So, I wonder how Pat Quinn’s honesty will play in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, given all the trouble former coach Craig MacTavish talked himself into last season by speaking his mind.
I’m not sure, but Quinn made some less-than-flattering remarks about Ales Hemsky and Mike Comrie today during his availability with reporters after practice at Rexall Place.
Last season under MacTavish, the kind of criticism Quinn offered up today was characterized time after time as "MacTavish throwing Penner under the bus" or "MacTavish throwing Nilsson under the bus" and blah, blah, blah.
People who latch on to catch-all phrases that mutate into inaccurate or meaningless jargon, people who say "at the end of the day" or "methinks," should be thrown under the bus or backed over by my Navigator, even, but I digress.
Telling it straight
Quinn was praising the practice habits and work ethic of journeyman Dean Arsene today. Then, he turned his attention to Hemsky in a question posed by Mark Connolly of CBC, who noted that associate coach Tom Renney had engaged in an animated discussion with No. 83 this morning.
"Again, as a coach, you try to have… Our job is to help these guys get better. I mean, it really is. When you’re putting in an effort to try to help them be better and some guys don’t seem to value that effort that you’re making because they have their own habits or maybe they don’t need to practice that hard, they think in their minds game day is tomorrow, I’ll turn it on tomorrow.
"They’re the guys who often kid themselves. Yes, they’ve got great talent, but, you know what? We’ve missed the playoffs two bloody years in a row and five of the last eight, so, at the end of the day [oops], you’ve got to start saying, ‘Well, wait a minute. Talent is what?’ Talent is part of it, but we need a bigger package. How do you get the bigger package? Well, you ask people to work."
Of course, Quinn meant to say "three straight years" out of the playoffs, but that was probably just a slip on his part. I’m sure he knows it’s three years — I’ll be sure to remind him in the hope of generating even better quotes. I’m also intrigued about getting that bigger package, but…
While Hemsky has been productive, albeit streaky, this season, he’s no workhorse at practice. He’s off the ice, showered and gone long before the grunts even get into the dressing room. In all the years I’ve covered the Oilers, only Joni Pitkanen got gone faster.
As for Comrie, who is out with mononucleosis, his name came up in a discussion about using Penner in shootouts. Quinn, to understate, wasn’t impressed with a move Comrie made during the shootout in Ottawa — Junior B stuff, where he tipped the toe of his blade down toward the puck before letting a shot go.
"I don’t feel uncomfortable using him [Penner] there. On that particular night, if I’m not mistaken, I’d watched Comrie turn his stick over and screw around in Ottawa. He wasn’t going to get a chance again, I guarantee you that. If you want to clown around on my time, then, you know…"
For my money, Quinn calling it like he sees it is not only refreshing, but a godsend to reporters, who too often have to try to spin cliches and pat answers into something worth repeating.
While MacTavish was guilty of cutting the same cows out of the herd too often, namely Penner and Nilsson, and seemed to be doing so out of a mounting sense of frustration rather than as a way to get a meaningful message across, Quinn doesn’t come across like that.
I’m guessing Hemsky and Comrie won’t like what was said today, but too bad. It’s not like they’ve been singled out time after time, as MacTavish fell into the habit of doing with Penner and Nilsson.
The Oilers are 9-10-3, so there’s lots of criticism to go around. From where I sit, the old coach is calling it as he sees it and dishing out that criticism with an even hand.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.