The Oilers are Buying In

There is a funny scene in the movie The Replacements, when coach Jimmy McGinty asks his players what scares them on the field. Clifford Franklin talks about bees, and the whole conversation goes off the rails. But then, Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) adds: You're playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can't move... you can't breathe... because you're in over your head. Like quicksand.

Last year, the Oilers learned about quicksand. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. They were sucked in and, as Clifford Franklin adds, Quicksand's a scary motha, man. I mean, first of all, it suck you right in, and even if you scream, you get all that muck in your mouth...

Well, the Oilers had it in their mouths – everywhere, actually. But, a recent quote by Dustin Penner hints that those days are over.

Penner is quoted, You never know when the stars could align. There's been a lot of change through the management and staff and the team, kind of a fresh start. We're changing the culture here. With that comes a new mindset and a new feeling. You can just tell it's a good feeling. I think we'll surprise some people.

This quote comes on the heels of an 8-2 victory over the Canucks – with both the youngsters and the veterans scoring goals – pretty heady stuff. Horcoff was leading and feeding the kids. The kids were coming through. And, Penner was feeling good. He should. He contributed; and, an 8 goal game is pretty rare. How rare? Well, all last year the Oilers didn’t have 8 goals. Not preseason. Not regular season. Eight goals is heady stuff.

If we look at his statement, we find a couple of really interesting and positive things. And it is the positive that holds the key to the Oilers’ year, I think. The Oilers have to keep thinking positive thoughts – which come easy when you are winning and much less easy when you aren’t. Positive thinking impacts one’s mental attitude and then one’s outward physical activities. But the mental is most important, because it produces growth and success. If the mental attitude expects results, the physical usually follows.

There is a lot of current talk about the “power of attraction,” which basically means that whatever people think will happen does happen. Some of this is downright goofy, but the idea that someone who anticipates happy, healthy, and successful outcomes will attract thos is far from ridiculous. What the head expects, the body finds.

The fragility of this positive feeling remains to be seen, but Penner’s words tell us it is present – and this is a good first step. That, of course, and a high skill set and a good game plan. But, Penner is right – as was Shane Falco: positive and negative thinking are both contagious.

Let’s hope this feeling rubs off on the team. Perhaps, in hockey, the positive or negative impact players have on each other is greater than in other sports. When things go well, they really go well. When they don’t, well – ask the 2009-10 Oilers. Already Penner is leading the team by affecting how the young players think. All people, not just hockey players, are disposed to help others who are positive and dislike and avoid those who are negative. In hockey, even truer!

We know that negative thoughts, words, and attitudes can be cancerous to a team – they bring with them unhappy actions. There is a physical aspect to this: when the mind is negative, real poisons are released into the blood. Such mental unhappiness and negativity then turn to physical failure and frustration. In hockey, that translates into losing.

Ok, Mr. Penner. Keep up the positive thinking. The team is 3-0 in the preseason. I am not taking the record itself all that seriously, but I am noticing – and liking – Penner’s positive attitude. Let us hope it spreads and stays. Perhaps then the Oilers could surprise.


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