Verbal sparring on the bench? Squabbling among teammates? You’d have to be a fly on the wall in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room to get the full context of the "fighting and bickering" captain Shawn Horcoff referred to today in the wake of Tom Renney’s post-game blast Monday, but the few tidbits that have been uttered tweak the curiosity.
"He’s frustrated," Horcoff said of Renney, who went off after a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. "He felt that our body language was going a little bit south. There was a little bit too much fighting and bickering. We need to stick together and be better."
When Sportsnet game night host Gene Principe asked Horcoff to elaborate, he added: "Yes, a little bit. At the same time, we talked about it today. Frustration is going to happen, especially when, you know, you’re a 29th-place team . . ."
Fighting and bickering? About what? Ice time? Roles? About who did or didn’t do what on a given play? Selection of pre-game music in the dressing room? Garden variety frustration and discontent that comes with the Oilers on the way to a third straight lottery pick? All the above?
We don’t know for sure because Horcoff and the rest of his teammates aren’t of the mind to give a pack of nosey reporters picking bones for a follow-up to Renney’s rant the real dope on what’s being said, and to whom by whom, behind closed doors.
NO BIG DEAL?
When I asked Horcoff if the dressing room is united, he didn’t hesitate in offering his take. "Absolutely," he said. "More than ever. That’s never been a problem.
"I mean, you guys make a big deal out of it. It happens every year. There’s going to be times where frustration is going to happen in games, especially when you’re 29th.
"You know, to tell you the truth, that’s the first time it’s kind of maybe got to the point where he (Renney) had to address it this year. In years past, it’s been much more. Actually, I view it as a good thing.
"Today, we had a good chat and we talked about things among ourselves that we’ll keep between teammates. We’ve re-grouped and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow."
Determined to make a "big deal out of it," reporters worked the rest of the room stall by stall without getting much in the way of details about the "bickering and fighting." Next up was Ryan Whitney, and a sliver of insight.
BACK AND FORTH
"There’s times in every season when guys will kind of go back and forth," said Whitney. "Everybody in here is competitive. That’s one of the reasons they’re in the NHL, but you’ve got to keep a respect factor.
"Guys in here to respect each other, but . . . you’re working toward one goal together, so when you’re really kind of butting heads with someone, you’re not just talking to them and kind of explaining, you know, ‘This is what I thought you should have done,’ you can’t be yelling at guys when you talk. It’s how you present yourself."
Getting more detail and context than that might require stashing a digital recorder in the dressing room, but it’s obvious the Oilers are having some difficulty navigating another miserable season without blowing off some stream and getting after each other on occasion.
That’s to be expected under the circumstances, of course. We won’t have enough first-hand information to say with any certainty the glimpse we got today amounts to anything beyond that, let alone a return to the bad old days of a few years ago leading up to purge of captain Ethan Moreau and other veterans.
We will watch and wait.
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