Listen close to Wally

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Wally Buono for Edmonton Oilers coach! No, not to take over from Craig MacTavish.

He's for Craig MacTavish. Or at least he can relate to him.

The last time Buono's B.C. Lions were here they came in with an 11-game winning streak and first place seemingly already salted away. The Lions lost and immediately went on a four-game losing streak. Now they're back still trying to put first place away.

"When we were 11-0 and came here some people thought I was sarcastic when I said I see no benefit in losing. I wasn't being sarcastic. One loss leads to two which leads to three and four ...

"It's a cycle which is hard to break.

"I don't believe losing develops character. What it does is show you good character and bad character. Winning hides those things. Losing exposes what you don't have in terms of character. There's nothing good about losing. Owners lose money. People get fired. The only people who are happy with losing are the media. They've got lots to write and talk about. I don't see anything good coming out of losing.''

MacTavish started with three straight wins. Now he's lost seven in a row and there's so much angst involved with the hockey team right now it's taken over from the focus on the football team.

'IT'S A LONG, LONG SEASON'

"If I have a message for Craig MacTavish it's that it's a long, long season. A month from now he could have 12 wins in a row.

"You get to this point of a season, 11-0 means nothing and 0-4 means nothing. It's the next game that counts.''

That said, he says sometimes a coach has to look at one thing.

"Body language tells you everything you want to know. As a coach, sometimes you have to look at the obvious.''

The body language of the Lions and the Eskimos the last time they played here said it all before the first play.

"We'd just won 11 in a row and they'd just lost two in a row. They were in a different state of mind than we were.''

Coaches going into tonight's game are in a strange space. It's a big, big game. But following are even bigger ones. You want to win, but more than anything you want to go into the playoffs playing well. And as much as anything, you want to keep your quarterbacks healthy.

"There's a lot of importance on who finishes where,'' says Buono who needs one win in either of the last two games to put away home field advantage for the West final.

"Hopefully we'll have a higher level of emotional and physical play since the last time we were here.

"For both teams there's significant things at stake in this game. If we win, it solidifies everything we've tried to accomplish in the last 10 months. If they win, it gives them a chance to still do the same. Anybody who thinks this is just another game is missing the point. It's a rehearsal for a playoff game. Winning has a tremendous benefit.''

Buono has finally managed to get his quarterbacks back and healthy.

"The CFL is a quarterbacks' game. The better the quarterbacks, the better chance you have to win,'' said Buono.

IT'S LIKE GOALTENDING

It's like goaltending in hockey, he said.

"Without quarterbacking you're not going to win much and without goaltending you're not going to win many games,'' said Buono.

Ricky Ray has taken a licking and kept on ticking. Jason Maas hasn't played a down.

"If Ricky was paid per hit he'd taken, he'd still be underpaid,'' said Buono. "I don't know how many times he got hit in the Saskatchewan game, but he got hit a lot.''

Both Casey Printers and Dave Dickenson have been down for the Lions. Dickenson has been cleared to return this week.

Yes, you want to finish with healthy quarterbacks for the playoffs. But that said, forget about it, says Danny Maciocia.

"There's only one way to play and that's full out. You can't play scared. You can't coach scared either.

"We're not going to hold back. There's so much at stake. It's seemed the bigger the game, the bigger this team plays. I hope that will be the case. It's important for us and it's important for them. We've just won two in a row and played two pretty good teams to win them. Now we play two more pretty good teams before the playoffs.''

If the Eskimos win and turn on the town throughout November it would be a big favour to MacTavish. It would take attention away from the Oilers while they try to dig out of the hole they have apparently yet to stop digging.


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