Power of positive thinking

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

PHOENIX -- It's very early in the schedule, they're still adjusting after a major off-season facelift, they're the second youngest club in the league and they just played back to back games against the best goalie in the NHL.

We get it.

It's not time to panic.

But when you've lost four straight, and your offence has shrivelled up and your power play, despite all those new faces, looks even worse than it did last year, it is time to worry.

DELICATE BALANCE

That's where the Edmonton Oilers are right now, trying to strike the delicate balance between patience and concern, knowing that too much of either could spin them into an even deeper slump than the one they're in right now.

"Guys are obviously upset," said defenceman Matt Greene.

"We got into this trend late last year, losing games. Nobody wants to accept it, nobody wants to take it and say we're a young team, we're going to get better. We want to win right now.

"At the same time you can't go berserk and think the ship has already sunk. It's a long trip."

The veterans among them say the only thing that sinks a losing team faster than denial is hysteria. So with last year's 2-18 finish still patrolling their nightmares, it's important they don't fall into a 'Here we go again,' mindset.

"This (the slump) is something we have to rectify immediately," said defenceman Steve Staios. "But as important as it is to stop this thing right away, you have to put it in perspective, handle it the proper way. The last thing you can do is get down and frustrated - that's when it starts to spiral.

"The veterans here have to set an example on how to deal with tough times because this isn't going to be the only one this season. If you learn how to handle it properly it shortens the amount of time that you're not playing well."

But while keeping the club's confidence level up is crucial, it's not always easy on a kid-loaded team that finished 13th in its conference last year. And if a young and fragile team like Edmonton gets the heebie-jeebies, they can last all year.

"It's a long season, there's a lot of ups and downs and we know that better than anybody," said Jarret Stoll. "You push the panic button now, you start pointing fingers and you're not doing any good for yourself and the team."

So the mantra in the dressing room is this: Yes, we have some problems. No, it doesn't mean we're going to be a dogspit team like last year.

"We know there's going to be some good times and some bad times," said Sheldon Souray. "We knew there was going to be a certain amount of time to get everyone together on the same page. It's too early to be getting really frustrated and really down. We've done some good things.

"We don't want to let the negative feelings creep in because once that happens it's contagious and it starts going fast. We're going to stay positive. We're not going to judge ourselves after six games ... but we do have to play better."

Soon, because it doesn't take long before six games becomes 16 and it's not early in the season anymore. So if the positive reinforcement doesn't start producing results, it'll be time to crack the whip.

WINNING IS A MUST

"You can be as positive or as negative as you want to be, but at the end of the day you have to win," said Greene.

"If that's what it takes for guys to win games, being on edge and being a little sour all the time, if we're winning games, so be it.

"We just have to find what's good for us. I think our team operates best when it's loose and having fun, but if that's not getting results then you have to take the other approach. No smiles, crack the whip, get the job done and come back and do the same the next day. Whatever works."


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