Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Growing pains

Strange things are afoot in Oilerville these days.

Coming off the heels of the now-infamous 10-2 drubbing by the Blackhawks and a listless 2-1 decision to the Music City Maniacs, it was reported that MacT bag-skated Penner, Pouliot and Brodziak. Or maybe he didn't. Depends who you ask. On the interwebs, the natives are getting restless. Jonathan Willis wants MacT's head. Lowetide is frustrated. And over on the boards...well, it hasn't come to bloodshed yet, but that might change with an Oilers loss tonight.

Speaking for myself, I'm on the fence. I've said before that I'm not nearly as invested in this team as I once was, but I've seen plenty of shit efforts this year and they still piss me off. I certainly agree with Tyler's theory that the Oilers' brass seems a helluva lot more concerned with protecting their image than attending to the many issues with the on-ice product.

That product has been wildly inconsistent, often unwatchable and frustrating as fuck. They have one veteran centre, one decent offensive line, a whole whack of kids, a shitload of bloated contracts and a 300 year-old starting goalie. Despite all this, they are also in the midst of the fight for a playoff spot.

So the question is, what to do? Everybody with a brain knows this team wasn't built with this year in mind, but for two, three years down the road. If you look at a lot of the moves this year, even the more puzzling ones make a bit more sense. If there's a time for tinkering and seeing what's worth keeping it's now. That the team has done that and still stayed in the hunt is just gravy.

But history has shown that management can oscillate between "win now" and "build for later" five times in the time it takes Kevin Lowe to wake up, shit, shower, shave and get out the door every morning and a lot will depend on whether they stay the course with the group they have or try to force the issue in response to fan grumbling.

I think they stick to their guns. The team is in the playoff hunt and has improved on last year. Fan grumbling doesn't mean squat until they stop showing up and for every one who bails because they won't be seeing Rob Schremp guzzling Moet out of Lord Stanley's mug, there's another two or three suckers customers to take their place. On the flip side, that kind of complacency and satisfaction with mediocrity in the service of profitability leads to icing a squad with big holes (ie. every K-Lowe team since the lockout) with no guarantee they'll be filled in time.

My hope is they keep their heads above water over the next 15 or so that they can deal some assets for a little help at the deadline and make a real charge for the playoffs. I don't expect much more than a first round defeat, but it'd set the stage for a nice off season. Deal some deadwood (Staios, Moreau), pick up a veteran or two for the bottom six. I don't see a UFA home run happening, which is fine. Ideally, next year's Oilers will be a bit older, a lot wiser and focused on making a run. That's not a heck of a lot to ask, I don't think, and it would certainly make teh growing pains worthwhile.

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