Tone down the Oiler party

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Ask any bartender who's been around longer than one weekend and he'll tell you that intoxication tends to mask a lot of blemishes and cure a lot of faults.

All it takes are six or seven belts and people are suddenly stronger, braver, smarter and much, much more beautiful. Just ask them.

But all too often, Mr. Heineken and Miss Grey Goose tend to cloud a person's judgment, and things that look wonderful at last call lose much of their allure in the harsh light of day.

Which brings us to the last couple of Happy Hours the Edmonton Oilers served up at Rexall Place, both of which would have yielded points if not for Nikolai Khabibulin's Jerry Lewis impression against Calgary.

While patrons are being left tipsy from all the big hits, timely goals and fast-paced aggression, Quinn the bartender scours the action from a more sober, analytical perspective and worries about all the bad and ugly hiding behind that free-flowing good.

"You're always analyzing, always concerned," said the head coach. "The first night we were better in a lot of areas and probably deserved points, and last game we weren't as good. Yet we come this morning, we got two points (against Dallas), and we want to frolic a little bit. I guess that's human nature.

"Yes, we won, that's the result we want every night, but we have to be concerned on the how. How you play the game is going to dictate your results in the long term."

While it's tempting to look at the first two games and get caught up in the new found toughness, energy, intensity and resilience that this team has been missing for so long, Quinn won't be bamboozled.

He can't afford to wake up next to a mutt in mid-December. Yes, Edmonton is displaying the sort of intangibles all teams need, stuff you can't teach, but they're lagging behind on the stuff you can. He sees a struggling PK, defensive zone breakdowns and players who, despite a month's worth of scolding, still can't resist the urge to break off on ill-fated solo missions.

"We've got some things that need to be fixed up," he said. "You look for execution, that's really what it's all about. You can have any system, but the real business is having people buy into it and everybody trying hard to be part of a team.

"Individuals don't win in this game, teams do. So when you see that the teamwork is not where we need it to be, then you get concerned."

He's been around long enough to know that early season records can be dangerously deceiving. So have the players, who don't have to look back any farther than last October, when unconscious goaltending and an intoxicating 4-0 record masked all their blemishes.

Craig MacTavish, like Quinn, knew there was plenty that needed fixing.

"It's concerning for sure," he said after the Oilers were outshot 33-19 in a 3-2 win. "Good teams don't get outplayed territorially, and that's reflected in shots on goal. It's not gone unnoticed by anybody."

We all know how that story ends. If this one is to have a happier ending, if their game is to withstand the morning sun, they have to be better.

Half the battle is admitting there's a problem, and they seem to have taken that first important step.

"If a couple of bad bounces go our way in the Calgary game we could easily be 2-0, but we're nowhere where we need to be to be successful," said centre Shawn Horcoff.

"If you see some of the goals (against), it's a little disappointing because they're blatant errors.

"We have to get that down first and foremost because that's what's going to win us games."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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