Now that the bones of the Edmonton Oilers have been pretty much picked clean as the season’s slid into the sewer, you get the kind of stories we’ve had in the last week or so.
With no potential playoff match-ups to discuss, no gritty roll down the stretch in high gear and coach Craig MacTavish’s future, or lack of same, written to death, you get reports like those that suggest there is much unhappiness in the Oilers dressing room.
I would hope, the way the Oilers have staggered down the stretch, gassed any real hope of a playoff spot and made MacTavish look like a buffoon for picking his team to contend for a Northwest Division title, that’s the case.
What, three seasons removed from playoffs, captain Ethan Moreau is supposed to be leading a chorus of Ring Around The Rosy while teammates skip around the joint like the lead trombone player in the Easter parade? I think not. There should be some discontent. That said, it’s a stretch to suggest there’s a rift or a split in the dressing room, but that’s exactly what’s been hinted at of late, by respected insider Bob McKenzie of TSN and by columnist Dan Barnes of The Journal.
I guess I missed it.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
In today’s editions, Barnes wrote:
“There is chatter around the league that Edmonton’s tight-knit dressing room is changing and not for the better, that the obvious divide between the younger players and senior leadership cadre has not been bridged easily. Captain Ethan Moreau addressed that issue Friday, saying he didn’t think it was a problem.
“It’s still a really good room, just with different personalities and different demographics,” said Moreau, who did admit this year has been a challenge made more difficult by the mood their lousy record has created in the community.”
Last week, McKenzie, who is plugged in around the NHL but hasn’t been near Edmonton’s dressing room more than a day or two in the past five years as far I recall, said much the same thing on TSN’s website.
Between the two, Moreau found himself back in front of the notepads and camera lights today putting out another fire instead of talking about tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
“There’s enough things to write about and report that are negative with our team. You can’t just make up things,” Moreau said. “It’s just totally false. You can talk to anybody in the room. You can talk to an older guy, a younger guy, talk to guys other teams. Like I said, there’s enough stories out there. You can’t just make up one about a rift in the room. “It’s unfortunate. Then, it gets legs. It’s just not very responsible to report on that, especially if it’s not true.”
This so-called rift, which was hinted at earlier this season as well, is supposedly based on the gap between older players and younger players, with the suggestion this isn’t as tight knit a group as in seasons past.
I haven’t seen it, and while I’m not around the room for hours every day like I used to be, I’ve still got enough eyes and ears around the team to pick up anything I’ve missed. I don’t need to take Moreau’s word for it, I’ve talked to players — on and off the record. I haven’t heard anything about division or dysfunction within the team.
“I think you guys have a pretty good idea what goes on in our locker room,” Moreau continued. “You just have to talk to guys. You can get a sense when you ask a question if they’re telling you the truth. “That’s your job. Our room is great. It’s different, and it’s going to be different every year, that’s the challenge you have in this league. There’s so much turnover, there’s always different personalities. The dynamic of your team is going to change every year.”
One more time, then. A bum rap?
“It’s not true,” Moreau said. “You want to say our special teams are bad? Yeh, they are . . . but you can’t just make up a story there’s a rift in the room. Like I said, it’s not responsible.”
There’s a simple solution to all these journalistic tempests in the Oilers tea pot — MacTavish’s future, text messages by Daryl Katz to radio hosts and images of Sheldon Souray and Sam Gagner snarling at each other over who used the last dollop of hair product. It’s called winning. That’s provides fresh meat, even when the bones have been pretty much picked over.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, it’s a little late even for that.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.