Time for Oilers to walk the walk

JOHN SHORT, SPECIAL TO THE EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 2:18 PM ET

Oilers fans are entitled to ask if this is the time, at long last, when players start doing more than talk the talk.

Following the dismal loss to a solid but uninspired group of San Jose Sharks, it was the turn of Steve Staios to say all the right things. In another corner, captain Ethan Moreau was doing the same - for the umpteenth time this season.

You've read it all before, and heard it at least often: they have to play with passion, take care of the basics ... and on and on and on.

One longtime hockey guy told me the other day that Craig MacTavish's biggest flaw as head coach is that he keeps treating the Dustin Penners and Bobby Nilssons and others like men, rather than the children they are in real life.

This whole thing reminds me of a long-ago conversation with a high school teacher in Kimberley, B.C.

Working with students who lacked motivation and other basics, he closed the door after class one day and delivered a serious message, one I will never forget

"I've shown you what to do," he said. "I've given you help to do it.

"I've asked you to work hard. I've told you how important it is. But I'll never beg you."

Of all the reasons why MacTavish can't deliver a similar speech, the biggest is this: in Kimberley, they were students; in Edmonton, players are independent contractors in a sellers' market and their commitment on any given day is only what they want it to be.

BALL GAME

For several months, there have been whispers that the Edmonton Oilers want to run the next professional baseball team in our town.

To me, it's important that Pat Laforge and other decision-makers - including Daryl Katz, of course - change their minds.

Sure, Laforge (or whoever) can find a bright group to operate the new franchise, whatever its name and whatever the level.

Another obvious benefit would be the owner's deep pockets.

The Eskimos are no longer involved, thank the baseball gods, but there's no way the Oilers, from the top down, could afford the time or interest necessary to run a first-class operation.

There is a pseudo-NHL team to worry about. They work almost as hard on the junior Oil Kings.

Incredible amounts of work are needed to keep the arena dream in motion.

Besides, it's almost certain that Katz is approached every day to get involved in soccer, motor racing and any other scheme likely to make money for its promoters.

It has been argued that the biggest reason for the Oilers' interest in baseball is the access to Telus Field that would automatically follow. Which guarantees a series of staged events.

Surely, there would be many more rock concerts than the old Trappers ever attempted when Mel Kowalchuk was in charge.

If you ask me (and nobody has), the concerts would mean more to the Oilers than the baseball team. A couple of big crowds on sunny weekends would provide signing bonuses for a few more independent contractors.


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