Oilers ditch practice, hit the green

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:11 PM ET

EDMONTON — Some decisions are so painfully obvious they make themselves.

They’re called no brainers.

Don’t pick up a hitchhiker wearing a hockey mask.

Don’t expand to cities that don’t have snow.

Don’t go off the board and take Jesse Niinimaki with the 15th pick overall.

No brainers, all of them.

And it didn’t take much grey matter for the Edmonton Oilers to realize that jetting off to California this weekend for a lavish golf holiday in the middle of what could potentially be their worst season ever is probably a bad idea.

“There was a plan, a good one by our management and ownership, to give our players a little bit of a break, which seemed pretty smart in August,” said head coach Pat Quinn, in explaining the change in their itinerary. “But it doesn’t feel, as a coach, very smart right now.”

Nor should it. Blowing off practice for tee times in Palm Springs when you’re 1-9 in your last 10 and second last in your league wouldn’t be prudent on any number of levels.

So, at Quinn’s urging, they called off a mid-season holiday in the land of greens and sunshine in favour of a mid-season training camp in Edmonton, home of the dark cloud.

“I was the guy who convinced others that we needed this time,” sadi Quinn, who’d rather send some of these guys to Palm Springfield than Palm Springs. “So we’re going to run a little camp here. We have this window, it’s the only one we have all year. We can’t (practice) during the Olympic break and by then it might be too late, anyway. This is a very important four days for us.”

The focus of the camp will be redesigning the system to better complement the skill level here, which is to say, not much.

They’ll dummy down the offence, returning to a more safe and methodical dump it in, dump it out, chip and chase style similar to the one Craig MacTavish used to employ here.

“It’s like the old days when teams would hit the red line and shoot it in automatically, that was the only play they were allowed to do,” said Quinn. “That’s what this is, done in a different way.”

Simply put, they’ve come to the realization, at least the coaching staff has, that they’re not talented enough to get by on talent.

“Maybe we mis-read our skills a little bit,” said Quinn, who knows enough to know that what they’ve been doing isn’t working. “People who keep trying to get a different result from doing the same thing aren’t very smart.”

So it’s back to the drawing board, instead of the tee box.

“We are not giving up the ship,” said the coach. “We’re going to do some work. We’re going to try and nail it down, even if we have to become robots... I’ve never believed you make robots out of your players, I like to give freedom when you have the puck, to allow your offensively talented players to create and make things happen, but I do demand responsibility when you don’t have the puck and we haven’t got that as well as we need to get it.

“If we’re going to go back to the defensive side and become more robotic, that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’s nobody’s first choice, but there aren’t any players in this lineup with the game or the numbers to argue.

“When you’re making mistakes in games and you’re losing games, there’s things that you’re doing that are wrong,” said Patrick O’Sullivan. “They need to be corrected. As players we realize that and are open to anything, really. We need to change some things. Maybe adjust the way we’re playing in certain areas of the ice. But at the end of the day we need to execute as players.”


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