Bromides

Moreau

Certain bromide salts were once used medicinally as a mild sedative. It’s an apt description for the vast majority of interviews with players in professional sports, although it’s particularly applicable to the NHL.

The quest for “consistency” is one of these banalities that are trotted out for the media; very rarely after a win of course, because consistency isn’t actually what these teams are looking for. Matt at Battle of Alberta made this point very well awhile back so I’m not going to get into it any further; suffice to say that when most players say they want consistency they mean that they want to consistently be better than their average performance.

Jim Matheson reaches for the consistency label in his latest piece, although he uses it in the context of the team consistently being hard to play against:

But were they harder to play against, consistently, with less skill? Yes, they were, although Moreau qualifies it.

“We’re in the same position as we were then, but we just looked better. In the past we had a bit different makeup, more experience up front, guys who could elevate their games, but having said that, we were still in the same position then with a less talented, more physical, hard-working team.”

(bolding mine)

That quote’s both good and bad; a frequent thing for Moreau. I’ve seen him say incredibly insightful things, and been mystified by other comments. I have two mild issues with that quote, both of which are bolded:

1) guys elevating their games
2) less-talented team

On the first point, one of the many problems with the platitudes we discussed earlier is that they occasionally contradict each other, or (as in this case) reveal that neither platitude is sincerely meant. In this case, the question becomes: which is a greater virtue – a player elevating his game or being consistent? Because if a player elevates his game for the playoffs, he’s been playing at a lesser level during the season. Do general managers really want to see players at less than their full effort level over the 82-game schedule? On the other hand, a player who consistently shows the same level of performance is not a “clutch” player – he doesn’t elevate his game when the playoffs are near. Do general managers really want their players to be unable to take that next step?

It’s a fun paradox, with the simplest explanation being (in my opinion) that people tend to put far too much weight in hokey theories about “clutch players”, “consistency” and a thousand other oft-repeated adages. Some of those adages have a basis in reality; others have just become so traditional that they’re repeated and believed without thought.

On the second point, were the Oilers of the past really less talented? There isn’t a forward on the team (including Ales Hemsky) with a career that matches Doug Weight’s. If, on the other hand we jump past Weight’s time with the team, we’re left with only a span of 2002-04; a time span where the team included Anson Carter/Radek Dvorak, Mike Comrie, Dan Cleary and Mike York. The argument could be made that Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson are more talented players right now than Comrie, Carter, Dvorak and York were then, but that argument is clearly wrong. It’s a narrative, and an inaccurate narrative at that.

On the other hand, Moreau does point to experience, and there he is on to something. The Oilers of those years didn’t boast a lot of top-end talent, but they did have a lot of older players; veterans who cheated to defense, players who made a career out of playing good positional hockey. That point is what illustrates the chief problem with the bulk of the Oilers’ roster:

Youth.

  • Hippy

    Well boys and Sandra,it's off to the game I go. My sign says "Oilernation rocks". Let's see if I can get it in. I bet no.

    I truly believe the boys will come out flying tonight and win big, probably 4-1. Roli will play great and be first star, J.F. and Zack will both fight tonight, Captain Oh Captain will take a couple of penalties but they will be good for the team.

    Princess Hemmer will be flying. Cogs will win every draw, Sammer will not give up the puck once, and Sourey will score from the point.

    My throat is going to be sore from hollering the whole game- Here we go Oilers here we go.

    Now, for some unknown reason if they come out flat are are losing bad, it will be KLOWE MUST GO!

    I feel sorry for MacT, what else can he do. Do you think he will get promoted in the organization or leave for a coaching opportunity elsewhere?

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    None of these “skilled” wunderkinds ever had to try for anything. They breezed (relatively) through junior and barely broke a sweat getting into the NHL.

    Ummm… beyond Gagner and Hemsky, who are we talking about here? Maybe you want to toss Cogliano in too (though he didn't play junior), but I'm really not seeing what you mean.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    David S wrote:
    None of these “skilled” wunderkinds ever had to try for anything. They breezed (relatively) through junior and barely broke a sweat getting into the NHL.
    Ummm… beyond Gagner and Hemsky, who are we talking about here? Maybe you want to toss Cogliano in too (though he didn’t play junior), but I’m really not seeing what you mean.

    Maybe he means the skill types too good to T. Peterson it up~

  • Hippy

    Quinn wrote:

    Things could be worse, we could be ‘geers.

    yeah, at least I know enough of the Queen's English to express my inability to find meaningful employment on free and anonymous interwebs. In your face people who make enough to pay bills!

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:
    Ummm… beyond Gagner and Hemsky, who are we talking about here? Maybe you want to toss Cogliano in too (though he didn’t play junior), but I’m really not seeing what you mean.

    Quinn wrote:

    Maybe he means the skill types too good to T. Peterson it up~

    Yeah. Along what Quinn said. But after I put this down I was thinking this post was overreaching a bit too. Maybe Nilsson in that mix, but he did spend some time in-between. It's probably my utter inability to understand how guys who theoretically have the goods can play so far below their ability. Sometimes I have alot of empathy for MacT because he must feel like that 10X.

  • Hippy

    Regarding elevating your game. I think a better way to describe it would be matching the level of the game and your position. Who cares if you elevate your game in a 10-2 drubbing? A hat-trick? No big deal. Two goals in a tight game with the 9th place team on the last day of the regular season though. HUGE. Maybe you didn't play better but you got it done when it mattered. That's clutch.

    I can't agree with your talent argument though. Although Weight may have been more talented than our best forward (Hemmer) is now (and that's a big IF if you ask me), generally the rest of the forward line up was about even. Goaltending was better one or two years when Joseph / Salo were doing well, but that's marginal. The big key for me is I can't find a D line up that is close to matching the Oilers this year in skill. The closest is 97-98 with Hamrlik, Niinimaa and Bobo. Can you argue that they match up to Souray, Vis, Greb and Gilbert? And that's not even mentioning Drake Berehowsky, Bob Dollas and Greg DeVries. Smid is more skilled than any of them, Staios and Struds are probably on par.