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Photo Credit: © Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Ference talks Oilers on the 31 Thoughts podcast

Former Oilers captain, Andrew Ference, appeared on the latest episode of the 31 Thoughts podcast and spent a little bit of time talking about his time in Edmonton. As you can expect based on how bad the team was while he was here, some of what he said wasn’t overly complimentary but it was still interesting to listen to his perspective on what went wrong in his tenure with the team. Let’s break it down.

WHAT HAPPENED IN EDMONTON

I’m sure anyone reading this can remember how bad things were during Ference’s tenure in Edmonton and when asked about what went wrong, he pointed to the environment as a major cause of the problem.

I think there’s a combination of elements that go into it. I think that, like I said, that aspect of feeling more scared to make a mistake and be the whipping boy rather than being bold and taking your chances and having that confidence to try the play. I think some guys might get into that role of just being scared to be the whipping boy. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Ah, yes, we love a whipping boy in Edmonton, don’t we? Why is that? I don’t know, but it’s definitely something that we should look at. Anyway, please continue.

Your urge to win and be bold is less than your urge to not be the whipping boy or stand out, right. So I think that is one aspect. I think that the quickness that radio or newspaper or fans jump and attack their own guys is horrible. I think that the quickness to defend players within the organization… I remember Jeff Petry or Schultz getting raked over the coals and nobody coming to defend them, and then just trading them when their value – after they’ve beaten them down for months – then trading them. It’s like, ‘God.’

Man, trading guys at their worst value level is a real problem that hasn’t seemed to get any better since you left and it’s a real issue. And yeah, I definitely remember how salty people were with Justin Schultz but they were also sold lines of goods by the GM that inflated expectations well beyond what the media or fans did. Remember the Norris potential interview? I do. I also think it’s important to remember how the vibe changed around here in 2016-17 when the boys finally made it back to the playoffs. I don’t remember a whole lot of negativity going around then, was there? Andrew, I think you’d know just as well as anyone that winning erases all of that negative chatter, but when your favourite team has missed the playoffs for 10 straight years then I think it’s more than fair for the fans that continue buying tickets and merch to be pissed off.

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We lost a lot of games and got scored on a ton but there is a narrative where it’s just easy to write about something and stick to it whether it’s a player or a concept or whatever it is. You stick to it and it’s fun to write negative things on it and I’m sure that people that call into the show have lots to talk about. It makes it easy. It’s an easy way to talk about a crappy situation.

Again, I agree that the coverage of the team has been harsh at times, I’m as guilty as anyone of doing that, but I also wonder what we’re supposed to do in those times? Are we supposed to let you piss in our ear and tell us it’s raining? I don’t know, man. That’s a tough one. Eventually, it’s hard to put lipstick on a pig and convince people we’re looking at Miranda Kerr.

THE PROBLEM

As any Oilers fan knows, there have been a lot of years where the team has been so bad that it’s tough to even wrap your head around it. When asked about the issues in Edmonton during his time here, he started pointing fingers at guys that were allegedly more interested in partying than playing.

I think the most frustrating part for me as a player, like I said, when I went in there straight from Boston where talk is cheap. Dallas Eakins is a fantastic coach that there’s another whipping boy that got dragged over the coals. He was a fantastic coach that was dealt just a pure crap hand in a team that would actually listen. You had a group of players that talked about how they wanted to make the playoffs and talked about how sick they were of losing; and then by game three, after losing 6-1, they’re straight out to the bar until 3 in the morning lighting up the nightlife scene in Edmonton. Like, come on – give me a break. It was to the point where it was ridiculous.

Yeah, but have you been clubbing in Edmonton? Straight fire, bro. Straight fire.

The lifestyle was way more important than playing the game and making the playoffs. But like I said, talk is cheap.

To me, this is a problem of handing over the franchise to a bunch of kids that weren’t ready for it, which points to management not having a proper plan in place. Yes, the guys you’re hinting at should have been more professional in their approach to being in the NHL but it was also up to the organization to have the pieces in place to show them how to do that, no? Where were the skilled vets? Where were the life coaches to teach 18 year olds how to handle what was happening to them?

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Even in practice, you came from a group where you’re practicing against guys like Bergeron or Chara and you’re going at each other with in-game intensity. And that’s how you get better. That’s how you be a playoff contender. That’s how you be a champion. And you try to instill some of those values. We had other guys that had been on playoff teams, and they had the same frustrations. They’d come and practice hard and there’s a group of guys there that had ‘Too cool to try hard.’ They had derogatory terms for trying too hard in practice. That’s the culture, right.

I have a question, though. If you’re the captain and Dallas Eakins was such a great coach then why didn’t you guys step up and do something? I’m not talking about saying something, but actually doing something about it. I mean, if the boys aren’t practicing hard and making fun of those that do then what’s to stop the coach from benching them for a game or so? That’s a thing that happens sometimes, ya know? The coach is their boss after all. And I also know you said that the younger guys didn’t respect the role players as much so then why didn’t you, as the team’s captain, grab someone and shake em up a little bit? Where’s the intervention? I saw two Blues players fighting at practice today and maybe that’s what some of these youngsters needed.

