March 14 2013 09:08AM
It is over! The longest road trip in Edmonton Oilers history. Crazy! To be honest, in this shortened season, a long road trip like that isn't fair for one team to have to go on. Spending that much time in a row on the road really puts strain on the players. Flying from city to city, moving from one hotel to the next sounds sexy but it isn't. Ask anyone who travels a lot for work. It is tiring.
I firmly believe the Oilers are one of the more tired teams in the NHL. The challenge for the coaching staff is to find extra rest time for this team while continuing to develop team concepts. Not an easy balancing act.
The good news is the team is still within striking distance of a playoff spot. The standings change every night but with over twenty games left in the season, the Oilers still control their own fate. Not a bad position to be in.
They now have a four game home stand. The Wings, Predators, Sharks and Blues roll into town over the next ten days. Wins are required. Clean wins and not overtime wins. When you are in the back of the playoff field, three point games are killers.
The first game at home after a long road trip always seems to be a challenge. I would say this last road trip qualifies as one! Why does it seem that first home game is so hard to play?
Million dollar question....with no perfect answer!!!!
I had coaches who would run a very tough practice when the team would first get on the ice at home. They thought it would burn out the road legs and get us focused on the game to come at home. High tempo and lots of energy in practice could lead to the same in the game the next day.
Other coaches of mine would really take it easy on the guys. A very relaxed and short practice. These coaches thought rest was the key. The road does take more out of you then home games.
I can't say that one approach worked better than the other. Either way that first game back always seemed to get off to a slow start.
I think that players get distracted when they get home after a week road trip or longer. Tons of catching up to do with their wives or girlfriends and kids. The details of life need to be taken care of as well. I always found it took a couple days to get past all of this.
The Oilers do not have the option of laying an egg on Friday against the Red Wings. They need every point they can get. This will be a battle of the mind. If they can engage their minds into this game and park the distractions they could have success.
The Oilers need to take care of every little detail on the ice. The ones off the ice will still be there Saturday morning, the two points will not be.
On this road trip I noticed a trend that is concerning. Too often I saw an Oiler player alone in a scrum (even though there were not that many). I can think of two times when Taylor Hall was all by himself, surrounded by the other team.
Close teams stick together. Where there is one there is five. This could be chalked up to a lack of gamesmanship from the younger players or the lack of will to do so by the other guys. Either way it is a real sign of team unity.
Think back to the Chicago game, Hall got into it with Shaw and a couple other Hawks. Who was the first guy to go in there with Hall? Horcoff. He is a guy that gets it. More Oilers need to understand the statement that is made when any of your team mates is left on an island because of a lack of support.
This isn't a huge issue but it does speak to the unity and growth of this team.
Did anyone else see this tweet by Jake Gardiner's agent, Ben Hankinson? What in the world was this guy thinking?
Jake Gardiner has been playing this year mostly in the AHL after a solid rookie NHL season last year. Obviously Hankinson feels he should be playing in the NHL this season. Many people would agree with that. Right now, the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Randy Carlyle does not. That is a coaches right, especially when the team is having success.
Agents go to battle for their clients all the time. Most often it is done in private with a general manager or even a coach. At times they will use the media to get a message out to support their client. To use twitter in this fashion is inexplicable and inexcusable.
Hankinson represents Gardiner. He should have his best interest front and centre in his mind every time he does something. Sending out this tweet was a big mistake.
It hard enough for a young player to make the NHL and to deal with all the attention that comes with it, especially in a Canadian market like Toronto. This tweet just added another layer on to what Gardiner needs to deal with.
If my agent had done this, I would have fired him as soon as I saw it. Yes, people make mistakes but he should have known better. If I was another client of an agent that did this, I would have probably had the same reaction, to drop the hammer on him.
The player involved, and the coaches of both the Leafs and Marlies dealt with questions from the media. Where was the person who sent the tweet? Nobody could get a hold of him. He should have been front and center talking about this and how it was an error in judgment.
As I said everyone makes mistakes but for me there are no second chances with this one.