Curbing Oil Kings' enthusiasm

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

In the regular season it's never how, just how many.

That's why you won't find many coaches willing to spend too much time critiquing a win.

But in the pre-season, it's always the other way around. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but rather how you play the game.

So while Edmonton Oil Kings coach Steve Pleau isn't going to get all excited about his club's 3-0 record in last weekend's exhibition tournament, he is pretty happy with how they looked in doing it.

"I liked some of the things we did in our own game, but you can't compare yourself to the other teams," said Pleau, whose club beat Medicine Hat 5-3, Swift Current 4-1 and Regina 4-0.

"They travelled to get here and there were some young lineups, but I did like some of our guys and how they competed and how they understood what we were trying to accomplish with our systems and things like that."

Pleau says the Oil Kings leadership group really impressed him, before they even took a shift.

"A guy like Brett Breitkreuz really jumped out at me. He made the commitment to stay in Edmonton all summer and work out with (Oilers fitness consultant Simon Bennett). His skating, his conditioning, his competitiveness, all those things are tremendous. It's nice to see that from a 20-year old. Greener (GM Bob Green) always said that the personality of your 20-year-olds becomes the personality of your team. You want those guys focused."

Which, by all indications, the whole team seems to be.

"I feel we're in good condition, and I didn't feel that the last two years," said Pleau. "As a group we're focused. We have six guys going to pro camp, that's big. There are a lot of things going on as our growth continues. Experience is huge. Last year when we went into the playoffs we had four games of playoff experience on our team. We got a lot more this year."

The formative years of a start-up franchise are crucial -- that's when a team decides whether it's going to be a winner or a loser. That's why the Kings have been careful to stress character every bit as much as ability.

"Bob has done a tremendous job of that," said Pleau. "Early on we didn't sacrifice character for talent or skill. We made sure we had good kids who were going to work hard on and off the ice, who were going to be responsible in school. You need that. You don't win without character."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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