There's been an endless amount of talk on the various Oiler blogs about suck, failure, the general badness of the team and the reasons for it. These reasons include but are not limited to the lack of an NHL calibre defence, questionable goaltending (as much as I love Bryzgalov - he's the most quotable Oiler since Fatso Penner), not enough depth, too many of the same types of players, missing a big 2C, poor management, Kevin Lowe, the Pronger curse, the Smytty curse, and even something as simple as "God hates us all". The fan-base is in a frenzy and the jersey tossing masses are getting restless. Even the most optimistic fans and bloggers are starting to lose their composure and fall into the trap of pessimism, something I wrote about in my more prolific days, moonlighting at the CopperNBlue about three years ago. You know, it's funny (not "ha ha" funny, more like "face-palm" funny); there's been so much angst and bitterness for so many years that I forgot some of the stuff many of us were writing about back in the early days of the infinibuild. Even then, the obvious solution was to burn the whole thing down. Here's a slightly edited for context chunk of what I wrote at CnB back in January of 2011:
"Bringing it back to the Oilers, the idea of the rebuild espoused by the organization is the grand narrative currently being used to bait the general public into believing that everything is okay. Derek has pessimistically contradicted this hope with the concept of (mis)management as his own counter-historical narrative... The purpose here is not to argue which theory (bad luck vs. mismanagement; pessimism vs. nihilism) is correct, but instead to demonstrate that seeing things in absolutes is problematic. There are likely aspects of both of these ideas that are correct; just as luck has played into the decline, so too has (mis)management... Context is everything. Finally, it seems there is only one course of action that remains to bring about a more desirable future: Revolution. "
The revolution that I was sort of blathering on about 3 years ago seems to be starting now, with the Fire Lowe campaign, the jersey tossing, and pessimism reigning over much of the Oilers Blogosphere (LT and maybe Black Dog excepted). But until the players themselves start considering their own actions and how their actions impact others, nothing will change. I'm quite torn here. I want to say that no amount of change at the top is going to make the players (workers) play harder, yet my political beliefs lie somewhere else - that overthrowing the bosses ought to make everything better. In a sense, the players have already overthrown the bosses 5 times since 2009. Mac was fired, Quinn was fired. Renney, Krueger, and Tambo all were let go and while some could argue that Quinn and Tambo never should have happened in the first place, still nothing has changed. This is why I am torn; the theory that overthrowing the bosses will lead us to something great seems to fall apart in this particular instance. It's rather unsettling, quite frankly.
So instead of preaching revolution, today I am going to write about a concept called "accountability." Theoretically I should know something about this. As a soon-to-be professor who has his own class to teach and design, I am accountable to my students to make sure that I am providing them with the necessary tools to succeed in the classroom, something that coaches can relate to. But that accountability can only go so far. Teachers, like coaches aren't responsible for the performance of individual students. Their jobs are to provide the tools for success, the right game plan if you will, to provide structure and to reach students in different ways. However it is not entirely up to the teacher to motivate the students to want to do their best. Try as we might, no teacher is capable of reaching every student. To an extent, that motivation has to come from within, as the teaching-learning dynamic is fluid, not exclusively top-down. The teacher gives assignments, provides ideas, and works with individuals and groups of students to help them to succeed in the courses they take. Students, however, don't always want to try to put in the work. Sometimes they want to sleep through your lectures. Sometimes they expect the teacher to just give them a PowerPoint (or other sort of presentation software) slideshow. Many want to be spoon-fed and to put in the minimum amount of effort required to pass the class. As the old saying goes: "C's get Degrees."
In a university classroom, there is an unspoken agreement between strong students and willing instructors that basically goes like this: "I'll do the work if I give a fuck, provided that if I give a fuck, you'll give me an A and possibly a letter of reference for grad school/law school/professional program X." I teach a lot of 20-22 year olds. They're good kids, if not a little bit too pampered and privileged for their own good, but some of them are so used to having everything handed to them that they just tune everything out. Some of them also don't give a flying fuck what I am teaching and are there because they assumed (incorrectly) that a course without a final exam is essentially a bird course.
I wonder if some of this is happening with the Oilers kids. Many of them are really young, have spent their whole lives being successful without having to put in a boatload of effort, and then suddenly they have more money than they know what to do with, and since they're used to being the best, they feel like they don't have to try and hold up their end of the agreement. Many of these Oiler kids have all the skills in the world, incredible talents and endless potential, but they coast because they either aren't motivated or they aren't holding up their own ends of this unspoken agreement. Instead of A grades and reference letters, hockey players get contracts for lots of money. The Oilers kids got their A grades in advance of writing their kick-ass papers but under normal circumstances, the A grades and reference letters require a modicum of work. Instead of acting like A students or even the really hungry B students who want to get better, the Oilers kids play like C students. They take shifts off, they don't show up until the last day of class, and then they complain when they don't get the results they expected. Where's the accountability? Well, they've gotten their grades in advance, what's left? Why show up?
It's easy as a fan to blame management all the time, and admittedly the current management is trying to clean up a mess that is so massive it could take another 2-3 years to overcome. However that doesn't mean the players who are here, who are making giant amounts of money to play a game shouldn't be held accountable for their roles in the collapse of the team. There's no academic probation for talented players in the NHL, there's no dean's vacation either, as teams are too concerned with managing a salary cap to use buyouts with top players who under-perform. Taylor Hall knows he's safe and he's set for the rest of his life. Same with RNH. It's the players on the bottom, the players who would be expected to be C students, the students who were (potentially unfairly) streamed towards technical college and the trades for whatever reasons (usually racist or class-biased) like Ben Eager who get shipped out or sent to the farm (the equivalent of academic probation in this analogy), while the talent and potential allow the kids to maintain their positions in the hierarchy of students, it is almost entirely because the allure of that potential is greater than the actualization or their results.
It's time for a change, but this change has to come from within, not be forced from above or below.