On Spec: Oilers, Jets not on that next level

Edmonton Oilers' head coach Ralph Krueger, top, stands on the bench behind players Jordan Eberle, from left, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Shawn Horcoff during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck


That’s what happens when you’re the Edmonton Oilers, or the Winnipeg Jets, and the real playoff teams start playing like playoff teams.

It’s no secret why the Jets have, in their last 10 games, only beaten Philadelphia, Carolina and Tampa. Or why Edmonton looks like the ’72 Russians when they play in Calgary, but the ’72 California Golden Seals in Vancouver’s rink. Or Los Angeles’. Or Anaheim’s…

In Winnipeg, the Jets defence is being decried, with Winnipeg surrendering four or more goals in their past six games against playoff-bound teams.

“We haven’t been as successful. We didn’t improve like we wanted to,” defenceman Mark Stuart said. “Especially lately we’re giving up too many shots and too many goals. I don’t know.”

He might not know, but everyone else does: Winnipeg isn’t good enough. Period, end of paragraph.

And neither is Edmonton, which only lost 2-1 in Anaheim Monday despite failing even to touch the puck in a meaningful way for periods as long as three and four shifts. “It’s really hard to play like that,” Taylor Hall told the Edmonton Journal post game. “I’m not sure what the score would have been were it not for Dubs.”

Devan Dubnyk was all-world, making 38 saves. The game should have been about 6-1 Ducks.

Look — we’re not saying that Edmonton, or Winnipeg, will never reach the next level. They just haven’t yet, no matter how much their fans would like them to be there.

And if you can’t win in April, there isn’t much point in playing May anyhow, right?

Farewell, Finland

Our friend Larry Brooks of the New York Post first reported on Sunday that the NHL’s season-opening Premier Games have gone by the boards, and will become part of the greater discussion between the league and the NHLPA regarding how to bundle international games over the four-year Olympic cycle.

Rather than open each season with a few teams travelling to Helsinki, Prague, or Stockholm, the league and its union will talk about taking part in an Olympics every four years, and a World Cup every four years in between. That gives a major international tournament every two years.

Bringing the game right to the European rinks is an exercise that has become expensive and disliked by NHL clubs who are loath to start their season with a trip of that magnitude. Instead, an in-season World Cup — likely in that open space on the sporting calendar right after Super Bowl — would engage those same fans in a North American-based World Cup that could play in prime time, plus reap huge profits and exposure for the league.

The NHL will never gain the control over the Olympics that it would like, but it knows it can’t pull out or fans (and the players) would be apoplectic. So a World Cup every second year between Olympics makes sense for everyone — as long as the league and the NHLPA can work things out.

How hard could that be?

Too Luongo for GMs

So the Roberto Luongo question now becomes: If you put Luongo on waivers, is there a single team among 29 that would claim the contract, even without a single asset going Vancouver’s way?

Honestly, who knew that deal would become THIS toxic? Well, two people who should have known were Mike Gillis and Luongo’s agent, Gilles Lupien.

This, Roberto, is the price of such absurd security as a 12-year, $64 million contract. And this, Mike, is what happens when you sign a player through age 43. It’s a lifetime contract — whether he keeps the starting job, or loses it to Cory Schneider.

The Toronto Maple Leafs wanted Vancouver to eat a portion of the contract in each season through its expiration in 2021-22. The Canucks said, ‘No way,” and kept the asset.

We’re not even sure that taking back a bad contract like Mike Komisarek would be enough to dump the Luongo deal, unless you can find one with eight or nine years remaining on it.

This tale is nowhere near its conclusion. And if the Canucks’ playoff run doesn’t last much longer than last spring, it’s going to get ugly for Luongo in Vancouver.

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