"It was a disgrace. I don't know exactly why we can't get up for a game like that. It's a divisional game and we should be coming out with a sense of urgency and we never had that." — Ryan Smyth, on Thursday's 7-3 loss to the AvalancheYes, Mr. Smyth, that is exactly what the Oilers should be doing against division rivals. And for the most part, they have, posting a very respectable 6-2 record against the Northwest so far this season — which goes a long way to explain why we're currently leading the division with 28 points despite having a team that at times can seem so problematic and incomplete.
Thursday's night's was a big loss for the Oilers — and not just because we got manhandled in a way only the Blues and Coyotes could possibly be comfortable with the next morning. This was one of those embarrassing, frustrating losses that cuts our team deep, because, as you can see from the quote above, they have no idea why they didn't play better. They knew it was an important game against a not-very-strong divisional opponent that they've beaten twice before this year, and yet by all accounts, it was our worst game of the year, disorganized, disheveled and demeaning. And Ryan Smyth doesn't know why.
This concerns me greatly. I was opining loudly over pints at the Vic last night that I think there's a paucity of leadership in the dressing room this year, and statements like this just reinforce my fears. The team is frustrated because they don't get it, and it makes me think they don't get it because no one is explaining it to them. I wonder if MacT and his staff knows how to help this team recover from a dumb loss like Thursday's, or if the players are left to police themselves? I've always felt it's the latter, that the coaches look at the cohesiveness of their dressing room and figure that the team will work things out amongst themselves, with maybe a couple encouraging words. While that may have worked in the past, when our captain wasn't constantly sucking air from No. 2 minutes and Ryan Smyth wasn't extremely pissed that he's the only core guy on the team without a long-term deal, despite looming free-agency and the fact that he probably deserves one the most out of anyone, circumstances have obviously changed this year. MacT is a deeply respected coach, but I've never had the impression that he's a whip-cracking coach, Yet that's what this team need right now, in a big way. There's no reason to lose this badly with the assets we have. If the system isn't playing to our strengths, then we have to change the system. And the players can't do that all by themselves.
Anyhow, this is all total speculation. And a win tonight against the god-awful Blue Jackets would certainly soothe my jangled nerves. There are still lots of reasons we could lose tonight, so the Oil needs to come out with exactly 25 times more determination than they did last game if we're going to wrap up this homestand on a high note. Remember, the Jackets suck, but that is Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. They can't suck forever.
3-2 Oilers win tonight. Goals from Reasoner, Pouliot and Smyth.