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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Zoomed

When a team has been as outclassed and embarrassed as the Edmonton Oilers were in getting swept in a three-game series by a cumulative score of 13-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, capped by a 6-1 spanking Wednesday, it’s bad enough. Players are going to be pissed off, and they should be. That’s a good thing.

In that situation, nobody carrying a notepad or microphone is going to lighten the mood during the post-game poking around that is part of the job, even if they come in throwing underhand. “How does it feel . . ?” “It feels shitty, next question.” You get the drift. No matter how you frame it, answers tend to be short and not always sweet. What else would you expect?

So it went last night, via Zoom, in an exchange between Post Media beat man Rob Tychkowski and Leon Draisaitl that has drawn some attention online. Tychkowski came in with a pretty standard question. Draisaitl responded with a four-word answer. Tychkowski, known for his bite, had considerably more mustard on his follow up, drawing straight-faced sarcasm from Draisaitl. You can find that in the first 30 seconds of Draisaitl’s post-game availability.

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For anybody who has done the job, it’s not a big deal under the circumstances, even though Tychkowski offered a mea culpa on Twitter this morning for coming in too hot on the follow-up: “Got frustrated by a dismissive answer to a fair and gentle question and came back too hard on the follow. My fault.” While the exchange isn’t even the most noteworthy clip in the wake of the three-game drubbing – more on that below – it created a lot of heat.

BACK AND FORTH

Mar 1, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen T.J. Brodie (78) and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) play for the puck during the third period at Rogers Place.

While some have been quick to criticize Tychkowski – many of them the same people who insist reporters around here never ask a tough question – I think Ryan Rishaug of TSN offered some solid perspective on what unfolded this morning in a segment with Dustin Nielson. As somebody who was told flat out, “That’s a stupid f*cking question” more than once during my years writing the beat, I can relate.

“The thing is that it’s a bit of a dance that we’re doing on these Zoom calls with these guys,” Rishaug said. “This is not the same as it would be in a regular year where you’re in the locker room and you’re actually able to ask some questions and follow up and ask two or three questions at a time, try and get a feel for things and stuff. On these Zoom calls it’s way more difficult . . .

“It’s a different dynamic this year than in other years. Leon was asked a softball question about, ‘Hey, look, I’m going to put this on the tee for you. I’m not coming over the top right away. What happened the last three games?’ Players know. Give us seven to 15 seconds and you’re good. You’re doing your job. We’re doing our job. They’re trained in how to do this properly.

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“So, when a guy sits there and says three words, he knows what he’s doing. He knows. So, T got a little frustrated and you go, ‘alright, I’m not going to be so nice with the next one.’ That’s just the way it goes. I’ve done it before. I’ve seen it done many, many times. We’ll give you an opportunity and if you’re going to do that, OK, if you’re not going to play nice then I’m not either. That’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s a bit of a dance.

“Look, T was a little too strong on the follow. Leon should have given him a little bit more depth in that answer to begin with, but Leon’s frustrated, and you know. This stuff happens post-game and it’s not that big a deal.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

Mar 3, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse (25) tries to knock the puck away from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot (15) during the first period at Rogers Place.

No, it’s not a big deal – it wouldn’t be any deal, not even a sentence in a game night notebook, in the pre-Twitter, pre-Zoom days when reporters and players talked one-on-one. Besides, fans around here care a lot more about seeing their team dismantled by the Maple Leafs and what they’re going to do about it going into a game with the Calgary Flames Saturday.

That’s the real issue and one that will be dissected internally as well as by fans every which way before the puck drops. Rolling along on an 11-2-0 streak until the Maple Leafs came calling, putting these last three games in the rear-view mirror is what matters. His exchange with Tychkowski done, Draisaitl addressed that, and did so in more than three words, last night.

“You can’t forget it about, but it’s three games, it’s a good team,” Draisaitl said in response to a question by Mark Spector of Sportsnet. “Obviously, we didn’t plan on losing three games in a row and not the way we did, but things like that happen in a season. It’s an up-and-down season. Obviously, we’re down right now, so we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”

Responding to Derek van Diest of Post Media, Draisaitl added: “We put ourselves in a good situation. Now, it doesn’t look that good anymore, but we’ve got to find ourselves out of it. We’ve done it before. We didn’t start the season the way we wanted, but we’ve got to find ourselves out of it and quick. Next game. It needs to happen next game.”

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On that, everybody can agree.

Previously by Robin Brownlee