Give me some FIRE!!!

Jason Strudwick
March 05 2013 08:44AM

Photo: Luc Viatour

As I watched the game the other night between the Oilers and Wild I kept getting more and more upset. It wasn't the odd turnover or even the zero shots in the second period that got to me. It was the lack of passion or FIRE in the team's play.

Skill, strategy and luck are needed to be successful in the NHL. More important than all of these is passion. You CAN NOT win in the league without it. Passion is what carries you when you are out of gas at the end of the game. When you need to find a little more in the tank, passion kicks in and you find a way to make a play to win.

Think back on every playoff series in the history of the NHL. What do you remember most? For me it is the passion and intensity. That is what I love about the NHL playoffs. It is not possible to turn it on once you get to the playoffs. Just to make them, you must have some.

As the game progressed last night it was very clear to me that the Oilers are missing this ingredient in their lineup. They are all nice guys but where is the passion? I think it shows up in on-ice confrontations. When is the last time the Oilers had a post whistle scrum? When has a game escalated to playoff-type intensity because of very hard, borderline dirty play?

I can tell you nothing gets a team going more than emotion shown on the ice by a team mate. Let’s say there is a scrum in front of your net. Your defenceman battles the other guy hard. They keep chirping all the way to the bench. You’re going on the ice, you see and hear this exchange. You get worked up and find another gear in your legs. Does this ever happen with the Oilers?

This team is too vanilla. Taken as a whole they are not nasty enough to play against. Eager and Jones have been trying to get it going up front when they are in the lineup. Fistric has been taking a run at players at every opportunity but he has not been in the lineup every night. Peckham has had a unique start to the season. I understand he is trying to get his game in order but the Oilers need him to embrace the physical and agitator role. He needs to be noticed out there. That is what sets him apart from the other d-man trying to get into the lineup every night.

I was watching the L.A. Kings play the Vancouver Canucks the other day. These two teams were going at it! Bieksa speared a guy from the bench. Dustin Brown was hitting and chirping guys. There was a fight early in the game. Those players were all engaged emotionally. You could feel the passion coming through the TV. I did not feel that last night from the Oilers and haven't felt it most nights this season.

The Oilers have three fighting majors this season, Three! I can't believe that. They don't need to go out and fight everyone all the time, I get that. However, what does it say about a team's nastiness when you only have three fights? It says you are not doing anything to irritate the teams you are playing against to make them come and fight you. It also says you are not responding to acts the other team is doing to you.

Fighting isn't everything but it does show how emotionally involved the team is in its play.

Little Ball of Hate

Photo: Michael Miller

General manager Steve Tambellini must have been having the same thoughts as he watched his team play. He went out and traded for Mike Brown, a hardnosed player from the Maple Leafs. He doesn't solve the Oilers problems of size in the Top six or nine but he will bring an intensity and passion to this lineup. I hope.....

I hated playing against Brown. He finishes every check and backs them all up. If you have an issue with him, gloves are off and you get a chance to settle it with him. He has more fighting majors then the whole Oilers lineup this year. That is CRAZY!

I played with a guy named Ryan Hollweg in New York with the Rangers. Just like Brown he is a little ball of hate. Every time I would go on the ice with him I knew there was a chance of an explosion of anger from the other team. Holly would run someone over and then it was party time! He would bring the emotion out of his team, even guys you wouldn't think would have any.

I see Brown in the same type of mold. I pray to god he doesn't hold back. I hope he goes out there and gets the other team fired up. I hope he initiates that by what he does and says. The Oilers need this. They need passion and emotion.

Mike Brown won't singlehandedly turn this season around for the Oilers with his ten minutes of ice time. I just hope he can get more of the Oilers to engage emotionally into the games because of his passion and desire to stay in the lineup.

I will be watching today. I suggest you all do the same to see the little ball of hate do his thing!

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 DigDeepNBleedBlue
March 05 2013, 02:41PM
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Well, I am glad you don't hate me.

I actually think exactly that way about you. lol Isn't that funny sh*t?

I will, however, fault you for it... I'm jus' playin', brah!

I truly hope you have fun watching the game tonight.

