The Canadian Football League showcased its excellence in Hamilton during the 110th Grey Cup on Sunday.
But it’s been a different story back here in Edmonton all year long where it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, to say the least.
And you thought things were bad when the Edmonton Elks set the bar at an all-time low for all of men’s professional sports in North America when they extended their ridiculous, putrid, logic-defying home losing streak to an absolutely embarrassing 22 games over a span of 1,415 days — that’s 3.88 years for anyone keeping score at home, though concessions can be made for a 2020 season lost to COVID-19.
In what was supposed to be a turnaround season in the second year under head coach and general manager Chris Jones, Vol. 2, the Elks bumbled, stumbled and fumbled their way to a franchise-worst start that saw them dig an 0-9 hole in the 2023 season that they would never emerge from.
And in the famous words of Jim Mora Sr., “Playoffs! Are you kidding me? I just hope we can win a game.” Well, the Elks were lucky to win a practice over the first half of what was a year to forget.
Jones didn’t pull the trigger on a change in quarterback and offensive coordinator until it was much too late, waiting for the team’s first bye, which didn’t come until Week 8.
Thankfully, Canadian-born first-round draft pick Tre Ford emerged as a light in the darkness, using both his arm and legs to put some excitement back onto the field, hope in the hearts of fans and check marks in the win column. The team still finished with a league-low 4-14 record for the second year in a row, which came on the heels of a 3-11 finish in 2021.
Those 11 combined victories over the past three seasons were the same amount the Montreal Alouettes earned this year on the way to sneaking into Sunday’s championship final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were looking for their third title since Edmonton last won in 2015 during Jones’s initial time with the team.
But this year those four wins came against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10), Calgary Stampeders (6-12), Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-12) and Ottawa Redblacks (4-14), all teams with losing records, which brings us to the Oilers — who somehow aren’t as bad, yet it feels infinitely worse.
Whatever is lacking in the water in Edmonton has surely flowed its way west to Vancouver, where the B.C. Lions shut out the Elks not once but twice in the same season (a CFL first, I might add) — just in case we thought things couldn’t get any more awful than the first time.
One was in Vancouver, the other at home, which happens to be precisely how the Oilers failed, flailed and follyed their way into the 2023-’24 NHL season.
It wasn’t a shutout, but the next worst thing when they took to the road to fall 8-1 to the Vancouver Canucks in an anemic start to the schedule.
And they followed up in their second game three days later with a 4-3 loss to the same Canucks in what was supposed to be a redemption game on home ice.
It was the exact antithesis to the story that propagated over the off-season of a mighty Oilers squad led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who led the league at No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring a year earlier, heading into a season deemed Cup or Bust.
Instead, with underperforming superstars and secondary scoring that might as well have been non-existent, the Oilers didn’t even last through the Remembrance Day weekend before pulling the trigger on yet another coaching change.
The carousel continues to spin in Edmonton, despite the outgoing Jay Woodcroft posting an impressive .643 win percentage over 133 games while taking an Oilers team that was all but unfamiliar with post-season play and winning three rounds with an even 14-14 record.
The only teams they lost two were the two that went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Not good enough for this town, where the combined winning percentage of the previous 10 head coaches since the turn of the millennium sits at .483, and that’s without removing Woodcroft’s high-water mark from the equation.
This year, with a 5-10-1 record propelled to near respectability by a recent three-game win streak after the coaching transition, the Oilers have yet to defeat a team with more wins than combined losses in regulation and extra time.
And while they aren’t the worst team in the league, they’ve already lost to them, looking no better than chum in a 3-2 loss to the lowly San Jose Sharks on Nov. 9 in the game that sealed Woodcroft’s fate.
Sure, they are 2-1 under his replacement, Kris Knoblauch, but with McDavid obviously playing hurt and Draisaitl unable to shoulder the load in the meantime, a defence that’s unreliable at best and goaltending that’s been an up-and-down mess, what’s been a long 2023 in Edmonton is shaping up to be a shortened 2024 for the Oilers.
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On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge