Friday, November 03, 2006

Is There Still A Pulse?

Tonight's Flames game means more to one man than any other on the team - Jim Playfair. I know his ass is on the line, you know his ass is on the line, and you better believe HE knows his ass is on the line. Despite the fact Columbus is desperate for a win as well, anything less than a win for Playfair and the guillotine slides closer to his head.

In my opinion, this road trip will determine his short term fate. Its hard to say exactly where the cut off line is, but zero wins is probably an instant firing upon arriving at Calgary international. 1 win would give Playfair a 3-4 game reprieve, 2 wins might give him until the end of the month, 3-4 wins and he'll be spared until the Flames start tanking again.

Many writers talk about the coach 'losing' the dressing room in situations like this. I don't know about losing the dressing room, but I do know that the post Wings game interviews from both Tanguay and Iginla on Sportsnet exhibited how much the atmosphere has changed in the dressing room. Insiders said it was upbeat but business like last year - this year (after the Wings game) I think one could describe the atmosphere as 'funeralesque.' Iginla and Tanguay looked as if both their mothers had just died, Iginla couldn't look at the camera and was the most downbeat I've ever seen him. You know the interviews players give right after they've lost the Cup in game 7? It was like that.

I don't know if that’s a sign of losing the dressing room, or a sign of being beaten so thoroughly so often. In any event, the only remedy is a few wins, preferably a few close ones so the team remembers how to fight through adversity and win.

Leadership and Consistency

I have to say, despite not playing well in the last week or so, I'm still not overly concerned about the state of affairs in Oil Country. There is obviously a lack of consistency, but there are still flashes of try and I've never felt the Oilers were totally out of any game they've played. I do wonder though how much of the problem is due to the absence of Ethan Moreau. Obviously he doesn’t get a lot of goals or assists but if there's one thing you can say about Moreau it's that he's consistent. And he's a leader. How much of his game/attitude filters through the rest of the team purely because of his presence? Certainly this is a younger team this year, and unlike last year when the Oilers boasted several high profile leaders, this Oilers' edition is scaled down. The leadership load will be more concentrated within Smith, Smyth, Staois, Stoll and Horcoff. Can they handle it? I would think so, but maybe this post Moreau play is the result of an adjustment period.

I'd just like to comment on how pleased I am Toby Petersen made the team. He's clearly a good 4th line fit, he's speedy, he likes to hit, and tends to make solid defensive plays. Who knows, he probably has more scoring touch than Moreau! Anyway, I was a bit surprised he didn't make the team right out of camp, but Thoresen's play has proven MacTavish made the right choice. With Moreau out though, Petersen will get a fair shot, proven by MacTavish's decision to put him on the ice while the Oilers were looking for the tying goal vs. Nashville- even though his errant wrist shot that spiraled out of the zone possibly cost the Oilers the game.

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