When Montreal Canadiens‘ forward Lars Eller accused the Edmonton Oilers of playing like a ‘junior team,” he was making one of professional sports most cardinal mistakes, providing his opponent with motivational bulletin board material. In an interview before last night’s game between the Canadiens and Oilers, Eller told media that the Edmonton Oilers, “play a bit like a junior team sometimes. They take a lot of risks and lots of chances. They are a little all over the place. There isn’t a lot of structure in their game always.”
Although Eller’s comments are laced with bits of truth, making his opinion public was a bad idea. Habs’ head coach Michel Therrien did not approve of Eller’s insult aimed at Oilers’ players and coaching staff. After the game he professed his belief that Eller’s comments were “unacceptable” while also admitting, “he’s [Eller] a young player, he’ll learn from this.” Quote courtesy of Sean Gordon’s article from The Globe & Mail. Read full article here.
As for the Oilers, head coach Dallas Eakins was not impressed with Eller’s insult, giving the Dane a sarcastic credit in the Oilers victory. Eakins told media, “we thank Lars Eller for his comments before the game. Awesome.” But you have to wonder if secretly Eakins isn’t hoping this is the wakeup call his young team needed. Being accused of inferiority may have a positive effect on Eakins’ Oilers if it motivates them to erase embarrassing stigmas associated with their name, like “junior team,” for example.
The Oilers won the game by a final score of 4-3, not without looking ‘a little junior.’ The Habs took a 2-0 lead after one period. The Oilers stormed back to outscore the Canadiens 4-1 through the final two frames.
Lars Eller is having a breakout season, thus far. After 9 games played the Habs centre has tallied 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points. However, last night Eller was held off the scoresheet by the ambitious Oilers who definitely had something to prove.
The Oilers are an exciting young team that was expected to challenge for the playoffs this season, and maybe even qualify. Early struggles have thrust them into a dangerous place in the standings, well behind the pack for a spot in the playoffs. Last night’s win helps, but a lengthy streak of victories is needed before the Oilers can truly claw their way back into the playoff picture.
You can watch Oilers/Canadiens highlights at NHL.com.