You cannot play hockey without passion. No passion, no success. Very simple. Skill, size, loud home rink, perfect systems and awesome goaltending are valuable to any team but if the group of players on the team do not play with passion all those pieces will not fit together. Something will be missing.
I found this definition of the word passion.
- A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger
- Boundless enthusiasm
- The object of such love or desire
As I have watched this Oiler team over the course of this season I have seen improvement from individual players. Through good coaching there is a better understanding from the group as to how they have to play to be successful. My concern is the passion this team can produce.
Think back over the course of the season. When have we seen "boundless enthusiasm" from this team? I can think of a couple. Nail Yakupov’s goal and his full length of the ice slide. The big Saturday night come back after Khabby came in.
Those are great examples of passion creating a higher gear for the Oilers. Everyone watching knew they would not be denied those nights. I know how fun and easy those games are to play in and to watch. It is awesome.
It isn’t reasonable to expect players to play with that kind of passion every night. They would be exhausted by the fortieth game of the season. Don’t tell me they are making millions of dollars so they should be like that every night. It just isn’t possible.
There are games however where that passion needs to be manufactured. Maybe it is the third game in four nights and the game is a coin toss as to who can win. What will separate the two teams? The group that can dig down, produce passion and force a win for themselves.
Wednesday’s game against Phoenix is a perfect example of that type of game. I didn’t think either team really pushed the pace in the first period. Both teams were more careless with the puck then I expected from teams looking to make the playoffs. The game was a coin toss.
Even with the two unlucky/bad goals that got by Dubnyk, the Oilers were still in it after the second period. Is that good enough though, just to be still in it? They are playing at home and desperately need the points to keep their playoff candle burning?
No it isn’t.
Where was the passion? Passion for me is shown in the way a team starts the game, competes and body language.
On Wednesday night the Oilers should have come out flying. They needed to be on their toes from the first shift. Using their speed to attack the blue line. If they got stood up there, dump it in and go get it.
Competing for the Oilers doesn’t show up the same way it does for a team like the Kings or Bruins. Those teams try to physically impose their will on the team they are playing against. The Oilers are not built to play that way.
For the Oilers, competing should be displayed by their ability to get to loose pucks before the other team by using their team speed and winning those battles. They should compete by getting to the net and fighting for rebounds. Ya, it will hurt but your body feels a lot better after a win.
I have always placed a lot of importance on body language. When I played I always wanted to see my team mates with good body language before a game. I liked seeing them looking awake and ready to go. During the course of a game I could tell how players were feeling on the bench. If they were having a good game they were on the edge of the bench dying to get out there. On rough nights they would be trying to hide underneath it.
Think back to the Oilers spanking of the Flames last week. The Oilers were all engaged in the game, ready to go each shift. The Flames, they looked like they wanted to forfeit. The clock couldn’t go fast enough for them. After the game, as he was doing TV interviews, Glencross looked like he had just survived the Titanic sinking.
Think back to the start of the Coyote game. Did the Oiler body language suggest they were coming out flying? I think it looked more like a team that was sticking their toe into a pool to see how warm or cold the pool was. They were feeling their way into a game. At this time of year that doesn’t work, even against a team like Phoenix.
They need to come out and set the tone of the game, especially at home. Do the Oilers have the players do to that? I am not sure they do. There are some great pieces coming together for this group of forwards but players that reek of passion are required.
There are some players on this team that do display passion nightly in the way I described but more are required. It will turn coin toss games from fifty fifty odds of winning into outright wins.
He just did what?
Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott licked Jeff Halpern’s helmet last game.
I have never seen this before. Why he would do this I have no idea. If I was Halpern I would throw away that helmet in the garbage can.
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