There were a lot of common answers as players and coaches from the Edmonton Oilers fielded questions on Wednesday afternoon. On the heels of a sixth-straight loss, it would be easy for this team to get down. While there’s a real sense of frustration, it’s also clear there’s a different feeling around this team than in years before and anger doesn’t mean there’s a lack of belief.
Both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Glen Gulutzan spoke about what the current feeling is like inside the Oilers’ locker room. A strong start to the season has turned into a run of multiple losses and a jersey was tossed on the ice during Tuesday’s game, an example of how frustrated some of the fan base has become since this team can’t seem to stay consistent.
Gulutzan Says This Isn’t the Same Team From Four Years Ago
The Oilers’ assistant coach is now working as the offensive coach/co-coach in the absence of Dave Tippett and he was asked about adversity and how the team handles it. He provided a response from the perspective of someone who has been in the locker room in years past and under a different coach.
Saying he was with the team in Todd McLellan’s final year as the coach and with Ken Hitchcock running the bench for a while, that group had a tendency to doubt themselves. This group doesn’t. To a man, everyone knows they need to be better and only they can play their way out of this stretch of losses but there’s an absolute belief they can.
Gulutzan said, “I can tell that it’s different and it’s different in a very positive way.” He added that four years ago there was a lack of hope. This season he says he senses frustration, a little anger, but also a lot of belief. “There’s a difference,” he reiterated.
Gulutzan noted that while he was a bit on the quiet side early, Duncan Keith has become more vocal in a positive way inside the locker room. “He’s starting to bark a little bit, in a positive, positive way.” The coach also noted that “Connor and Leon aren’t the same guys they were four years ago, they’ve got more belief in themselves and their group.”
Nugent-Hopkins Says Frustration Can Be a Positive
Oftentimes frustration is synonymous with doubt and uncertainty but Nugent-Hopkins says it’s not necessarily a bad thing the team is a bit frustrated with the way things have gone lately. He noted that frustration can’t turn into negativity but it can be “almost used as a good thing.”
He says it makes the team want to get out there and play harder and do a little bit more. He noted that they talk about it in the room a lot and that this group is in it together and wants to come out of it as a team.
Important to Understand Reality of Oilers’ Situation
The players do get it. Forward Colton Sceviour said of the jersey being tossed on the ice. “It’s unfortunate..fans are frustrated. Not like we’re yucking it up in the room.” But he also added, “That fan will just have to buy a new jersey,” hinting there will be a time the team will have turned it around and the fan will be ready to cheer again.
He’s not wrong. For as bad as these recent losses feel, the Oilers are still very much in the thick of things and have a 16-11 record with games at hand. They’re in the playoff mix and far from out of contention. Are they best team in the NHL like their winning percentage suggests a couple of short weeks ago? Probably not. Are they as bad as their record suggests over the past six games? No.
That this is not a bad team seems to be the consensus feeling in the locker room. There are certainly some holes that the GM will need to address and GM Ken Holland knows he’s got work to do. But, this is the same roster that went 9-1 with Mike Smith and continued to play well even when Smith was down. They can play well again.
Thursday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets will be a real test. Can the Oilers turn frustration into a positive and snap a losing streak they badly need to snap? From there, can they take that win and turn it into numerous wins? They seem to think so.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”