You could’ve had any kind of defence or any kind of system but if you go out on a western swing and your guys are out every single night until five in the morning, you’re not going to win too many games.

Well, I can’t argue with that but I still think that those late nights should have been stopped before they turned into being acceptable. I mean, how many times did it happen and why wasn’t anyone healthy scratched because of it? To put it another way, if I let my dog Frank continuously piss in the house without teaching him to go outside then he’s going to keep doing it.

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THE CULTURE

One thing we love to talk about in Edmonton is the culture of the hockey team and Ference dove into those waters head first.

I think over the years there have been attempts to disrupt the culture whether it was Eakins or me or Pronger — whoever it was — different people came in to disrupt.

Wait… you’re not going to start this off by comparing yourself to Pronger, are you? Sorry, that was rude of me. Go on.

But I know personally, it was really hard for me. You come in as an older guy, but far from being one of the better players on the team. So you can be a leader with experience, but I’m not a game changer. I’m like a number four or five defenceman. So your voice only goes so far with people that only respect how good your toe drag is and whether or not you’re out partying. So your voice doesn’t carry much weight with people that don’t put value on those aspects that I was bringing from Boston, or that Dallas was trying to instill in the team.

Again, you don’t seem to be accepting any responsibility for what happened and it seems more like you and Dallas were buddies more so than two guys with a player/coach relationship. There has to be more accountability than that. Earlier on, you talked about guys thinking it was dumb to practice hard and how they even had names for the nerds that did, but I highly doubt we’ll hear anything like that with Ken Hitchcock around. You think Hitch will let guys mail it in at practice without holding them accountable? No chance.

It wasn’t only frustrating but it pissed me off because it was a waste of years of your NHL career. You never get those back and you see a coach like Dallas get treated really unfairly. Was he perfect, no? He’d be the first to admit that he’d do some of those things differently but taking the blame for (everything)? What are you supposed to do with a culture like that?

Listen, I’m not going to doubt that there were problems in the room if you say there were but I also have questions. If Dallas Eakins was treated so unfairly in Edmonton then why hasn’t he been given another head coaching job in the NHL? Are the other 30 teams also unfair? I’m just asking.

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ON LUCIC

Around these parts, Milan Lucic has been the topic of conversation for the better part of two seasons now and, being someone that knows him, Ference was asked about what he’s going through right now.

Well, he’s got as much pride as anybody. He absolutely loves being in the NHL. He loves playing an important role on a team. I see the same frustrations that I had too going to Edmonton about certain aspects of going there, especially coming from… when you’ve seen a dialled-in culture and team and how it’s operating and you go to something different, it can be extremely frustrating.

Yes, Andrew, but like you, Milan was brought in to help bring a winning mentality to a group that desperately needed it. When he signed, Looch talked about bringing some swagger back to the City of Champions and we all ate it up. Last season, there was no such thing as swagger. For me personally, I would be completely fine with the decline in his goal scoring so long as he’s out there destroying worlds and making the opposition poo themselves like he did last night against Calgary.

Being from Edmonton, and I grew up in Sherwood Park, I’ve seen it a million times. There’s always a sacrificial lamb on the team that just gets roasted by the radio guys and newspaper guys and then the fans just continue that on. I think he’s obviously taken that a bit, and you’ve always got the target on your back with the big contract. And he’d be the first to admit that he should be getting more points and scoring more goals. You get all of that. But it’s tough. It’s really tough to play there and to be the centre of so much negativity. I don’t care who you are. Negativity gets to you, and it usually doesn’t help you at all.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been harsh on Lucic over these past two seasons, mostly last year now that I’m thinking about it, but I don’t think things are all that bad for him with the media or fans right now. I was at the game last night and heard the crowd chanting his name after he got into that scrap with Peluso and after every big hit he threw. If you don’t get it, fans in Edmonton will get behind you if you’re playing like you care and that’s the difference from this season over last. This season, Lucic is going out and banging and crashing and doing the things he’s still able to do that help the team win even though he’s not scoring and that’s what needs to happen. That’s all we want. We want to watch a winning hockey team so do what you can to help them get there. In Lucic’s case, he’s doing that right now.

So it’s tough for him. I think it’s tough for any player transitioning from a really super-important role on a team to a secondary role on the ice. I think he’s still incredibly important in the room, and I think that’s probably – whenever I’ve talked to him – it’s goals and assists and sometimes your play can dip and change and sometimes it’s luck and sometimes you’re just kind of not playing so good. But you can always do the stuff in the room and create that culture and lead off the ice. You always have pretty much full control of that. That shouldn’t dip and ebb and fall off the map.

And this, right here, is exactly what I’m talking about. Even without the goal scoring, Lucic still can go out and create space for his teammates and patrol the ice like some kind of war machine. When he does that, everyone will have his back. It’s playing like you don’t care that Oilers fans have a problem with, and I don’t see that at all with Lucic this year.

