• It’s that simple.

    by Tyler Dellow • February 15, 2011 • Uncategorized • 20 Comments

    As I watched Oil Change last night, I was thinking to myself that one of the many reasons I’d be a lousy hockey player is that I’m sure my body language would piss off a coach at some point in my career as he blathered on about something. There were a couple of good excerpts from Renney in last night’s episode:

    You are here because we want you here, because we believe in you, and we want you here because we believe we can we win with you. And we believe that you guys can help us move it to the next level and keep going from there. Don’t ever come in here thinking that this is not a place where you want to put in a half assed effort because right now as we move forward for the balance of this hockey season, we will have to see what we’re going to be playing hockey with beyond now. We have to. It’s that simple. And every one of guys should take that very seriously and understand the fucking responsibility that you have to be a hockey player on the Edmonton Oilers, Right now.

    I wonder what Jim Vandermeer thinks when he hears this. Unless he’s deluded, he knows he’s a salary dump. Or Jason Strudwick. Or Steve MacIntyre. Also, I’m cynical, but when Renney said “We want you here because we believe we can with you” I’d be thinking “Yeah, that’s what they thought about Khabibulin. Fucking Chrysler plant, here I come.”

    A, you’re frustrated. Bad mistake. Bad mistake at this stage of the game. We did enough good things in here to know that we can beat these guys this period and set ourselves up for the third. But if you want to get frustrated, then stay in here. It’s that simple. Play the game plan. And don’t frustration creep into your game. You can get pissed off with me, I’m fine with that. But don’t let that fucking convolute how you have to play.

    The formula for the Tom Renney inspirational speech seems clear: he speaks in paragraphs of hockey’s version of corporate speak, makes a declaratory statement as to the ease with which they should understand what he’s saying and adds a profanity for emphasis. It’s that fucking simple.

    I’m obviously not the only one who suspects that it might get a bit tired listening to Renney say this sort of thing all of the time and pretending to care about it. Steve Tambellini ventured into the dressing room today to have a chat with the boys. Shawn Horcoff summarized it for Terry Jones:

    He talked about about the big picture coming from the top. Obviously, he’s not happy. There’s no secret about the situation we’re in here and how it’s not looking good for us. He talked about how hard our coaches are working and how they’re giving us good game plans every night and how he wants to see the effort and intensity every night.

    It’s been frustrating. There are not a lot of positives. When you are lacking in effort and intensity, that’s never excusable. It’s about jobs and pride. Fans pay good money.

    Obviously there’s excitement about the future. The skill level here is about twofold what it was last year.

    A big part of this is giving young guys a chance to see what they have.

    As bad as I might be as a player when listening to the coach “motivate” (particularly if he said things like “Don’t let that fucking convolute how you have to play”), when a guy like Tambellini wandered into the room to give a message like this, I’d be a million times more visibly contemptuous of what he had to say.

    To start with, virtually nobody on the Oilers is playing for a job next year. Fifteen of the regulars are already signed. Nothing in their history indicates any consequences for RFA type guys who don’t pan out, other than having to accept their qualifying offers. The Oilers have a long, long history of qualifying everyone who looks like he can spell NHL, let alone play in the league. If Andrew Cogliano or Ryan Jones aren’t Oilers next season, it’ll be because they’ve been traded somewhere else in the NHL. It’s an empty threat. I can’t believe anyone actually takes it seriously unless they’re someone who seriously has no business in an NHL dressing room, in which case trying really hard isn’t going to make up the gap – just ask Zack Stortini.

    Secondly, and with all due respect to Horcoff who I think is a pretty bright hockey guy and who undoubtedly cares more about trying to maintain a positive attitude than having his comments parsed by fans, the talent level in the Oilers room might be twofold but it’s the same terrible results. I’ve put together a table that compares the Oilers to league average in the various game states, both offensively and defensively. In order to permit a comparison to last year, I pro-rated everything for 82 games.

