Oilers 'schizophrenic'

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

COLUMBUS — These guys can be really pretty to watch.

Sometimes.

And sometimes it looks like they should be wearing clown shoes instead of skates.

Is it too much to ask for the Edmonton Oilers to pick a lane — either the lifeless, clueless saps who didn’t look like they belonged in the same league as Calgary on Tuesday, or the high-octane, high-pressure attack that put those same Flames in full retreat the same night?

Apparently.

“That’s part of being young,” said defenceman Ryan Whitney, who’s watched the Oilers drift from awesome to awful and back a few times already. “You’re so excited certain games, and the next game your adrenaline goes from you and you don’t have that energy.

“That’s what’s tough in this league. It’s 82 games, you have to be ready for all of them. The toughest thing about being a good pro is having to prove yourself every game, every year.

“But that third period in Calgary shows the type of team we have.”

Same goes for the first two periods, actually. Get used to it because there are 74 more nights worth of schizophrenia left to come.

Watching them get outscored 10-2 in five periods against San Jose and Calgary, seemingly powerless to stop the bleeding, made you wince at what’s in store for them in the first year of the overhaul. Then you watch them storm back, with the pillars of tomorrow leading the charge, and can’t wait to see what Eberle, Paajarvi and Hall might do next.

“The hardest part about playing in this league is trying to find that consistency,” said Shawn Horcoff. “It’s not easy because you’re playing against the best players in the world every night. You have to be ready and at your best every night, and sometimes that takes younger players a while to get used to.”

The Oilers still haven’t shown their best stuff yet, only temporary flashes. But those flashes have been brilliant enough to keep people glued to the progress.

“The way we played in the third period is the way we want to play all the time,” said Dustin Penner. “We have to make teams play to our game, which is high tempo, high speed, forechecking, getting pucks and traffic to the net.

“For whatever reason we can’t start like that. The toughest thing for a young team is stringing together 60 minutes.”

And then stringing it together for two games.

“We’re learning every day how to do that,” said Penner. “But I don’t think we’re as far away as people think.”

The people in the dressing room actually believe they’re quite close, ready to burst out any day now. And they certainly believe they’re a step or two up from a team that should be losing five in a row.

“We do feel like we’re better than we’ve shown,” said Sam Gagner, who we sometimes forget is still only 21. “We’ve played some really good hockey this year, but for some reason we just can’t put it together for extended periods.

“We’re going through a learning process right now and once we figure it out it’s going to really help us going forward.”

So what should we expect Thursday in Columbus, or Friday in Chicago? Who the heck can possibly know?

“If we can build on that third period it will bode well for us,” said Gagner. “With 82 games you’re not going to feel great every night, but you have to find a way to get it done every night. You look at the difference between the best players in the league and the guys who are just fringe players, often times it’s just consistency, being a good pro.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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