SUN Hockey Pool

Delivering some 'wow'

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

CALGARY -- There were times over the last few seasons when fans in Edmonton must have wanted to rip the batteries out of their remote controls and jam them into their eye sockets so they didn't have to watch another second of Oilers hockey.

It could be dreadful. No emotion. No passion. Just 60-lifeless minutes after 60 lifeless minutes.

They'd be halfway through the second period, the shots would be 8-8, the Oilers would be down 1-0 and there wouldn't be a single decent hit or shred of intensity.

Now, you can't turn away.

Fourth in the league in fights and second in goals scored, these guys are getting fun to watch.

"Right from Day 1, it was something everybody in the room was aware of, that we needed to change our philosophy, especially at home," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"And we did that. Nobody really had to re-invent themselves, it was just a few subtle changes, adding a few physical guys, and it carried through the team."

Combine that with a coach who favours attacking rather than defending and they've already delivered six months' worth of wow in October alone.

Mike Comrie gets four points and a fight in his homecoming game. Dustin Penner gets five points. Nikolai Kahbibulin goes from goat to hero. They blow a game with 1.5 seconds left, and another with 49 seconds left, they come back from 4-1 to win 6-4 ...

You never know what's going to happen next.

Goals, rushes, hits, scraps, comebacks -- all the stuff that's great about hockey is back.

"We want to be an entertaining team," said Sam Gagner, who has eight points and a fight in nine games.

"We've got a young group and we feel like we're playing the right way.

"We're moving the puck really well and trying to make plays, finishing our checks when we can.

"If we get the execution a little better we're going to be a tough team to handle."

Instead of a tough team to watch.

That they're having more fun in the room goes without saying -- all winning teams are loving life -- but this year's team can't wait for the next shift.

"It's a lot more fun when you have more guys who are committed and more guys who are physical," said Moreau. "It's fun to feed off each other's energy."

You can already see that they're a much more resilient group.

If any other Oilers team blows two of its first three games at home to Calgary -- one at 19:11, the other at 19:58 -- the weight of it would crush their entire month. They'd be scared to take the ice.

These guys won five of their next six.

And last year when they got behind, they stayed there: 5-19-3 when trailing after 20 minutes, 2-29-2 when trailing after 40.

This year, they're 2-2 when trailing after 20 and ran off five straight goals in overcoming a third-period deficit against Columbus.

"It's a good feeling," said Gagner. "That's how we want to be known in here, as a team that won't quit."

Clearly no lead is safe with these guys... whether they're ahead or behind.

"We are exciting sometimes," chuckled Quinn, who's delivering on his preseason promise of a tough, attacking, hard-working team.

"When I started my coaching career I thought hockey was a really static game. I wanted to be a coach that opened it up a little bit.

"I could see skills that weren't being used because we tried to treat people like robots.

"I didn't want 20 robots. Some guys can think pretty good, and I wanted to have a team where I could give them a framework in which they could take advantage of the offensive side of the game.

"It's a lot of fun to watch. I love pressure.

"You don't like mistakes, but mistakes create excitement, too."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


Photos