As I watched the game the other night between the Oilers and Wild I kept getting more and more upset. It wasn’t the odd turnover or even the zero shots in the second period that got to me. It was the lack of passion or FIRE in the team’s play.
Skill, strategy and luck are needed to be successful in the NHL. More important than all of these is passion. You CAN NOT win in the league without it. Passion is what carries you when you are out of gas at the end of the game. When you need to find a little more in the tank, passion kicks in and you find a way to make a play to win.
Think back on every playoff series in the history of the NHL. What do you remember most? For me it is the passion and intensity. That is what I love about the NHL playoffs. It is not possible to turn it on once you get to the playoffs. Just to make them, you must have some.
As the game progressed last night it was very clear to me that the Oilers are missing this ingredient in their lineup. They are all nice guys but where is the passion? I think it shows up in on-ice confrontations. When is the last time the Oilers had a post whistle scrum? When has a game escalated to playoff-type intensity because of very hard, borderline dirty play?
I can tell you nothing gets a team going more than emotion shown on the ice by a team mate. Let’s say there is a scrum in front of your net. Your defenceman battles the other guy hard. They keep chirping all the way to the bench. You’re going on the ice, you see and hear this exchange. You get worked up and find another gear in your legs. Does this ever happen with the Oilers?
This team is too vanilla. Taken as a whole they are not nasty enough to play against. Eager and Jones have been trying to get it going up front when they are in the lineup. Fistric has been taking a run at players at every opportunity but he has not been in the lineup every night. Peckham has had a unique start to the season. I understand he is trying to get his game in order but the Oilers need him to embrace the physical and agitator role. He needs to be noticed out there. That is what sets him apart from the other d-man trying to get into the lineup every night.
I was watching the L.A. Kings play the Vancouver Canucks the other day. These two teams were going at it! Bieksa speared a guy from the bench. Dustin Brown was hitting and chirping guys. There was a fight early in the game. Those players were all engaged emotionally. You could feel the passion coming through the TV. I did not feel that last night from the Oilers and haven’t felt it most nights this season.
The Oilers have three fighting majors this season, Three! I can’t believe that. They don’t need to go out and fight everyone all the time, I get that. However, what does it say about a team’s nastiness when you only have three fights? It says you are not doing anything to irritate the teams you are playing against to make them come and fight you. It also says you are not responding to acts the other team is doing to you.
Fighting isn’t everything but it does show how emotionally involved the team is in its play.
Little Ball of Hate
General manager Steve Tambellini must have been having the same thoughts as he watched his team play. He went out and traded for Mike Brown, a hardnosed player from the Maple Leafs. He doesn’t solve the Oilers problems of size in the Top six or nine but he will bring an intensity and passion to this lineup. I hope…..
I hated playing against Brown. He finishes every check and backs them all up. If you have an issue with him, gloves are off and you get a chance to settle it with him. He has more fighting majors then the whole Oilers lineup this year. That is CRAZY!
I played with a guy named Ryan Hollweg in New York with the Rangers. Just like Brown he is a little ball of hate. Every time I would go on the ice with him I knew there was a chance of an explosion of anger from the other team. Holly would run someone over and then it was party time! He would bring the emotion out of his team, even guys you wouldn’t think would have any.
I see Brown in the same type of mold. I pray to god he doesn’t hold back. I hope he goes out there and gets the other team fired up. I hope he initiates that by what he does and says. The Oilers need this. They need passion and emotion.
Mike Brown won’t singlehandedly turn this season around for the Oilers with his ten minutes of ice time. I just hope he can get more of the Oilers to engage emotionally into the games because of his passion and desire to stay in the lineup.
I will be watching today. I suggest you all do the same to see the little ball of hate do his thing!