Monday, October 30, 2006

Confidence



Confidence is everything.

Chuck Knoblauch lost his and went from being a top notch second baseman to baseball's scrap heap.

I played hockey twice this weekend. If I were to put it generously, prior to the last two seasons I would probably be best described as a poor man's Ethan Moreau, maybe, if Moreau wasn't very aggressive. And if he was small. And slow.

Hard worker. Good in my own end. Decent playmaker. The type of guy who is going to finish ten out of ten breakways by stuffing it right into the goalie's belly. The type of guy with a lot of try but who scores most of his goals by getting them bounced off of his ass.

Anyhow yesterday I had a nice chance and the goalie came over and made a nice pad save. A year ago I would have shoved it back into him. This time, I drew the puck back and roofed it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was surely a first.

Confidence. Despite my age I've been getting better, basically getting by on positioning and smarts now that the legs are going. (And are they ever going.) I'm putting a lot of pucks in the net and also taking a lot more penalties because I have been harder on the puck and harder to it - whereas before I would hesitate or get outmuscled, now I'm getting after it. I'm not a big guy but I've been knocking guys over because I want the puck.

The reason for all of this blather? Confidence matters. It isn't everything but its pretty damn close. Two years ago I got the puck in the slot and scored. It deflected off a teammate. if it hadn't it would have gone directly into the corner. Of the rink. Fifteen feet wide.

Now, as my linemate said, roof daddy!

And it matters just as much at the pro level.

Unless you're a guy who has done and seen it all, like Sakic or Shanahan, or you have supreme confidence in your abilities, say, like Kovalchuk, Ovechkin or Crosby (just based on their demeanours), you're going to run into crises of confidence. And when you do, you're going to struggle.

I think on the Oilers you could put Smyth and Sykora into your first group. Not that they are slump proof but I think they're the types who just keep at it, knowing that sooner or later the puck is going to go in, as it usually has. You can probably toss Lupul into group II. For that matter Laddy Smid may belong there too.

As for the rest, they belong with us mere mortals.

Stoll started slowly and suddenly he has three goals and his linemates have suddenly gotten going.

Pisani (talk about a perfect example) was hampered by a bad knee early on. Now he suddenly has two in two games (and was flying against the Ducks). If I wasn't a cheap bastard I'd put money on Fernando getting on a big time roll now.

Confidence.

At the other end of the scale, Horcoff, who has struggled out of the gate. But more then any player on this team, he knows where hard work will get you. He'll be ok.

But the biggest worry?

Raffi.

Frequent poster Kyle Kosior ran into some Oiler brass recently and managed to get some conversation in with them - apparently Torres has huge confidence issues - he is the least confident guy on the team.

This doesn't surprise me. Raffi strikes me as being a big kid - there is no doubting his talent - but his problem is between his ears. He's the type of guy who can dominate for ten games and then be brutal for twenty.

Many figured this would be Torres' breakout season but after a good camp, he has struggled, replaced by Thoresen on the second line, demoted to the fourth for a game until Moreau was hurt.

Can he get it together? If not, he might be tradebait, which would be a shame, because the kid has the skill set to be a dominant player.

But apparently he needs Melfi more then he needs MacT right now.

6 comments:

Andy Grabia said...

Stoll had 7 points last week. I only noticed becaue he's on one of my fantasy teams. That is a solid damn week of hockey, and none of us even noticed.

Lowetide said...

bdhs:

There's a Howie Meeker book (I think it's called Back it Up, Stop it right there or some such)and I hope you read it. In the book he talks about playing senior hockey at about age 70 and the absolute thrill of passing tape to tape. Howie freaking Meeker! Played in the NHL, won the Calder, on Cup winners, played with Teeder freaking Kennedy and he's as happy with an outlet pass at 70 as anything else.

If Howie read your blog today he'd be smiling.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

andy - seven points? mark me down as another one who didn't know that

so much for his slow start

lt - I have an uncle who played until he was 70 and another who "retired" at 60; both still get on the ice for a skate weekly; I hope I'm lucky enough

my biggest thrill from the weekend - played centre on Saturday night against a team full of young, big fast guys - us oldsters held them to a 1-1 draw (we were seriously under seige) - and I was about 90% on the draws.

last season it was more like 10%

love it!

Wardo said...

Jack Palance: "Confidence *gasp* isss SEXY." *WHEEZE*

Julian said...

The day I don't get an indescribable joy from sifting the puck through a defenseman's legs on a cross-crease pass is the the day I don't wanna wake up in the morning.


Pat, I think you asked in another comment box at CinO.... yeah, i'm moving to Taiwan to teach English for a year on friday. Found some guys to play road hockey with once a week, still hoping to be able to get on the ice a few times, though all the rinks are in the north while i'm in the southern area. I'll have to see...

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Hey Julian, good luck in Taiwan then - thank God for the internet, huh? You'll still be able to keep up on the doings of the Oil.

Was hoping to see you again at a T.O. Oilogosphere gathering but I guess it will be next season.

Again, best of luck