Do or die time for Oilers

This season was supposed to be different, but the Edmonton Oilers once again find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in with time and games running out.


EDMONTON — This season was supposed to be different, but the Edmonton Oilers once again find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in with time and games running out.

While coach Craig MacTavish not only suggested in the pre-season that the Oilers would be in the post-season mix after two years out but would contend for a Northwest Division title, his team awoke April Fool’s Day in 11th place, three points out of a playoff position with five games to play.

With five losses in their last six games, the latest being a 5-3 setback against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Oilers need both wins and help in a final push that begins Thursday against San Jose, the NHL’s top team.

“We have five games left and we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup,” said captain Ethan Moreau on a day the Oilers put forward a decidedly brave face.

“Our practice was upbeat and positive. There were no negative emotions in our practice today.”

At 36-32-9, the Oilers couldn’t have picked a worse time to lose five of six games. They’ve seen the Ducks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild move past them in the standings in the span of a week.

“We can’t feel sorry four ourselves right now,” said Ales Hemsky, asked about slumping in the midst of a must-win stretch drive.

“We’ve just go to stay focused. We’ve got five games left and we just have to do everything we can do to push for the playoffs. We can’t look behind at what’s happened before.”

Much of the talk after the team skated Wednesday revolved around MacTavish’s decision to ask for a measurement of Teemu Selanne’s stick with 2:11 remaining in regulation time after the Oilers narrowed Anaheim’s lead to 4-3 on a goal by Zack Stortini.

Selanne’s stick was deemed legal. Instead of going on a power play, the Oilers got the minor penalty. Rob Niedermayer scored into an empty net with Dwayne Roloson pulled to end the drama.

“It ended up being an ill-advised stick call for me that poisoned what looked to be a terrific comeback,” MacTavish said. “I made a judgment call that was a poor call at that time and it ended up costing us the game.”

Sheldon Souray, for one, wasn’t of the mind to let his coach take the fall for the loss.

“We’re all in it together,” Souray said. “We’re not worried about what happened yesterday. Everyone makes mistakes or takes risks. That’s part of it.

“We’re not worried about that. We’re worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow. This is no time to be sitting around and thinking, ’What if?”’

With expectations high in October, MacTavish was asked about his future under the new ownership of Rexall billionaire Darryl Katz.

“I’ve had great support here, by and large,” said MacTavish, who needs one more win for 300 victories in nine seasons. “I’ve been here for a number of years and had terrific support from virtually everybody.

“If I’ve got less, then it’s a hazard of the profession. For me, that’s never affected me, whether it’s criticism or praise, whatever it is. The thing you have to do as a coach is you’ve got to find a way to shelve that and just pragmatically try to turn your team around.”

Just Posted

Cannabis legalization won’t impact one Red Deer pot dispensary

Nothing changes for Compass Cannabis Clinic in Red Deer despite legalization

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

Neighbours drop opposition to Red Deer County communications tower

Communication tower to be located in Balmoral Heights

Legal cannabis comes with many unknowns: Red Deer County councillors

Councillors question how rural municipalities will be able to enforce cannabis regulations

Kitten season puts pressure on Red Deer shelter

More public education needed to control cat population

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

‘Start low, go slow’: Experts walk bud beginners through cannabis 101

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice… Continue reading

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Most Read