This was that rarest of things: a game with no bright sides in the midst of a string of equally catastrophic play. Well, rare unless you're an Oilers fan.
It was a lovely day in January and I was walking along the seawall. The sun was beating down on my Edmonton Oilers jersey, as with Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle holding up the youth while veterans and semi-veterans like Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Smyth, Devan Dubnyk, and Shawn Horcoff around, the near future was bright. The lockout was over and so were the constant appearances in the draft lottery. While I walked, whistling at my good fortune, a fish flapped up from the harbour, flying over the paving stones before me, and bit me on the neck.
"Fish don't bite!" I complained.
"And the Oilers don't win, unless it's 2006," answered the fish.
Fast-forward to March 8, 2013. The Oilers are off what can only be called "the nadir of their season except for all the other ones," a 6-0 loss to the Nashville Predators. The highlight of the night was undoubtedly Devan Dubnyk's spectacular goal against from beyond the red line, what commentators call a "knucklepuck" and what Northwest Division fans call "a Dan Cloutier special." Other candidates were Ryan Jones getting a remarkably clear breakaway then forgetting that you have to shoot on those, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins firing wide from the slot again like a bantam player with his dad's stick, or the Oilers dropping into 27th in the NHL (as Steve Tambellini calls it, fourth) and consolidating the Horror for Four, the Not Winnin' for MacKinnon, the Booin' for Drouin, the record-breaking effort to get more consecutive seasons of first overall picks than any team in North American professional sports history.
We hear talk of long road trips murdering the Oilers, because there's nothing worse than charter flights and fine hotels before playing unremarkable teams your oh-so-optimistic fans constantly subsidize. I seem to recall the Oilers going on long road trips in the past and they usually didn't lose by a pair of field goals in Nashville, go an entire period without a shot in Minnesota, get rolled like a fistful of nickels by fucking Columbus, and look like they were an age group younger against Detroit. Colby Cosh says this is the second-longest goalless streak in Oilers history. God, the longest must have really been something.
It's charming to see people, desperate for bright sides, claim that Ryan Jones had a good game. According to Michael Parkatti via Twitter Jones went -14 in Corsi in a bit over 14 minutes of ice time. But yeah, pick those cherries Tubthumper. If I played street hockey with him eventually I'd just break his ankles and make it look like an accident. Optimists further claim we're just following the path of Chicago and Pittsburgh, accumulating young talent, but the catch was that after those teams got the young talent they also got a hockey team and started winning games with it. The Oilers just go on eight consecutive one-year rebuilds, promising that we'll totally make the playoffs next time. If I spent the better part of a decade being the worst person in the world at my job I'm fairly sure I'd be sucking dicks for spare change on East Hastings by now.
Flames fans are finding pleasure at our expense. Wild fans are feeling pretty smug about all those "second-line bust" jokes. Canucks fans are too busy laughing to even riot. We are the nadir of professional sports, and the hilarious thing is that every year we do the exact same thing. Better buy out Shawn Horcoff; this team has too many tough minutes forwards and we need the cash to pay Darcy Hordichuk, Ben Eager, and Mike Brown to throw their fists around like spazzing nine-year-olds.
In years past, when the Oilers failed, at least we could say "well, we called up Liam Reddox, Sebastien Bisaillon, Bryan Young, and a bucket full of used condoms, no wonder we're in the tank." Nope! This team was built by deliberate policy. Apart from Yann Danis, who admittedly spent 40 minutes flapping around like a beached whale, every player on this roster is there because management wanted them. There are no emergency players filling holes; each and every skater on that roster is there because our management said "yep, this guy sounds good." This is the team they wanted to build! They got lucky on three draft lotteries, somehow conned Justin Schultz into signing, and built a house with no foundation and indeed no structure. Let that sink in. Realize what a massive indictment this is against every single person responsible for making decisions on this team except maybe the GVT guy.
When he watched the Trinity test that detonated the first atomic bomb, Kenneth Bainbridge said "now we are all sons of bitches." Do you think Lowe and Tambellini have that level of self-awareness?
My first post for Copper & Blue was in September of 2009. For three and a half years I have been writing this exact article, changing only the names. And not the names that matter, either. I can't think of anything quite like it in any walk of life. Any business which didn't command the undying loyalty of a million fans because of glory years before I was sentient would have long ago gone bankrupt. Instead the WHL team owned by the same architect of our misery runs cheeky ads saying "come see playoff hockey at Rexall Place", ho ho ho.
As Cato the Elder would have said, were he a hockey fan, Tambellinum delendum est. Tambellini must be destroyed. And take Lowe with you. You wouldn't put up with this sort of management from one of your drug stores, Daryl Katz, don't put up with it here.