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.

Manufactured Energy

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.

Recently around the Nation Network

  • So not a Pouzar

    I used to think Steve Ott would be a good fit here, energy guy with hands and could chuck the fists when needed. Everything he’s done recently (ie: calling out the fans for booing and trying to make out with the opposition) I’d rather not have him here.

  • DSF

    Good article Jason. I think you hit the nail on the head. For me, the Oilers overall work ethic, passion, and intensity has been the most disappointing thing about this season. Far too often they get outworked. The battle level is just not close to where it needs to be on a consistent basis. How else can you explain a team with this much skill getting outshot by 10 every other game? Anyways, that’s just me. Very frustrating to watch.

  • mr_nihilism

    Does the coach not emphasize being fully ready and engaged from the time the puck drops? I’m sure he does so I wonder why the players don’t seem to listen more often than not. Being ready to play should be pretty basic for a pro athlete.

  • mr_nihilism

    There is an intangible when it comes to certain players……….I call it intrinsically motivated.

    Hall has it, Nuge has it, Brown has it, Smyth has it……it is rare but some players are blessed with it.

    If players need to be externally motivated, then IMHO they will never succeed long term. We need to find this character in the players we draft, you either have it or you don’t!

  • DSF

    yes passion is one of the many problems facing this team. look at some teams with passion like ottawa, imagine if the oilers lost key players in their line up, wait we don’t have to the water boy get’s hurt it’s a good excuse for 5 loses in a row. what about teams like montreal, toronto or anaheim who with passion and a decent coaching staff far exceed expectations. what about teams in recent history like pheonix, who with passion, good coaching and a competent managment team can put a product on the ice thatperforms better than it has any buisness doing. yes all these teams have passion but if fans and the team are capable of an honest appraisal were much closer to the begining than to the end of this rebuild, because the problems are much deeper than the players on the ice and their lack of passion.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Mess up the guys visor and throw him off his shift. Priceless!

      Just renting a bit of space in Halperns head kind of like what DSF does to the posters here.

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    Hard to get passionate as a player with management like it is.

    Fire Lowe and Tambo.

    Cut your losses here.

    Trade your 1st round pick 2013 for Adam Larsson, and if they want more give them some B player.

    Start building a team.

    • I’m really getting pissed off at the Lowe hatred. LOWE IS NOT THE GM. TAMBI IS. Lowe has been blamed for all of Tambi’s moves. Lowe haters say Tambi is only a puppet to Lowe. Lowe has even been blamed for Slats’ mistakes. Enough of the Lowe hatred. There’s a reason that the Oilers have trouble signing players and it’s not management. It’s the fans as they bash every move the team makes. They’re always negative. I like what MacT said to a media member when he was coach.

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    Well Said Jason, i have centre ice and watch all games
    as much as i can , i love hockey. You see teams, Ottawa for
    example only, come out aggressive, night in and night out
    teams heavy on the forecheck, finishing each and every check.
    Its there for guys like Hall and Yak and some others
    on a nightly basis but so many on this team just do not have it.
    You must have the HUNGER god dang it, you must push push push.

    Some of this has to do with the Oilers being too small,
    having some bigger forwards that crash makes the others
    put on 25 lbs and grow 3 inches instantly. Its sad to say,
    with the exception of a few,the intensity is not there
    from the start of every game.

    What did RK say say before the season started ? i do not
    remember his exact words but he said they would be
    an attack team right from the get go. Farthest thing from it
    is what this group is [ as a whole ]. You have played and i
    know you know it, changes need to happen.

    If no one else was reading this and it was just you and me
    talking, would you say RK is the right guy to lead this young
    team ? be as honest as you can, i dont know you but my gut
    tells me you think he is not. He is too green as is his team.
    You cannot have a young group like this led my a green
    coach, the game is different here from anywhere RK Coached.

    Answer me the best you can lol… a No comment reply
    will confirm to me, you just can’t say for reasons i understand, lol.