It’s just that when you’ve had really successful seasons like he has (it can be hard). I don’t know what his top-line numbers are in his best years, but you’re not hitting those same numbers that you used to hit. You’re not getting the same playing time. You’re not scoring as many goals. Does that mean that you’re horrible? No. I guess people will automatically look at your contract and have expectations where you should be, and so they should, but I think it’s just some people might adjust their own personal expectations a little quicker than others, and just accept the fact that ‘I’m not going to be that 40-goal guy, 22-minute a night guy, so what can I do.

Getting older is a mother trucker, ya know? Unfortunately, sports can be a cruel business. Regardless of his cap hit, the bright side is that Milan Lucic is playing in a way that is helping his team win right now and that’s all anyone in Edmonton really cares about at this point. Play as hard as you can to help your team win hockey games and the noise goes away. Lucic is doing that right now with his new linemates and you’d be hardpressed to find too many people that have a problem with it. Yes, I’ve complained about the cap hit too but nothing is going to change it at this juncture so the best we can do is play the cards we have.

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THE WRAP…

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My first reaction to this interview is that nothing Ference said was all that surprising to me. I mean, the guy was here during the Eakins era and we all know how bad the Oilers were at that time, so I wasn’t exactly expecting him to throw out a ringing endorsement. That said, Ference definitely threw some heat at some of his former teammates and the way this organization was run at the time. Without naming names, Ference dropped all kinds of hints about who he thought was the issue in his time here *cough* toe drag *cough* and I always think it’s interesting to get a look behind the curtain and see what’s going on. Even so, I do think it’s a little bit weird to be firing poisonous arrows at your former team years after you leave without taking even an ounce of responsibility for anything that happened.

The reality is that playing in Edmonton is no harder than it is in any other Canadian market, but the very obvious difference is that this team has lost more than any of them. That’s why it bothers me when former players take shots at the media or fans for being negative when all they want is a winning hockey team to watch instead of one that gets dummied on the regular. Do you really think it’s fun to write about bad games and complain about how things are going for 10 years of my life? It’s not. If anything, Oilers fans deserve all kinds of credit for sticking with an organization that gave them nothing to cheer about outside of the draft lottery. Rather than looking at how the team is covered, maybe we should look a little harder at how it was put together in the first place because if you think Habs fans or Leafs fans would quietly watch 10 years of brutal hockey without complaining then you’ve lost your mind. Then again, what the hell do I know?

What do you guys think? Do you care?


  • Loil fan

    Maybe this is why you can only get a #3 defenseman for an all star left winger. I’m sure players reputations are known by managers (i.e., who Ference was referencing) in the league when the trades are made. I actually believe a lot about what Ference said was true.

  • Mangiant

    This article is a piece of garbage, and clearly demonstrates both the problem Ference is referring to, and a lack of awareness of what ‘being on a team’ really means.

    Poor work ethic like Hall isn’t just a choice – it’s who he is. The only reason he’s now ‘got it’ in NJ is that he’s now the one under pressure from the rest of the team. In general, people are scared of being called out, especially in a group where you’re the minority. Ever been bullied? If you have, you know this well. Maybe us bullied folks should have just stood up for ourselves and it’d all go away? Gimme a break.

    You constantly call out oilers mgmt baggedmilk – what sort of consequences do you propose would have turned Hall around here? Bench him unless he shows up ready? I can’t even imagine the nuclear levels of backlash people like you would have heaped onto everyone involved or even close to that decision. Heck, you’re still defending the prick. You and most of the media not only refused to believe anything negative about Hall that was said by the hundreds of people with first-hand knowledge of his behavior, but also downplay and fail to grasp the importance of having good team/locker room dynamics. Now you’ve changed your story because you’re forced to, but still blame everyone else. Guess what? Ference just called you out, maybe you should look in the mirror long and hard before you post this stuff.

    • dawgbone98

      I’d just like to point out that even with Hall “not getting it” and having a poor work ethic, the Oilers were a damn good team with him on the ice and a complete garbage fire when he wasn’t.

      So is that on him? Personally, I don’t care if he went out every night and didn’t come home until the sun rose… on the ice he did damn near everything he could to drag a terrible team along. If Ference can’t separate the stuff away from the rink from the stuff on the ice, he’s as dumb as a lot of the Oiler fans who put the blame on Hall.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        Hall wasn’t to blame, but he didn’t help. It’s a team sport, and you have to work as a team. If you don’t practice right, if you don’t set a good example for new players, if you don’t respect leadership or coaches, you effect the on ice product. Otherwise just scrap practice and see what happens, send everyone out partying. Or, maybe the guy getting paid millions of dollars to do his job not just 3 hours a night 4 nights a week should be a bit more professional. Especially when the team is constantly losing. Here’s some fun stats, in halls best year as an Oiler he was a -15. Take that as you will. But get this, he had 1 game winning goal. 1. 27 goals, 1 game winner. There is a difference between putting up points and competing. I’m doing your job for the team and the fans. Just get your head around that stat. 1 game winning goal

    • Gravis82

      Do you have any idea how bad this team would have been without Hall those years? And we were bad already. Why do we care about players personality and apparent work ethic etc etc. Produce on the ice, that what I want to see. Oh, so you are mean to other adults? Thats life.

