Clock running on Oiler vets

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

It's been nice to have pre-season stories like Jordan Eberle, Mike Comrie, Patrick O'Sullivan and Ryan Stone.

But where are the veteran Oilers, the guys who have been here for two or six or seven years?

Where are the guys who showed up at camp and effectively threw ex-coach Craig MacTavish under the bus with the comments they made?

Isn't it about time for them to show up?

Tonight marks the three-quarter mark of the preseason schedule, and the vets have mostly been missing in action.

Their excuse has left town.

The new regime is in place.

"You'd think with new coaches you'd have an 'I want to show these guys' thing, but we haven't had that really," said new bench boss Pat Quinn.

"There will be a point when we trim down when the veterans will have to be confronted with their performance. Some of them are way off," he added.

Quinn puts part of it down to embracing an entirely new system here with half the group playing a preseason game just about every night.

"In fairness, we've changed the mentality of what we want them to do. We're trying to give them a new style of play and there's still a little confusion in it.

STILL A WEEK

"There's still a week. Unfortunately, it's a short period of time. We're at a point where we haven't had a lot of practice days. We've only had three or four practice days and we're still playing like that.

"The last five days will be critical because we'll be down to our final numbers then. I'm looking mostly at effort. Sometimes, when there's confusion, it doesn't look like effort is there.

"When you're thinking 'Where am I supposed to go and what does the coach want?' you can confuse lack of effort with not knowing where to go and how to respond quite yet.

"There's still a little confusion and hesitation with it. We're clearly not there yet.

"We've got some veterans who aren't there to win the puck right now."

The 66-year-old coach played in the day when guys used training camp to get into shape and -- unless they were in situations like Eberle, Comrie, O'Sullivan and Stone -- didn't exactly bust their butts doing so.

"Gordie and Alex didn't break a sweat for three weeks," he laughed thinking back of going to the Detroit Red Wings training camp with Howe and Delvecchio.

And Quinn, once a wily veteran himself, admits that there's no big silver trophy for the preseason.

Nobody saves the stats and there's all sorts of reason to want to save yourself for the regular-season grind - especially in an Olympic year when games are jammed together and it's even more of an endurance test than normal.

He also understands that veterans know the front ends of preseasons are about giving guys who aren't going to stay here a chance to showcase themselves for the future and send them off inspired to chase the dream with hope in their heart, as he puts it.

MOSTLY OVER

Quinn said that stage is mostly over now.

"You can't just turn the tap on when you want. You can't think 'I'll turn it on when they're ready to go.' Guess what? They're not."

It's time to get ready to go.

It's part of an opinion Quinn is beginning to form here when it comes to the younger veterans.

"We've got great skill, but we don't know how to win. They don't know how to play yet."

Associate coach Tom Renney said there are no red flags flying yet.

"They came to camp in great shape and with a great attitude. I think you'll see them start to emerge now that they're down to the last couple games."

General manager Steve Tambellini said simply: "It hasn't been everybody."

He credits Sheldon Souray, for one, for being in a competitive frame of mind since the first day of camp.

"We're looking to get better. We're looking for more out of people. We're asking for more out of our young players and our veterans and more from our coaching staff to make people better," said the second year GM.

"I don't know why anyone would think it's time to be waiting at this moment."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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