  • DSF

    Jason when you were playing did you ever have a GM that you or the team didn’t like or thought this guy can’t get the job done? (Not asking to name names just curious). And if this was the case did it effect the teams passion during the season?

    Not saying Tambo is or isn’t just curious if players care too much about the GM or not.

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    After the Calgary spanking I was in the thinking this team had set itself up for a great opportunity to really learn how to win. Compete with the intensity (passion) that playoff bound teams have.

    I never saw it. In fact, I saw the the complete opposite.

    Obviously, disappointed I am.

    Strudwick points out “through good coaching there is a better understanding from the group as to how they have to play to be successful.” It never happened, IMO. Not when it matter most, anyways.

    At this point I’m not sold on the coaching. Tough season (48 games in 98 days) to be harshly judgemental, but someone has to take responsibility for the lack of want here. Players need to be accountable for their actions (I believe there will be changes), but your leader needs to, well, lead.

    Do the Oil go with Krueger next year and only address some personnel changes in the off season? That seems to be the census out there in Oiler land.

    I just wonder when you got Sutter, Ruff and possibly Tippet looking for work next year do you make a change for more experience? The question, at least, needs to be asked internally, IMO.

    • How many more coaches are fans going to run out of town. MacT, Quinn, Renney were all run out of town by fans. Now fans want to run Krueger out of town. Has anyone thought that perhaps having 4 coaches in 6 years is part of the problem the team is having. Gagner has played 6 seasons and has 4 coaches. Hall and Eberle have 2 coahes in 3 years. Nuge has 2 coaches in 2 years. Get what I’m getting at.

      • So, because there has been a high turn over recently with coaches that the team would be better served by keeping a coach that MAY NOT be working instead of bringing in someone who may work better?

        That’s not logical to me.

        These guys are not kindergarten students. They’re professional hockey players. They can handle it.

        MacT had his run. Quinn didn’t work except for a little span in the middle of the season. Renney, I was not a fan. Not at all. And, with Krueger, I’m not sold. I haven’t seen many things that have shown me that he IS a better option than 2 or 3 proven coaches that look to be available in the off-season.

        I will continue to stress that this is a hard season to judge. 48 games in 98 days. Very little quality practice time and that could be a detriment to a young hockey team.

        That’s fair.

        Lastly, did the fans run out the previous coaches or did they run themselves out of town? It’s a results oriented business.

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    As someone who had the unfortunate opportunity to see the games against the Kings and Ducks live, I can say that this article really hit home. That Oilers team was completely outplayed. Just really not in it.

    I feel for Oilers fans who pay $100+ for a ticket to watch the classic “Oilers Mail-in”. That’s gotta suck. I drove 100 miles to see both of those games, and even though the tickets were only $25 (Ah, Americans. If only they knew!), I felt ripped off.

    I’ve also gotta agree that the coaching here is suspect. Why is it that a MacLean or Therrien can pull amazing, passionate performances from not necessarily stellar lineups? If Ralph is such a motivator, why aren’t we seeing that on the ice?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Great Topic Jason:! This has been bugging me for the last couple years… Why Why is the team always coming out FLAT.. [ was even worse last year].

    For a team fighting for a play off spot.. well play like you mean it..” Oh were in a play off battle here, blah blah ” then they come out deader than a boat anchor.

    There is something wrong with the dressing room, and that starts with the coach and captain. The coach for being Mr Motivational, sure cant coach or fire up the troops.

    Dont use youth and small team as excuse..
    Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa are not big teams , but they come to play every shift and every game.

    For starters, fire Kruger [ you play how you practice ], and make Hall the Captain. Horcoff is so full of crap, I dont thing he could get a fire going in hell.

    • Wax Man Riley

      The jury is still out on Krueger, but it has NOTHING to do with Horcoff.

      Horcoff proved his worth already this year when he was out of the lineup. He is a good NHL player and he brings it every game. The team has a way different look when he is not in the lineup.

