Are the Edmonton Oilers Truly a "Fat and Happy" Team?
The Oilers won the game. That much is true.
It was an important game for the team to win—a 4-0 victory over the Coyotes on Monday—considering what's facing them in their schedule over the next two weeks.
Edmonton played almost two good periods of hockey and honestly played well enough to win, but the team chose to let its goalie, Jeff Deslauriers, bail it out in the third period with his first shutout of the season. As coach Pat Quinn put it, the Oilers got "fat and happy," and I'm not sure there is a better way to describe the shape of the Oilers franchise (no pun intended).
Since the Oilers made that magical run to the Stanley Cup in '06, they've been living off the residuals. The city fell back in love with a team that gave it hope for a winner, and from that moment on, it's been almost impossible to fully understand the continued and loyal foolish optimism.
Management tries to reel in the big fish. When it doesn't work, the Oilers grab a player like Erik Cole or Nikolai Khabibulin, and, amazingly, it's like an entire city forgot that the team is still a group of underachievers living off of the success of an almost five-year-old run that can't possibly be repeated if the team continues to play the way Quinn has noticed it's playing.
No amount of Erik Coles or Nikolai Khabibulins will change that. Frankly, neither would have Dany Heatley or Marian Hossa.
Yet, it's enough to sell out the arena, enough to make the team one of the most profitable in the NHL, and enough to result in price increases for an inferior product.
Even in a 4-0 victory over a team with a much better record than the Oilers, Edmonton left holes in the story line that concerns those who want to see this team actually make a successful turn toward a winning franchise. Instead of choosing to continue to outwork and outplay the Coyotes, they figured a 4-0 lead was safe.
Fortunately, they were right.
Unfortunately, they won't always be.
At what point does this team realize that all 60 minutes need to be played as if it's their last? That victories shouldn't be truly relished if a team can't say they put in the effort 100 percent of the time? Is this Oilers team that group of players?
I'm not wanting to come off as unhappy that the team got a much-needed win. I'm proud of the fact that for two periods, the Oilers took their closed-door meeting to heart. That players like Hemsky played in both ends and that others chipped in for a solid and safe win.
That said, the Phoenix Coyotes are the Phoenix Coyotes and not the Penguins, Sharks, Blackhawks, Flames, Capitals, or a host of other teams that can put their opposition away in less than 10 minutes if you let your play slip like the Oilers did on Monday night.
Sure, they won't play every game 100 percent (no one does), but I've yet to see one game in which they significantly outplayed the opposition from end to end like they did the first game of the season against Calgary—a game in which the Oilers lost with literally seconds left to play.
Quinn and Co. can only hope the first two periods of Monday's game gave the Oilers a taste of what it feels like to be the better team. Perhaps they got the message that, to clearly defeat your opposition, you have to outplay your opposition, you have to outwork your opposition, and you have to outchance your opposition from defence to offence.
Quinn and Co. really hope that the Oilers don't revert back to the last period of Monday's game, in which they floated off the residuals of the first 30-something minutes. As Quinn suggested, that's a "fat and happy team that hasn't won squat."
Monday's game was big. Wednesday will be even bigger against an LA Kings team that is ripe to be outplayed. Friday, Edmonton will have to be 100 percent for 60 minutes.
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