Time for Oilers to clean house


You can busy yourself washing the windows, dusting the furniture and vacuuming, but the toilets aren't going to clean themselves.


You can busy yourself washing the windows, dusting the furniture and vacuuming, but the toilets aren't going to clean themselves.

Over time, it will become impossible to ignore the smell.

For sure it's a dirty job, and the Oilers have yet to roll up their sleeves, plug their noses, and get around to it. In their case, the previous ownership was bought out, the general manager kicked upstairs, the tenured head coach fired, all within a two-year period. Though each act seemed significant at the time, think of it in total as a housekeeping job left unfinished, because there is a terrible smell coming from the basement.

These Oilers have played 39 games under this totally revamped regime and are in 15th place, the Western Conference toilet, if you will.

With ample consideration given to key injuries and illness as contributing factors to their embarrassing slide, this half-season should force the organization to take that final important step. The mess is not just surface dirt, so start the rebuild around players they like and others they simply cannot move because of their bloated contracts: Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid, Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers and Shawn Horcoff.

We'll let you decide who is whom. Put the rest up for grabs and pray for takers.

They do not have to admit anything in public -- no tank talk is necessary -- and the rebuild can indeed begin passively. Send Horcoff for the shoulder surgery he must surely need, or at least send him somewhere to have that plus/minus looked at. Ditto for Khabibulin and his lingering back problem. If surgery is a can't-miss cure for the disc that ails him, do it now. Keep playing Deslauriers so he can grow. Throw Devan Dubnyk into the fray now and then, just to see if he can get that gaudy goals-against average down and make it more likely that he'll bring a middling draft pick in a trade next fall.

When the trade deadline rolls around, send captain Ethan Moreau on his way for a pick. See what Steve Staios will fetch, and if you can unload Fernando Pisani, do that too.

Because this team needs space, cap and roster, in order to make the first set of changes necessary. Jordan Eberle will be 19 next fall, and it says right here he'll be ready to join the squad. He's a scorer who thinks and skates well enough already to play in the bigs. Linus Omark is a decent bet to make the team out of the Kontinental Hockey League. Taylor Chorney should graduate from the minors on defence to play here full time.

They will amount to talent upgrades and a lack of skill is indeed one of the problems with this team.

Again, you have to make allowances for injury and illness when delving into the team's woes, since the Oilers surpassed last year's total of 225 man-games lost on Monday night and this season is not quite half-done. Or it's essentially over. Depends on your perspective and tolerance for irrational optimism.

Head coach Pat Quinn tries to be a positive guy, but he's also a realist. He has had almost half a season to decide whether or not management sold him a bill of goods by telling him about the skill level at his disposal. With Mike Comrie and Hemsky out, they are thinner than the waistline he and Herbal Magic envision.

"It's not over the top. We're not so skilled that our skill has been winning hockey games for us," Quinn said after the morning skate. "We're good enough to win some hockey games. We're not executing well enough with the skill level we have. We don't have that over-the-top offensive player. Hemsky was our best. He's not here now. Nothing you can do about that."

They started the night 11 points out of a playoff spot and a miserable 4-1 loss to Calgary allowed the Flames to leapfrog the Vancouver Canucks and put the Oilers 12 points back. They have lost seven in a row, the most since they dropped 12 straight as the 2006-07 season lurched to a halt.

They do not lose each one the same way, which is not helpful but at least noteworthy. On Monday, for example, they lost a goalie battle to Miikka Kiprusoff, who blocked 34 shots while Deslauriers gave up the proverbial back-breaker, an awful short-side goal to Mark Giordano that made it 4-1.

Such is their lot, regularly out-skilled at each position by Calgary, Vancouver and other rivals. That won't be the case when Toronto hits town on Wednesday, but even the laughable Leafs can look down the standings at the Oilers. Ouch.

Quinn will no doubt shuffle the lineup and the line combinations for that game, too. They might even win. But road games in Calgary and San Jose await so the job only gets tougher; for Quinn, his players and GM Steve Tambellini, who needs to get his hands dirty sooner than later.

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