As a parent I have often stood in stunned silence while observing my children on life’s learning curve. The boy riding cardboard down the stairs, firing heavy items at his sister one Saturday morning with the classic line "don’t move, I think I can hit you this time" (poor little girl, when I got to her she was shaking in her boots) or my daughter–just 4 years old–opening up drawers in show-home kitchens and trying to climb into them (don’t worry, we bought the place).
The thing is, sometimes you can reach children with words and advice, and sometimes they have to learn things on their own. Last night, the Oilers kids had a bit of a pity party. Completely predictable and now let’s now do that again.
The sagging shoulders, the "I’ll just do it myself" turnovers, the stick thwack against the boards, the benchings. It’s all part of the maturing process and if you think it didn’t happen with the Boys on the Bus you’re sadly mistaken. A missed flight by Messier, a BoBo search party and many other examples (on and off ice) over the years. I remember in the WHA era that Dave Hunter was benched because he took a penalty in the last minutes of periods too often. Seriously. It became an issue, his ass was stapled to the bench and he learned not to do that anymore.
The trick is to make the discipline strong enough to have an impact without going overboard and losing the player. I think Tom Renney’s actions last night were solid. That’s a fine line, you know. The Oilers have lost players over the years (Arnott, Comrie) to various events that got blown way out of proportion. In some of those cases, the fanbase was part of the problem (certainly with Arnott).
Taylor Hall is a teenager. Expecting the kid to know it all at the beginning has more to do with impatience on our part than any kind of disconnect from the kid. Eberle and MPS too. They are inconsistent and they make the same mistakes over and over and sometimes it seems like it’ll take forever. Hell, Gagner and Cogliano are still on that long learning curve. In fact, Ladislav Smid is just now reaching a point where we can see consistency in his game and perhaps say goodbye to the unforced errors.
It’s a long way to the top when you get into scorched earth rebuilds. We’re going to be up and down emotiionally like a rollercoaster in these next few years and there’s really not a damn thing we can do about it. The Christmas movie "It’s a Wonderful Life" included the classic line "ah, youth is wasted on all the wrong people."
Not so, in this case. Patience with the three rookies will eventually result in very good things for Oiler fans. That 7-1 beatdown last night will be turned around in due time. We need to remember it takes time for kids to learn, and enjoy the small victories while enduring the backward steps.
We’ve seen it before.