Coach Eakins explains his philosophy in Oil Change’s newest episode

Chop wood. Carry water.

That’s the motto Edmonton Oilers’ head coach Dallas Eakins has been trying to instill in his charges since he joined the club last summer.

With mixed success, as the third episode of this season’s Oil Change documents.

It aired on Sportsnet Sunday evening, and there will be, no doubt, quite a few re-runs before next month’s episode arrives in January of next year.

This episode’s opening is quite optimistic. It tells the story of Taylor Fedun, the young blue line prospect who broke his femur in a dangerous collision in an exhibition game in Minnesota two seasons ago. Young Fedun put in an incredible effort into his return, and Oil Change shows it in detail in some fine archival footage: all the way to Fedun joining the team in Sunrise, Florida, for his first regular season game. In his first shift, the linesmen whistle down a hybrid icing, something that didn’t exist when Fedun suffered his injury, something that could have prevented it.

That young Fedun scores his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game is just icing on the cake.

Except, the team’s play (and results) is nothing if not erratic. They can come from behind, and win. They can establish themselves as an unbeatable monster and blank their opposition. And they can make minor mistakes of monumental proportion that cost them games left, right, and centre. One of the main issues so far as this season is concerned: they loose way too many games because of their own boneheaded plays rather than because of their opponents’ prowess.

Head coach Dallas Eakins knows it. Hats off to him for allowing the Aquila Productions crew to attach a microphone to him during a full practice on ice. We get to see and hear him, exhorting his players to think now and make their newly acquired skills habits that they can perform without even thinking, just instinctively. He’s perfectly correct when he says that this takes time, and he shows a great deal of patience.

It’s the fans who are impatient.

The general manager who announced on his introduction to the office last summer he was impatient, too, might have aged a few years during this season’s ordeal, but he’s emerging a wiser man.

Craig MacTavish’s news conference at the one-fourth-of-the-season point shows that. As always, he’s frank and painfully open.

Oil Change’s creators have come with an interesting combination of showing us MacTavish delivering his state of the union address and cutting into the Oilers’ home game against the San Jose Sharks all the while. They illustrate perfectly MacTavish’s blunt words with the action that’s going on on the ice.

As is usual, Oil Change features a few behind-the-scenes looks.

This episode includes a visit by the players to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, David Perron reading to the kids at the French-immersion Ecole Frere Antoine (in Mill Woods), Oilers’ players during a visit to the Inner City High School, a club tradition that deserves much more recognition than it’s been getting, and, of course, Oilers’ players in a toy store, buying toys for the Stollery Hospital patients who will have to stay in their medical attendants’ care over the holidays.

So far as sheer viewing pleasure is concerned, a boy in an Ecole Frere Antoine hallway, perfectly surprised that the guy who just passed him and patted him on his back was David Perron, imagine, THAT David Perron, is tops. With Perron reading books to the school’s students and explaining to them how it is with his English, coming in third. Why third? Because watching Oilers’ players filling shopping carts with toys and becoming children themselves again (not that they’re THAT far removed) comes in second.

None of these things can be staged. And none of them takes just sheer luck to capture. You’ve got to be a really good documentary maker to be able to carry these scenes off without any saccharine, showing but the real joy of living.

And that’s exactly what Oil Change has become in its three-and-a-half seasons. Never satisfied with what they’ve achieved the last time out, always pushing forward and looking for new ways to make the introduction of Oilers’ fans to their players as friendly as possible.

As always: fast-paced, crisp pictures, crisp editing, great music and sound selections, just enough words to explain what’s going on, but not too many to crowd out what’s going on.

Compelling’s the word.

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