The ultimate reward in hockey, or sports for that matter, is a win.
Moral victories only get a team so far, but as the Oilers continue to progress under Todd McLellan in his first season as head coach, it’s all part of the process.
“We, me, I, the players and the coaching staff come to the rink every night wanting to win and that’s the ultimate reward,” said McLellan. “Even some nights when you don’t play a real good game and you win you can take something away from it and you bank some points. That’s the ultimate goal. We haven’t been obtaining that very much lately.”
The Oilers once again came from behind to tie a game late last night, but they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. Even in a loss, it’s one the players and coaches to see the progress and continue to push.
“We also have to look at some of the things implement systematically and individually as players,” said McLellan. “They have to be rewarded with some of the things they do well on nights we don’t win. It’s called progress. It doesn’t show up in the wins and losses but we are moving forward. We had a good video session today where we picked out a couple things I thought we did a really good job at and we needed to do that against Chicago or they would have created a lot more and spent a lot more time in our zone. They need to be rewarded and recognized for doing things well in those areas. Still many areas we have to improve on to eventually get the wins, but baby steps right now.”
The players see the positives and that’s why the mood in the room remains upbeat.
“I think we’re improving,” said Taylor Hall. “It seems every week we get better and better, but there’s a fine line between winning and losing and we’re experiencing that right now.”
But the Oilers can’t get comfortable with close.
“There’s a bit of a turning point,” said Hall. “We’re at that line right now where it’s ‘are we going to go back or forward?’ and I think we all know what we want to do. The signs are there. We can’t get discouraged. We have to keep doing the things we think we’re doing well. Eventually the wins are going to come if we play well. That’s just the way it works.”
Mentally, Hall says the Oilers, who sit at 6-12-1, are still in a good place mentally despite their record.
“I don’t think we’re too bad,” he said. “I haven’t really looked at the standings and I’m not too concerned with it to be honest. In the past, it would discourage me a lot looking at our record. But this year, not so much. I think that’s a good thing for our group. Saying that, we have to get some wins.”
The Oilers will continue to look for the ultimate reward when they host New Jersey tomorrow night.