Since the day Chris Pronger left town, the Edmonton Oilers have been without a certain type of leadership. Or so it appears. During Pronger’s time in Edmonton, fans like me (what’s the opposite of Insider?) would hear that the big defenseman was a terror to teammates. If things weren’t going well, if someone was screwing the pooch, Pronger was the guy in the room to call them out.
This is what we heard.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t print that because there’s no available evidence. However, we’re most of a decade away from that moment in time and all but Ryan Smyth, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish are gone (among the main cast).
Today, Ken Warren published an article that included a quote from Ales Hemsky about the Edmonton Oilers.
- Hemsky: “I don’t know how to explain it. If somebody knew, they should step up and help them, but they haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe it’s just the kids. They have to step up and lead the team to the playoffs. They’ve been there for a long time and it’s their time, you know. They can’t only blame older guys or change their fourth line. They’ve got to start leading the team to the playoffs. Be leaders. That’s probably the one thing. But they are all great guys and I had a great time and hopefully they will turn it around and get into the playoffs. People deserve it there, you know. It’s a hockey city. People love their hockey and it’s painful.”
Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish saw fit to sign and name Andrew Ference captain last summer, an indication that there was in fact a void in leadership. That’s a tell, that’s something to ponder.
Still, I’m not onside with blaming the kids on this one. This team is fractured on defense and balance is a thing other teams employ. The TOI given to non-NHL blue since Hall arrived is incredible. How much of that do we blame on the kids? The annual “we didn’t shoot the coach but the gun went off” changes have had their impact, too.
Hall and Eberle have delivered offense since their arrival, and with the exception of this season Hall has been pushing the river. Even with the failures of the current season, any fool can see they’re highly skilled contributors. Were they elevated too soon to the pleasure dome of higher minutes and allowed to roam free? Sure, but hell boys that’s on the Oilers.
Hemsky’s words can be construed in all manner of ways, but for me “they” also speaks to management and coaching. If there is a problem, and it appears to be so, the Edmonton Oilers management group would do well to have a long look in the mirror. And if there’s any manning up to do, it should begin at the coaching and management level.
Before you send away any more good players, remember the words of Hemsky today. When he said “they can’t figure it out” he wasn’t just talking about the players. Not in my opinion, anyway.