Divisional dilemma for Oilers

Oilers forward Taylor Hall is hassled by Wild defenceman Nick Schultz at Rexall Place in Edmonton,...

Oilers forward Taylor Hall is hassled by Wild defenceman Nick Schultz at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Oct. 20, 2011. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 AM ET

EDMONTON - Four losses in four games to Northwest Division teams. And they gassed leads in all four.

The worst team in the NHL these past two years have been the Edmonton Oilers with the back-to-back 30th place finishes. And they did it despite playing in the worst division in hockey.

And now they’re doing it again?

When you go 6-13-5 and 8-14-2 in the Northwest Division, you belong in the basement.

And when you start the season 0-4 against a division in which four of five teams missed the playoffs last year, has anything changed?

OK. This time they took it late.

It was 1-0 Edmonton with 1.2 seconds left when Dany Heatley, who would have been totally invisible all night if some fans hadn’t chosen to boo him when he came close to the puck, was the benefactor of a bad goal by Nikolai Khabibulin, who was one brick shy of looking like he’d rebuilt the Bulin Wall.

So the Oilers’ lose in the shootout for the second time in as many weeks to the Wild.

And that’s now eight straight losses to Minnesota, including all six last year and the first two this season.

Oilers have lost 17 straight in Minnesota going back four years and almost four months. The Wild has more wins against Edmonton than any other opponent.

The Oilers, when they gassed a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1, late in Calgary the other night made it nine losses in a row to the Flames in the Saddledome.

And you know how the Sedin twins pad their points and Roberto Luongo his win percentage and save percentage against Edmonton.

With Minnesota this night, it looked like Tom Renney decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he’d join ‘em.

So Edmonton became the Oilerzzzzzzzzz.

He essentially benched the top line of Jordan Eberle, who had to lead the team in chances, Taylor Hall and rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was kept out of the faceoff circle for all but three appearances in which he won one.

Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and his line played over 23 minutes while the kids had 23 fewer minutes.

“Frustrating to lose a game like that,” said Eberle. “We had the game the whole time.”

He said he’s not worried that he has yet to score despite the chances.

“I’m not worried about it at all. They’re going to go in.”

But it’s six games into the season and the list of Oilers who have yet to score (eight of the 10 goals have been scored by somebody named Ryan) is ridiculously long.

Magnus Paajarvi. Anton Lander. Linus Omark. Horcoff. Eberle. Eric Belanger. Ladislav Smid. Cam Barker. Theo Peckham. Andy Sutton. Lennard Petrell. Corey Potter. Ben Eager. Tom Gilbert.

Renney said he’s not concerned with 10 goals in six games.

“Nope. Not yet. We’ll get it going.”

Eberle said the top line went away from the game plan.

“We need to manage the puck better and chip it in.”

Nugent-Hopkins, who was given a shot in the shootout but failed, said he was pined because “I wasn’t handling the puck well.”

The bottom line is that the Oilers aren’t going to win many games 1-0. But so far this season they’re trying.

“I thought we played fine,” said Renney. “It came down to 100th of a second.”

Nugent-Hopkins?

“He played fine. As a line, I thought they had difficulty.”

Whoa. Isn’t this supposed to be different this year? Isn’t this a team which is supposed to be much more accountable and trying to play meaningful games in the spring?

What about gassing four leads and losing four games to Northwest Division teams?

“I have nothing but confidence in this team. They’re a pleasure to coach because they want badly to do the right thing.”

And what about those eight straight losses to Minnesota?

“We’ll end that streak,” said the coach. “To hell with it. We’ll end it.”

I preferred Ryan Smyth’s view.

“Unacceptable,” he said of the result. “Close isn’t good enough here anymore.”

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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