      • Dr

        Did you just suggest we shouldn’t care about apparent work ethic? If the core of the team is making fun of their teammates for working hard in practice, that’s a huge issue. Practice is where good habits are formed and perpetuated.
        Being mean to other people may be your life, but it’s not everyone’s. Treating people, and teammates, with respect is a sign of a good, strong, character, not an immature bully.
        How can they play as a team when they make derogatory comments because someone is working hard? That boggles the mind.

        • fasteddy

          Taylor Hall is a fantastic a hockey player, but the first sign about his character for me was when he took Lowe’s #…..whether Lowe was public enemy number one or not at that point I just thought was classless move, especially given the guy was the GM or whichever title he had at that time.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        Ever played a team sport? It matters. Again, you’re payed for more that 3 hours a night of effort. Other stuff matters too. Without Hall? They would have had Seguin so who knows

  • Friesenhan

    Considering this guy was the captain, and was close with the coach, it’s speaks a lot to how little of a leader he and Eakins were. He does make valid points, though:
    1. Those kids were out of control, and the management, coaching, and captaincy were all to blame. It was said once by a good source (someone in the locker room) that the team was given to a certain couple of players all wrapped in a bow, and they felt they didn’t need to listen to anyone because of it.
    2. Oiler fans have been paying for a losing team for years, true. They have the right to complain, for sure. But they don’t just get to crap on their team all day every day and then act all surprised when no one likes playing under that scrutiny. Actions have consequences, Edmonton. Complain away, but don’t get all upset when we can’t build a championship team because no one wants to be subject to it. Read the McDavid interview with GQ again, and start thinking about what will happening if you keep spitting venom on your team. Not saying we don’t have the right, just saying there are consequences.

    • FlamesFan27

      Very well put. Even as a Flames fan, it was good to hear the “looooch” cheers at the game last night. Only a few weeks ago, every Oilers fan wanted to run him out of town, like they have with so many others. Hitchcock has really changed the expectations, and put players where they will succeed. Yes, the Lucic contract is a (big) overpay, but he does care and he works hard. His line completely shut down one of the best lines in the league last night, and there is value in that.

    • GinYYC

      Well said.

      I’m a die hard Oiler fan living in Calgary (not from Calgary originally obviously). It’s such a different media and fan outlook for the Flames. Overly optimistic and everyone loves all the players, not just now, but even during bad times like their classic collapse last year. It’s pretty rare for the media and fans to turn on somebody (Brower is about the only one I can recall). If Bennett was an Oiler he’d have been run out of town by now, in Calgary he gets credit for being feisty despite being completely unproductive. In Edmonton, despite good production, Draisaitl gets complained about because he looks lazy, or doesn’t smile enough, or got handed too big of a contract.

  • Just facts

    Maybe Ference wasn’t the best leader and I’m pretty sure that by any measure Eakins wasn’t a good coach but that doesn’t mean Ference wasn’t bang on in his comments. Hall and Schultz didn’t improve until after they left, and for Hall it took an extra year and he admitted that he didn’t listen to coaches. Hall was given a chance with a new coach and couldn’t adjust. While its fine in retrospect to say the return should have been better, the fact is that is what he was worth at the time, which is reinforced by how he was viewed by those making selections for the Olympic and World cup teams. I’ve seen many times in organizations that removing someone who is very talented but who is bringing the group around them down creates far more value that hanging on to the talent at the expense of the team. Chia’s made many moves that can be questioned but there can be no doubt that some had to be moved out if the culture was going to improve. Ference’s comments help bring some inside insight to that need.

    • Chopwoodcarrywater

      Some people in the comment section took Ference’s comments, believing that he didn’t wanna take responsibility, yadah yadah yadah, he’s blaming a bunch of kids, etc. Ference is stating what he saw from the perspective of the team Captain of that time. He’s saying his honest thoughts. The truth can hurt sometimes.

  • OilersBro

    Ference didn’t take onus of his failures as a leader but with the culture that bred before, during, and after he left, something needed to change.
    Not to beat a dead horse but when he’s talking about partying all night, one of the guys he’s referencing is Hall.
    On the otherhand, the team was surveyed this summer and asked who the best “locker room guy” is. The majority answered Adam Larsson. We have to remember that trades like that were not about trading down skill, or becoming more defensively minded, they were about changing the scene in the locker room.
    Do I blame Hall for what happened? Not entirely. He was given the keys to the city at 18 years of age and never got the mentorship he deserved. If anything I envy him as I watch Matthews work with Marleau and Tavares. Since his trade to NJ he seems to have woken up and refocused much better.
    The only thing we can do is learn from these mistakes – which I think we have to some extent. It also helps having a no BS 22 year old captain.

