News and Stuff
On Dec. 8, the Oilers embarked on their longest road trip of the
season, a tour which was hosted by some of the league's most horrid
teams. It was a stroll down Easy Street as the Oilers looked at
the gimmes on this road trip. Let's count it up: Nashville, an
expansion team, there should be two points. Chicago, a hurting
team, with only Tony Amonte as a bright spot, another two points.
Ok, then they hit Detroit and Philly, two of the top teams in the
league, so forget them. Then it's through Carolina, Tampa and
Florida. Carolina's a good team, but the Oilers can still beat
them. But it's an easy four points from Tampa and Florida, no
excuses. The Lightning is a team about as threatening as Emmanuel
Lewis on crack.
So guess how many points the Oilers walk out of the road trip from
hell with? Four points, out of what should be an easy nine or 10
Sure there are several excuses we could look at like fatigue. The
first five games of the road trip took place over an eight day
So what ailed the Oilers on this fruitless road trip? Complacency?
How about lack of offense?
Or lack of finish. Take the first game for example against
Nashville. The Oilers had a 3-1 lead over the Predators with 10
minutes left in the third period. But the Predators manage to
storm right in and tie the game, leaving the Oil feeling like
Then they go into Chicago and just plain play poorly, losing again
to the once-proud Chicago Blackhawks.
The loss to Detroit was a little easier to take, as the Wings are,
after all, the presiding Stanley Cup Champions. Plus it was a
decent, close game. A couple of brain cramps courtesy of Roman
Hamrlik and Boris Mironov.
The Oilers then hit a small bright spot, with a last-minute tie with
the Flyers. With seven seconds remaining in the game, Mironov
ripped a shot past John Vanbiesbrouck to tie the game for the
Oilers. It was their second point on the road trip and things were
looking up. Until they hit Carolina, the team that draws roughly
enough people for a game of bongles.
The hot Hurricane blew the Oil out of town and their empty venue.
Then it was a walk through sunny Florida, the Lightning and the
Panthers. Now the Oilers faced the Lightning first. If the Oilers
lost to Tampa, the league's worst team, the Oilers wouldn't be
coming home. They'd block off the airport and wouldn't be allowed
to return. That's just unacceptable, two losses in two weeks to
the Tampa Bay Lightning is like asking for a whole world of hurt
that nobody wants.
Fortunately the Oilers won and exploded offensively with a whole
four goals, the most during the road trip. Keep in mind that Tampa
They then went to Florida and lost. Not for lack of effort though.
They just couldn't score. Goal posts and missed empty nets were the
story in Florida and pretty much sums up the whole road trip.
It didn't help that Joe Beranek missed three games during the trip
with a bum shoulder. That left the Oilers without their top two
centremen. It also wasn't helping that the Oilers top three
defencemen, Janne Niinimaa, Mironov and Hamrlik, were all
struggling. All three are having trouble with their
Smyth breaks out?
The only bright spot during the road trip was the Ryan Smyth goal.
Smyth, who hasn't scored since October, scored his second goal of the
season, lifting a tremendous monkey off his back. Smyth was showing
signs of life again, on the fourth line. Coach Ron Low saw his
effort and some of the results (goal posts etc.) so he moved Smyth up
to the first line, on the left side of Beranek and Billy the Butcher
How long is the Weight?
It looks like the Oilers' struggling offense will have to do without
Doug Weight for another month or so. Until about the All-Star break.
The power play is atrocious. At one point during the road trip, the
Oilers went 0 for 27 on power-play chances. They're going to have to
do better than that if they expect to conquer the Northwest
Conference. They're now one game under .500 and the Colorado
Avalanche are breathing down their necks.