    OilersGD

    There are simply not a lot of positives there. They’re significantly better at preventing 5v5 goals this year but give it all back at 4v5 and in their work on the PP. They’re on pace to be one goal differential worse than last year. The point total is on pace to be lower. They are a completely terrible hockey team. New attitude, same crap results. Only, instead of a 5v5 problem that seemed due at least in part to bad goaltending, there’s now really ugly problems at 5v4 and 4v5. And that’s DESPITE the great game plans that they’re getting!

    Third, and this is the most corrosive thing of all, every guy in that room knows who’s really responsible for assembling the disaster that unfolded last year. The veteran guys probably have some suspicion that this year was supposed to look better. They look around the room and see the broken down goalie, signed for another two years and don’t see the defenceman who might at least help the PP but who had the temerity to question the competence of management.

    The vast majority of them will know that a lot depends on this guy who’s standing there pretending that Nikolai Khabibulin might not have a job next year if he doesn’t start stopping some pucks. If I played for the Oilers, I’d have a hell of a time convincing myself to put it on the line in a season that looks worst than last year. Why should any of these guys risk anything for an organization that blames everyone but the guys who assemble the team for the team’s problems?

    My bad attitude towards this stuff, incidentally, carries through to me as a fan reading comments from the players. Sam Gagner had all sorts of fine quotes after the Ducks game:

    It’s a never-ending cycle and the guys in here have to change it or it just gets worse and worse. “The coaches have the right to be upset, fans have the right to be upset. It’s just not good enough.

    No matter what the expectations were for the season, on what this team was supposed to do, right now it’s embarrassing. We need to challenge ourselves to be better in here. Till we start doing the little things right, getting open for each other, going to bat for our teammates, it’s just going to continue to get worse.

    Great, fantastic. You and your teammates have been saying variants of that for four years. Is anything going to change at any point in the foreseeable future? If not, there’s little point in continuing to repeat this. You’re fucking convoluting my experience as a hockey fan with this blather.

    I get, to a point, that the Oilers can’t say “Look the season’s lost and we’re just hoping to stem the bleeding.” Only to a point though. I could understand the media not probing if the Oilers just shut up – no need to badger them about the obvious. There should be a sort of gentlemen’s agreement about this though. If the team’s going to pretend that jobs are on the line though and pretend that this sort of thing isn’t acceptable, awkward questions should be asked.

    Jobs are on the line Tambo? Fine – do you plan to do something about the goaltender rotting in your crease that your coach keeps inexplicably playing and who will destroy this team for two more years if you guys let him? Why should anyone who cares about this team expect that you and Kevin Lowe won’t balls this up in the same way that Lowe turned the team that went to the Finals into ashes and proceeded to piss $15MM and four years for Khabibulin all over the ashes? If you didn’t see that coming, why should anyone expect that you won’t see whatever risks affect this group of talent that you’re collecting as a result of your incompetence? Of course, when seemingly 80% of the media in town are paid directly or indirectly by the Oilers (for appearances on Oilers Lunch and on between periods panels), this might be a bit much to ask.

    Accountability in a hockey team needs to apply at levels above the players. Most truly horrific teams have the courtesy to fire everyone in senior management on occasion or, at the very least, the dignity to lose without a lot of noise in the papers about meetings, complete with statements about how things need to change and the inept GM coming in to lay down the law. The Oilers have basically had a policy of zero accountability for management since they stopped winning Stanley Cups and, as a result, it’s impossible to take their coaches and management seriously when they talk about it. It’s that simple.

    About Tyler Dellow

    20 Responses to It’s that simple.

    1. robinrussia
      February 15, 2011 at

      The oil were built to fail from day one. Probably not to fail by being 30th, but fail none the less. The Oil have spent loads of effort and money to create a propaganda machine thereby assuring a healthy revenue stream of ticket, beer and jersey sales this year. Katz wants all that money coming in to pay for his share of his shiny new rink.

      Radio is paid for propaganda equivalent to Tokyo Rose (Tencer) , Hanoi Hannah (Staffer)or Axis Sally (Jack Michaels). The guest they bring on are paid to be there (Bob McKenzie, Ryan Rishaug, LeBrun, et. Al.) along with other special guests who don’t want to be locked out of the inner circle. Journalists are just as bad off too. No access to the inner sanctum. Everything is spoon fed from minister of propaganda Allan Watt via his puppets on Team 1260 and 630 Ched.

