SUN Hockey Pool

Quinn takes off the shackles

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

CALGARY -- Like a dog trainer wanting to know if his greyhounds want off the leash, Pat Quinn didn't have to ask twice when instructing the Edmonton Oilers to remove their shackles.

To hear the players tell it, the new system Quinn and his coaching staff are mapping out is like a get-out-of-jail card after the take-no-chances approach they parlayed into three straight low-scoring, non-playoff seasons.

"There's definitely more emphasis on attacking the puck and also the transition from when we lose the puck to getting it back," said winger Patrick O'Sullivan. "We want to be a puck-control team. I think our defence has a lot of guys who can move the puck well, so the more we have the puck the better chance for our defencemen to get it to our fast forwards.

"We have to forecheck hard and backcheck hard. That's really our emphasis -- competing to get the puck back so we can use the attributes that we have."

It'll be different from the passive forecheck, dump and chase style they employed the last few years, a strategy that didn't always suit their small and speedy personnel.

"I think there will be more emphasis on how we used to play, a skating, physical, aggressive team," said Ethan Moreau. "It's fun to play that way and we've had success in the past. I think our fans appreciate that style of play."

The players do. It's more fun to play like Detroit than it is to play like Minnesota, so long as you have the guys who can actually find the net without a map. Otherwise, it's pointless. Edmonton believes it has the guys to score, and is eager for a chance to prove it.

"This mentality is going to lead more offence," said Shawn Horcoff, adding they still need to be aware of the difference between imagination and recklessness. "We're not talking about turning the puck over at the offensive line when you're the third guy and there's no one back to support, but there's times where you have to have the leeway to be able to make plays there and create. That's how you're going to get offence."

Quinn expects the Oilers, who've been hungry for goals for a long time now, to improve considerably on the 234 they scored last season, which tied them for 17th in the NHL.

"We're going to expect our team to have a little more offence than it's had in the past, it'll come out of our structure," he said. "We think we've got guys who can put the puck in the net."

But he doesn't want them playing street hockey out there; no team survives in today's NHL without strict attention to its own end of the ice.

"It's not just going to be run and gun. I've never wanted to play that, although it's been described that way sometimes," he said. "I really believe defence comes first. I don't want to be chasing the puck around a lot like this team did last year. Their positioning left them always running for the play someplace. I want to be a team that gets in good position early so that we're not easy to score against.

"You have to protect against defeat before you begin your attack. But I believe in attack, though, you cannot win without attack."

So the freedom to rush and dangle comes with a strict caveat:

"He said you can go down and create anything you want," said Horcoff. "But if you turn that puck over you better be the first one back."

"It's not free wheeling," adds O'Sullivan. "We're going to compete as hard defensively as we do offensively. That was one of the reasons we lost games down the stretch last year, we didn't compete hard enough defensively."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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