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#52 MarcusBillius
March 05 2013, 03:17PM
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VK63 wrote:

Wow. I would have lost that bet.

I thought Hayek sounds a lot more like the hockey players I know.

Besides, remember all those Red Army squads that schooled Canadians? Passionless, effective, efficient. Canadian passion won in '72 but Canadian hockey learned more from the Russians than vice-versa. Puck possession, defence, stick checks, etc. It doesn't all translate to the small ice but most of it did. Meanwhile, the Russians came away learning something about passion, but they never abandoned their core principles. Passion is over-rated. Important, but not so much so as skill, IMO. (please don't confuse subdued passions with any suggestion that the player is lazy or gutless like Bonsignore. There's a whole scale of running wild to being calm and cool like Schultz.)

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#53 The Soup Fascist
March 05 2013, 03:36PM
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Hayek wrote:

Yeah, you make a fair point, but at the other end, there are people (Strudwick) acting as though he is part of the solution. First of all, I've watched him play a handful of games, and was not impressed.

Small sample I realize, so I bring up his profile, look at his career stats. I see no offence.

So I want to dig deeper, I want to know if he is a good team guy, plays good defensively, see if he still outshoots his opponents, or draws a lot of penalties, which would be the case if he was pivotal in a good forecheck. So I look up the stats, and see he gets massively outshot every year of hockey he has played. The past 2 years, he was 3rd worst among 18 Leaf forwards.

So it's not like we are not giving him a chance, but we are tapering our opinion with the reality that has been his career thus far. If I looked deeper, and found he outshot his opponents, drew lots of penalties, then I would be somewhat optimistic. The thing is that nothing here indicates any optimism.

Hometown fans here tend to get overoptimistic just because he is now an Oiler. He is not a regular NHL calibre player, and he will not be. He already has 5 seasons in the league.

Here is my issue. You are inferring Strudwick has on rose colored glasses because he "sees" Brown good. I think the opposite is true.

Before the season began, when some in the media were euphoric with all the goals this group of wunderkids were going to score, he was adamant they were going to be far too easy to play against. He was right.

His comment that he "hated playing against Brown" speaks volumes to me. Strudwick may not have had all the talents of some NHLers but two things are undeniable.

1) His work ethic and give-a-sh!t factor were through the roof

2) He was a very good teammate and knew the value of standing up for each other

He is only a couple of years removed from the NHL. So if he tells me Brown is a good addition I will listen long and hard to the reasons. To me that is a more reasonable approach than hating the deal because of your perception of Brown's game.

Jason Smith was a guy who did zip in the New Jersey system and was wheeled out of Toronto because he was a chronic minus player. He became one of the most respected Oilers captains ever. Why? Because he worked his ass off and found himself in a position where he could succeed because the Oilers at that time were missing his particular skill set.

I am NOT saying Mike Brown will become the forward equivalent of Gator, not by a longshot. But I will say he seems to have a lot of the qualities the Oilers lack right now and I would take a good long look at him. If he looks like a bust to you after a fair shake in Oil threads - fine. I am just saying there is a chance that the people prejudging this guy could end up with egg on their face. And given the choice right now of Strudwick's view or guys like you or me - Struds likely has a lot more merit.

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#54 Dog Train
March 05 2013, 03:40PM
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Getting him those 10 minutes is key. That line with Eager and Brown needs to provide some spark. They can both skate and hit anything than moves. We got dominated the last time we played in Columbus. Even though we won that one, it's important that we let the Jackets know that we won't be such pushovers this time around. Hopefully Hall's return helps in that respect. Obviously you don't want to see him scrapping but he plays with tons of passion and has really stepped it physically this season.

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#55 Spurzey
March 05 2013, 03:40PM
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@Hayek

I agree we need a glenx or 2 and that is on stumblini to go and get.

I don't think Cheech is our property and if we signed him he would need to clear the wire.

Rajala....another smurf?

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#56 OilClog
March 05 2013, 03:43PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Here is my issue. You are inferring Strudwick has on rose colored glasses because he "sees" Brown good. I think the opposite is true.

Before the season began, when some in the media were euphoric with all the goals this group of wunderkids were going to score, he was adamant they were going to be far too easy to play against. He was right.

