It’s the No. 1 thing to sell in sport.
They’ve lost it in Vancouver where Tuesday the Canucks fired GM Mike Gillis.
As the season comes to an end it would be hard to say there are heaping helpings of hope in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg or Calgary either.
But what about Edmonton?
Has this either 28th- or 29th-place season killed it? Has this most disappointing year in Oilers history made people believe the Oilers are going to continue stumbling down at the bottom of the standings, the way teams like the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers have for years?
Did hope return to Edmonton with the Oilers’ recent play, battling hard and playing competitive hockey at the end of the season instead of mopping it up?
Or did a playoff-bound team that came in with a refuse-to-lose attitude, like Patrick Roy’s Colorado Avalanche, dash any hope developing with a 4-1 loss in Game 80 last night. For sure Colorado wasn’t interested in waiting until the third period to dial it up and get the win, instead leaving town with a 34-0-2 record when leading going into a third period.
That Oilers performance had little in common with the two which preceded it.
“It was perplexing to say the least,” said coach Dallas Eakins.
“On our last road trip and our last game here against Anaheim, we were dialed in, each and every guy. The biggest thing for me tonight was that it was almost like we couldn’t work because we couldn’t make two passes in a row. Our execution was just terrible tonight.”
After some of their recent performances, it wasn’t an angry mob that left Rexall Place.
So, with two games to go, the question is this:
When it’s all over this weekend and next year begins for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto, and they’re all just as out of the playoffs as the other teams, will optimism begin to return Tuesday at the draft lottery and build again, like it has in the first four years of the complete blow-it-up-and-rebuild project?
Will the fans sit back and have trust in GM Craig MacTavish having witnessed the performances of David Perron, Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth and Matt Hendricks, and begin to believe in development again, having watched the performances of defencemen Marincin and Oscar Klefbom with their late season call-ups?
Most important. Will the players themselves leave for the off-season prepared to return in full belief the Oilers escalator, which operated this year as a moving sidewalk, will have been fixed and begin the rise to another level like everybody was expecting to experience this year?
“It’s going to be tough. We have a long off-season ahead of us. We’ll have a lot of time to think about it,” said Justin Schultz, indicating that will be a process in itself, which should be a positive in being determined to have the opposite sort of start than they had this year.