December 19 2013 12:29PM
As the Oilers get set to face the Colorado Avalanche trying to end a four game losing streak, Taylor Hall and company can take solace in knowing that some other young stars endured many years of losing, before tasting the sweet nectar of victory.
They should ask Joe Sakic, the Avalanche's Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, about losing. He lost way more than these kids have early in his career, and it didn't break him, and he didn't pout about it. He persevered and became a Hall of Famer.
Hall has played 200 games, Eberle has been in 231 games, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has dressed in 136, while Nail Yakupov is at 82 games and Justin Schultz has played 76. No one should be suggesting that all the losing is going to wear down these kids. I don't believe any of them are that fragile, but even if they thought about having a pity party, they should do a quick search of Joe Sakic's career.
Sakic was drafted 15th overall in 1987 by the Quebec Nordiques. He played one more season in Swift Current before debuting with the Nordiques in October of 1988. Keep in mind that in his first three seasons he played in a 21-team league where 16 teams made the playoffs.
In Sakic's first three seasons, the Nordiques finished dead last every year. The Nordiques drafted 1st, 1st, 1st and 4th in his first four NHL seasons.
1989: They went 27-46-7 for 61 points.
1990: They were 12-61-7 for 31 points.
1991: They went 16-50-14 for 46 points.
1992: They went 20-28-12 for 52 points.
In 1993, they were literally twice as good picking up 104 points going 47-27-10, but in 1994 Sakic and the Nordiques dipped back down to 76 points with a 34-42-8 record.
In his first four seasons, Sakic's Nordiques won a measly 75 of the 320 games they played. Sakic dressed in 299 of those games, and he learned much more about losing than he did winning.
Despite all the losses Sakic played exceptionally well.
YEAR GP G A PTS
1989 70 23 39 62
1990 80 39 63 102
1991 80 48 61 109
1992 69 29 65 94
In 1990, the second leading scorer on the Nordiques was Peter Stastny with 62 points in 62 games before being traded. In 1991, Sakic had 50 more points than his closest teammate; Mats Sundin tallied 59 points.
Sakic didn't let the losing get to him. He kept battling and kept producing.
WINNERS KEEP WORKING DESPITE LOSING
Hall played his 200th game on Tuesday, and despite another loss, Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins haven't come close to experiencing the type of losing that Sakic had to face.
Hall's Oilers have played 248 games since he entered the league and they've won 87 of those. Sakic's team won 75 of 320 during his first four seasons. Losing sucks and I'm sure it can wear down a player, but if Hall wants to become one of the greats he needs to keep playing hard, and hope that eventually he will be surrounded by better players. He needs to continue to show determination and play strong, and like Sakic, at times he will need to carry the Oilers on his back.
Hall was the Oilers most dangerous forward in LA. He needs to keep playing like that, regardless of where the Oilers are in the standings or how often they are losing. Hall has the ability to be a franchise player, and considering how much he has improved in his last 100 games, I suspect he'll only keep getting better.
I've heard some people suggesting the kids will get tired of losing and want out of Edmonton, but competitive people don't think like that. There will be games where they look frustrated, and understandably so, but many elite players have started their NHL careers tasting defeat more often than victory, and the last thing that Hall or any of his teammates will do is feel sorry for themselves.
They need to be part of the solution, and when they start to win the victories will be more fulfilling because of what they learned in their first few seasons.
MORE TOUGH STARTS...
Mario Lemieux missed the playoffs in his first four seasons, and five of his first six. The Penguins drafted 2nd, 4th, 5th and 4th in his first four years.
Steven Stamkos has missed the playoffs four of his first five seasons. The Bolts have drafted 2nd, 6th, 10th and 3rd during those four losing seasons.
John Tavares has missed the playoffs three of his first four years, and the Islanders are poised to miss the postseason again. They have drafted 4th, 5th and 5th thus far in his non-playoff seasons.
Rick Nash played five full seasons without the playoffs, and he missed the dance in 8 of his first 9 years.
Ilya Kovalchuk missed the postseason his first four years and seven of his first eight seasons.
Vincent Lecavalier missed the playoffs his first four seasons. The Bolts were scheduled to pick 1st, 5th, 3rd and 4th in those years.
**Sidenote**.. Rick Dudley was the GM for Tampa Bay in 1999 and he traded the 1st overall pick. He moved down to 4th, and then traded again and didn't pick until 47th. He ended up with Dan Cloutier, Andrei Zyuzin, Shawn Burr and the Rangers 1st round pick in 2000. He could have used the first pick on Patrik Stefan or one of the Sedins, although those two had made it known they really wanted to play together.
The next year, Dudley traded the 5th pick to the Islanders for Kevin Weekes, Kristian Kurdroc and the 31st pick. The Islanders selected Raffi Torres. Despite these horrific deals, the Lightning still won the Cup in 2004. ***
Losing stinks but Hall and company aren't the first group of young stars to endure losing seasons, so let's stop the suggestions that they will want out of Edmonton. Anyone in the media or fan base who suggests these kids have endured too much losing need only look at the career paths of other young stars. Rarely is it an instant path to success.
Winning is difficult and as painful as these past few seasons have been for Hall and company, they need to learn from it, and be willing to ensure they improve their play so the team becomes more successful. Hall is good enough to lead this team to better times ahead, and he'll likely inspire his teammates to follow him in the coming seasons.
Arcobello got rocked by Drew Doughty in the 3rd period of Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Kings, and hasn't skated since. Lander will draw in for Arcobello.
The Oilers will need to get scoring chances from someone other than Hall tonight. The Avalanche are 6-5-1 in their last 12, and after a 16-5 start they are starting to look more like the team people expected. They aren't a force like the Kings, Bruins or Ducks, but they will provide another solid test for the Oilers.
Dubnyk gets the start. I'm not one who buys into the "Dubnyk plays better when pushed" theory; however, it is obvious that Dubnyk needs to be more consistent. I want a goalie who plays well regardless of who he shares the net with.
WHAT SEE YOU?
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will end their trip on a high, with a 4-2 victory in Denver.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Bordeleau and Gazdic drop the gloves. Fight fans love it, while anti-fight crowd will complain. This will never change.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Usually it is former Oilers scoring against Edmonton, but tonight Ryan Smyth bucks that trend and scores against his former team ending his 10-game goal scoring drought. In 16 home games, Erik Johnson has only been a minus player twice, but he ends up -1 tonight.
DAY 15 MONTH OF GIVING...
Yesterday we raised another $3,850 bringing our total to $58,700. Incredible. Thank you.
Today's packages include:
Today's package is courtesy of The Maximum Fighting Championship:
- Two season tickets to all three MFC shows in Edmonton in 2014, starting January 17th.
- VIP dinner for two at the Shaw conference centre prior to each show.
- Be a cornerman during one of the fights... **You must be 16 years of age or older***
- $1,000 gift certificate/store credit at Reside Furnishings
- Pair of club seats (section 112 row 14) for Oilers vs. Penguins on January 10th.
- $50 bucks in Oilers money to use at the game for beer or food.
You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or 1.800.243.1945 between 2-6 p.m. today.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will go to the Christmas Bureau.