It's hard to lead a team out of a slump when you can't get out of one yourself.
For Ethan Moreau and Shawn Horcoff, the two longest serving members of the Edmonton Oilers, there’s no choice but to take the lost season personally.
They are two of the club’s primary leaders, and they haven’t exactly been leading by example.
Horcoff is wrestling with the worst plus minus in the entire NHL and Moreau is playing a diminished role while his captaincy is being questioned by an angry fan base.
“It’s tough on all of us,” said Horcoff. “All of the leadership is trying to find ways to lift guys up. Chop (Moreau) has been an outstanding leader for us. He obviously has the full support every player in this locker room.
“I know it’s tough on him; we talk a lot about it. When you’re the captain you feel responsible, as do the other assistants. In a state like this it’s up to us in a lot of ways to try and bring the locker room together and help get out of it and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Moreau, whose offensive zone hooking penalty killed a potential Edmonton comeback in the third period Tuesday against Nashville, could be one of the players who’ll likely be moved as part of the rebuilding effort. Moving a captain is never pleasant, but when a team is flirting with last overall, nobody is safe.
“That’s just the situation we’re in, we’re a bad team right now in a bad position,” said Moreau. “Those are the questions you have to pose to our management.”
Head coach Pat Quinn says both players are busting their humps, but still seem to be falling short.
“They’re honest guys, they’re workers, they’re trying hard,” he said. “We need their experience to come forth so that they’re in control and they can affect positively the younger guys who you could expect might choke up or make emotional mistakes.
“Our veterans, we’re hoping, know how to deal with emotion, that’s what experience is supposed to do. I know in my heart that these guys are trying very hard to be good players and good leaders for this group. It hasn’t been as good as we need to have.”
Horcoff will never be able to crawl out from under that glaring minus total. He admits he’s pressing now.
“Everybody is pressing,” he said. “Obviously for me it’s been extremely frustrating. It’s the most difficult time mentally that I’ve ever been through professionally, for sure.”
“You want to be able to go out and show them, lead the way, and when you’re not producing at the rate that I’m accustomed to, that’s when it becomes frustrating.”
KEEPING THE FAITH - With Nikolai Khabibulin out of the picture, the spotlight shifts to Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk for the rest of the season.
They’re going to get a lot of work down the stretch, giving the organization a great chance to make an informed evaluation on which one to go with next year.
“Both of them are considered real prospects for the future,” said Quinn, adding the rest of the team needs to step up and make the netminding situation easier. “We need to be a lot sharper to help these young men so they’re not afraid to play. We don’t want to be afraid of them and they shouldn’t be afraid of us. We have to become a better team.”
Quinn said there’s a good chance Dubnyk will get the nod against the Penguins Thursday.
LATE HITS... Quinn, a two-time coach at the Olympics, took a turn carrying the torch Wednesday.
“What a tremendous honour,” he said, “I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Olympics two times and have such great memories of that.”