A CALM, YET PRECISE OBSERVATION

Andrew Ference has played in three Stanley Cup Finals. He’s never been the best player on the team, or the star, but he’s been a solid contributor and he knows what it takes to win.

I don’t believe the Oilers signed him to be an elite defender, although that would help, but the main reason Craig MacTavish signed him was so that Ference could give the young Oilers players some direction on how to become a winner.

Winning in the NHL isn’t easy, and the Oilers are learning that the hard way again this season, but last night Ference had some very astute comments about winning.

He didn’t yell. He didn’t call anyone out, he didn’t blame anyone, but he just stated, very calmly, his beliefs on what players need to do if they want to win.

Ference was asked about the how the Oilers’ play seemed to sag in the 2nd period. 

There is not a single good team that does that. You have dips in play throughout a season, but they are not big. Guys can go through slumps of not scoring, but you can’t go through slumps of not skating, moving your feet or competing. Those are the most important parts of any good team. 

If you look across the league, any team that has been consistently good for the last few years they all have a consistent compete level, a real desire to defend and get the puck back. 

Those little things aren’t the highlights of the night, but they are the foundation of the game. The good teams have a consistent dedication to those details. 

There were a lot of strides in the right direction towards that throughout the season, and that’s why this game was so disappointing to see such a huge step back in the second period from all those positives that we’ve been hanging our hat on despite the losses. 

You can’t take shifts or periods off in the NHL and expect to win regularly. This year the young players will either decide to be more committed to winning or they won’t win. I think it is that simple.

Ference was then asked if this team knows how to win? 

It’s not some magical recipe to win. When I started in Boston, no one those guys had a lot of playoff experience. It is a team sport where it really depends on an individual’s desire to want to do the little details of the game all the time, not just eight out of ten times. It is everybody doing their part to concentrate on those details. 

Those good teams don’t automatically get to win the next year because they’ve done it before. They continually harp on those tiny, little details that will never get the credit with fans or the highlights, but those details win games. 

Winning teams are full of players that really understand the importance of those small details. It’s not a secret. Our guys have taken steps in the right direction, but you can’t do it for one period and then let it slide in the second period or even shift to shift. 

It can’t be acceptable in the room, but most importantly it can’t be acceptable to the player himself. It is a very philosophical thing. You want to have a room full of guys that aren’t doing those little details because the coach tells them to. They are doing it because they want to, and they know that it helps everybody. 

Everybody can learn. That is the one thing everyone can do, but it takes a lot of commitment. 

Lastly, Ference was asked if one guy can be the leader and teach the others how to win?  

It is not about one guy taking the team by the horns. It has to be everybody. You can’t rely on one person to grab the team and make an unbelievable play. The game isn’t won like that. 

The game is won by a team full of no passengers with every single guy wanting to be that difference maker, to turn the tide. That is the only way to win, it doesn’t work with just one guy leading. 

 WRAP UP….

I understand the frustration in Oilernation. Many men naturally want to solve the problem, it is in our DNA, but I don’t think it is a case of simply changing the coach, or changing they system or changing lines. Sure a tweak to the PK or PP will help, but ultimately if this team is going to improve it will be up to the players to make it happen.

I’ve felt for years the Oilers were too soft. Not because of fighting or size, but because they lose too many battles, or they give the puck up too easily, or they turn it over foolishly. The players need to choose if they want to be more competitive. I truly believe it is that simple.

Ryan Jones was banished to the minors. Since returning, he has played with desperation. He stepped out of his comfort zone to fight Kyle Clifford. He is playing like a player who realizes if he doesn’t play with desperation he isn’t going to be in the NHL anymore.

They need more guys to find that level of desperation. Jones isn’t going to be a major difference maker, but as Ference said, if every individual decides to commit to playing a complete game the team as a whole will benefit. The Oilers need to backcheck smarter. They need to shoot the puck when they are in a good shooting lane. They need to stand up for another. They need to trust each other, but also challenge a teammate to play better.

It is too easy to want to put all the blame on the coach. Eakins isn’t perfect, he too is learning, but it is time the players took some responsibility and realized that if they want to become a winner, they need to have complete dedication from all 20 skaters; every shift, every game.  

REMINDER…

When: Friday November 22nd, be there before 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Pint Off Whyte (81ave and Calgary Trail)
Theme: Bad Christmas Sweater Party….
Why: It is fun and we raise money for the Inner City Children’s Program
Cost: $30 and in return you get free drink at the door, $20 GC from Oodle Noodle and $20 GC from the Pint.

A huge thank you to Russ Dratwa from Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management for being the Title Sponsor this year.

If you want to go be sure to secure your spot. It will sell out fast.