      But at the end of the day, its not that important. Face it, we’ve been served Shit sandwiches and been told its peanut butter..Next year I want something edible! Tambi better address the needs of this team! Otherwise…it will start to matter to Oil Fans and hit this teams bottom line in a negative way!

    2. Coach PB
      February 15, 2011 at

      You’re fucking convoluting my experience as a hockey fan with this blather.

      Thank you for this. I couldn’t figure out how to rant about this shit and keep it somewhat eloquent. This is excellent.

    3. dawgbone
      February 15, 2011 at

      You are here because we want you here, because we believe in you, and we want you here because we believe we can we win with you.

      If that’s really what he thinks than this team is fucked because that means no one knows what the hell is going on.

      You can’t toss 8 rookies in your lineup and believe you can win. I understand the desire to keep your team playing hard game in and game out but comments like that are ridiculous.

      I seriously hope no one invovled with this organization (coaches, management, players, fans) thought winning enough to challenge for the playoffs was possible with this team.

    4. Hambone
      February 15, 2011 at

      Good post, Tyler. Lots of anger, but evidence and logic thrown in too. robinrussia, I like the shit sandwich/peanut butter analogy.

      With the realization that this season will be every bit as miserable as the last, I have reached a tipping point with my opinion on the rebuild. I have grave doubts about whether this management team is capable of overseeing a successful climb into the giddy heights of respectability, let alone competitiveness.

      Why? Because it’s clear that the distinction between this poor, non-competitive team is not just a couple of years of NHL seasoning for the younger players. There are gaping holes all over this team, at almost every position. Special teams, goaltending, defence, centre, you name it. There is no glimmer of optimism, and the drafting of another 18 year old kid in June isn’t going to solve anything anytime soon.

      We are CEMENTED in 30th place for the second season in a row, and out of the playoffs for a fifth. Will we even compete for a playoff spot next season? What other management team in any other sector, public, private, you name it, would be judged worthy of keeping their jobs after such abysmal results? To say nothing of the ratio of money spent vs. results….

      I have my doubts that this team is capable of going anywhere unless competent NHL management is employed at the top.

    5. Subversive
      February 15, 2011 at

      I wonder if the hockey players have been so indoctrinated growing up in the hockey system that they actually believe the nonsense they spew. There are very few “deep thinkers” playing elite level hockey. I feel like they’re sort of like soldiers in the military, they’ve been broken down and built back up into these automatons who just follow the chain of command and don’t really ever think for themselves.

    6. Triumph
      February 15, 2011 at

      Tyler,

      While your cynicism is certainly warranted given the state of the Oilers, I think you overestimate the sense of cynicism that hockey players (or athletes in general) might have. These guys are the one in a thousand that have climbed through the ranks, surviving both the physical and mental rigors of growing up in hockey – cynicism isn’t generally a good trait for doing either of those things. In general, these guys have had coaches telling them this crap from day one of their hockey careers – they’ve heard it all their lives. I think in general most of the cliches that athletes spout are their true thoughts. David Foster Wallace’s essays “String Theory” or “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart” are an interesting insight into how these guys must think totally differently than you or I.

    7. David S
      February 15, 2011 at

      I suspect guys like Penner and Horcoff have a pretty good idea what’s going on. The younger guys? Well maybe this is all they’ve known so from their point of view, this dribble actually makes sense.

      @Tyler – I don’t always agree with your ideas, but this was one cracking good post.

    8. Sean
      February 15, 2011 at

      At the end of the day, Oilers have been the same team for 4 years. Fast young team that has not improved. That is the bottom line. $ years ago we say this team has potential, but they have not improved. They move the goal posts every year and the fans buy it. Chart this team on a graph and it does not look good. There is a problem.

    9. Darren
      February 15, 2011 at

      The most sickening part about all of it is that the masses seem to beleive all of it. Like really beleive the good times are just around the corner.

      And thankyou for once again reminding me Khabi has 2 more years with us. It’s like an infected wound that just won’t go away.