      Firing Krueger will set this back even more. Why would we put a 5th coach in 6 years? Another step back.

      • Wax Man Riley

        Really……and what look is that? We have just lost five games in a row and are avery long shot to make the playoffs.

        Exactly how has Horcoff benefitted us?

    • Wax Man Riley

      Totally agree.
      Horc is the savior is getting tiring. He is crap.
      Take him and Hemmer and Smyth, the entire BIG LINE
      of 10 years ago. and stick it.

      RK is too green and unfamiliar with the NHL , he is out of his
      league [Swiss] and being out coached most nights.

      Some people here just love their old Oilers.
      Move the f–k on and change this line up this summer.

      Would Shawn Horcoff Motivate you in anyway ? Not Me.
      What have you ever really really done Shawn that demands
      respect. Zip

  • Quicksilver ballet

    For Horcoff and Belanger, I don’t feel either play the game with the required passion you speak of. Our captain isn’t going to get us that big goal when we need it. He’s not going to throw a big check/hit, or lead by example by dropping the gloves when the team needs a spark. All the things you’d hope for in a captain are absent. He’s not at all dominant in the faceoff circle either, could it really only be he’s here for the leadership in the dressing room moreso than his abilities on the ice? 5 wins and 5 losses since his return to the lineup speaks volumes. Passion is the last thing you’d think of when it comes to a number of these deadwood types.

    I guess guys like these are a necessary evil for bottom dwelling teams. Without them the Oilers would be well below the salary floor in the league this yr.

    • mrBacon

      I agree. He’s not going to.score, he doesn’t fight, he doesn’t have.anything left but the off ice intangibles.The whole overblown team meeting propoganda that the Oil fed their sheep media that the average Oiler fan swallowed was ridiculous. Hows that record now with Horc in the lineup. Maybe the improved play was do to balancing of the lines. Its like we forgot the last 6 years of not making the playoffs and what 3 of them with Horc as captain. All you read is that we need him. We don’t. Its time to get younger, faster, and hungrier. Its shed our beloved vets and move on.

  • mrBacon

    Strudsy I know you are speaking from an inside perspective but look at it from the fans point of view. I’m paying sometimes $200+ for a single ticket just to go watch a bunch of people much more talented than myself get to do what I only wish I was able to. Do you not understand how infuriating that is from a fans POV to watch a guy try 50% of the time while he’s making millions of dollars a year that I’m putting in his pockets? Do you think I cold use that excuse in my job that I get paid significantly less to do? Absolutely not.

    I know guys are going to have off nights, everybody has days where they just aren’t themselves, but as a fan all I expect on any given night is effort. If things don’t click that night, but you bust your ass and just don’t quit, I as a fan will be happy with you.

    Also with that being said I would like to point out that I do believe professional athletes should be compensated very well. They sacrifice so much more than an every day joe like myself in order to get where they are, and sometimes even more to stay there. The strain of a career like this on not only your body but on your mind and your personal relationships must be excruciating, but at the end of the day it is still a choice to keep playing hockey.

  • Wax Man Riley

    It is more than just passion that is required.

    Confidence is a big part of it. If you are playing scared because you might get sat for the next mistake or cause the next goal to be scored that costs you the game, plays as big if not bigger part IMHO.

    When you’re scared you’re tentative and when that happens it does not matter if you are passionate or not. The wind is out of the sails. Play with confidence and let the passion bring you to a different level.

    This team fails at the “big” games because they are scared.

    • mrBacon

      I would be horribly disappointed if that was in fact the case.

      However, four players could fall into your theory: Fistric, Peckham, Eager and Hordichuck. 2 are in the A and one sits in purgatory.

      I haven’t agreed with the handling of all these players. But, it is up to the player to man the (explicit) up.

      Furthermore, if some players are petrified to make mistakes and those feelings lead to tepid behaviour on the ice, out they should go. Rooks aside.

