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.
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.
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.
If you want to go be sure to secure your spot. It will sell out fast.
You can purchase your tickets here.