MIND GAMES

Sitting at 1-5-1 many frustrated fans are left wondering why coaches and players around the team are now talking more about improvement and positive things when the results still aren’t there.

As a guy in my first month of watching Oiler games, I too have been very frustrated at times watching this squad and I haven’t been around for the last 7 years.

I get it.

FRUSTRATION MOUNTING

Many things need to be improved fast for this team to remain in contention and get to the level expected of them this season. One thing I can assure you is that no one is more frustrated than the coaching staff and players. Fans may disagree but losing is just awful for everyone.

As a player, sleeping after bad games is nearly impossible. You lay there replaying everything in your mind till all hours of the night. Few things are worse than having to watch video of horrible play after horrible play while the coach is ripping you in front of your peers.

There is nothing fun about answering the tough questions to the media or reading about how bad you are in the papers. It’s an awful feeling letting a fan base down when expectations are high.

You have to be mentally strong to play this game, but all those things weigh on a player and after a week or more of that kind of atmosphere, negativity can completely take over. If everyone can feel the mood of the dressing room start to sag, that is not good.

WHY SO POSITIVE?

After the first couple losses you saw some anger, some frustration, and the benching of a young star. After the last couple games you’re starting to hear positive things or a focus on improvement from the team. When you watch the Pittsburgh game it may be hard to disagree.

Maybe it’s not recognizable but you see this all the time during losing skids. A flip flop of a coach’s message from negative to positive even though the only thing growing is in the loss column.

When player confidence is low the coaching staff has to read the dressing room and the body language of his players.

SEEN IT ALL BEFORE

I’ve been on good teams and I’ve been on terrible teams. Often times when you get on a win streak by the second or third game, instead of the coach remaining positive and buttering guys up he decides to use this opportunity to keep everyone level headed and tear into a few guys or focus on the things that need improvement.

Conversely, when a losing streak hits three or four games and the sky is falling, all of the sudden the coach is the happiest person in the world and you are thinking what the hell?

I think you are beginning to see the Coaching staff relaxing their tough stance of late. Eakins has to get these guys to feel good about themselves again while showing them the good things they have done to improve their play. Continuing to harp on the losses right now will only add to the stress of guys fighting the puck or thinking about mistakes.

I’m sure you have heard it before from players that they need to be reacting on the ice and not thinking. The minute you start to second guess yourself as a player you are in trouble.

ROLLER COASTER

This does not mean losing is acceptable. This does not mean that players and coaches are not as disgusted as you, the fan. It just means the coach has likely sensed that the yelling and tough love has exhausted itself for now and is having a more negative impact.

An 82 game season is full of emotional ups and downs and many times throughout the season the coach has to change the psyche of the dressing room.

I think this is one of those times. It’s up to the coach to get his players in the best possible mind set to win a hockey game. It doesn’t matter how, just win.

MAIL BAG

I would like to start a weekly Q & A piece on here. I love interacting with hockey minds and think it would be fun to provide some insight into certain questions you guys may have whether it’s Oiler related or just hockey related. Hit me up at brian@oilersnation.com or on twitter @briansutherby. Fire away and I will answer the best one’s in a weekly piece.

  • 1-6-1 … … so painful. Just so disappointing. When we get outplayed, we lose, when we outplay the opposition, we lose, when the play is even, we lose. Everything seems to be on par in Oilerland.

  • So the goalie shows up, but the team puts up an underwhelming performance.

    Why is our PP so horrible looking?
    Why is our PK so horrible looking?

    So many things to fix, so little time.

    Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock

  • Spydyr

    My over under on the Oilers was 3 wins this month.after tonight it is 2. Is it to early to tank another season for the first overall?

    Unless they get a goalie.the answer is no.

    Dubnyk looks lost.

  • Spydyr

    I did not see our players huffing or puffing or even a bead of sweat on any of them in third period . Did they go to sleep ? I wonder if we will have a competitive NHL team next year ? I can hardly wait for the hype .

  • Spydyr

    I sense a creeping apathy from the fanbase…

    Sure goaltending held up tonight – only to reveal the weak defense, compete lack of physical play esp on the forecheck, and no one in front of the net. And for the second night in a row it was starkly obvious that the coach has no answer to the shutdown play of the opponent. And it’s hard to see how any if those flaws all get fixed this season let alone this month.

    The oil will win some games this season – maybe even some in regulation. But the season likely will be all but over in another five or six games unless some miracle happens.

    And if that indeed happens (not the miracle – the status quo) what level will fan apathy be by Xmas? If management isn’t collectively laying awake at night worrying about that prospect – they shouldn’t be in management.

      • outdoorzguy

        I have been fiddling around with numbers on a spreadsheet – assuming that 96 pts is the playoff line the oil is going to have to play top five level of hockey just to make it into eighth. This team just has too many holes to do that.

      • outdoorzguy

        RELAX!!!….every other 80 game season Oilers are sitting top 3 in the West come November & December only to finish 13 or 15 come march/ April …

        Everyone just needs to RELAX!!!

        I know I know that 2 pts can be the 2 pts we miss playoffs by….our goaltending is seriously awful tho , but hitting the panic button and sending a possible future rocket Richard winner would only be a mistake …unless it gets us Shea Weber, PK Subban, Zack Bogosion, Shattenkurk, Byfuglien type of player in return!!!

  • outdoorzguy

    Great article. Despite the negativity, and obviously the record, this is the best team the oil have iced in years. There are pieces missing, but it is a team that can compete for the playoffs as is. Definitely not the time to panic.

    The article said it right in terms of momentum and mentality – isn’t everyone in oil nation just waiting for the roof to collapse during the games? To me the oil are controlling much of the game but as soon as it slips the puck is in the back of our net.

    As an oil fan who’s been frustrated over the last several years, I’m really impressed by the tenacity of the team, despite the head-winds of tight, undeserved losses, they seem to keep their heads down and remain committed. These are certainly adverse times, but Eakins is doing the right thing and shouldn’t change tragectory imo.

  • outdoorzguy

    Fans are not waiting for the roof to collapse , they are constantly waiting for the team to raise the roof off the floor ! They are waiting for expectations to at least meet managements rhetoric and expectations . New Gm and coach gives little to be optimistic about as results bear out . Our on ice performances is less than adequate to be a playoff team at this stage , and looks very unlikely to change much . There is a huge difference between negativity and reality . We are playing better , but no where near good enough to be a contender for the playoffs with present personnel and stages of development .

    • outdoorzguy

      6 of 8 games have been 1 goal games, the oil have had more shots in 5 of 8 games, they’ve had the lead in 7 of 8 games. To me that’s the roof collapsing.

      I’m not going to defend management – goalie situation exhibit A – but I think they have solid personnel right now.

      The expectations oil nation has that a new coach comes in and the team will turn it right around are unrealistic. Fact is, the core group of young guys have known only losing in the nhl, and I think it was pretty well accepted in the past and written off as them being young so it was ok. The way out is to keep their heads down, keep fighting against the head-winds, and commit to the 1-game-at-a-time mentality until wins start to come. I think they are on this track now.

  • outdoorzguy

    It is so frustrating with all this talk regarding trades. From Crazy rumors (Vanek & Miller) to dumb comments (leafs won’t trade Reimer for Yak) it is unbelievable. This is were we need some leadership from management. I think MacT needs to come out and say publically we are sticking with this team for 25 or so games, no one is being traded until we assess this team. Take the pressure off these players and have them focus on what they do best. He needs to say its up to the players to fix this cause the coach is not going away.