You can purchase your tickets here.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Jason Gregor

    i’m not a fan of all the “after hockey ends” talk but i will say this…

    if i show up to work – for which i get paid – not prepared or ready to go and perform to expectations, my career is in jeopardy. my family, my livelihood, my future.

    accountabilty and responsibilty are not words to be taken lightly. they must matter.

  • oilerjed

    Despite Kevin Lowe’s “knowing a thing or two about winning”… and since there are “two types of fans” this team is far worse than it was last year even after all of MacT’s “BOLD” moves.
    BOLDEST move: Relieve Lowe NOW!!!
    I for one will boycott this gem of a team being ran right down to the ground.
    NEXT HOME GAME DO NOT GO TO REXALL PLACE!!!!

  • oilerjed

    Why is there talk of the young oilers at the bar?? Did someone get punched out or thrown in jail? Otherwise who gives a $h!t! Because they lost they should go home and sulk? Let them blow off some steam, they are young and only are once. There is nothing they could have done last night after the game that would make them a better team. Who knows maybe a good bar brawl would bring the team together. Otherwise a good bag skate will clear out the hangover and they can sip smoothies while they go over game film. Life goes on.

  • Jason Gregor

    Jason, the bottom line is quite clear. The best players on the ice during any game the Oilers have played this year and last year have always been on the other team. The Oilers might have more talent on paper, but you don’t play the game on paper. All these 1st round picks have not turned out be a great team and there is a reasonable chance that they never will.
    As for the motivation of the players, well I thought Eakins would give ice to those who earn it? Has Justin Schultz earned his time? His defensive play is awful and getting worse. Should he not take a seat in the press box? If Yak had that message given to him, why is Justin exempt?

  • This is what all players say when they have a mic shoved in their face……..we need to compete more, we need to keep the pressure on, we need to play for a full sixty minutes…..blah, blah, blah!!

    What about the coach Gregor???. When is he going to get called out for his retarded line combinations, match-ups, overplaying the top two lines, bad changes, ineffective PP, ineffective PK, benching the wrong players, and general mismanagement of the talent that he has been given?

    We changed 8 players ( and evidently got upgrades in all these positions) but our results have gone in the opposite direction.

    It’s time to ask Eakins about his systems and how they translate to the NHL. I FOR ONE AM NOT BUYING THE BS, that the players need to work harder in order to win. The system that Eakins has employed has created chaos and our players are wearing this every game while he get’s off scott free!

    • Zarny

      Relax. It isn’t the coaching.

      WSH struggled under Oates to start last season including Ovechkin.

      Ference is 100% correct the Oilers need to learn to compete for 60 min. They take periods off and get scored on 3 times in the 2nd period.

      The coach doesn’t lace up the skates. Nuge, Hall, Yak, Schultz, Hemsky are -9 or -10. That isn’t coaching. That’s standing around watching the other team skate.

      Oh and we did not get upgrades in all 8 players changed. That’s kool-aid. Ference and Perron are upgrades and that’s it.

        • ubermiguel

          I think once Belov gets to know the North American game, he can be a legitimate top 4 Dman. He’s got size, grit, and skating ability. I like Belov he just needs to learn how to play in the NHL.
          People that rip on him don’t realize that he is a rookie to the NHL level.

        • Zarny

          Yeah marginally better so far. Fair enough. And he should get better. He’s only played 14 NHL games.

          It’s probably fair to say the same thing about Acton, Arcobello, Joensuu etc. They’re newbs in the NHL and it takes time to adjust on top of learning a new system. At least the nerves have probably worn off…hopefully. By the end of the season they could look much different.

          That’s one of the reasons a slow start was expected. The young kids are backed up by a bunch of guys who still say “cool” a lot in warm-up.

  • Oiler63

    Well, they finally have a few days in Edmonton to work on some things, although I’d give the players a day just to relax. PK really needs some work. Most of the forwards are new to the PK so these days are important.

    1-2-2 trap if it means a few wins. It surprised me to see Chicago implement that. I think they only use it for back-to-back games, although I haven’t seen enough of them to know for sure. But they do use it and the Chicago players have bought into it.

    The Oilers need to buy into doing what it takes to win games. And you’re not going to win if your last in goals against. Commit to defense, the offense will follow.

  • Jason, how do you correct the problem?

    This year the young players will either decide to be more committed to winning or they won’t win. I think it is that simple.

    Are you saying the players are not commited, the results so far seem to indicate that, then that is a management problem.

    you said its time the players take responsibility ”
    It is too easy to want to put all the blame on the coach. Eakins isn’t perfect, he too is learning, but it is time the players took some responsibility and realized that if they want to become a winner, they need to have complete dedication from all 20 skaters; every shift, every game.”
    Why haven’t they taken responsibilty at the beginninf of the season? Everything said here about this team losing is the responsibility of management. Somebody has to be fired for this.

    • Jason Gregor

      It comes from within. Players decide to work harder every shift.

      Like Ference said there is no magical potion that will make them win. Hard work, commitment and being dedicated to not take short cuts on the ice. The players need to find it internally first, then as a team.

      Firing someone is easy solution, but it won’t make the players look internally and decide to play harder. That to me is the biggest issue.

      • I would sure like to see Ference play with more grit, he should have went after Clifford and has had other chances to make a response and still did not, this is very surprising to me, it is almost like you overpaid softies can look after yourself.

        • How true is this comment. Andre Ference failed miserably as a “leader” in his first test. His star centre laying on the ice and Ference did nothing. Not even a glove in the face. Absolutely inexcuseable. He should have been benched after that display. That is one of those situation where if he takes a major and they play shorthanded for 5 minutes it must be done. He is like Eakins, talks a good game and that is about it.

      • R U Kidding Me!

        If that is the biggest issue Jason then what are your thoughts on KLowe?

        How do you feel about the job he’s done and do you think he should still have a job?

      • Oiler63

        This is exactly what I’m talking about……..it’s always the players fault and all they have to do is play harder and that will change everything.

        These players have tuned out Mr. Fitness……..they were fine with Mr. Motivational Speaker but he was fired because management thought Mr. Fitness would be better.

        I say if we still had Krueger here……..we would be fine right now. No one seems to understand Mr. Fitness and his systems. He has been tuned out like a bad radio.

        • Mr. Motivational speaker told Mr. General Manager that as a coach he had no idea what he was doing, couldn’t figure out how to match lines, and said another associate coach had to be hired to help him.

          That’s why he was fired.

          • Doomoil

            Oh please. We all know that Krueger was about this idiotic organization keeping guys around because they played with Gretzky.

            Had Eakins hired his own assistants, maybe we could have thought different, but he didn’t. Krueger wanted his own guys in, and was at least partly the reason he was let go.

            I wish Krueger were an assistant this year. He knows how to run special teams and took Renney’s dump/cycle shackles off our skill forwards that are now firmly back on.

          • pkam

            Are you serious? Krueger wanted his own guys in?

            Krueger wanted to add an associate coach and he let MacT to find one for him, which lead to his firing because in the process of searching for an associate coach MacT found a guy whom he liked more than Krueger.

            If Krueger had chosen to do it himself, he probably wouldn’t have lost his job.

        • Can’t keep blaming the coach every season. Players eventually have to be held accountable for their play on the ice. I was never against Kreuger continuing being the coach, but the team finished 10 points out of the playoffs last year (which would be about 16-20 points in a full season), so it isn’t like he was working miracles.

          This team just needs a lot more compete in their game. When they get scored on, it has to be because the other team actually had to work for it. There are way too many gifts with either soft goals, no effort on the backcheck, getting beat too easily one-on-one, or just ignoring assignments in the defensive zone. Too many easy goals because this team doesn’t fight hard enough to prevent them.

        • YFC Prez

          They had a better PK and PP with Krueger…that’s it. Defensively they were horrible. Backchecking and puck management and defensive awareness were all words thrown around after every game just like this season.

          It’s not the coach…It’s the players.

        • pkam

          Are you hiding in the locker room?

          I have heard that the team has tuned out Kureger when they lost 6 in a row and the playoff race. Do you believe in that BS? If you don’t believe players tune out their coach after 30+ games, why do you think players tune out their coach after 14 games?

          The ones who tune out Kureger or Eakins are the fans.

        • YFC Prez

          Krueger had his shot…players didn’t find their “inner compete”, Renney couldn’t either and so far neither has Eakins.

          These oilers have been stubborn for years about defensive responsibilities and smart puck management, they just don’t give a crap when the puck isn’t on their stick. They have become as close to being un-coachable as any group of players ever assembled on a professional hockey team. The golden boys Hall, Ebbs, Schultz, and Yak are the most guilty of this…and that’s very SCARY. (RNH gets a pass here, not because of this season but IMO he had shown the desire and ability to play well without the puck in past seasons).

          Maybe it’s because they are a team filled with kids being led by other kids. One or two solid veterans during the rebuild sticking around would have been a good idea. A little help for Horc, he was the only consistent defensively responsible forward these players had to learn from.

          I have no doubt all of our great young players will learn what it takes to win. I just don’t know if it will happen with them all together on the same team. Here’s hoping Eakins finds some magic formula for coaching this club, but it is a distant hope.

  • Oiler63

    He’s talking about guys taking shift off, not skating, competing, stuff like that. Isn’t that indicating Eakin’s whole accountability thing is a joke?

  • 24% body fat

    Draft Ekbland,

    Trade Smid, Hemsky, Marancin for useful third and fourth line players. (players like jones but not jones, who can actually play hockey)

    Dump the players that cant play hockey, (the eagers and jones)

    Next years D: Petry, Schultz, Ference, Nurse, Eblad, Klefbom, Belov.

    Yes they are young but still likely better than the gong show we have had to put up with.

    I still think our top 6 forwards are fine if deployed PROPERLY (wink wink Eakins) at home and on the PP.

    Gordon, and arcobello surrounded by actual hockey players with some defensive awareness would be great.

    If we suck again we get McDavid. Than that is the end of it. If we continue to lose, tell Katz to get out of here, stop the arena, and move out of town. At least than Edmonton would have some pride.

    IF you really want to change the team Gagner, Eberle, Hemsky and Smid all need to go.

    • Oiler63

      “IF you really want to change the team Gagner, Eberle, Hemsky and Smid all need to go.”

      Gags, Ebs and Smid are 3 of the only players that compete every night and actually look like they play for their team.

      One thing I hate is that the Oilers young kids had the guts to go out to the bar after the 4-0 loss. They should try acting like they care.

      • 24% body fat

        Hey I like all three guys. But how else do you change up the team and get other assets.

        In Smids case – especially if we draft ekblad, he is the one who will get moved. He costs more than petry, can fetch you something at the deadline and has been around losing to much

        In Gagners case – its one of the two small centers that has to go and not because it has to be gagner but because it wont be nuge. Yes he is a warrior, but 5 coaches in 7 years and he has only known losing in the NHL. Dont want to get rid of him but he needs a fresh start and is young enough for one. Will fetch a good return.

        In Hamksys Case – No one can play with this guy. HE can create on his own but no one else knows what the heck he is doing. Good on the third line so he can create offense and carry the puck, while the other two hold off the best comp. But 5M for a third line guy. Can bring back a pick or some much needed defensive third line guy at the deadline.

        In Eberles Case – Cap hit is too high and so are expectations. The country is in love with him and he is currently over valued by the hockey community. Believe me he wont be in a few years. Now is the time to optimize it and make a trade.

        You cant change the culture and atmosphere if you trade the eagers or the browns. The core needs to be changed.

        I love all these players but it has not worked the last 4 years. Why should it change now. And no, Eberle and Gagner are not just kids anymore. They are young men. The can get better but they are near what they will be and waiting a few more years to get another 10 percent out of them may lead to disaster.

      • 24% body fat

        players who try like ryan jones but can actually play hockey and have skill. He is a character guy and tries hard, but unfortunately is just not an NHL player on a good nhl team.

  • 24% body fat

    Now that we know what the problem is if only the following would happen we would be great.

    eberle and yakupov could back check,

    gagner could move his feet in his own zone,

    hemsky would stop skating in circles,

    schultz would think a little more before everything he does,

    smid would stop laying on the ice,

    grebeshkov would stop giving the puck away in the oilers zone,

    dubnyk would stop letting in a soft one every now and than

    petry would start playing consistently, instead of good than brutal than good than brutal

    ference can play on the level we saw him play in boston

    and if our fourth line could skate,

    we would be great.

    • UnderOil

      Yes, Smid, get off the ice…pay no attention to the fact you are tied for 13th in the league for blocked shots. Trust me Smid, our keepers can handle way more pucks coming to the net….

      I’m as angry as probably 98% of all Oiler wagon riders…but we need to maintain perspective.

      • 24% body fat

        I have had season ticket for years no. I like smid and he battles and blocks shots, but he has been caught numerous times laying on the ice next to the net to stop passes going through instead of using his stick. Now we are down a defenseman. Two wingers and a center against one of our crappy dman and our centers (other than Gordon) is a recipe for goals against.

        If smids shot blocking is working so good than why even when we get good goaltending why do we still lose.

        Lay on the ice all you want to block point shots with a direct angle, but to block passes not from 2 on 1s or from the boards is not a productive use of your body or time. How much did Nick Lidstom lay on the ice. Apples to oranges I know. But one of the best defenseman offensively and defensively to play the game was on his feet using his stick, positioning and puck control to keep the play out of detroits end and heading towards the opposition.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Ference is bang on. In terms of Jones, it shows that his desperation led to him going hard to the net and potting a few goals.

    Small things include GOING HARD TO THE NET. Jones scored on hard plays. Simple, but hard.

    It may surprise some people, but Ryan Smyth has more goals than:
    – Joe Thornton
    – Martin St. Louis
    – Shane Doan
    – Daniel Sedin
    – Danny Briere

    But nobody thinks of Smytty as a “skilled” player. He is skilled; he is skilled at getting the greasy goals that nobody else will get. Besides Jones’ goals, I haven’t seen a single Oiler this year score classic 1998 Smytty goals off the face, butt, or teeth.