Oilers hope Olympic break gives struggling team a chance to reset

 

Edmonton on pace to hit an all-time low in wins

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins, right, checks Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins, right, checks Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

More on This Story

 

EDMONTON - If this was a typical season, the prospect of pushing through another 30 games would be an onerous task, albeit the culpability would remain at the skates belonging to the Edmonton Oilers.

But because this is an Olympic year, there’s a built-in recalibration window, which is about all the Oilers have left to shoot for as they play out their eighth straight season out of the playoffs.

The Oilers, who don’t have an appetite for being tied to a franchise record in futility, have lost their last five games — the fifth time this season they have lost five games or more.

With a 15-31-6 record heading into their final 30 games, the Oilers are on track to hit a franchise-low in wins.

The 1993-94 edition of the Oilers won just 25 of 84 games. More recently, the 2010-11 club was 25-45-12 with a mere 193 goals for and 269 goals against. That team also won just 13 home games, five more than the current squad has accrued.

“You don’t want to have that on your resume,” said Taylor Hall, a rookie in 2010-11. “We don’t want to be that team. We had a really tough start and we have been better since then, but it’s still not good enough.

“I don’t think it’s selfish to play for yourself or a contract or whatever it is,” Hall continued. “That’s what we’re going to have to do, we’re going to have to find every edge we can get from here on.”

The Oilers have eight games before the Olympic break, starting with Friday’s 7:30 p.m. contest against the Phoenix Coyotes at Rexall Place.

A seven-day mini-camp will be held before the final 22 games get underway.

“We need to get something positive going,” Boyd Gordon said. “It’s tough when you’re losing every night, so if we can string something together now, we can get reset through the break, then come back stronger. Ideally, that’s what we want to do.”

The last time captain Andrew Ference had the Olympics interrupt a season, he was with the Boston Bruins. He figures the break can be beneficial for teams on a roll as well as struggling teams like the Oilers. Because the season is condensed, it is an opportunity for the players to heal some nagging bumps and bruises and to step away for a mental break.

“It also gives you enough time to fire up the engines again and get up to speed,” said Ference. “Most guys love it, despite the condensed season. The break is worth it.

“Obviously, everyone wants to come out of the break flying. The teams that are fighting for playoff spots need to ramp up, the teams that have solidified playoff spots want to make sure their games are at that top level, then all the teams like us just want something to build on.

“That would be the biggest shame, to have an unsuccessful season and then to have nothing to show for it. We need to continue to push our game so we can finally start winning some of those one-goal games, and just start feeling good about how we’re playing so we can at least go into the summer thinking we have started building a foundation to our game that we can carry into the next camp so we at least have a higher starting position.”

He got no argument from Hall.

“The Olympic break will be good for everyone,” said the winger. “When we get back, we can practice for a week, regroup and go in to those 22 games with the right mentality and the right spirit. We don’t want to finish worse than last year. We want to at least have some kind of credulity, and we certainly don’t want to finish with that dubious record for the Oilers.’

OIL DROPS: This will be the fourth meeting between the Coyotes and Oilers, with Phoenix winning the three previous games by a cumulative score of 15-9 ... Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net for Edmonton while the status of wingers Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov will be determined on Friday.

jireland@edmontonjournal.com

On Twitter: @jirelandEJ

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins, right, checks Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins, right, checks Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins, right, checks Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.
Taylor Hall, left, of the Edmonton Oilers gets some pressure by Zach Bogosian of the Winnipeg Jets in first period action in an NHL game at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., on Jan. 18, 2014.
Winnipeg Jets’ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, left, stops the shot from Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, right, as Tobias Enstrom looks on during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice