A CALM, YET PRECISE OBSERVATION

Jason Gregor
October 30 2013 02:25PM

Andrew Ference has played in three Stanley Cup Finals. He's never been the best player on the team, or the star, but he's been a solid contributor and he knows what it takes to win.

I don't believe the Oilers signed him to be an elite defender, although that would help, but the main reason Craig MacTavish signed him was so that Ference could give the young Oilers players some direction on how to become a winner.

Winning in the NHL isn't easy, and the Oilers are learning that the hard way again this season, but last night Ference had some very astute comments about winning.

He didn't yell. He didn't call anyone out, he didn't blame anyone, but he just stated, very calmly, his beliefs on what players need to do if they want to win.

Ference was asked about the how the Oilers' play seemed to sag in the 2nd period. 

There is not a single good team that does that. You have dips in play throughout a season, but they are not big. Guys can go through slumps of not scoring, but you can’t go through slumps of not skating, moving your feet or competing. Those are the most important parts of any good team. 

If you look across the league, any team that has been consistently good for the last few years they all have a consistent compete level, a real desire to defend and get the puck back. 

Those little things aren’t the highlights of the night, but they are the foundation of the game. The good teams have a consistent dedication to those details. 

There were a lot of strides in the right direction towards that throughout the season, and that’s why this game was so disappointing to see such a huge step back in the second period from all those positives that we’ve been hanging our hat on despite the losses. 

You can't take shifts or periods off in the NHL and expect to win regularly. This year the young players will either decide to be more committed to winning or they won't win. I think it is that simple.

Ference was then asked if this team knows how to win? 

It’s not some magical recipe to win. When I started in Boston, no one those guys had a lot of playoff experience. It is a team sport where it really depends on an individual’s desire to want to do the little details of the game all the time, not just eight out of ten times. It is everybody doing their part to concentrate on those details. 

Those good teams don’t automatically get to win the next year because they’ve done it before. They continually harp on those tiny, little details that will never get the credit with fans or the highlights, but those details win games. 

Winning teams are full of players that really understand the importance of those small details. It’s not a secret. Our guys have taken steps in the right direction, but you can’t do it for one period and then let it slide in the second period or even shift to shift. 

It can’t be acceptable in the room, but most importantly it can’t be acceptable to the player himself. It is a very philosophical thing. You want to have a room full of guys that aren’t doing those little details because the coach tells them to. They are doing it because they want to, and they know that it helps everybody. 

Everybody can learn. That is the one thing everyone can do, but it takes a lot of commitment. 

Lastly, Ference was asked if one guy can be the leader and teach the others how to win?  

It is not about one guy taking the team by the horns. It has to be everybody. You can’t rely on one person to grab the team and make an unbelievable play. The game isn’t won like that. 

The game is won by a team full of no passengers with every single guy wanting to be that difference maker, to turn the tide. That is the only way to win, it doesn’t work with just one guy leading. 

 WRAP UP....

I understand the frustration in Oilernation. Many men naturally want to solve the problem, it is in our DNA, but I don't think it is a case of simply changing the coach, or changing they system or changing lines. Sure a tweak to the PK or PP will help, but ultimately if this team is going to improve it will be up to the players to make it happen.

I've felt for years the Oilers were too soft. Not because of fighting or size, but because they lose too many battles, or they give the puck up too easily, or they turn it over foolishly. The players need to choose if they want to be more competitive. I truly believe it is that simple.

Ryan Jones was banished to the minors. Since returning, he has played with desperation. He stepped out of his comfort zone to fight Kyle Clifford. He is playing like a player who realizes if he doesn't play with desperation he isn't going to be in the NHL anymore.

They need more guys to find that level of desperation. Jones isn't going to be a major difference maker, but as Ference said, if every individual decides to commit to playing a complete game the team as a whole will benefit. The Oilers need to backcheck smarter. They need to shoot the puck when they are in a good shooting lane. They need to stand up for another. They need to trust each other, but also challenge a teammate to play better.

