EDMONTON - You wouldn't think a team that's lost as much as the Edmonton Oilers have in recent years needs to be reminded how bad it feels to lose all the time, but it does.
And head coach Tom Renney hopes their recent three-week refresher course in failure is enough to scare them straight.
"What we've done here is maybe seen the importance of gett ing back to basics and playing the game the way we have to, relearning some things," said Renney, the morning after their worst defeat of the season, 5-3 at home to the tired and last-place Carolina Hurricanes, left Edmonton 4-9-1 in its last 14.
"I'm not going to suggest the guys were frozen or paralyzed or couldn't play, we just had a tough night last game. My hope is that, now that they've suffered the ultimate consequence, they understand the value of what we reviewed."
The team they reviewed doesn't look at all like the one fans are watching now. The October Oilers were a fast, smart, confident and resilient handful that beat opponents to the puck on the forecheck, forced them into penalties with possession down low, capitalized with the man advantage and protected the defensive zone like mother bears.
Since then, injuries and scheduling derailed some of that momentum and a softening of team resolve did the rest.
They've dropped from the top of the conference to 10th while their goals against, once the best in the entire NHL, is 13th and falling.
"We do have clips that suggest we knew what we're doing and the results spoke to that," said Renney. "Lately, they don't, and we accept full responsibility for that. "But we can't
feel sorry for ourselves and we can't go out there and fall on our swords, either. This is the NHL. Let's buckle down and come back to a real sound fundamental game of hockey.
"I'd like to see us be a more proactive team, a more on-your- toes team."
THE NO-HALL EFFECT?
Not having Taylor Hall around to help push the pace offensively definitely hurts -- Edmonton has one win in five games since he went down with the shoulder injury in Denver.
"He's had an effect on our power play," said Renney, whose team has five goals in its last 36 chances. "And it's had a real effect on our energy and our attack game, coming through the neutral zone and hitting the blue line with speed, on our puck protection and puck retrieval in the offensive zone.
"The bottom line is when he's on the ice we have the puck a lot."
And when he's in the press box, the Oilers are missing a gear.
"You want to see your team do well, whether you're in the lineup or out," said Hall, who hopes to be back next week. "It sucks being out, knowing that you could have been out there. Whether I'd make a difference or not you can't really say, but it is tough to watch. I love to play this game and want to get back as soon as I can.
"I don't want to rush things, but I am getting antsy to get back in and show that I can make a difference."
They need all the help they can get -- both physical and psychological, as the spark they had in the first month seems to be gone.
"It might look that way," said Tom Gilbert. "There's no excuse; we have the same lineup we had before, we know what we have to do to win.
"I think it's just a matter of that extra step that we're not taking, to work harder for pucks. We're thinking every game is going to be easy. We have to find some energy again."