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Oilers watch: Changes in order

Back in the fall when I saw some people were predicting the Edmonton Oilers to win the Northwest Division, I thought those folks were being a smidge on the optimistic side.

Now, with Craig MacTavish’s team officially eliminated from this year’s post-season after Tuesday’s pathetic 2-1 loss to the L.A. Kings, those predictions seem positively Pollyanna-ish.

I don’t fault fans for pinpointing beams of brightness in any potential thundercloud that might be on the horizon. That’s the nature of fandom.

What I will fault them for is continued faith this summer that the current group of Oilers management and players will guide them out of the muck and toward consistent Stanley Cup contention.

Miss the playoffs one year, and perhaps you can blame bad luck for it. Miss the playoffs two straight years, and maybe you can add “key injuries” to the list of excuses as to why you just weren’t good enough.

However, miss the playoffs three straight years, and you’ve officially got an overestimated collection of players on your hands. And no amount of text messages, tweets or carrier pigeon notes sent by owner Darryl Katz can convince me otherwise.

We’ve talked a lot this year about the status of MacTavish’s tenure behind the Oilers bench, so we won’t go into further detail about how much sense it makes to provide Edmonton with a new coach.

But the changes to the organization have to run deeper than that. And nobody on the roster –not Ales Hemsky, not Sheldon Souray, and definitely not Dustin Penner – ought to feel like their place in Edmonton is safe beyond next week.

Now, that’s not to say they should “blow it up” and start from scratch. Nevertheless, if at least 25 percent of Edmonton’s roster hasn’t been reshaped significantly by the team’s next training camp, you can expect the Oilers to finish next season the same way they finished this year.

Keeping the team intact wouldn’t exactly be like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic; more like deciding who wears the wimpy water wings on a slowly deflating dinghy.

This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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