Gretz going grey

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Coaching the Phoenix Coyotes can make you old before your time, but The Grey One isn't ready for retirement.

"I'd be the first owner who ever fired himself as a coach," chuckled Wayne Gretzky, who needs to keep his sense of humour in a situation where there's been precious little to laugh about.

"As I told the players, the last 10 days have felt like 10 months. It's not been enjoyable to say the least."

Not when the team has lost seven of its last eight, including back-to back shutout defeats at home, for its worst start since moving to the desert in 1996.

It's a bitter pill for a club that hoped for much better things after adding Ed Jovanovski and Owen Nolan to the mix in the off season.

"The expectations of our team to be a lot better than we are now are much greater," said Gretzky. "That's what's discouraging because we are a much better team than we've shown."

The Coyotes might be a little slow on the uptake, but Gretzky's doing the best he can with his Hooked on Phoenix lesson plans.

He's been a little of everything: Good cop, bad cop, psychologist, strategist, butt kicker and back patter.

"He's going to try whatever he has to to try and find a way to get some sort of spark out of us as a group," said captain Shane Doan. "Whatever he has to do, at this point, it's justifiable. As a coach I'm sure it's frustrating because as players it's frustrating."

The Coyotes have a lot of veteran leaders who haven't been doing a lot of leading lately. It's ironic that the most prolific scorer in NHL history has a team that's struggling so badly on offence.

"For our team to be successful is no different than any other team," Gretzky said. "You need your top two or three offensive players to produce every night - and when you get shut out twice at home obviously you're not producing.

"It's not one or two guys' fault we're in the position we're in, but we definitely need a boost, we need a big game out of one of our core guys.

"As Glen Sather would say, that's not pressure, that's just a fact.

"It's been like that for 50 years in hockey. It was like that for myself and Messier, it's like that for Datsyuk and Zetterberg; you need your key guys to come up in big situations and produce."

Jeremy Roenick, who scored his first goal of the season last night, said they just need to relax.

"We're not going to sit here and wait for people to feel sorry for us," he said. "We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get out of this funk that we've put ourselves in. We just have to get to basics and have fun again - enjoy why we do it. Sometimes that's when you play your best hockey."

They're certainly not playing it now.

"Maybe we're not as good as we were in the 6-3 win over the Islanders in the first game of the season," said Gretzky.

"But we're definitely not as bad as we we've been the last three or four games. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium."


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