      Winning takes winners. No excuses.

  • mrBacon

    Too often the Oilers let their opposition dictate the type of game that is going to be played. Bigger teams like the Kings and Blues do this to us all the time. They turn it into a cycling game and our speed become ineffective.

    I’ve noticed it even more during home games. How many games have been close or tied going into the third period at Rexall? How many of those have we won? We seem content to play rope-a-dope all night long and all of a sudden we get a bad bounce or make a mistake and we are pushing in the last 10 minutes to try and tie up the game.

    We need to be way more proactive and engaged at puck drop. It’s a trend that has been all too common for years now in Edmonton.

  • mrBacon

    Mr. Strudwick, that was a simply amazing piece of superlative connected hockey writing. Thank you very much.

    Reading this article is like recieving the Five Finger Death Punch, it hits you fully and completely about two or three minutes after you have read it.

    I might suggest a few things to add, passion CAN be manufactured artificially and consistantly and you CAN expect all your men to display that emotion consistantly over an entire season, there are many tactics and habits and programs a team can dynamiclly incorporate into their system philosophys and exacution that stimulate the passion we want INTERNALLY and CUMULATIVELY as a group. we are really only looking at the issue from an individual vs group perspective when we SHOULD be viewing it as one single group perspective.

    I will give you two examples that should strike close to home.

    Sam Gagners mouth guard produces passion consistantly so does Nuges.

    Micheal Jordams tounge did the same thing, no pun intended.

    These things are akin to the tack in your shoe when you take a polygraph, they bring you above and beyond the moment in a tactile manner you can literally put your finger on, it is a mulit-task cerebral challenge that gives these men an extra cerebral and visual color spectrum to view the game through.

    Being a proud teammate of the Calder trophy winner produces passion on a team scale like we want to see. The analogy of the tack in your shoe fits here as well, first everyman must execute the system 100% then every man must rise above and beyond that level of performance to help Yakupov and J Schultz bring the calder here where it belongs, this is something we failed to do for our young guys for several years when we had the opportunity.

    In order to choose and implement the proper and complete winning cerebral/emotional muscle-memory we need to tangibly feel and experience sucess and winning, nothing else will do as a placebo, we need to re-connect with sucess in every way we can, be it breaking Oilers Ghost records or be it going out of our way as a team to support our Calder candidates with a driven group mentality. These are the exercises we need to be doing to strengthen our Passion , we need to fight for each other on a new level INTERNALLY, as hard as we fight the opponents we must fight to support individual achievements that represent the Team as a whole, we all need to feel the shine when one of us takes a Podium as an Oiler.

    Passion my friend is another dimension of competing, passion is when you can take yourself out of and beyond the tactile moment and dig deeper emotionally and cerebrally to support a paralell cause to your system execution, it is the little extra you can tangibly reach out and create on your own beyond the systems effects, Sam Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins both ooze this intangible every night and Yakupov looks to be a natural as well.

    Oh yes Strudds you sure can manufacture and maintain a high level of Passion within a group for an entire season if you have the correct philosophys as core values, there are many ways to generate this tangible measurable championship core value consistantly. You just need to know how to do it, and as we are seeing it isnt as easy as it sounds, it requires an elite level of Intuative Dynamic Analysis and Managment to micro-manage an entire roster sucessfully for an entire season, it is a tremendous challenge entailing a ludicrous volume of communication and hands on interactions. I coached sports teams in High School when I was also competeing, and i was able to take throw together teams of athletes from a school that had not even had organised programs for many years and create winning environments and evolving results that exceeded those of our peers.

