No matter what your walk of life, consistent failure stains and diminishes everything and everyone it touches over time. Fighting the good fight day after day after day, with failure doubling success, will knock the starch out of the best of us sooner or later.
A fat pay cheque or a reasonable measure of fame, peripheral benefits and entitlements might take the edge off and extend the time you’re willing to tolerate that failure, but if you can get the same money and perks someplace else, why stick around and get your teeth kicked in?
I was thinking about that after the Edmonton Oilers lost 2-1 in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes and I found myself wondering what Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are thinking with 50 games remaining and the Oilers, 7-19-6, about to miss the playoffs for a ninth straight season.
Specifically, how long until Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, the core around which this team is being built and around which hope is being sold to fans more faithful than this once-proud franchise deserves while being run into the ground, check out, decide they’ve had enough?
In parts of five seasons since Hall and Eberle arrived to start the 2010-11 campaign, the Oilers have played 326 games. They’ve won 112, or about one-third, of those games. In the case of Nugent-Hopkins, who arrived to start the 2011-12 season, it has been 87 wins in 244 games.
By the numbers, the yearly record looks like this:
2010-11: 25-42-12 62 pts .378 points percentage.
2011-12: 32-40-10 74 pts .451
2012-13: 19-22-7 45 pts .469
2013-14: 29-44-9 67 pts .409
2014-15: 7-19-6 20 pts .313
FAILURE AND INEPTITUDE
A media horde picked Hall’s brain on exactly the above issue in Arizona Tuesday. Is all the losing getting to him? Is Hall still all-in on what seems like a perpetual rebuild? Here’s some snippets of what Hall, the subject of much trade speculation over the last few days, had to say:
Q: “Are you still fully engaged and in on this project? Are you still ready to ride this thing out?”
HALL: “Absolutely. I’ve said this off-camera to many people: It would be a shame to leave the group now. It wouldn’t feel right. It wouldn’t be a good feeling to leave the group in the stage we’re at. We want to make it to the final stage; we want to be a contending team in this league.”
Hall was then asked about seeing Dallas Eakins dismissed, the latest casualty in what has been an ongoing carousel of coaches since he arrived in Edmonton.
“There has been almost zero success since I’ve been here as an Oiler,” Hall said. “Maybe one coach, you think, ‘OK, maybe the next one is going to be the guy to bring us there.’ But after a while you start looking in the mirror, and wondering how much you’re bringing to the team, and what I need to do to be better. Certainly this year has been an example of that. I haven’t been my best. I’m looking forward to getting my game back.”
You can read the entirety of Hall’s quotes here.
None of any of the above is intended to offer a “Poor babies, they’ve got it so tough with all this losing” crutch. Hall, Eberle and RNH are professionals and are paid handsomely, $6 million a season, to produce results. They make more money in one pay period than most fans make in several years. A bad day at the rink, and there have been many, is still better than a good day at the jobs most fans work at to pay the bills. They are not hard done by.
That said, Hall, Eberle and RNH will make their millions no matter where they play in the NHL. At what point, if at all, do they decide it’s not going to work here? At what point do they decide they’ll have to go someplace else to have a chance to win as they enter the prime of their careers? At the end of the contracts they’re inked to now? Sooner?
At what point – and speculation about this has been growing – might the people calling the shots in hockey-ops decide one or two of the pillars this rebuild was supposed to be built on might have to go? Was captain Andrew Ference referring to any of the Big Three when he spoke out about players sulking around the dressing room as the defeats piled up yet again?
The problem, as I said off the top, is consistent failure over an extended period of time diminishes everyone it touches. How will Hall feel after he completes his fifth season with the Oilers without even the faintest sniff of playoff contention?
Even if GM Craig MacTavish decides it’s time to dip into his core to make a change and address holes in the roster between now and next season, he’ll be dealing at cents on the dollar. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t make a move, but he has to know going in he’s not going to get full value.
Losing. It’s an ugly place to be.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.