    • I agree 100%.
      1.Taylor Hall wouldn’t be who he is today without that trade. The guy needed a slap in the face and he got exactly that. Im happy that he finally grew up and got a fresh start

      2.You look at McDavid today and Hall back then, no way in hell do they co-exist together. You’re absolutely correct that McDavid is a no-BS type captain, you don’t hear as much “out of the rink noise” today as you do before.

      3.The fact that last season completely collapsed and crashed into the ground when Larsson’s dad died just shows the type of character he is and how loved he is in the locker room. He’s earned the “A” for 2 straight seasons ahead of guys like Draisaitl,

      I have no regrets about the trade happening, we should’ve gotten more assets but it needed to happen for both parties. I don’t wanna defend Chiarelli but all 30 other GMs would’ve done the same when you’re gifted a generational player, burn the stench and all the built up dirt and mold and give the franchise a new start, Chiarelli’s problem was how he did it(giving those guys for nothing and overspending).

    • Ol_OneNut

      He was whining about it for months afterwards, without realizing it was the best thing that coulda happened to him and his career.
      Even though I didn’t think he had an MVP worthy season last year, he’s got his head on straight and I’m glad he’s finally figured it out in Jersey

    • BringitbacklikeSlats

      You make some good points about chemistry that never gets talked about by the BM’s of the world. He seems overly defensive about his golden boys Hall and Ebs… even though everyone in town heard the rumours about what DB’s those kids were. Where’s the criticism levelled at them and the 3 morons in charge at the time that assembled the cast in the first place.
      Clueless and doesn’t know a thing about winning as a Manager, 1,2,&3.

      Never mind that these so called “hockey” writers never differentiate playoff hockey from the less physical tame regular season version. Playoff hockey separates the men from the boys. Looking at you Eberle you lazy and soft as a buttered muffin wimp. 13 points so far this season! No thanks. So glad they traded that rotten cancerous little puke.

      • No, I’m overly defensive about losing trades on skilled players that haven’t been replaced. And clearly you haven’t been paying attention because I take more shots at management than probably anyone on this site.

        • BustedSoulO

          Really BM?
          I listened to the interview. Did you?
          Cuz you sound pretty salty talking about an otherwise respected person.
          He said nothing today, that wasn’t assumed at the time.
          You writing this snarky article just adds to the reason that we only ever hear “talking-logo-hats” in interviews.
          He was honest about his actual experiences while he was here, and you p i s s in his ear for it?
          Very poor choice of tone in this article!
          If you aren’t ashamed by it, then you have more in common with those of whom he spoke of, than of Ference himself!
          Geezzuz H, man. – Be better FFS!

        • BringitbacklikeSlats

          “Soft” skilled players you mean that lit it up at 17 against boys?

          Wow yeah we really miss those 13 points and his lead by example lazy backcheck, drinking till 5am poor excuse for a teammate.what a great example for the young phenom Connor to learn from.

          I still remember McDavid yelling at him as a rookie on a lazy backcheck mid season… Eberle wouldn’t look at anybody.Just down his clash eye at his “skilled” skates.

        • Hakuna Mcdavid

          And yet, you spent this whole article deflecting from management and undermining a former captain and coach who, before coming to Edmonton, had both been very successful in what they did. I’m glad you’re critical of management, but you weren’t here. Own it

          • Hakuna Mcdavid

            I mean, sure. Depends how you define leader. Does everyone have to listen and follow for you to be a leader? There have been lots of leaders in my life I didn’t agree with, but in spite of me they were still leaders ya? I don’t know if he was good or not, but I do know hall and those guys proved over and over they were bad follower. Hall has publicly stated since leaving he wouldn’t listen to anyone, how is this even still a train of thought. Haven’t you ever lead somebody who just refused to listen? Was that your fault?

          • “To me, this is a problem of handing over the franchise to a bunch of kids that weren’t ready for it, which points to management not having a proper plan in place. Yes, the guys you’re hinting at should have been more professional in their approach to being in the NHL but it was also up to the organization to have the pieces in place to show them how to do that, no? Where were the skilled vets? Where were the life coaches to teach 18 year olds how to handle what was happening to them?”

            Comprehension.

          • Hakuna Mcdavid

            Ya haha good one but you’re ignoring the moves they made to do just that. They had ryan smith and Andrew Ference for that exact reason. The whole thing about what you said is ignoring the one thing management actually did. Life coaches is an interesting point, although that would have required listening which seems to be what they were lacking anyway

        • Kneedroptalbot

          Taylor Hall was a regular at the Cactus Club.
          Didn’t Hall room with McDavid when he was a rookie? Good thing RNH and McDavid chose to put hockey 1st.

        • Towers-of-dub

          Would you consider it a factual statement that one of those skilled players was a healthy scratch last night and his team s bottom of the eastern conference? Is that one of the players that Edmonton needs to replace? NJ has been bottom of the eastern conference for 2/3 of the time that Hall has been there. Edmonton was bottom of the west the entire time he was here. Maybe everything else is a problem on both teams and Hall just finds himself there. But, yeah, he sure can toe drag a 3rd pairing D.

