The Oilers enter the second quarter of their season tonight vs. the San Jose Sharks. The first quarter had disastrous results, and cost them a playoff spot. The management, coaches and players can’t look at it that way, playoffs being a pipe dream, but a 4-14-2 start has them 15 points out of the playoffs.
The remainder of this season will be about understanding the system, learning to compete, not just working hard, every shift and hopefully the bitter taste and stench of losing will motivate the players to never be in this situation again.
The Oilers must use the next 62 games to build the foundation of continuity and winning. If they want to become winners, they must be committed to the system, their teammates and themselves.
The Oilers are showing signs of improvement in some areas of their game.
Despite going 0-for-5 last game the Oilers PP is 25% in their last eight games. Their PK has killed off 25 of the last 26 powerplays, 96.3%, over their past eight games.
Many will say the Oilers haven’t improved enough because they aren’t winning, and that is valid. However, the Oilers can’t solve all their problems over night. These next 20 games will be a test of their character and inner strength. Do they have willpower and focus to concentrate on the next game and not pout or worry about the previous 20? Have they learned that they need to play smarter, faster, stronger and with move conviction in order to win?
We won’t know until December 29th. That is when they will have played half the season. Can this team stick together, play hard and become competitive? The next quarter of the season will show us a glimpse of whether or not they can execute the system, or if they have the guts to go to the net consistently, or if they have the intestinal fortitude to try and stop opposing teams from going to the net and the internal desire to finally learn how to win.
The 2nd quarter of the season could show us a lot about which players should be here long-term.
If I was Andrew Ference, I would sit the team down and show them some of the great inspirational/motivational speeches from movies. Hockey is a game. You can inject some humour into the game. Try and get the players to relax, inhale and recognize that it isn’t life or death.
For some reason our society thrives on negativity too often. Yes, the first 20 games were f^@#*&()*) embarrassing. But whining and focusing on it every day isn’t going to change that. Learn from it. Challenge them to be better, and maybe have some fun doing it.
Here are some examples. Guys love this stuff. I know watching these clips made me laugh and they got me fired up.
I’d start with something light…
"That’s what were here for guys, to win." I freaking love that line. Makes me laugh every time…
Most sports movies have a dramatic scene that usually leads to the team bonding or that shows an individual realizing they need to work harder. We eat this stuff up. We love it, and that’s why we watch those movies over and over again.
Ference could show them this one. (fast forward to 1:40 to the quicksand speech.)
"You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand." Shane Falco
That could resonate with many Oilers right now. They have had numerous things go wrong…but they can’t let it paralyze them.
Then I’d show them this one. It is fitting since the Sharks are in town. (actual words start at 2:00)
For some laughs I’d follow it up with this one. This kid is great.
Then, I would play the greatest sports speech of all-time. I don’t care what sport you play, whether you are playing beer league, the NHL, NFL or road hockey this scene/speech will get your blood flowing.
Eakins could play this one.
"I can’t make you do it….Either we heal now as a team, or we will die as individuals…Now what are you going to do?"
Tony FREAKING D’Amato (Pacino) would have made a great coach.
I would leave them with this one.
I understand the need to talk systems and strategy, but sometimes you simply need to tap into the emotions of the players, and in this case, with the loyal citizens of Oilersnation.
Sitting Arcobello is perplexing. I don’t get it. He has been solid offensively, defensively and on the PK.
The Sharks are playing their third game in four nights. They defeated the Flames Tuesday and the Canucks last night, both times in OT. Fatigue
The Sharks have three players averaging a point-a-game. Thornton and Pavelski have 20 points in 19 games, while Logan Couture has 19 in 19. Patrick Marleau has 18 points and Tomas Hertl has 17. The Oilers will face Alex Stalock. He has won both of his starts, and he has a dazzling 0.946 SV% and 1.57 GAA.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: On paper this is an easy choice, the Sharks should dominate, however, it is Positive Friday and if Ference showed even one of the aforementioned videos prior to the game the Oilers will win. Chalk one up for D’Amato, Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t scored at home in 182 minutes. They score in the first period, and combined with the first 8 p.m. Friday game that I can remember, the first intermission beer sales are the highest of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ilya Bryzgalov stops 33 shots in his AHL debut in a 4-1 victory. During the 2nd intermission the Oilers show highlights of the OKC victory and a few of Bryzgalov’s saves. After the highlights, they play the clip of Bryzgalov saying he is only afraid of bears in the woods.
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