Back to square one: just not in the standings

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.

  • 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

    Were you watching? That must have been entertaining.

    • I honestly hope so. Consider me a new fan (former Comrie-hater). In the early goings, he was one of few players that looked like an NHLer and was helping make O'Sullivan look like a better player. Disappointing that he got the kissing disease.

      Also disappointing is the comment by RB about the powerplay units being unimpressive.

      Anyone here think this mini-camp is going to make a difference? Honest question… not rhetorical.

      On the note of Cogliano, I will say "it's about bloody time". I know a lot of people are dumping on Cogliano, but I don't think he's been given a lot of opportunity. I believe it was Quinn who said it, you have to put players in situations where they can succeed. Playing him with the pluggington brothers isn't going to help. I like Stortini, but lets face it, he isn't going to bring any offense out of Cogliano. However, he did help bring something else out of Cogs which is great to see. But now it's time to give this kid some top six minutes and cut back on one of the others (#19 would be my choice).

      • With the PP, it was Quinn who said he wasn't impressed.

        As for the mini-camp, I don't know what difference it'll actually make in terms of Xs and Os and execution, but it's one of those things teams grab onto when things are tough. "Hey, it's a new start."

        It's a bit of mental massaging that can sometimes have a positive outcome. It's like when a team sucks at home, they say, "It'll be good to get on the road" or vice-versa.

        • rindog

          Injuries and illnesses aside, my biggest disappointment this year has been the specialty teams. While the PP stats aren't horrible at 17th – the PP still looks terrible.

          I don't know how much the coaching staff works on it – but I am a firm believer that the success of a PP is based on the coaching even more than the players on the ice.

          Our PP is so predictable and stagnent. I always got on MacT's back for having such a brutal looking PP – but nothing has seems to have changed.

          I respect Quinn and think he is a great coach; but I can not figure out why we don't have a good PP?

          • Jason Gregor

            I don't know how much the coaching staff works on it – but I am a firm believer that the success of a PP is based on the coaching even more than the players on the ice.

            Why do you think it is coaching? If you don't have skilled players on the PP it won't matter. Horcoff is not a good PP player, never has been never will be. The problem is the Oilers don't have anyone else who can win a faceoff.

            Yes coaching can help, but the coach can draw up the best PP, if the players don't execute it it won't matter. There has to be some ad-libbing on the PP and that is all on the players.

            They don't make the right reads very often on this team, and if you look at how often they make long passes that get broken up you'd go bonkers.

            Sure coaching is a factor, but more is on the players in my mind. Some guys are very good PP players, but not great five-on-five.

            Marc Andre Bergeron for instance has 16 PP points, but only 23 overall. He is great on the PP with his shot. Same as Kotalik in New York, 16 of his 22 points have come on the PP.

            On the other side. Henrik Freakin Sedin has 62 points, but only 15 have come on the PP. It is strange considering the Canucks are 4th in the league on the PP, but Sedin has only been in on 15 of their 40 PP goals.

            Either way I don't know if it is more coaching. You are right they need to come up with something better, but this entire coaching staff has changed and the PP hasn't looked any different. Either the players don't execute the PP game plan, or they don't have the ability to ad-lib well enough.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            It does look like crap alot of nights. But honestly though, considering the skill level of the team, they've probably been overachieving on the PP.

    • Good question, but it's too early to tell.
      A lot is going to depend, obviously, on how he plays when he comes back. If he plays in the final, say, 30 games like he did before he got sick, and he's not looking for a big raise in pay, it'll be difficult not to consider him.

      At the same time, do Quinn and Tambellini feel the need to weed out some of the smaller forwards? If so, who goes? Personally, I'd keep Comrie ahead of O'Sullivan if Mike gets it together once he's back. Nilsson has rid himself of an automatic ticket out of town because, while I still don't trust him, he's been much better than early in the season.

      That's a long way of saying I don't know.

      • Reggie

        Robin,

        What about the thought that the only reason Comrie came to Edmonton was that his options were limited this season.

        If he comes back into the line up and has a decent finish would he be looking to come back here first ? Or would be he be hoping to sign a two year deal else where.

        Given the change in make up of the team next fall, who knows who will be gone at the trade deadline and who will be gone over the summer.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        At least Comrie plays bigger then he is. Sure he is no fire cracker like Brule but he isn't afraid of going into the corners and getting dirty.

  • "You have to scrape yourself up and be in the fray," Quinn said.

    That's all anybody could reasonably ask for. Just play your best, bust your gut and let the chips fall where they may.

    These guys do that for the rest of the season and I'll be happy. This team may end up in the bottom five, but I'd like to see them kicking and screaming every inch of the way.

    "With five seconds left, destiny panics."