    Wayne Gretzky was recently in town and i watched a video of his interview and he discussed this exact topic and his perspectives matched the NewAge Hockey System and my own perfectly as if they had come from the same template, so the general philosophys I am now espouseing are really replicated from those of of Wayne himself and are catalysed from the sucess he was able to manifest as a member of the Dynasty Oilers. They incorporated many Intuative Dynamic managment tactics without recognising them for what they were, they were like a natural runner that wouldnt understand the technical explanation of their perfect stride, they could just execute it naturally, so there is never a need to write it down as a tactical handbook or teaching aid, in fact like many secrets it was purposefully never recorded. The NHS is completely based on Intuative Dynamic Analysis and generating dynamics supporting the manifestation and maintenance of Passion is incorporated 100% as a core value component of the system itself.

    Yes, Jason Players can consistantly provide Passion all year long if their coaches know how to ask for it in enough different ways and know how to create dynamics that encourage the growth of this emotion within every single game over the entire season. This level of dynamic micro-managment on a team scale is a great challenge that seperates competitors from Champions.

    Jesus you hit everthing so dead on in your article that all I could yak about was the artificial manifestation of Passion, I am officially shut down.

    Thanks for another great read, Mr. Strudwick, you are a fine teacher with excellent NHL insights.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    7 years out of the Playoffs Since then

    3 # 1 picks in the draft

    3 top 10′s in the draft

    Justin Schultz a gift would have been a top 10

    Still in the line up a #13 pick #14 pick #22 pick and #45 pick.

    And this team is no better.

    You think there maybe a problem?

  • The Worrier

    Great article Strudmuffin!

    If there is one guy who knows everything there is to know about passion in this town it is you.

    Your advice to me on passion and how to be more passionate has helped so much with ladies.
    I can’t thank you enough.

    That is why I tune into your show. You don’t get that at 2 pm with Gregor. He is too busy talking a chipped windshields with Brownlee and cow tipping in New Serapta.

  • The Worrier

    sit on your wallet, or no , next time you go to a game just give sam 500$ think about it dumb asses……o…. i forgot most people that post here can’t afford a ticket.

  • The Worrier

    let’s think about the hyped up trade deadline.

    whitney… ????



    when you cant make a # 30 team wtf

    if calary wins, steve’s plan is to finish bottom 5

    buy another ticket suckers

  • The Worrier

    Acceptance of losing is rampant thru entire organization , and it rubs off on the psyche of the players. Enough of using youth and rebuild as an excuse ! Hard to change their attitude when managerial remains same without having accountability .

  • The Worrier

    I am a first time poster but the things that I have been reading is prompting me to do something about it!

    Week after week I read posts about how disgruntled people are and spewing advice about what to do with OUR Oilers. I have been an oiler fan for over 30 years and have watched the franchise dating back to it’s inception. Safe to say those days will never be back so I think the organization needs to realize this by hiring legit “hockey minds” to run the franchise instead of old alumni! Let go of the past if you are to progress as a person and as an organization! I mean the only person that I would ever hire from that dynasty group is Mark Messier…because he has shown clear direction,leadership, and passion even as a player…and I know he would not accept this pathetic effort of a team we now call the Oilers. Heck, he may even go into the dressing room between periods to bench these kids (and vets) or make them sit in the press box with an “undisclosed” injury just to send the message.

    What I’m ultimately here to say is STOP demanding change from management because it’s not going to happen by you writing on a blog or bi%&hing about things. We complain day after day and week after week yet sell out every home game, I get it, we are passionate about our team. But from a management perspective, there is no urgency to assemble a team that competes if we keep sending the message that we will continue to support them no matter what!! If you want to send a different message, fans need to become a community and boycott the remaining home games…THAT would send a strong message to Katz and ownership/management. That would tell them that the fans are the reason why they are here! Instead of going through a strike, demanding one of the higher ticket prices in the league, and padding their own pockets while doing so.

    Change comes from us…we hold the power people!!! Now, realize that and effect change instead of simply complaining about it!!! Many of you who post here are quite educated as your prose writing pieces and spelling would indicate, so think of a way we can bring the hockey community together and do something worth doing…in unison!!! Playing the victim and complaining just ain’t cutting it anymore…because we’ve been doing it for at least 6 years!!