*Photo via Getty Images, by Bruce Bennett
I do not disagree that many of the Oilers players are in a funk, but I would like to suggest to you a reason that this group of Oilers, and others in the past, always seem to be in a bad mental state of health (note, it's not the weather). Consider that all these players, including rookies, have been playing hockey for many years albeit not always at this level. Note that there are others who no longer play in Edmonton whose careers have been pretty good - once they left Edmonton.
What is the one element that all these past, present (and future) Oilers have in common? It's the Oilers' ridiculous system. Fraught with complexity and ambiguity, it's no wonder these players need a psychologist to straighten out their heads since nobody in their right mind should have to deal with such an onerous 'structure' of play as Renney calls it. I suspect that the coaches don't even have it figured out.
How do you expect even the best players in the league to play a system in today's fast-paced NHL that requires them to make split second decisions based on complex, subjective rules? It's unfathomable that any individual could come close to be effective in such an environment, not to mention an entire team.
Yes... the players are beleaguered, but give them a simple system, focus on the fundamentals and let the players take it from there. Case in point: Opposing player has the puck on the low boards and there's a defenseman checking him. What does the forward, who is no more than 3 feet away, do? Stands there and waits for the dman to get the puck out. This isn't the player's fault - it's the SYSTEM that Oilers management is forcing upon the players, making them all look lazy and sloppy. If he violates this rule of the system, he is torn a new one and sits on the bench until he learns his lesson, like he's back in kindergarten. Renney & Tambellini have both made it clear - "you'll play our way or it's the highway".
Another case in point: An opposing player and dman seem to both be racing for the puck behind the goal line - they both have an equal chance at making a play on the puck, but what does the dman do? He ALWAYS takes the man because that's what they're told to do. Dman isn't allowed to judge for himself and make the play on the puck if he thinks it's tenable because he knows his coaches are going to rip him a new one if he does. This isn't development. It's dictatorship.
Kudos to the players for keeping their mouths shut... it must take a lot of balls to take all the abuse, knowing full well that it's not entirely their fault. Can you really blame Sheldon Souray for lashing out? He's a high-quality dman - or at least he was until he came to Edmonton, and he got screwed because he opened his mouth (granted, his fight with Iginla was stupid, but that's not what his troubles in Edmonton were all about).
Folks, let's start ripping on the management who have propagated a losing system on us for the last several years and when they change that system, the players won't look so bad. Tambellini and Lowe want accountability and change - it's them and that retarded system that are the common factors in all of the Oilers losing ways. Not the players.
I'm not suggesting that the players are not accountable, but the burden of this stupid system placed upon them is really preventing them from practicing fundamentals and developing into great hockey players, as opposed to morphing into systemized robots on ice. Blame management first. Players second.