  • MrOiler

    Anyone who pays attention knows what Ference said is true and all Soy Nation does is defend the harshness of the fans and deflects for the Party Boys because “hey man, we didn’t make the playoffs for so long”. This article is one long “yeah, but …”. The comments are ridiculous. Don’t you dare say anything bad about Hall or Ebs. It was Eakins and Ference … like they had any real pull over the first round wonder kids that Edmonton had pinned its hopes on. They weren’t committed. Hall said so himself last year now that he’s finally listening to the coaches.

    • Jon123

      You’re misrepresenting Hall’s words. Here’s the real quote:

      “Since coming here, John Hynes, he’s probably given me the most accountability than any coach I had in Edmonton,” Hall added on Tuesday. “That’s been really good for me personally. In Edmonton, I didn’t really want to talk to coaches. I didn’t want to go and have dialogue with coaches. I just wanted to play and a lot of guys are like that. I think, here, Hynsie, we talk about a lot of stuff. He listens to what I say. He’s been a good sounding board on a lot of things. I think he’s been a big reason why I’ve been able to have some success.”

      That tells me, it’s not black or white, Eakins’ fault alone, or Hall’s fault alone. The coach has a role in trying to get the player to buy in, and the player has a role in buying in. Debating who to blame is silly, there’s always two sides at fault in any disconnect.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        Just to muddy the waters a bit, Hall is actually on the record saying he thought Eakins was a good coach too. “He definitely has the room” Do you think he was being genuine or trying to insinuate the issue wasn’t his fault but that Eakins just wasn’t good at his job?

  • 50 Flex

    The team Ference is talking about is gone. Nuge is the only one left from that group. Things seem much better now. Not great, but better. Even last season would have been a vast improvement over the teams Ference was part of. Mentality seems better, the main thing holding the team back now is the GM.

  • Señor Frijoles

    I agree – it sounds like Ference and Eakins were buddies who “got it” and everybody else was a poop-head for not agreeing with everything they said. Eakins was *not* a good coach, because this was the team he was hired to coach – and he made them worse. Ference was also not a good captain, because, as mentioned in the article, he had no idea how to lead in such a way as to cause following to occur. Leaders don’t blame others for not following, they find a way to encourage others to excel.

    • Señor Frijoles

      To be clear – if true that Hall and Eberle etc were scoffing at hard work and effort as well as partying late into the night, Ference is correctly identifying them as a reason the team was so very bad. I just think he doesn’t seem to recognize how his and Eakins inability to do anything about that reflects badly on their leadership credentials.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        These kids are paid millions of dollars to listen to their coaches and produce an on ice product. Those guys not listening isn’t a leadership issue. You can’t force people to listen. In a real world job, they would have been fired for this but because it’s a sports team they can’t do that. You CAN ship them out, at a loss apparently, and that’s what they did after it became apparent that even under new management this mentality wasn’t fixing itself. Guess what’ll happen if anyone comes in and doesn’t listen to Hitchcock and Mc D? They’ll be gone immediately, because management has to support them. I highly doubt Eakins and Ference got that kind of support when they were there to make any real consequence for these players. If it’s 5 of your top guys, who do you sit?

        • JimmyV1965

          The kids weren’t the problem. They were the only decent players on the team. The problem is we had too many players like Ference. They were simply not good enuf.

        • Señor Frijoles

          If you can’t convince someone to listen to you, are you a leader? We’re not talking about feral animals here, they were kids. Entitled and misguided – probably, but thats the point of having “coaches” and “captains”, to guide and teach them the right way to do it. And yes, absolutely you bench your top scorers if they don’t listen to you – as many times as necessary.

          • Hakuna Mcdavid

            We’re not talking about kids, we are talking about adults actually. Adults who had run 3 coaches out of town by this point? Or was Dallas the 3rd? Do you really think none of those coaches were “leaders” or that Ryan Smith wasn’t a leader either? When they talk about culture they pick that word very purposefully because it’s not something you can beat out or subvert. Scratch a guy and he’ll roll his eyes because he knows he will be back in or he doesn’t care because this isn’t his fault. Then he goes out with his buddies and does the same crap again knowing he will be put back in or even not caring if he is. Getting paid to sit and still get to do whatever you want. It’s like suspending a kid from school so he can stay home and play video games. How do you punish a guy like that?

      • Odanada

        Wasn’t it Eberle that had an interview where he complained about how hard it was playing in Edmonton? Meanwhile he’s burning the candle at both ends and not putting in the work?
        Maybe Ference read the Eberle interview and it steamed him?

      • jesse says yep

        This is the exact attitude that is being discussed. These “professionals” aren’t responsible for their own actions? Hope my kids grow up knowing better than that.

        • NickL89

          Yeah this is ridiculous and a little infuriating… that the good fans of Edmonton were paying top dollar to fund nights on the town at the expense of having a decent team. If you’re winning, go nuts. As long as you’re able to keep the balance. It’s hard to pick a side, the party boys are to blame but I think if they were being worked hard enough in practice there would come a point where they just couldn’t do it anymore and have had to pass on those late nights. Thank sweet baby J that Hitch is here to (hopefully) instill some discipline and run practices like elite teams do.