It is too easy to want to put all the blame on the coach. Eakins isn't perfect, he too is learning, but it is time the players took some responsibility and realized that if they want to become a winner, they need to have complete dedication from all 20 skaters; every shift, every game.  

REMINDER...

When: Friday November 22nd, be there before 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Pint Off Whyte (81ave and Calgary Trail)
Theme: Bad Christmas Sweater Party….
Why: It is fun and we raise money for the Inner City Children’s Program
Cost: $30 and in return you get free drink at the door, $20 GC from Oodle Noodle and $20 GC from the Pint.

A huge thank you to Russ Dratwa from Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management for being the Title Sponsor this year.

If you want to go be sure to secure your spot. It will sell out fast.

You can purchase your tickets here.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 pkam
October 30 2013, 04:52PM
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Zarny wrote:

Relax. It isn't the coaching.

WSH struggled under Oates to start last season including Ovechkin.

Ference is 100% correct the Oilers need to learn to compete for 60 min. They take periods off and get scored on 3 times in the 2nd period.

The coach doesn't lace up the skates. Nuge, Hall, Yak, Schultz, Hemsky are -9 or -10. That isn't coaching. That's standing around watching the other team skate.

Oh and we did not get upgrades in all 8 players changed. That's kool-aid. Ference and Perron are upgrades and that's it.

So you don't think Belov is any better than Whitney, Fistric, or Peckham?

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#52 Mikey
October 30 2013, 05:11PM
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There are only two or three oilers, that when they, as a player, lose the puck get pissed and do what ever it takes to get it back. That's what we are missing.

They are also missing a pack mentality. Do they realize they can hack and slash the other team and not have to fight? That's the beauty of the instigator penalty. After the whistle, don't turn your back and skate to the bench. Look at your teammates and if one of them is confronting someone, skate to them. And grab a guy. Face wash him or not just grab someone.

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#53 Zarny
October 30 2013, 05:13PM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

Those comments from Ference are concerning. The Oilers absolutely have a talent problem (not enough depth or balance) but when you combine it with a lack of will to win, you have a mess.

It is too bad MacT chose to bring in a bunch of AHLers to fill out the roster (Jonesuu, Acton, Hamilton), odd ducks (Grebs) and guys who can't actually play hockey (SMac, and Gadzic) rather than bring in real NHL players who might already understand what Ference is preaching.

He is right, one guy can't do it. But its a lot harder to slack off when 12 or 15 or more guys are playing professional grade every night than if a minority are.

I don't think it's that the young kids don't have the will to win.

They don't have the habits to win yet. They don't have the discipline.

That includes everything; how you sleep, train, eat, practice and play. Every day. Every game. Every shift.

I agree it was a mistake to fill out the roster with borderline NHL players with virtually no experience. Jagr, Morrow, Brunner, Cleary...there were some good players available who could help keep the young kids accountable. Perhaps none of them would consider Edm. That could be a problem in adding depth.

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#54 LoweBlow
October 30 2013, 05:25PM
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Like coaches, teams should be able to fire players. Not just a 'buyout'.

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#55 PimKing
October 30 2013, 05:34PM
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Hall and Yak for Weber and Jones. Defence wins championships. Also makes a good goalie great.

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#56 Zarny
October 30 2013, 05:49PM
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pkam wrote:

So you don't think Belov is any better than Whitney, Fistric, or Peckham?

Yeah marginally better so far. Fair enough. And he should get better. He's only played 14 NHL games.

It's probably fair to say the same thing about Acton, Arcobello, Joensuu etc. They're newbs in the NHL and it takes time to adjust on top of learning a new system. At least the nerves have probably worn off...hopefully. By the end of the season they could look much different.

That's one of the reasons a slow start was expected. The young kids are backed up by a bunch of guys who still say "cool" a lot in warm-up.

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#57 ubermiguel
October 30 2013, 05:53PM
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"Little details...all the time". Love that quote. Listen to this man you Oilers slackers! He's played with some of the best in the game and he's got the ring to prove it. Hemmer and Smyth got close; the rest of the team knows nothing about winning yet.

