WOW! Of all the games for the Oilers to have their balls drop it’s the one versus the Florida Panthers. I absolutely loved what I saw from Edmonton yesterday! It’s something I’ve been waiting for for a VERY long time but I’m disappointed that it took an aging Matt Hendricks to go out there and do something.
No, the team isn’t made up of power forwards or guys that will go out there and muck it up on a game-by-game basis but this is hockey not figure skating. Every player that laces up and heads out onto the ice has at one point or another been in an altercation in their hockey careers. Hell, we saw the softest player on the Panthers stick up for a teammate and go after Eric Gryba. Not the smartest of decisions but a decision nonetheless and his teammates respected him for it.
So if this is a “respect” issue does that mean there’s a lack of mutual respect amongst the Oilers? I mean how many of the team’s stars have to get manhandled for one of their teammates to stick up for them? Now, you’ll here coaches say that the game isn’t played that way anymore, meaning players don’t go after each other every time a big hit is laid out, but I disagree. Watch any other team in the NHL, especially the good ones. If one of their players is hit in a manner that is deemed unacceptable by a teammate, someone steps in and it’s not even a question. So with the Oilers, every time something like this comes up it’s usually taken care of by Matt Hendricks, who was given a standing ovation from his teammates when he left the penalty box after the fight with Petrovic by the way, and it’s almost sickening that a player on his last legs has to go out there and do that because nobody else has the nut sack big enough to do it.
Hall getting hit at center ice by Erik Gudbranson was a clean hit. Although it looked pretty bad it was clean. Was Hendricks’ hit clean? No. Not by a country mile. It was predatory and painfully obvious he was looking to even the score. If I were coach would I bench him? No. Would I pat him on the back? No. It’s something that is part of the game or at least it used to be…
Friend of the blog Ryan Robinson puts everything in perfect perspective in his latest vlog. Check it out below!
It’s time for the Oilers to lose some of these soft players (Pouliot, Purcell, Eberle, Schultz, Fayne) and bring in some players that will instil some team unity to this club. It can’t always be the team’s eldest statesman, the team’s youngest defender or a no.6/7 blue liner going out there and sticking up for their teammates. Apart from Hendricks, the bottom six is soft as baby shit even when Gazdic is in the lineup. Rob Klinkhammer gets 5 minutes a night, how is he supposed to contribute? Although I noticed their TOI peaked sharply last night in response to how the game was flowing.
Now we’re not going to see any major moves until the deadline I believe. So there’s no real advantage in crying over spilt milk but I fully expect GM Peter Chiarelli to go out and acquire 1-3 players between the deadline and the beginning of next season that will bring some toughness to the squad. I’m talking about players such as Travis Hamonic, Dustin Byfuglien, Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic, David Backes, Andrew Ladd, or Troy Brouwer.
Now the purists would’ve hated that game last night and the analytics folks would say that all that rough stuff did nothing to help the Oilers’ cause. They should’ve concentrated on putting the puck in the net because that’s the real way to get back at the team that just destroyed your best player. This is the type of thinking that will turn professional hockey into a pussified melding of lunch time shinny and figure skating.
Do I like to see a nice end-to-end rush? Yes, I loved it when Paul Coffey did it back in the day. I loved it when Ovechkin did it the other night. My favourite player of all time is Mario Lemieux! I like skill but I respect those that go out there and put their bodies on the line for their teammates like a Wendal Clark or a Mark Messier would have.
I said it last night in a chat with The Oilers Rig’s Alex Thomas, I guarantee you that the majority of the fans leaving the game last night were absolutely jacked with the effort and response showed by the Oilers and less worried about the loss. Why? Because it’s respectable. You lose respect for the team when you see them get pushed around.
I do not and will not endorse a game where physicality isn’t encouraged. This is hockey, it’s physical, it’s emotional, it hits you hard and it hits you fast. Don’t like it? Go watch curling.