Oilers: 'Sick of what's going on'

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference (21) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) prepare for a...

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference (21) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) prepare for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of an NHL game at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Ian Kucerak/QMI Agency

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 PM ET

Remember the days when Mark Messier or another Oilers veteran would grab a teammate by the scruff of the neck and demand more if the guy wasn’t pulling his weight, or playing hard enough?

Those days might be coming back.

Only instead of it being a great team trying to stay that way, it’ll be the worst organization in the NHL trying to crawl out of the gutter.

But it’s a start.

The Oilers have become an embarrassing mess since owner Daryl Katz took over the team seven-plus years ago, and back-to-back shutout losses at home - 4-0 to Toronto and 5-0 to Detroit - pushed a lot of people past the breaking point.

No word on how Katz feels after three wins in 15 games and missing the playoffs for an eighth straight year, but the fans (both types), are as bitter as they’ve ever been here.

And some of the veterans who spoke Saturday night, also fed up with the never-ending cycle of defeat, promise to address some of the core issues themselves.

“If somebody is going to make one mistake, two mistakes, you try to help them," said defenceman Ladislav Smid. "But if it’s going to keep happening over and over, somebody is going to have to stand up and tell him.

“We have to stick together and play as a team, but at the same time we have to hold each other accountable. It’s going to get uncomfortable, but that’s the only way to do this... otherwise we’re just going to keep saying the right things and keep going on the ice and it’s going to be the same old thing."

New captain Andrew Ference agrees. He’s stunned by the differences between Edmonton and Boston and says tough love has to start at the player level.

“Right from the start of the season I’ve been sick of what’s going on here,” he said. “You get that feeling as soon as you get here - the intentions are in the right spot on an individual basis but it’s just a matter of putting into action lessons that we’re supposed to be learning.”

Which they’re not doing.

“The coach comes in here and gives a pretty black and white world of what expectations are and what you’re supposed to be doing on the ice and it’s up to us as players to do those jobs,” said Ference. “What it boils down to at this point is guys not doing it. Everybody is saying the right thing but it’s the action that matters.

“It’s like nothing soaked in. We have to hold each other accountable because there’s no excuse for it. It’s not a league where you can win when guys are trying to do things on their own page - there’s a team system for a reason.”

They’ll be saying a lot of the same things head coach Dallas Eakins is, but face-to-face peer pressure might have more impact.

“It has to start within the team,” said Smid. “The coach can come in here and yell and sit people in the box, but we have to start it in here, we have to make each other (play harder and smarter).”

With the Oilers on a four-game road trip, fans in Edmonton won’t see them again until they sell out the Nov. 13 and 15 home ice losses to Dallas and San Jose, but in the meantime they’ll do everything they can to keep this from getting really ugly.

“I don’t think we realize this can get way worse,” said Smid, who’s watched this movie many times before in Edmonton. “People are going to start getting traded. It’s going to get really uncomfortable for everyone.”

Will players governing themselves help? It can’t hurt.

“I don’t think we have a bad team in here, I don’t think we should be in last place,” said Smid. “We just have to play as a team. Everybody is on his own page, so disconnected.

“We think we’re working hard, that’s the biggest thing. We have to get in the mind-set that we aren’t working hard enough.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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