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#58 FIREEAKINS
October 30 2013, 06:12PM
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pkam wrote:

So you don't think Belov is any better than Whitney, Fistric, or Peckham?

I think once Belov gets to know the North American game, he can be a legitimate top 4 Dman. He's got size, grit, and skating ability. I like Belov he just needs to learn how to play in the NHL. People that rip on him don't realize that he is a rookie to the NHL level.

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#59 Spydyr
October 30 2013, 06:25PM
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"Eakins isn't perfect, he too is learning,"

If he is still learning perhaps he should of been hired as an associate coach.Or spent more time "learning" his craft in the AHL.This the the NHL not a development league.Sure some of the most skilled players in the world can learn here they have skill.A coach should be NHL ready before being hired for a NHL position.That is a no brainer.

The Eakins hiring is everything that is wrong with the Oilers in a nutshell.They did not plan on hiring him it was a seat of the pants thing.He was hired by a rookie GM who himself is still learning on the job as his rant about bold move and big changes proves.His hiring was approved by Lowe based on a good talk in an interview.Again seat of the pants no plan in place.

Time has shown Eakins talks big but produces no results.As DSF says Eakins is all hat no cattle.

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#60 Bucknuck
October 30 2013, 06:55PM
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Last night was the low point of the season. I expect a big push back from the blue and orange, with last nights embarrassment seen as the kick in the butt that finally made the team gel.

I hope...

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#61 northtosouth
October 30 2013, 07:03PM
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I think that it would also help them to have consistent goaltending and lines. It frustrates me a little bit that Eakins is always switching things up. I think the guys need to learn to play together and trust one another, but they haven't been able to build that because it's different every night. True, players have been coming and going off lines due to injury, but I wonder how the team's play would be different with a consistent approach.

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#62 LoweBlow
October 30 2013, 07:22PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

Last night was the low point of the season. I expect a big push back from the blue and orange, with last nights embarrassment seen as the kick in the butt that finally made the team gel.

I hope...

That Kool-Aid 'll kill you, pal.

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#63 LoweBlow
October 30 2013, 07:22PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

Last night was the low point of the season. I expect a big push back from the blue and orange, with last nights embarrassment seen as the kick in the butt that finally made the team gel.

I hope...

That Kool-Aid 'll kill you, pal.

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#64 Bucknuck
October 30 2013, 07:53PM
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LoweBlow wrote:

That Kool-Aid 'll kill you, pal.

it's all I got to keep going, since the Oilers haven't given me squat to cheer about this season, all I got left is hope.

I watched some bad Bruce Campbell movies last night after the game. I figured that the Oil put on such a bad performance they would make my good buddy Bruce look golden in comparison. That "Bubba Ho-Tep" is good entertainment... at least compared to the Oil.

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#65 Dave
October 30 2013, 08:01PM
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Leadership by comunistee is fine, but how many player only meetings has Ference called? Any other captain in the league would have after a start like this. Its his job as captain to lead the other leaders on the team. If not him than who?

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#66 Rod from Viking
October 30 2013, 08:45PM
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@Jason Gregor

I would sure like to see Ference play with more grit, he should have went after Clifford and has had other chances to make a response and still did not, this is very surprising to me, it is almost like you overpaid softies can look after yourself.

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#67 Oiler Al
October 30 2013, 10:19PM
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There is no magic or hidden secrets to Oilers play... there is only one reason they are where they are... defensive play sucks big time, end of story. This is a result of terrible goal tending, terrible defense men, and forwards not committed to play 200 ft .

The players are not buying into the program. PLaying individually and wanting to show the world how they can dangle.... Hall, Yak, Hemsky,Schultz,even Perron to a degree.

COMPARE; To Denver.. New coach , young players, nameless defense, and good ,but no star goal tenders....

Den. G/A = 1.46 Edm. G/A= 3.79 Both teams scored the same number of gross goals [35].

Oilers.. simply are not buying in... Don't blame it all on the coach.

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#68 Dog Train
October 30 2013, 10:56PM
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Sooner or later, the players need to take the heat. Mactavish, Quinn, Renney, Krueger and now Eakins. The coach may not be perfect but making him the scapegoat does not address the glaring weaknesses in our team.

