Joe Sakic spoke the other day about the Olympics and how he felt it’s better to play in the games and stay sharp while the majority of the league is resting or vacationing.
For a team like the Oilers, having gone 5-1-1 In their last 7, it would probably be best to just keep rolling, wouldn’t it?
REST OR PLAY?
For players I’ve been around, not participating in the Olympics is usually a welcome and rare opportunity to step away from the game mid-season. An 82 game season is a grind both mentally and physically. You would think any kind of rest would be a great thing but whether it actually helps is up for debate.
I went through 2 Olympic breaks in my career and both were very different. My first was in 2005-2006. I was having the best offensive year of my career and headed into the break with 12 goals. I was perfectly healthy and didn’t really need a weeklong vacation, but it was nice none the less.
A week off to relax and then seven practices before games shouldn’t have changed much. I always felt rusty if given more than one day off during the season (which was very rare) but with 7 skates before the first game back, there really should be no excuse.
I scored just twice in my final 25 games. Why? Who knows, maybe it was just a coincidence but I never found that offensive groove the rest of the year.
The second time was 4 years ago as a member of the Dallas Stars. I couldn’t wait for the break. I’d been battling a herniated disc in my back for most of the year and had a torn hip labrum that needed rest. It was the perfect opportunity to take care of those injuries.
I received a few cortisone injections and took the time to rest and rehab. It didn’t help my game much but the rest and strength training likely allowed me to play a few more months and get through the season.
OILERS AT THE BREAK
Every player is different, and every guy likely will use this time for something different, hopefully benefiting the team to close out the rest of the season.
The goalies are absolutely on fire right now. Perhaps rest will help but I have to believe that as a tender, when you are in the zone and on top of your game, it would be better to keep seeing those beach balls (and not the ones actually on the beach).
How Scrivens and Bryzgalov come back from this will be interesting to watch.
Over the last 10 games, this team seems to be working harder on the defensive side of things. I see forwards working to be in better defensive position in the offensive zone by making sure they have a high guy above the puck. Forwards are tracking pucks back into the defensive zone harder than ever before.
So much of the game now is playing without the puck. You have to let your offensive players be creative but whether you like it or not these days, back checking and defensive positioning to get the puck back is a must on winning teams.
Choosing a Devils goal to show a positive example might not be the best thing, but it’s hard to find clips of back checking because generally, when you do a good job, it doesn’t end up in the back of your net or even result in a scoring chance.
On this play maybe they worked a little too hard and sent three guys to one on the back check, but the effort was there. One thing I’ve heard from Oilers fans many times this year since it’s all gone down the toilet is “I just want to see effort; I want to see guys that care.”
That was a huge mental breakdown and possibly a lack of communication between Smyth and Gazdic, who should have picked up the D-man but it wasn’t for lack of try. Nobody wants to see two guys over commit and many people are probably pulling their hair out, but early in the year I don’t know if we even see three Oilers in that frame. Last night there was three forwards hustling to get back.
One shift later, Taylor Hall has great position in the middle of the ice and tracks a puck back to his blue line, forcing a turnover. They get the puck back and let their skill take over. Yakupov makes a heck of a pass on the 2-on-1 and they answer immediately.
That play doesn’t happen without the effort to play without the puck and be in the right position. These are just a couple plays from last game but you could pull more clips like that over the past month. When you work like that you have a better chance of winning and staying close in games.
This team is not where they are in the last few weeks without exceptional goaltending — we all know that, but commitment to defensive details is slowly improving and maybe, just maybe, the coaches’ message of a two-way game is starting to get through.
The players are probably pumped as they board flights home or for some sunny beach, but with the results of late you have to think the Oilers coaching staff doesn’t care for the timing of this Olympic break.
Be sure to tweet @oilersnation your worst valentines day gift ever given or received and Paris Jewellers may hook you up this February 14th.