Did you know 83 players dressed for the Edmonton Oilers during the last four seasons?
A shocking number or proof that the club’s management has been trying their darndest? Proof they’ve been working hard to find and assemble the best group of people to return the team to the heights it had enjoyed more than two decades ago?
Almost four full rosters, come to think of it!
That’s the question that pops into one’s mind as the last minutes of this season’s Oil Change documentary series roll by. It aired on Sportsnet Sunday, and will see its first series of repeats Monday, with more re-runs to come.
The final minutes show each of the 83 players get a few seconds of fame, with each player’s name and number of games in Oilers’ uniform in subtitles, with music featuring hints of Auld Lang Syne sounding in the background.
If this doesn’t move an Oilers fan’s heart, nothing will.
Except it raises a question. What is it, after all, this elusive chemistry the Oilers’ architects have been trying to find? What is this something that changes a sports club from an also-run into a contender, a champion, even? Is it really chemistry or, Heavens forbid, alchemy? You know, alchemists, the guys with strange beards, wearing extravagant hats, who keep trying to convince their kings and other nobility that they can change worthless raw materials into gold, develop elixirs of love and create potions that would enhance humankind’s longevity beyond any reasonable limits.
Oil Change does not ask these questions openly, but they are there.
This season’s finale begins with a visit with Ryan Smyth in his own, private and personal, trophy room. It contains all kinds of awards he’s won, And he’s won almost everything there’s to win in professional hockey, with one exception: he only got very close to the Stanley Cup once, but never touched it.
As it follows the last few weeks of the season that was, Oil Change’s subjects (players, coaches) see a bit of silver lining in the final weeks’ results and, especially, style of play. Habits, as head coach Dallas Eakins likes to call it. Whether they are right or whether it’s just another round of grasping for straws, only future will tell. And Oil Change deserves praise because it does not succumb to the temptation of becoming a clairvoyant. It only documents what those who should be in the know say and it accompanies it with pictures of what is actually going on even as the words are spoken.
What does it say? Words are nice but they aren’t worth much until and unless action makes them right.
There’s one interesting segment that might deserve a psychologist’s trained eye. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, two of the team’s brightest-shining stars, have been trying to find similarities and differences that exist between themselves. A fascinating exercise. Whether the two players’ judgments are on the money or not does not matter. What does matter is we can see how they perceive themselves, each other, and the team.
And that’s what Oil Change has been all about since its inception four long seasons ago. It documents who the people behind headlines (and frequent angry speech on Edmonton’s talk shows) are. To use a cliché: what makes the team tick? What is actually behind the infatuation Edmonton Oilers’ fans feel toward their beloved stars? For crying out loud, the fans must feel like jilted lovers again and again. Season after season lacks success, using a milder expression instead of the straightforward failure.
Considering that psychologists have defined infatuation (and early love) as temporary insanity, one can’t but wonder at the Edmonton Oilers fans’ perseverance.
As has been their habit all along, Aquila Productions’ creative crews have again come up with a gem of documentary filmmaking. They use narration words sparingly, depending much more on pictures, in a fast-paced show that reflects to perfection what kind of game hockey is at its top professional level, and who are the people behind it.
This season’s finale ends, as has become traditional with all Oil Change episodes, with the subtitle line: To be continued …
Will it? Should it?
There are several schools of thought.
One that believes that the creators have covered most of the topics that they could cover, and what they would be doing next season would only be repeating what they had been doing the previous years. Differently perhaps, but nothing new under the sun.
And, besides, people who support this grim school of thought would say, it’s always best to quit while you’re still on top.
A jaded view, that. Ask Edmonton Oilers’ fans whether they want the show to continue. Come to think of it, ask fans of good hockey programming, and fans of good documentary filmmaking, too.
If the Oilers continue struggling, only the fact they are struggling would be old. How and why they struggle still, that would be something new.
Another school of thought holds that a hiatus of about a couple of seasons might be worth the wait. This school’s students hope that, following this summer, the Oilers’ roster will be settled for some time to come, with only a bit of space for minor adjustments. Adherents believe that the real change will happen once the Oilers move to the new arena downtown. And that is, they say, when Oil Change should come back.
Yes, physically speaking, it would be a change. Whether it would be as major as some anticipate remains to be seen.
So, what is the answer? What should it be?
Here’s hoping fans (using all kinds of social media) will tell Aquila, the Edmonton Oilers and Sportsnet that they can hardly wait for the new season of Oil Change.
And, here’s hoping, too, that Aquila, the Edmonton Oilers and Sportsnet will not only listen to what the fans are saying, but hear them, too.
Meanwhile, Oil Change, have a wonderful summer vacation, get some much-needed rest, and come back refreshed, tanned, strong, with your batteries recharged and whatnot, for the delight of your fans.