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#69 K_Mart
October 31 2013, 12:05AM
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Beauty answers from Ference. The players need to start playing to win and not just to get offensive points.

Forget the highlight real, forget the stat sheet, and just think about the column filed under WINS.

Ference hit the nail on the head, if every player isn't going to buy in to doing the little details right on every shift, this team will be in the toilet for much more than 2-3 more seasons.

1-0 is worth 2 pts in the standings, just like 4-3. As long as we have more goals than the opposition, who cares how many we have total.

Time for these players to commit to the full 200ft of ice out there or it's over.

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#70 K_Mart
October 31 2013, 12:07AM
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The Hawks got P.Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa.

We got P.Kane, P.Kane, P.Kane, and P.Kane.... not a recipe for success if you ask me.

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#71 Pouzar99
October 31 2013, 01:38AM
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Some interesting statistics. The Oiler goalies have a dreadful team save percentage of .878. How bad is that? NHL.com lists 37 goalies. Dubnyk is 35th, Labarbera 37th. Last year the goalies put up a .917 save percentage, a difference of 3.9 goals per 100 shots. If the goalies maintained that .917 save percentage in the first 14 games the team would have allowed 17 less goals! Obviously they have not faced exactly the same shots, so any such statistic is imperfect, but it gives a picture of how incredibly significant our goalie struggles have been.

Then there is special teams. The PP is stumbling along at 13% and the PK at 76%. Last year it was 20.1% and 83.4% respectively. Based on the 46 PPs in the first 14 games and 50 PKs if we assume last year's success rate the team would have just over 3 more PP goals and just under 4 less goals allowed on the PK. That is a difference of 7 goals. But there is more. Last year the team gave up only 1 short handed goal in 48 games, while scoring 4 shorties themselves, for +3, or roughly +1 for the season so far. But this year's edition hasn't scored a short handed goal and has already given up 3! So there is an additional swing of 4 goals.

That means if the goalies were saving goals the way they did last year they would have given up 17 less and if the special teams were operating at the same level as last year they would be +2 overall, counting short handed goals both ways, instead of minus 9, based on 6 pp goals scored minus three SH goals against for a net of +3, minus the 12 goals allowed on the PK, for an overall difference of 11 goals on special teams.

17 goals lost on goaltending and 11 lost on special teams equals a 28 goal swing, which is especially massive over the course of 14 games, considering the Oilers have given up 18 more than they have scored, including three empty netters allowed and 1 scored. That on its own is an amazing two goal swing per game. The coaching staff cannot be realistically blamed for the goalie issues, but special teams is a different story. Even with injuries they have largely the same PP components as last year, raising serious questions about the way that talent is being utilized, although 14 games is a somewhat small sample. The major change on the PK is not the stalwarts who moved on, as surely Gordon and Acton are solid replacements. At least so far Eakins' insistence on playing the offence stars extensively on it has not worked out well, especially with a proven PK man like Jones getting minimal time. In fairness, players like Eberle and RNH will surely improve over time but it is difficult to deny that this change has hurt us in the short term.

Let me emphasize that I do not disagree with Jason or Andrew Ference about keeping the compete level high and consistent, which is an old problem, not a new one, which Eakins is addressing. Just as serious is the lack of attention to detail, such as a forward covering for a defender when he goes deep into the offensive zone which lead to the Leafs' first 2 goals. First Yak let Kessel get away when Belov pinched, then Gagner let Vam Reimsdyk get away when J. Schultz pinched, which was completely unacceptable. I must question putting as poor a defensive trio, such as Gagner, Yak and Eberle against one of the best, if not the best line in the NHL right now.

There is also the continuing problem of making low percentage plays. Taylor Hall burns to win and means well but attempting to beat a defender at the opposition blueline looks good when it works but looks dreadful when it doesn't, generally leading to an odd man rush the other way. Eakins will have to find a way to break Hall, Yak and Justin Schultz of those habits if we are going to turn things around.

