Break a time for soul searching: Comrie

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers are not exactly riding off into the sunset. No, it’s more like they’re walking away from a train wreck.

But however their nine-day Olympic break is characterized, there isn’t a person even remotely associated with the team who isn’t thanking heaven above that it’s finally here.

Same goes for a city that’s growing more and more disillusioned with a 30th place franchise that’s going to miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and sixth time in the last eight years.

Nine days of no Oilers? Sweet.

“Just getting away and getting your mind off hockey as much as possible is the best thing for everybody,” said defenceman Tom Gilbert. “Just let go, because it’s been tough, and come back with a different mentality.”

The players will fan out across the globe, at sandy beaches and exotic resorts, trying to wash away the sour taste that comes from six months worth of misfortune and abject failure.

“It’s hard to feel good the way the season is going,” said Ryan Potulny. “But maybe this break will be good for us.”

It’ll be like heading into a long weekend on Friday afternoon knowing you just screwed up a major assignment. Yes, you try to enjoy yourself, but you also know the mess will be waiting for you Tuesday morning.

“It’s not a good feeling,” Mike Comrie said of their woeful pre-Olympic stretch. “We have to do some soul searching over the next couple of weeks.”

“We want to be better than we are,” added Steve Staios. “It’s time to reflect a little bit. We’ll try and use this to recover physically and mentally and come back with a lot of energy and get this team playing at a level that it’s capable of playing.”

That’s not a suggestion, it’s what the coaching staff is insisting.

The players were asked to weigh in before they left, a gentle reminder that there are still 21 games to play when they get back and nobody had better show up for practice on Feb. 24 looking like he sat around pounding umbrella drinks and eating poutine.

“We as a management and a coaching staff can’t relax on the standards and the expectations that we try to set for these young men,” said head coach Pat Quinn, adding he and the management staff will begin selecting next season’s team when this season resumes. “We’re looking to make some decisions about who’s in and who’s not in. We’ve got 21 games to play and we’re not going to go through the motions. If anyone is going through the motions then clearly they shouldn’t be part of this team going forward.”

The players seem on board with that. Staios and Ethan Moreau will bring a personal trainer with them to Maui and work out every morning. Potulny plans on spending a lot of his time hitting it in the gym, too.

“You have to prepare yourself, you can’t go and lie around the whole time,” he said. “You have to take care of your body and take care of yourself, get feeling good. Stay in shape condition wise and come back ready to play.”

Because when they get back, and the trade deadline passes, the coaching staff will have to take off the kid gloves and begin forging next year’s team.

“We have to establish what’s going to be expected in the intangible sense,” said Quinn. “We don’t play with the grit that’s necessary, we don’t play with the smarts that are necessary, that’s why we’re in last place. We have to make some good decisions going forward.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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