Edmonton Oilers more frustrated than ever at missing playoffs again
Players thought they had a good shot at post-season until late-season disappearing act
Eric Belanger of the Edmonton Oilers leaves Rexall Place with his sticks and hockey equipment after cleaning out his locker on Sunday, April 28.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
One by one, the players trudged out of the Edmonton Oilers’ locker-room to repeat a pattern that has become ponderously routine in these parts.
For Ales Hemsky, the count is up to seven. Captain Shawn Horcoff was another player who hasn’t been able to avoid an early exit since 2006, while Taylor Hall made his third appearance in front of the media on an Oilers’ wrap-up day in April.
“It’s not a good feeling to be standing here in the same spot out of the playoffs,” Hall said on Sunday. “I think everyone is frustrated. I think we’re all a little sick of talking about the future we have.
“We’re all just looking forward to coming back next year and having a better year and trying to make that next step. We learned a lot this year and played some meaningful games and had that experience, but at the same time, we’re all disappointed.”
In the lockout-shortened 48-game season, the Oilers finished with a record of 19-22-7 to finish in 24th place. They will go into Monday’s draft lottery with a 4.7-per-cent chance of snagging the first pick overall. The 30th-place Florida Panthers have the best odds at 25 per cent.
“I’ve been here for a long time and we haven’t made the playoffs for the last seven years,” said Hemsky. “We’re all tired of it. Every year we come back before the season starts and we say we’re going to be better and we haven’t done it the last five years.
“That’s why it’s so disappointing. ... We battled to the 40th game, but it was the way we disappeared. That’s disappointing. We could have battled to the end.”
The Oilers had a tenuous hold on eighth place in the Western Conference on April 3, capping a five-game winning streak with an 8-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline.
Then Edmonton scored just 13 goals losing nine of their next 10 games.
“To me, this was the hardest year just because I felt like we were going to get in (the playoffs),” said Horcoff. “With 10 games to go, we were right there.
“It’s frustrating the way we finished. Disappointing. But the goal at the start was to play some meaningful games and I think we were able to accomplish that. We definitely felt we had a team that was going to make that next step.”
Earlier in the season, the Oilers were the league’s most ineffective team at scoring in five-on-five situations and had to ride the strength of its power play. Edmonton managed to move up to 21st place in five-on-five goals, which is still not good enough, while the power play was eighth-best and the penalty-kill ninth.
The Oilers were outshot in 35 of the 48 games, another indication they need more of a physical presence in their lineup. When playing the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, three opponents who defeated Edmonton by a combined score of 11-1 at the start of their 1-9 slide, the Oilers just didn’t match up.
“We had the big win in Calgary and then we played Vancouver and L.A. and Anaheim and we weren’t that close to winning those games. That was really hard to take because I thought we had the team to do it,” Hall said. “Evidently, we didn’t.
“There are a lot of things as a team we have to improve on for next season.”
New general manager Craig MacTavish is going to make roster changes, but Horcoff said the players have work to do within the lineup.
“It doesn’t matter what management is going to do, it’s still going to be up to the players. Drastic changes is what? Three, four more players?” he said. “So it’s going to be up to the individuals in the room to take their game to the next level.”
“We’re sick of talking. That’s why it’s so difficult to take this year,” said Jordan Eberle. “We showed we can be a good team, we just need to do it on a consistent basis.
“But more than anything, we’re sick of talking about it. We just want to show it. We want to win hockey games. Plain and simple. We have a lot of work to do and I think we know that.”
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