  • ed from edmonton

    I recall when Hemsky was traded he was asked what is the problem with the Oil. He stated that team leaders had to start bringing leaders. He was obviously talking about Hall and how he was a cancer. We now know why the return in the Hall trade was so low.

  • camdog

    Ference just repeated what everybody already knows. If people are offended by old information, well that’s on you.

    When your star player spays the head coach in the face with water in front of the cameras and then goes to the next town and says he never listened to anything the coaches ever said in Edmonton you already know the story. You also know why there was a limited market for his services. Meanwhile the Henderson’s were running the Schultz’s and Russell’s out of town, while the old MSM boys were never fond of Petry. Meanwhile the golden child was protected. The act will catch up to him again, it’s just a matter of time.

  • tkfisher

    Hall and Ebs acting like frat boys is their fault. ALLOWING THEM TO DO IT IS THE TEAMS FAULT. Management gutted the leadership of the this team before those two got here. Smyth should have been the captain but he was dealt because of poor relationships and poor contract negotiations. With a proper leadership group in place, (not that excuse for a captain). Any good captain would not have allowed that garbage to happen on his team. Talent be damned, it sounds like FERENCE, threw in the towel and didn’t step up to his role as a leader just as much Hall and Ebs didn’t step up. If you as a management and coaching staff allow young players to act that way, and gift them the team, that’s on you.

    • Hemmercules

      Well said. The team essentially owns these players once they sign those contracts, you have to control your assets a bit. Management handed them the keys and figured the cup was on its way. Management did little to guide them in their careers it seems.

      To Ference’s defence though, did anyone really expect these young millionaires too bow down to Ference and Eakins when they came it? The kids were already too far gone by then. Hall even said he didn’t care and didn’t listen at that point.

      Hall was a healthy scratch the other night in NJ. They are in last place. Hall is a great individual player but he will never be a team guy.

    • Dr

      Really? If the guys refuse to listen, what would you do? Be honest. What specific leadership tactics would you use to get through to stubborn underachievers? Does Ference control the actions of the other players? Does he have any control over their buy in, focus, or work ethic? What could he have done? What would you do? Old school days of threatening your teammate to conform are over. That’s not an answer.

    • Anton CP

      Ference was a bad choice for captain because of so many reasons:
      1) he was parachute in.
      2) he did not actually earn the job.
      3) he is not the best player that can lead by example.
      4) cares more about off-ice facade than on-ice performance.

      Here is the thing, even if Hall and Ebs are acted like couple of millionaire frat boys that wasn’t Ference the captain to correcting it?
      I’m just repeating the same thing I’ve said since the arrival of both Ference and Eakins. It has been almost 6 years ago but I still remember that time when Eakins was cowardly throwing Yakupov under the bus because he was unable to make everyone else buying into his scheme.

  • Retired Secret Agent

    Thx BM. Great article. Also, dressing room culture concerns from that era are confirmed. Doesn’t matter who the coach was. Kids these days, yeeesh!!

  • polsy

    “but they were also sold lines of goods by the GM that inflated expectations well beyond what the media or fans did. Remember the Norris potential interview?” So you had no choice but to attack the player for comments he didn’t make?

    “I’m as guilty as anyone of doing that, but I also wonder what we’re supposed to do in those times?” Act professionally, or failing that if you aren’t a professional – act with a sense of responsibility that your words have a large audience?

    “but I don’t think things are all that bad for him with the media or fans right now.” Noticing a pattern of “buts” immediately after a brief acknowledgement? That’s defensiveness, not accountability. Own your mistakes and improve, and definitely don’t act like you are in a position to tell someone to be accountable.

    “There has to be more accountability than that.” “without taking even an ounce of responsibility for anything that happened.” YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I don’t know if this is best described as gutless, thoughtless, or completely tone deaf. Be better.

  • Redbird62

    But clearly management was not as far off on Schultz’ potential as Oilersnation would have you believe. The situation in Edmonton did not pan out for him, and I am sure Ference would have a way better understanding of why that is than you. All the rationalizations in the world by the people on Oilersnation who love to tear down any Oiler who they feel has let them down, can’t change the fact that Schultz finished 10th in Norris Trophy voting two seasons ago, and the 2 time Cup Champion Penguins love him. And feel free to criticize Milan Lucic all you want for his lack of offensive production over the last 12 months , but you are way off base if you think he was playing as if he didn’t care. I have lived in several cities, and followed many teams, but a certain segment of the Oilers’ fan base is among the worst at attacking player’s character. In the last 3 days alone, I have seen dozens of comments on these boards calling Draisaitl lazy and other idiots were complaining he didn’t smile enough when he scored. This fan base has helped run several quality young players out of town over the years. I think enough comments over the years have come from enough ex-Oilers on how tough it is to play in Edmonton compared to most other cities that I tend believe there is something there. Great fan base base when you are playing well, but the criticism gets far too personal when you aren’t. And these players don’t deserve that.

