The second person I saw this morning at Rexall Place was Todd McLellan. As he always does, he asked myself and Bob Stauffer from the Oilers Radio Network, “how are you?”
We both responded, “fine.” Then I asked him how he was and McLellan said he was fine and not feeling sick, even though the flu has run through the team.
Every time I ask a coach how they are it reminds me of my first year working as the host of Oilers broadcasts on A Channel circa 1998. I was new and the Oilers were going through a tough time. Ron Low was the coach and I asked him how he was and his answer was “How do you think I am? We've lost six in a row."
Now, Ron is a great guy and he proceeded to say he was “OK” and asked me how I was.
It's one of the risks you run when asking a coach how he's doing. There's the personal side and professional side. In the case of the Oilers coach, he's usually the first to ask how everyone's day is.
Right now, the Oilers have seen better days. It's tough sledding for a hockey team that is visually better (Sorry MacT, stealing your line) but isn't better in the standings..yet. Another example of that came Wednesday night versus Chicago. The Oilers weren't out played and certainly didn't look like they shouldn't be on the same sheet of ice as the Cup champs. Edmonton owned the first period but didn't score. After that, they played catchup and were a heroic save, by Corey Crawford on Taylor Hall, away from a thrilling win.
When you look at the Oilers record, they have lost 13 games. Six of those games have been by a goal. They're close, very close to breaking through with a streak going the opposite direction. They do look better, don't they? Is it just me? I don't think it is and I don't think the players feel that way.
Yes, they're tired of losing and Taylor Hall said as much today, yesterday and any other day Edmonton has lost. However, he knows this is different. He said Thursday that in the past the winger would look at the standings and feel discouraged. I'm not suggesting he's jumping for joy, but his head isn't bowed down in a defeatist attitude.
I have yet to mention the McDavid impact. We saw how he was developing before November 3 and Philadelphia came around. I know that injuries happen but not usually this early in a season to an emerging star on your team. Thankfully, Hall has stayed hot, Jordan Eberle has found his rhythm and Leon Draisaitl has been a revelation since his promotion. Those six one-goal losses I spoke of wouldn't likely be at that total if “you know who” was in the lineup. With the long term status of his injury the group will have to continue to get used to coping without Connor. Not easy, but achievable with the depth the organization has built up.
I know better days are ahead and one of those days could be as early as Friday versus New Jersey. When the losses turn to wins, and then I ask Todd McLellan how is day is going, I have a good idea of what his answer will be.