    10. February 15, 2011 at

      Subversive, um, I don’t quite know how to say this nicely, so I won’t bother. Do you watch a lot of movies? I’m guessing so. If you think all soldiers are all unthinking automatons incapable of thinking for themselves, you’re no more correct than you are by characterizing all hockey players as such, and as brainwashed and unthinking as you’re accusing soldiers of being.

      I’d guess that the problem you have getting eloquence out of NHL players is most of them are not very worldly. They’re young, get paid a lot of money and for the most part, hockey is all they’ve known since they were in their early teens. There’s likely a good reason guys like Horcoff and Penner stand out a bit from their peers with respect to intelligent comments (or with respect to knowing when to keep their mouths shut: they’ve gone to college, they’re a bit older, and they’ve been around.

      With all due respect to Sam Gagner, he’s led a sheltered life and he’s 21 to boot. I look back at some of the things I said when I was 21 and it actually hurts me that I used to be that dumb. I’d argue most anybody reading here who claims otherwise is lying or delusional.

      Tyler, what would you have Gagner say in that spot? He can’t just say “the team sucks and it’s Tambo’s fault” even when that’s bleedingly obvious – he saw what happened to Souray, if nothing else. He can’t just say no comment – he knows what happens to players who do that too much. But at the same time, nothing’s different now than it was 6 months ago – so of course he’s still having to say the same things.

      The question shouldn’t be “Why are the players still making the same blathering statements?” It should be “Why are we still bothering to listen?” (I can answer that one for myself: I tuned out about November 2009. It’s been obvious there won’t be a change, so I stop looking for one. Eventually, I suppose, I might stop looking at the schedule and find better things to do with my time than watch Tambo self-flagellate.)

    11. Steve Smith
      February 15, 2011 at

      Great article overall, but

      The Oilers have a long, long history of qualifying everyone who looks like he can spell NHL, let alone play in the league.

      Um, Pouliot and Potulny? Colin MacDonald too, if memory serves, which it may not. Now, for every example of a guy who wasn’t qualified, I’m sure you can cite two who were qualified but shouldn’t have been, so I’m not saying that the Oilers handle this (or much of anything) well. But your sentence is rather overreaching considering that they didn’t qualify two guys from their NHL roster just last year.

      If Andrew Cogliano or Ryan Jones aren’t Oilers next season, it’ll be because they’ve been traded somewhere else in the NHL.

      Jones is an impending UFA.

    12. February 15, 2011 at

      “But in the space just off the field of play, there really is no level of incompetence that won’t be tolerated. There are many reasons for this, but the big one is that baseball The Oilers front office has structured itself less as a business than as a social club.”

      Michael Lewis postscript from Moneyball is frighteningly applicable to the Oilers…and probably hockey in general.

    13. chartleys
      February 15, 2011 at

      Actually read the SUN today over an extended breakfast. Was laughing how the GM actually doing any sort of talking somewhat steered the MSM narratives back to pointing at the players. It’s frightening to pick up the paper and read about the PLAYERS letting the fans down.

      Good job Dither’s way to collectively attempt to throw the team under the bus.

      Good job MSM way to refocus you’re dumb-ass questions on what the players are doing wrong here.

      So why again don’t free agents want to sign here? OOOHHhhh right the city isn’t world class enough. FFS.

      Only one positive in the first sport section reading in a good two months was the end quote of the Jone’s article about Taylor Hall. It went something like:

      “We want to win…We will win.”
      - Holy crap I like this kid.

      chris.

    14. chartleys
      February 15, 2011 at

      Also,

      In the middle of Jone’s article I had to laugh at the one line about Horcoff, Gilbert and someone else. Again, can’t remember exactly the line but I think we should start referring to these types of references as the equivalent of the old star trek writer’s “INSERT TECHNO SPACE BABBLE HERE”.

      Horcoff – in an almost non existent pack of regulars with an unexplainable +2 beside his name in the stat column.

      Gilbert – how many minutes a game ice-time is up to these days?

