The Edmonton Oilers lost their 11th consecutive game in painful fashion - although they're all probably very painful at this point –
to the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday. They held the lead until 16:54 of the third period, then were scored on just 17 seconds into overtime to drop to 6-15-5. The season is all but lost for them already, and their fans are long past their wits' end. Here are the four worst things about being an Oilers fan these days.
1. They're teased with bouts of competence. For much of their game against the Jets, the Oilers played decently enough and were just three minutes away from their first victory since Nov. 9 against the Rangers, but they fell apart when crunch time arrived. Even GM Craig MacTavish
looked shellshocked by the collapse – and when the architect of your blueprint for winning looks that way, it's never a good sign for what's to come. For too many years, this team has shown just enough to make you think they're capable of great things, only to crumple in the end. If management stubbornly insists on keeping the core together, this is almost certainly going to continue.
2. Even if they went out tomorrow and made the significant changes they desperately require, they're still years away from being a true Stanley Cup contender. Let me tell you a quick personal story: In 1992, some friends and I drove to Montreal to attend
the NHL entry draft. We had fun, patronized many a bar, and were in rough shape by the time we checked out of the hotel. About 90 minutes into our drive home, I woke up from a nap and began to notice the unfamiliarity of the highway; once I asked our bleary-eyed driver if he'd seen a sign telling us how long until we hit Toronto, he admitted he hadn't been paying much attention. The next sign we saw told us we were a little more than halfway to Quebec City. As a result, we had to drive nearly
three hours just to get back to our original point of departure. Needless to say, it was a very tense drive the rest of the way. This is my Oilers analogy. You figure out the rest from here. I'm pissed off again having remembered it.
3. There's still so much hockey to be played. So much terrible, disappointing hockey to be played. Wednesday's loss to Winnipeg was only Edmonton's 26th game of the year. That leaves
56 more games still to be played before the schedule-maker unmercifully puts this group to bed. Think of how many ways there are for them to lose between now and then. The mind boggles, the stomach churns, the ulcer grows.
4. The Flames, for the hockey gods' sake. The freakin' Flames. The
Battle of Alberta is fierce if both teams are winning or losing at the same time, but when one is looking as good
as the Flames have to start the season and the other is looking like the team of oral surgeons that have tried to work on
Pogues singer Shane MacGowan over the years – in other words, exhausted and disheartened – it takes the steam right out of the rivalry and makes it that much more agonizing for the team that's one the wrong end of that battle. And right now, that team is not the Flames.