Some of you may remember a post very similar to the one you're about to read that I posted right before the All Star break last season. After two extremely disappointing and embarrassing losses (and wins we've barely escaped with), it bears repeating.
So far this season, I have yet to see the Predators team I know and love show up on the ice. The team I know would bring it to the ice every night. The team I know would fight through adversity (all while being multiple goals in the hole) and grind it out. The team I know would gladly stick up for their teammates when the cards were down. The team I know would sometimes play with more heart than skill, yet I would love them anyway. The team I know would play like a team and it would show. This is not that team.
What should they do about this, you ask? My solution: The Predators need to evoke the spirit and playing style of Jed Ortmeyer and newcomer Colin Wilson. Before you LOL and WTF all over that last sentence, hear me out.
Jed Ortmeyer, when healthy (and maybe even when he's not healthy), plays every shift on the ice with 150% behind it. He plays with his heart first, head second. He plays like he means it, like hockey is what he's destined for, as if there is no other in job in the world that would better suit him. Now Jed is nowhere near the best player in the league. But it doesn't matter. He puts it all out there and fans rally around him because of the energy he brings to the game. The San Jose Sharks are lucky to have him on their roster this season.
If you take a look at Colin Wilson, you'll find an eager 19 year old ready to tackle the hockey world and show people exactly what he's capable of. The kid has only played two NHL career games, both of them being the embarrassments of Monday night against Edmonton and last night against Dallas. For someone with just those two games under his belt, you would never know it from the Cheshire grin plastered on his face every time he hits the ice. The moment he has waited for (probably his whole life) is finally coming to fruition. Colin has played every shift like it could be his last, whether anyone else on the ice helps him out or not.
With the whole of the league seemingly against us two seasons ago, we proved most everyone wrong by taking a "fire sale" roster and persevering through a few rough patches to come out on the winning side of the season. As a team, we didn't seem to care that we squeaked into the playoffs, seeded number 8. It didn't matter because we rallied together to overcome the odds stacked against us. We fought hard. We were resilient. We were defiant. We even managed to give the Red Wings a run for their money. In essence, we became a team of Jed Ortmeyers.
Right now, I find myself at a loss for words over our performance. See last night's game recap as a prime example. I can't put together a string of feel good sentences to form a mushy paragraph about my love for this team...mostly because the love's not there. Something is amiss so far this season. The drive, passion and love for the game, the Jed Ortmeyer/Colin Wilson-ness (if you will) just doesn't seem to flicker in our player's eyes. Oh sure, there are traces of individual exuberance; just not enough to light a fire that will ignite an entire team.
So boys, here's the deal. Find your passion for the game again. Take a step back in time and remember what it was like playing hockey as a child. Remember why you started playing hockey in the first place. Find the spark that began your journey and brought you to where you are now. And after you've done all these things, bring that passion, that love of the game, with you to the rink every day. Play more like the Tin Man and less like the Scarecrow.
When you play like you mean it, it shows.