The Counter-Trey

The phrase “counter-trey” took awhile to find its way into the sports lexicon, but it’s a very effective way to describe misdirection.

The Edmonton Oilers have become big fans of the misdirection play. The verbal counter-trey. Edmonton Northlands is currently winding themselves into a lather after a beauty counter-trey that (incredibly) appears to have them endorsing their own demise (the study that produced the downtown project).

In terms of on-ice issues, the misdirection this fall has to do with expectations. All over the MSM you can hear the sound of managing expectations: no talk of the fact this is a cap team, that good organizations don’t miss the playoffs three seasons in a row and break camp with a roster that borders on hysterical, that good organizations address weakness during the offseason. The idea being that fans shouldn’t ask “how come we’re spending to the cap and yet everyone says if things break right and we go to church Sundays the club might slip into the playoffs?” Driving around our town, I can tell you it’s working. Very few fans are mad at the Edmonton Oilers for not addressing need while spending to the cap.

Pat Quinn is managing expectations for the fanbase too. He’s giving the fanbase some of the straight goods (it’s clear Sam Gagner hasn’t shown him much) but also passing along that the team isn’t where it needs to be:

  • “We’re still in that ‘let’s see’ stage with people to establish who makes this a better team.”
  • “(The boys) have worked hard to understand what we’re trying to do as a concept of play that we think fits this group. They’ve worked hard to try to get to the positions we’re asking them to get to and I think there’s still some hesitation.”
  • “When you’re trying to learn new things, it’s not only just explaining it, it’s taking it into the practice and doing it until it becomes part of your game and that’s what we’re trying to do now.”
  • “We haven’t had a real game yet, our first measuring stick is Saturday night. Patience is the thing. I don’t know what my expectation is and how quickly we’ll be able to learn and have it become habit. I’d love to have it Saturday night but also know we haven’t probably accompished that enough since three years ago–and even that was coming together after you got in the dance–and it was on the last day–by a point.”
  • “Young guys learning how to use their skills better. Some of these young guys are the ones we’re talking about. Nice skills, but we need to have them play better with those skills and hopefully we’ll get there too, that’s part of our job.”
  • “You’ve got to have talent. Let’s face it, I think I’m a good coach but if you I don’t have players who can play, then you make your system around what you have.
  • “I like the talent here, in what I’ve seen in the two weeks. We’re not using it to our advantage, we’ve changed it a little bit with some size and asking them to join in with some guys we know have a skill level.”
  • “We think that line (Horcoff-Jacques-Hemsky) can play against anyone now and they’ll want to check them but we’ll have some muscle there too. I kind of like the possibilities.”
  • “I think this team has skill. We’ve tried to give them a way to play that gives everyone a chance to (succeed).”
  • “A lot of people thought I was nuts when I put Reggie Leach on the PK but he was one of the best we had (although I played him with Bobby Clarke).” in response to a Hemsky on PK question.
  • “I love guys who have skill like that (Nilsson). There’s a sense of maturity, and that line when a good play becomes a doublecross and he still flirts with that line in my opinion.”
  • “We’re in the results business and we want to get there. I know that we’ve had two weeks, but there is no magic wand here, we’re trying to get a system of play that the players will buy into, and make a commitment.
  • “Some are thinking about themselves or their icetime. How long is that going to take? I don’t know. Levels of maturity are important, we’ve got some guys who are 19 or 20 years old who have played by themselves for a long time, they get to 30 or 40 points and they’re thinking that’s pretty good. It’s not good. It’s not good enough.”
  • “I hope I don’t set expectations for individuals or the group that are too high where they can’t achieve it right away and then get down on themselves. We’ve got some guys who are pretty hard on themselves.”

The fact is that Pat Quinn should have more to work with, the holes on this team have been here awhile and continue to factor. I believe he’s addressed size and has more grit on the skill lines, but at what cost? We’ll see. Sadly, they didn’t give him anyone to improve the penalty-kill, least of all someone who can win a faceoff to help Horcoff.

This won’t end well, I’ll tell you that much. Once Quinn starts losing games because he can’t find enough penalty-killers or faceoff men then he’ll get grumpy. Can’t say as I blame him. There is a culprit here, but the counter-trey is a very effective tool.

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