Other changes, like more size and aggressiveness up front and acquiring or developing at least one legitimate top pairing defender will be harder to solve and likely take more time, but if Dubnyk continues his recovery of form, the problems on special teams can be fixed, and Eakins can get the players to play more responsibly this ship can be righted. Whether it will or not is another question.

I'm sorry this is so long but I think these points needed to be made.

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#72 nick
October 31 2013, 07:24AM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I would sure like to see Ference play with more grit, he should have went after Clifford and has had other chances to make a response and still did not, this is very surprising to me, it is almost like you overpaid softies can look after yourself.

How true is this comment. Andre Ference failed miserably as a "leader" in his first test. His star centre laying on the ice and Ference did nothing. Not even a glove in the face. Absolutely inexcuseable. He should have been benched after that display. That is one of those situation where if he takes a major and they play shorthanded for 5 minutes it must be done. He is like Eakins, talks a good game and that is about it.

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#73 hockeycrazed
October 31 2013, 09:23AM
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Talking is cheap, prove it in action Ferrence, I agree one man cannot 'take the whole team by the horn' philosophy, but he's hired to set examples to his team, he's captain to the team, so, captain away man, a good captain can inspire a team to play better! and a good player plays with conviction, look at Dustin Pedroia, he leads with example, puts his head down every game and leads with examples!!! That's what you should be doing Ferrence, not talking pretty about how the whole team should work together, everybody knows that, you guys are a professional team for Christ sake, you are paid to do that, not some high school team playing for nothing but glory!!!

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#74 PK
October 31 2013, 09:47AM
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BRING BACK KRUEGER!!!

The players loved playing for Krueger. The PP was better. The PK was better too. We were on the rise. Dallas Eakin is a horrible coach!

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#75 LoweBlow
October 31 2013, 09:49AM
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Bucknuck wrote:

it's all I got to keep going, since the Oilers haven't given me squat to cheer about this season, all I got left is hope.

I watched some bad Bruce Campbell movies last night after the game. I figured that the Oil put on such a bad performance they would make my good buddy Bruce look golden in comparison. That "Bubba Ho-Tep" is good entertainment... at least compared to the Oil.

I was going to trash you for badmouthing Bruce Campbell movies, but that'd be asinine. That said, Sam Axe is king. I think they could've made 10 more seasons of Burn Notice with him and him alone.

Now if the Oil could be bad an entertaining like Bruce Campbell B movies. Too bad they're just bad.

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#76 NJ
October 31 2013, 02:21PM
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@Oiler Al

"COMPARE; To Denver.. New coach , young players, nameless defense, and good ,but no star goal tenders...."

You clearly haven't looked at Colorado's goaltending numbers. Varlamov and Giguere have been LIGHTS OUT this year. Varlamov spent a summer with a goaltending coach at the suggestion of Roy and it is showing. I would suggest that he's been elite this year.

I do agree there's been no buy in and this is not completely a coaching issue per se, though I would say there are some coaching problems. PK and PP are terrible and learning everything all over again I would say is too much for the team.. I would suggest that learning the new system first and after that is mastered, teaching them PK and PP would've been a better route, considering where our PK and PP were last year compared to this year.

I also think that the top 6 IS being over played. We are getting rolled by other top lines who are bigger and better rested. Leave the PK boys to the PKing. Give your stars a break. It may have worked in the AHL, but the NHL is a whole new league and if 29 other coaches don't do it (in general) than I would say that it isn't an idea full of merit.

All things being equal, it is much easier to critique / coach from a computer, than it is from the hot seat. I hope Eakins can turn it around and I'm completely proven wron.

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#77 nick
November 01 2013, 07:29AM
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ubermiguel wrote:

"Little details...all the time". Love that quote. Listen to this man you Oilers slackers! He's played with some of the best in the game and he's got the ring to prove it. Hemmer and Smyth got close; the rest of the team knows nothing about winning yet.

Dustin Penner has two rings does that mean that everyone should listen to what he says? Any person that has ever watched hockey can make that quote dude. It is not a revalation

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