Oilers Watch: Despite struggles, Edmonton continues to show heart

The Oilers might be failing in their fight for the playoffs, but there’s still plenty of fight left in the Oilers.

All you had to do was tune in to the final minute of Feb. 16’s game against Vancouver to see that. It probably took 20 minutes to play the final 60 seconds, as each faceoff was followed by a player-on-player scrum, with random Oilers grabbing the closest Canuck (and vice versa).

The third period featured 131 minutes in penalties; in all, the game had 193 PIMs (including 14 fighting majors).

The sight of 5-foot-11, 18-year-old rookie Sam Gagner hanging on for dear life against Ryan Kesler (the Canucks’ 6-foot-2, 205-pound power center) is one that Oilers management probably doesn’t want to see too often.

Gagner, after all, is a potential point-a-game player, not a fight-a-game guy (he looked like Gretzky in one of No. 99’s rare bouts).

At the same time, GM Kevin Lowe and coach Craig MacTavish had to love Gagner’s willingness to drop the gloves against a much bigger opponent in a game that, ultimately, doesn’t mean very much.

As Edmonton cruises into the final quarter of the regular season schedule, the reality of yet another non-playoff campaign is evident. Another failed season can’t be a good feeling for a franchise that has five Stanley Cup banners and a legendary list of alumni.

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So, seeing Gagner refuse to back off against Kesler, as well as the several other Oilers (Steve Staios, Zack Stortini, Curtis Glencross, Ladislav Smid, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Greene) who dropped the gloves against the Canucks, has to provide some consolation for the team and its fans.

The Oilers are down, but they’re not out – and they’re going to keep getting up and fighting back until the final bell is sounded.

Sam McCaig is The Hockey News’ senior copy editor and a regular contributor to His blog appears Tuesdays and his column, From The Point, every second Friday.

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