      Whatever:
      “INSERT REFERENCE TO CURRENT WHIPPING BOYS HERE”

    15. February 15, 2011 at

      Take a look at this quote from Horcoff:

      That’s part of the circumstances but that’s going to pay off. This team is headed into such a great position with the salary cap, especially with it looking like it will go up $3 million next year, that it’s just silly. There are so many positives going forward here. But it’s a double-edged sword. You have to put the work in. So at this time it’s more of a gut check, especially when it comes to grit and with our experience.”

      Well, now.

      That looks like a guy who thinks his GM’s about to go out and spend some money next summer. It would be interesting to see if someone would ask him about that come camp this September when/if the Oilers are still trying to operate on the somewhat-cheap.

      As for the MSM and the way they ‘report’ on the Oilers, I gave up fighting city hall a long time ago. One need only see the reaction of a few fans to John Short’s pointed comments on Lowe from this past Sat just to see how rare they are. And rare in a circumstance that really has cried for those comments for fucking years.

      and it took a 70 year old semi-retired fellow to point it out.

      that’s all that needs to be said.

    16. February 15, 2011 at

      At the end of the day, the small group of uber-cynicals crying about the situation is about as ironic as Tambellini talking about accountability. Perhaps no one is listening to the same old drivel being spouted by the management and coaching group in the Oilers dressing room, but likewise no one is listening to those of us who are most critical of the lack of advancement from last season. This is evidenced by the section in Oil change when the radio announcers gave the team a passing grade – it seems to be the popular stance amongst the mean of the fan base.

      It will take popular opinion reaching a critical mass of negativity (see: MSM) before Katz would feel public pressure to make a change. Tambellini was very careful to set the table at seasons start to ensure basically any results by the team would be tolerated by the common fan.

      Further to that, Katz is the one who should take the blame, not Tambellini. Tambellini is doing the job to the best of his ability, misguided or not. He’s like G.W. Bush: he didn’t want to be unpopular; he didn’t want the economy/team to tank. Don’t be mad at Tambo, be mad at the shrewd, ruthless Billionaire who placed him in a position of power, and who will now (supposedly) let him stay on after another travesty of a season. Further to that, was he even a good hire to begin with?

      To be honest, I don’t think anyone knows Katz’s tolerance for incompetence. He simply has not been an owner long enough.

      One final point: swap out the entire top of the Oilers organization with a competent team and its still my opinion this team is in the bottom third of the league. In other words, I don’t think any of the damage is permanent. Yet.

    17. February 15, 2011 at

      It’s a lot easier, and a lot more popular with the majority of the fanbase, to call out “effort level” when the team looks really bad than to target anyone else. If that stops working, it’s a lot easier and a lot more popular with the fanbase to blame the coaches than to aim higher.

      People don’t want to believe that Steve Tambellini is bad at his job. It robs them of hope.

      At least, that’s the impression I get, based on the way complaints about compete level/effort level have been recycled every year (by both MSM and various fans I interact with online/in real life) since Tambellini became GM.

    18. Coach PB
      February 15, 2011 at

      JW: Wasn’t “effort” part of the “culture change”?

    19. The Other John
      February 16, 2011 at

      As we got “bigger and got harder to play against” which was, I believe, ST V1.0

    20. FastOil
      February 16, 2011 at

      Perhaps the mediocrity has gone on so long many have forgotten what the attitude of a winner is. After every season the memory banks are erased because it was painfully forgettable, and the decades long mantra that “we’re young, fast and up-coming” is sold and bought again. Just wait – in a few years we’ll be back to where we once were.

      I found it particularly amusing last year when the Oilers were referred to as “fast” and I saw a lot of players on the ice too slow to keep up with the play.

      At some point tomorrow has to come. For me next year is pivotal. The team is a few simple pieces away from play off contention. If that can’t be corrected, or more worrisome, if they want to pursue a path of ongoing lottery picks to “rebuild” the team, or there is some ill-conceived connection to a new arena, it will be hard to argue where the problems lie.

      By definition “rebuild” must have some component of progress. If not, “rebuild” really should be changed for “stagnate”, something the brass has excelled at, which has a component of “rotten”.

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