The Edmonton Oilers obviously don’t get a do-over on the first 44 games they played this season, but they will approach their final 38 games as a second season and a new start after last weekend’s mini-camp.
At least that was the spin, and probably the most sensible approach, at Rexall Place today as coach Pat Quinn and the Oilers looked ahead instead of back. With a record of 16-23-5 for 37 points, it only makes sense.
"We are on the journey and the journey hasn’t gone the way we planned," understated Quinn. "You can’t forget that part of it because there’s a bit of a mountain in front of us as far as gathering points and trying to achieve the goals we started out with.
"We’ll be re-establishing our goals. We’re going to play by the old maxim, one shift, one period and we’ll see if we get where we’re doing little things well and maybe big things will happen that are good big things."
While many fans are getting behind the push for the Dive For Five, Quinn’s focus, as you would expect, is elsewhere.
"You have to scrape yourself up and be in the fray," Quinn said. "That’s what we have to do. It’s challenging ourselves. Now, we may still not get to the results we want, but we have to continue to be better."
With a two-day golf junket cancelled in favour of the mini-camp, players put the best possible shine on things.
"They were good," Dustin Penner said of workouts Friday and Saturday. "It kind of re-set the computers.
"We spent two, six-hour days at the rink, with an hour of video each day, chalk talk on the board. I think it was beneficial. You would be hard-pressed to find anybody who would say it wasn’t."
Work smarter not harder
If hard work on its own was the answer, Shawn Horcoff would be an 80-point player and the darling of Oilers fans no matter how much money he’s taking home every two weeks.
Obviously, it’s not that simple. Quinn talked about "hard work" in the context of the weekend and what he hopes the benefits wills be.
"Emotion is a big part of this game," he said. You can have the negative ones that crop up where you’re frustrated because nothing good’s going for you. "So maybe the answer is, ‘I’ll try harder.’
"Well, thinking that you’re trying harder, sometimes it increases your frustration because it’s not effort that you needed. You might have needed smarts or you might have needed courage or you might have needed some of the other things that are necessary for hockey players to be successful.
"There is that increasing level of frustration that gets people to give up a little bit on themselves. That’s the biggest fight you have as far as both the coaches and the players in that room.
"The challenge is to stay on the task here because it is about them. It is individual. They’re the ones who want to be good hockey players. They have to challenge themselves daily. To push that."
This and that
— Having missed all the fun with Sheldon Souray Friday, one television reporter who shall remain unnamed went looking for more of the same NTC talk from Lubomir Visnovsky. He lobbed all sorts of grenades Visnovsky’s way with a barrage of loaded questions, but got no sniff.
On the positive side, Visnovsky took another twirl on his twisted ankle today and should be a go against Nashville. That’ll leave the Oilers with seven blueliners to choose from for the first time in awhile.
— Aside from doing a lot of 4-on-4 work early in practice, the Oilers worked a lot on their 17th-ranked power play, with two full units working the drills.
One unit had Gilbert Brule with Sam Gagner and Patrick O’Sullivan up front with Denis Grebeshkov and Visnovsky on the points. The other fivesome was Robert Nilsson, Horcoff, Penner, Tom Gilbert and Souray. Neither one did a lot to impress the coach.
— Marc Pouliot’s on-again, off-again comeback from pubitis was on again today as he skated the full practice without any apparent ill effects. I’m guessing he’s a week or 10 days and at least a couple of games in the AHL for conditioning from returning.
— Mike Comrie took the ice with skating coach Steve Serdachny after practice today. No firm word on a return, but you’d have to think that Comrie will be in line for an AHL conditioning stint when he gets healthy.
— Quinn has liked Andrew Cogliano’s effort and compete level, if not his results offensively, lately and suggested he might look at getting him more ice time in the next little while.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.