It’s the same old story

Correct me if I’m wrong...

Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the Oilers supposed to be in contention for the Northwest Division title this season instead of engaged in yet another struggle for their playoff lives?

After Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Calgary, the Oilers awoke clinging to eighth place, 13 points behind the division-leading Flames and just six points ahead of the 15th-place Colorado Avalanche. In other words, right where they always are as March approaches.

What a surprise!

It’s an annual rite of spring that the Oilers hit the stretch drive needing to squeeze out every point from their final 20 games just to latch on to seventh or eighth place. It’s been that way for more than a decade.

It wasn’t supposed to this way.

Not with the new CBA and a level economic playing field. And, before you bring up the 2006 Stanley Cup run, don’t forget that’s a roll that began with an eighth-place finish.

“Everybody has been excited for this day for a while now,” a wildly optimistic Craig MacTavish said as the pre-season opened.

“A lot of years I’m up here trying to generate optimism and enthusiasm. This year, I’ll be interested in quelling it a little bit.”

Consider it quelled.

WHILE I’M AT IT
A difficult road schedule to begin the season was supposed to be the Oilers’ undoing, but it’s their 13-12-3 record at Rexall Place that has them in trouble ... I’m guessing the return of Fernando Pisani from a broken left ankle this week will prompt GM Steve Tambellini to get a head-start on trade deadline day ... Erik Cole remains Tambellini’s biggest bargaining chip and he’s drawing interest from at least a half-dozen teams, with Carolina and Boston leading the pack ... In case you haven’t noticed, hard-nosed Theo Peckham, who got the call from Springfield of the AHL after Denis Grebeshkov joined Lubomir Visnovsky on injured reserve, is a keeper and he’ll be, at worst, the team’s sixth defenceman next season ... If there’s a team that wants a sweetener in a deadline deal with the Oilers, Marc Pouliot or J.F. Jacques will be the sugar ... Memo to Marc Crawford of the CBC: it’s “Ales Hemsky,” not “Alex Hemsky” ... The good news is the Oilers’ penalty killing has improved and moved all the way up to 27th place ... The bad news is the power play has dropped to 20th.

– In a decade covering the Edmonton sports scene, Robin Brownlee has been the news-breaker and insightful voice for sports fans in Oil Country.

 
 
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