  • Hakuna Mcdavid

    Wow. Ok so I found your analysis incredibly unselfaware. You can crap on your team all day, but as some point making 18 year olds few bad for every mistake is bad. Talk about the team all day, single out some issues but to just rip on a player day after day is just counterproductive if you don’t want them shipped out. Secondly, you’re right that Ference and Dallas should have some ownership but are you seriously suggesting they should have sat Hall and Eberle? And you wouldn’t have ripped him apart at the time? And then it gets even better, you talk about how they should be made to listen, sure except you can’t literally stop a young guy from going out and you can’t sit your shiny toys. So they don’t listen, you really think Dallas didn’t ask for them to be shipped out and nothing happened? Absolutely he would have. Either nobody wanted them or, more likely, management didn’t listen. So they bring in new management and new coaching. Did those players suddenly start listening and playing better? Nope, a coach with a very long history of success in the NHL came in and they still shipped those guys out of town for a loss because they were continuing to be liabilities. Your exact suggestion for what they should do with players doing that stuff is what they ended up having to do and then the media had yet another field day where they made everyone feel dumb and undermined larsson before he even played. A little self awareness here would go a long way, you can’t have it both ways.

    • He had no problem sitting Nail Yakupov. Why should Hall and Eberle be any different? And no, of course they didn’t start listening because no one in the organization made them curb the behaviour before it became an issue. Don’t be so soft.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        Nail played bad, as a coach you get props for doing that. Sit a guy who is playing well or decently and you get owned by the media. Sit 2 or 3 of them and you get crucified by everyone including, I’m sure, the ownership group

        • Hakuna Mcdavid

          I’m not saying you should sit players. Absolutely you should. I’m saying if you sit 3 of your best players it’s an explosive incident and you can’t pull that off without complete support from the top which wasn’t there

          • FISTO Siltanen

            Actually I take that back. Top down the coaching staff wouldn’t have had support from those above to make a move like that. So I agree with everything you’ve written.

          • FISTO Siltanen

            Agree with everything you’ve written here buds…except this. Flames did it with Monahan and Gaudreau in 2015 after being late day after Super Bowl party. They were sat and the team that season was better for it.

            Again love everything you are saying here and signed in to vote you up. Everything but this last point.

  • ed from edmonton

    “I mean, how many times did it happen and why wasn’t anyone healthy scratched because of it?” I agree with BM on this. If The likes of Hall and Ebs were a problem they should have been benched or “press boxed”. But when Eakins did this to Yak, Eakins has been universally criticized for ruining Yak ever since. Hall had to grow up and it wasn’t going to happen until he had a kick in the but i.e. traded and his old team was much better without him.

  • FlamesFan27

    Gregor and Struds had a great debate/conversation about this on the drive home tonight. Both made valid points, and it basically comes back to the nature vs. nurture argument. They were both right in a way – there was not enough talent, but the “give a sh$$” was not where it needed to be for the best players. My daughter often talked about how she saw Hall out very late and very drunk (and not exactly a nice person when he was drunk) – that says something about my daughter’s maturity at the time, because she was there too haha. Hall has matured since he left, and no one knows whether he would have done that here.

    But, for Ference, as captain, to be better friends with the coach than he was with his teammates says a lot too. Not exactly flattering for him.

    Onward and upward though – that is all in the past.

  • hagar

    I always thought Hall and ebs werent the right kind of players. Sounds like it was common knowledge they had bad attitudes towards work ethic.

    That being said, why then was the best talent drafted in years, roomed up with Hall on arrival?

    If you are a coach or Gm, and you know Hall has a pisspoor attitude, why would you move the best thing you have going into that enviroment?

  • Heschultzhescores

    I do agree that we need to chill a bit and let us get a decent chance before running them out of town. I still love Looch and have never waivers. And I don’t really care if people want to trash that. He was a big catch back then as no big free agents were coming here we also create that issue by hating our own guys. Ya I can improve on that and I think I will

  • Fireball

    Hmm someone points out that the boys would loose 6-3 party all night and come back Sunday and loose again.. I wonder if that’s why Hall n Ebs got traded ??

    • Fireball

      Next thing a dozen Videos of PK Subban fighting his own teammates in Montreal will surface .. oh wait a minute., I wonder if that had something to do with his trade ??

      • Fireball

        Maybe someone will say one or more of those guys went to rehab or something.. The media’s willingness to write about nothing you would think this stuff would be common knowledge.. the Smart Phone era ?? How do they cover it up ?? Do the league pay off the media ?? Or do the teams threaten members of media that they will destroy them ?? Ban them from the Pressors or buildings ??

    • Mangiant

      Right? What’s hilarious to me is that these writers just don’t get it: they’re the problem. They’re the negative site players talk about, they’re the site that creates whipping boys and influences the negative behaviour of many of the outspoken fans.

      Hell, they’ve even started calling out players in the article _headlines_, you don’t even need to read the article to feel the negative attitude.