Going from top to bottom leaves Oilers unruffled

November 10, 1990|By Knight-Ridder News Service

DETRIOT — DETROIT -- You've got to hand it to the Edmonton Oilers. They haven't lost an ounce of smugness even though they rank near the bottom of the overall. NHL standings instead of on top, where they're accustomed to being.

Wayne Gretzky is gone to Los Angeles. Paul Coffey is gone to Pittsburgh. Jari Kurri is gone to Europe. Grant Fuhr is suspended for drug use. Mark Messier is injured. And former Detroit Red Wing Petr Klima, the Oilers' leading scorer with 10 points, tying defenseman Steve Smith, is suspended for four games for a stick incident.

The Stanley Cup champions are 2-10-2 -- 1-10-0 in their past 11 games -- and have lost a franchise-record eight straight.

In the nearby Alberta city of Calgary, where the Flames are off to a hot start, a newspaper is running a column about the Oilers' woes. It's called "The View From the Cellar."

Dark times, indeed, but Edmonton coach John Muckler is unruffled.

"You can tell them in Calgary," he told an Edmonton reporter, "that I can still see the sunlight off my five Stanley Cup rings."

Muckler might be getting a big dose of reality, but he denies feeling any pressure.

"Pressure," Muckler said, "is coaching in the Eastern League with 13 players and being on a six-game losing streak when your leading scorer says he'll quit if you don't increase the number of cases of beer on the bus from four to six."

Listening to Muckler gives you the feeling that the Oilers know something we don't. And perhaps they do. Remember, it's only November.

Some people forget the Oilers won only six of their first 20 games last season. Then they lost only three of their last 20 before a playoff run that gave them their fifth Stanley Cup in seven years.

Smug or not, it's too early to hail an end to this dynasty, one of the greatest in NHL history.

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