I never did hack my ears off with a rusty butter knife back in the days when Bobby McFerrin’s mindless ballad for simpletons, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, used to grace the radio airwaves, but I wanted to.
Like I wrote back on Dec. 31, it wasn’t my nature as a young man to be the eternally optimistic sort. Fake and staged optimism, like fake and staged anything, used to drive me nuts. You know, that person who was always "up" without any good reason.
We’ve all known that guy at some point in our lives. Loses his job on Friday. Wife leaves him for his best friend Saturday. Dog takes a hike to join the circus Sunday. The Ned Flanders guy who’d whistle a happy tune up until the minute he locked the garage door and fired up the family sedan.
I’m hearing a lot of optimistic talk in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room these days, and at a time when they have plenty of reasons to feel sorry for themselves between injuries and a six-game losing streak — and with the Detroit Red Wings coming to town to beat them for fun Tuesday.
None of it, circumstances be damned, sounds fake to me.
HANGING IN THERE
While it’s obvious that playing the woe-is-me card when things have gone sideways doesn’t solve anything, it’s a rut that we all fall into from time to time.
Enough lousy breaks — the Oilers have had their share with a line-up that is already lacking depth trying to get along without captain Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Whitney, then seeing Jordan Eberle go down — can make it difficult to turn that frown upside down (maim the person who coined that term and I’ll give you money*).
I’ve got to admit, though, the positive talk I heard Monday morning seemed genuine. While nobody’s the least bit happy about a losing streak that stands at a half-dozen and yet another brutal string of injuries to guys who matter, nobody sounds like they’re folding.
After many years when that wasn’t the case, when you’d walk into the dressing room and the stench of defeat was such you’d swear you were locked in an elevator where somebody had just farted, the attitude these days is refreshing. This is not that team.
"It’s tough for guys who haven’t through something like this, younger guys," said Andrew Cogliano. "You have to keep the mood very good in here. You have to keep things upbeat.
"When you’re missing your leaders, it puts the onus on other guys to step up, not only on the ice but in the room. It’s been tough. I’m not going to lie. Guys are trying and the results aren’t there. There’s really no excuses. We have to push through the injuries, the tough games and get wins."
No self-pity there. No bogus rah-rah tone, either.
"They’re playing hockey," offered coach Tom Renney, who went over the top on the Flanders Meter last month with his talk about making the playoffs. "We’re doing what we love to do. It’s not always easy. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always fun, but it’s always a challenge and it’s always worth it.
"I don’t need to get philosophical here, but there’s a lot of people in tougher situations than our guys having to play through this. It’s game on for us. Let’s just go play and try to put our best foot forward every single night."
STICK YOUR ELPH
Easier said than done. While most fans will happily settle for ELPH if the team remains competitive and stays in the hunt for a lottery pick in the 2011 draft, which it will, the players dismiss the idea.
"You can’t really look toward the future when you’ve got a game on that day," said Cogliano, who has stiffened his resolve lately after a brutal start to the season personally.
"You have to focus on one day at a time, one game at a time. You can’t worry about putting streaks together. You’ve got to worry about getting the first win and moving on from there.
"Everything is about winning now. I know all these guys in this room want to win right now.
People talk about the rebuild, this and that. For guys in this room, it’s about winning. Every game, we’re putting our best foot forward and giving the effort to win today."
Again, what Cogliano says isn’t going to make up for this team’s obvious shortcomings or prompt the Red Wings, or anybody else, to take it easy on them. Still, it’s a welcome departure from the sour and dour outlook of recent seasons.
*Just kidding. Maiming is bad. Do not maim anybody, even if they did coin that term and are sitting beside you at the dentist’s office whistling right now.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.