His comment that he "hated playing against Brown" speaks volumes to me. Strudwick may not have had all the talents of some NHLers but two things are undeniable.

1) His work ethic and give-a-sh!t factor were through the roof

2) He was a very good teammate and knew the value of standing up for each other

He is only a couple of years removed from the NHL. So if he tells me Brown is a good addition I will listen long and hard to the reasons. To me that is a more reasonable approach than hating the deal because of your perception of Brown's game.

Jason Smith was a guy who did zip in the New Jersey system and was wheeled out of Toronto because he was a chronic minus player. He became one of the most respected Oilers captains ever. Why? Because he worked his ass off and found himself in a position where he could succeed because the Oilers at that time were missing his particular skill set.

I am NOT saying Mike Brown will become the forward equivalent of Gator, not by a longshot. But I will say he seems to have a lot of the qualities the Oilers lack right now and I would take a good long look at him. If he looks like a bust to you after a fair shake in Oil threads - fine. I am just saying there is a chance that the people prejudging this guy could end up with egg on their face. And given the choice right now of Strudwick's view or guys like you or me - Struds likely has a lot more merit.

Zing

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#58 MarcusBillius
March 05 2013, 05:23PM
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@Jason Strudwick

Hey Jason

I don't think that's what Hayek is saying. More something along the lines of "no amount of fire in your belly will help you if you can't play".

Most of us remember the Torres hit on Michalek and few would argue that it changed the San Jose series in '06, but that hit is a five minute power play and a long suspension now. More than that though, the Oilers started playing again. Was it because of the hit? Hard to say. Gut feeling is one thing.

Tgere was that article on fights and their effects on the game - nada. No result. So you always wonder.

Personally, I believe in the middle ground. Hitting changes the game. Teams get caught up in it. Opposing teams start making mistakes trying to respond to hits. But can a team win with how Eager played last year?

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#59 Hayek
March 05 2013, 09:53PM
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MarcusBillius wrote:

Hey Jason

I don't think that's what Hayek is saying. More something along the lines of "no amount of fire in your belly will help you if you can't play".

Most of us remember the Torres hit on Michalek and few would argue that it changed the San Jose series in '06, but that hit is a five minute power play and a long suspension now. More than that though, the Oilers started playing again. Was it because of the hit? Hard to say. Gut feeling is one thing.

Tgere was that article on fights and their effects on the game - nada. No result. So you always wonder.

Personally, I believe in the middle ground. Hitting changes the game. Teams get caught up in it. Opposing teams start making mistakes trying to respond to hits. But can a team win with how Eager played last year?

Yeah, it seems you captured more so of what I am trying to say. I never say passion isn't part of the game. But passion is pretty much an intangible that all athletes at this level have. If they didn't they wouldn't be at the NHL.

To say one player has more passion than another, then says that translates into greater ability on the ice, or greater ability to win games is frankly pretty laughable. I'm not saying there isn't a difference, because I am sure there is, but attributing passion to winning or losing games over talent is an arguement you won't ever win.

Energy players are not vital to a team's success, and never have been (at least if your definition of an energy player is Mike Brown). Even look back at Oilers teams, the effective "energy" players were not goons with no skill. They were Pisani, Moreau, Reasoner, Glencross, Dvorak, etc.

So maybe it's not that we disagree on "energy" players being important but on the definition of an "energy" player. My definition would be players who can forecheck, hit, draw penalties........AND PLAY HOCKEY. You can have all the "energy" you want, but if this doesn't translate into offence, defence, or penalties drawn, what exactly do you accomplish?

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#60 Benhur
March 06 2013, 09:10AM
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I agree with you Jason ... there was little emotion and less toughness, especially being tough on the puck. You can see it on other teams where everyone...even the small guys play tough! The Oiler players do not except occassionally and they do not have that team mentality. They need to get it ... but how?

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#61 Benhur
March 06 2013, 09:10AM
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I agree with you Jason ... there was little emotion and less toughness, especially being tough on the puck. You can see it on other teams where everyone...even the small guys play tough! The Oiler players do not except occassionally and they do not have that team mentality. They need to get it ... but how?

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