Oilers’ Perlini Can Provide Element of Leadership That Team Lacks

Some 40 hours had passed after the Edmonton Oilers coughed up a two-goal, third-period lead against the Ottawa Senators to lose for the 12th time in 14 games. And Oil Country was still having a full-blown meltdown on Monday (Jan. 17), with no signs of the panic receding.

Then, Brendan Perlini took a seat behind the table for his first truly in-depth media availability since signing with the Oilers in the offseason, and within just minutes, Edmonton was breathing a bit easier.

Perlini didn’t just say what everyone needed to hear; he said what everyone needed to hear in the way it needed to be said. The 25-year-old forward provided refreshing introspection and perspective with a candour and demeanour that has been missing from the Oilers’ leadership core.

“At the end of the day, it’s hockey,” Perlini said. “Go out there and play. Play like you’re on the pond when you’re a kid and have fun, be positive and good things will happen… I’m a big believer in the law of attraction; whatever you think about, you bring about.”

For fans finally getting a glimpse of the man beneath the helmet, this was almost like a therapy session. And the Oilers’ faithful lit up social media and talk radio expressing how much better they felt after just a few minutes of listening to the affable Perlini. If his infectious attitude starts likewise resonating throughout Edmonton’s dressing room, the Oilers shouldn’t find themselves in freefalls like their current 2-10-2 stretch.

Related: Oilers: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Brendan Perlini

During Monday’s availability, Perlini shared thoughts more profound and genuine than the usual expressionless cliché answers from Connor McDavid and Co. The Oilers captain, for all his incredible on-ice abilities and full-stop dedication to the franchise, has never been accused of having a galvanizing personality or caught saying something that might light a spark.

Perlini’s philosophy is rooted in the ups and downs that have led him to what could almost be described as a place of Zen. The left wing went from lottery pick (selected 12th overall in 2014 by the Arizona Coyotes) to playing 239 games over parts of four seasons with the Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings and being out of the NHL by age 24.

Brendan Perlini Edmonton Oilers
Brendan Perlini, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

After playing pro hockey in Switzerland last season, Perlini signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Oilers that provided an opportunity to prove himself and get back into the NHL. He led the Oilers with six goals and a plus-6 rating in the preseason but went without a point while appearing in just 13 of Edmonton’s first 24 regular-season games and was sent down to the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League. Since being recalled on Dec. 14, he has three goals, one assist, 14 shots, and a plus-2 rating over five games.

Perlini on How His Attitude Developed

“It hasn’t been something that’s come really easy for me. It’s something over the whole COVID period, if not before. I had a real down year in Detroit. The team was rock bottom. Myself, personally, didn’t have a great year there, so when you hit those low of lows, the only way to go is to go up, and I really did a lot of soul-searching about myself to see who I was, why I enjoyed playing the game, where I want to go in the game and things like that.”

“I met and trained with a lot of people over the last couple years, Navy Seals being one, and my one buddy, Tommy, he was a Navy Seal for 15 years. A usual term is four years and he spent 15, and that’s the elite of the elite where their consequence is death. So, right off the hop, I’m like, ‘ok, if I miss a pass, if I miss a shot, if we lose the game, my consequence is not death. I still get to wake up and go to the rink the next day, or go work out, or do what I want to do, so that relieves a little bit of mental ease, right there.”

“Like I said, law of attraction for me is so big, and (I’m) really just staying positive through everything, really trying to enjoy everything. I feel like sometimes things can get too much in the past or future, and I really just try to stay in the pocket, in the present. It’s very tough, because you’re always thinking about what’s going to happen next, or this or that, so for me it’s a mindset of trying to stay present, stay happy and go out and enjoy everything.”

Perlini on Where Oilers Go From Here

“I think it can only go up. I’ve been on teams where it’s lose six, seven eight in a row and you can win six, seven, eight in a row, just like that. I’m obviously an optimistic guy, a glass half full guy, but we’ve got some of the best players in the world – the best player in the world – in there, so at any given moment good things can happen and you just got to keep going. That’s life.

“Things are never going to be that you’re going to win every single game, and your life is going to be rainbows and clouds. Life is ups and downs, ebbs and flows, so it’s really almost grateful for our group to go through periods like this, because then when we’ll get back to winning, it’s like, ‘Ah, I like that feeling, I want to keep winning.’

“Maybe before we weren’t grateful enough for winning games and we have to go through something like this to learn and become better.”

Perlini Gets Shot With McDavid

Perlini now appears poised to get a shot playing in the top-six, skating in practice on McDavid’s line with right wing Kailer Yamamoto. And if that trio remains intact for Edmonton’s next game, Thursday (Jan. 20) against the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place, Perlini might help reignite McDavid, who last recorded a point on New Year’s Day and hasn’t scored a goal since New Year’s Eve.

Likewise, if Perlini continues to take on a more prominent role within the dressing room, he could incite a cultural transformation and evolution in leadership that propels the Oilers to the next level.

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