere to be found? Too many times, 55 games into the season, when they've shown more emotion after a loss than they're showing in the first period?

What exactly are they learning here? Where is the swagger that we hoped to see from a young, fast team on the rise? This team looks beaten down.

Nobody expected the playoffs — the slogan in training camp was ‘Wait Till Next Year,' and that might even be the battle cry again next October, even if the sophomore jinx doesn't hit the wrong player or two.

This is going to take time. We get it. But if they're not going to win, then a little more spirit and intensity in all those losses might ease some concerns.

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.caTwitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI


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