The Edmonton Oilers had golf and a little rest and relaxation planned for four-day break between games on this upcoming homestand, but coach Pat Quinn has decided the time would be better spent on the ice at a two-day mini-camp than studying putts on lush greens in California.
Nine losses in the last 10 games and a glance at the standings that shows the Oilers sitting 29th overall prompted Quinn to cancel a team golf junket to Palm Springs, like the one hosted by owner Daryl Katz last season, in favour of two days of toil at Rexall Place this weekend.
"There was a plan, and a good one by our management and ownership, to pay attention to some important people in this business," Quinn said.
"That’s our fans and our sponsors. And, then, also give the players a little bit of a break, which seemed pretty smart in August, but doesn’t feel, as a coach, very smart right now."
Whether Quinn made the call or it actually came from higher up by way of president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, GM Steve Tambellini or even Katz, it doesn’t matter. A getaway now would’ve gone over about as well as diarrhea at a pool party.
It’s the right move.
Optics being what they are, now isn’t exactly the best time for the Oilers to take a break from the grind and trade their skates and sticks for spikes and drivers at some swank resort. "What did you have on that hole, Ethan?" Or, "Where’s the cart girl, I could use a cold one." You get the drift.
Quinn didn’t get into specifics about the cancelled team function when he met with reporters. He instead framed the four-day break as a good time to go back to work and sort some things out.
Given recent events, notably all of the bad press the Oilers got for their run-in with publicity-hungry Maurizio Terrigno, the owner of the Osteria de Medici restaurant in Cowtown, and the ongoing on-ice struggles that have the team sitting 29th in NHL standings, that’s not a bad idea.
What fans want, and have every right to expect after 42 games that have the Oilers sitting 15 points out of a playoff spot without any hope of getting back into contention, is a couple days of honest sweat in practice.
If players want to squeal about that, and my guess is they have and will, and Quinn has to wear the black hat, so be it. What, pray tell, could be the possible argument against putting in two days work to try and get things straightened out? Golf season, after all, will be here April 12, which is soon enough.
It’s mind-boggling to me that it’s 42 games into the season and the Oilers, it seems, still haven’t grasped the systems Quinn and his coaching staff have been trying to implement since pre-season. At least, that’s my take based on what I saw and what Quinn said today.
The Oilers were on the ice for about 90 minutes at Rexall Place, and they spent almost as much time gathered around Quinn and Tom Renney, who diagrammed drills on a white board, as they did practising.
"I’m not copping out here, but we had one practice day before we played an exhibition game," Quinn said. "Never have I not had time to instil the basics. I had more time going to the Olympics than I did with this team.
"We’ve been working at bringing the system of play in… you saw us 15 minutes at the board at one time, asking questions we’ve been talking about for three months. You think, holy smoke, we’ve been working on this for three months? What have we missed here? We’re going to do some work."
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.