If you listened to the CHED post-game coverage last night, there was an interesting series of questions and answers in the post-game interviews, leading up to Dan Tencer suggesting that the fans need to support the team better. It started with Taylor Hall, answering a question about the booing that wasn’t asked by Tencer, although it seems like he was present:
I mean, I think we had a pretty good homestand. It’s tough to hear boos in your own building any time but like I said, I thought we played pretty well at home this year but they paid big money to cheer how they want to cheer. It’s always tough hearing that from your own fans and people that support you and we’re not going to change what we do in here because the fans boo us. We know what we have to do and it’s got to change next game.
Tencer then had this exchange with Hall:
“You leave the homestand with just one victory, I mean the results have to be frustrating.”
“I think we got four points, four games – that’s decent. We left some points on the table for sure, that last period in San Jose and tonight – it’s tough to leave those points out there especially against teams that we’re fighting against in the playoff race.”
Hall’s answer to the question is so ridiculous that you wonder if he just doesn’t like Tencer or something – it sounds like a classic “This guy’s a jerk and I’m not going to agree with any premise that he offers” answer because four points in four games at home with two blown two goal leads in the third period during a playoff race is ridiculous.
Tencer then moved on to speak to Shawn Horcoff. The exchange ended with this:
“Just lastly, obviously the fans pay big money, they can act however they so choose and tonight they chose to voice displeasure pretty loudly at the end of the game. Just your thoughts on what’s that like as a room to hear that from the home town crowd.”
“It’s frustrating because we’re playing some pretty good hockey as of late and we’re making a push for the playoffs here and it’s not like this team’s given up at all. You know, we’re gonna need their support coming down the stretch, plain and simple. We have a lot of games at home and we feel like if we can put together a good homestand here – we have 18 games left and two thirds or something like that are at home – we can get into the playoffs, it’s going to be enough for us to get into the playoffs.
In order to do that, our fans are going – you know, I’ve been here for the playoffs and I’ve witnessed what that’s like and they’re as loud as they come in this league, as supportive as they come. So, tonight was disappointing with the effort that we gave as players and we’re going to need to give them better and we’re going to need to give them excuses to cheer for. When we do, we’d appreciate the support.”
An aside: I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of captaining an NHL team but it strikes me that one of the big things is dealing with the media, being a face of the organization. I know that there are a lot of people in Edmonton who want to know why someone like Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle isn’t the captain right now. I like Taylor Hall a lot as a hockey player but it seems to me that dealing with people with whom he disagrees isn’t exactly a strength of his. There’s probably a lot of that when you’re the captain of a team – dumb media questions, for example – and a guy who knows how to talk to the media can probably do a lot to just sort of prevent the media (and fan) outrage machines from ramping up.
If you compare what Horcoff and Hall said, they actually said pretty much the same thing. The Oilers did play reasonably well during the homestand and had taken eight points out of ten entering tonight. If you’re a pro athlete there’s no profit in agonizing over games that are in the past and if they take eight points out of twelve the rest of the way, they’re probably in the playoffs.
That said, Hall manages to add a claim that four points from four games is decent just frame his response to the whole booing thing a little differently – Horcoff talks about how great the Edmonton fans are when they’re loud, Hall talks about how the booing isn’t going to change how they play, which is kind of infuriating. It’s a small difference but I just get the sense that, over an 82 game season, you’d get a much higher number of media fires started by an irritated captain with Hall wearing the C than with Horcoff wearing it.
Which brings me to what Tencer went on to say:
I would suggest to you, just off the top, and I’m sure this will be a bone of contention because a large portion of you will likely say, “We need something to cheer for,” I think – and we’ll talk to Rob Brown about this in a moment – I think it should go noted how much the fans support should help go urge on the team. In a game like tonight where there’s not a lot of energy, where St. Louis is coming strong, where the Oilers are trying to weather the storm a little bit, a little bit of boost from the fans could go a huge way from the team. This building has been fairly quiet over the course of the season and tonight was some negative energy and I think, I sensed from some of the players inside the room tonight that maybe some frustration with the way the building went tonight, given that they have played some pretty good hockey here of late and given that, unlike in past years, the effort of the team is not in question and they are trying to push forward and are trying to forge forward. So, I think the suggestion might have been that the negativity from the fan base tonight wasn’t overly appreciated.
And Rob I want your take on this because the one thing that I said to the guys in there is that you’ve got a fan that’s paying, some of them $300 a ticket, and they can obviously do whatever they like to do, but you know, there are some players saying “Look a little bit of a boost can go a long way for us. It’s a lot that we can feed off of. If the building is energetic, then that’s going to help us out a ton and conversely, when the boos come down at the end of the game, that’s incredibly disheartening on your home ice when you’ve got a game that didn’t go great but the group feels like they’ve put together some good hockey lately and they certainly feel like the effort’s not in question.”
Look, I would think that the reason for the negativity from the fanbase is pretty clear: this sure looks like seven years out of the playoffs, with holes that were obvious from the moment the 2011-12 season ended and with no effort made to fix them by management. I don’t actually think that what Tencer said was that bad but at the same time, I wouldn’t be carrying water for this organization when the fans boo the team right now. It’s all fine and well to talk about how they’ve played better and the effort level’s been good but the Oilers have a history here: six years of ranging from not good enough to brutal. They’ve just taken a homestand that could have vaulted them into the heart of the playoff race and given it away, with two blown third period leads. It is infuriating and I’m not even a guy paying hundreds of dollars a night to be there.
Oiler players and media guys might find it easier to stay out of trouble if they adopt the mental mindset that this team is owed nothing by the fans right now. They’ve been horrible for seven years and they’ve used up their goodwill. If they’d like to be able to say that they expect the fans not to boo them off the ice, maybe they should prove that they aren’t one of the league’s worst teams. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org