A buzzword coaches and managers use a lot is "compete-level". What in the h-e-(double hockey stick) does it mean, really?
|Image courtesy Edmonton Sun|
If an athlete has a "high compete-level" it means he or she is not being lazy and is truly trying their best with increasing their effort in speed and perhaps is going above their normal average level.
As an athlete, you have to internally psyche yourself up and truly get focused at what you're about to do. To maintain that raised energy vibration takes a lot of practice, actually. Players use rituals, eat specific foods, wear certain clothes before the game, listen to music, warm-up with a soccer ball, stretch, jump up and down, use power hand gestures, among many other methods.
Ultimately though, it's mental. It's having confidence. It's having trust in your team mates that they too will raise their compete level so the "team chemistry"
To compete in hockey that means in getting to the opposing player as fast as you can, checking them, being relentless with your stick in trying to get the puck back. Even if you don't get the puck back, at least you tried your best. And in some cases, maybe you're just not big or smart enough to do so from your opponent at that time. It may mean it works better on another opponent. Even if no one expects you to win each "puck battle", but over a pile of them, you should be wining more battles than you lose, including unlucky bounces and deflections.
If you're not competing though or enough, it becomes easier for the other player to beat you, even if his skill level is lower than yours.
What does this have to do with the Oilers? Well, everything.
Now it's guys like Hendricks, Kassian, Pakarinen, and God love him, Brandon Davidson.
That said, there really is no statistic for "compete-level" and we simply have to use our eye and judgement. You could perhaps base it on a usual effort scale (0=none, 1=very low, 2=low, 3=average/good, 4=very good, 5=excellent). I wonder if the coaching staff rates this and reports to the coach or if the coach just takes mental notes.
I will say this. Last game against the Senators showed that the line of Yakupov, Letestu, and Pakarinen had a high compete-level in the 2nd period. Did they score? No. But they sure kept the Senators in their own end and prevented them from scoring, or trying to compete against the Oilers' defense. What "lit the fire" for them? Was it GM Chiarelli's direct press remarks earlier in the day?
Everyone is ragging on Justin Schultz because of his seemingly lack-lustre compete-level. I wonder if it's more than that though. There's no way a professional athlete of that potential calibre can sag his compete-level down so far that opponents just find holes and walk all around him.
Is it because he's playing on a defensive pair with Sekera that is facing top competition when he shouldn't be and that makes him lose confidence? Maybe. But, shouldn't he be facing competition like that at 25 and nearly 300 games under his belt by now?
Is it because he hasn't fully recovered from his injury? Many players returning this year didn't seem to get back into the game to a compete-level they used to have. Nuge, Eberle, Davidson, Pouliot, Yakupov, and others but at some point, usually five or so games in, you turn it around, recover, get your muscle memory back and lift your confidence.
What is clear is that Schultz is being shopped before the trade deadline. Coach McLellan certainly strongly and smugly hinted as such in his answer to the press post-game. "What do you think?" He's on the first pair, he's the point man on the 1st powerplay unit, he can do it all!
But the problem is, he's neither.
But what he really has become is barely a 3rd pairing puck-moving defensemen and maybe on a 2nd powerplay unit.
Maybe the Canadiens will take him with their former Oiler right-shot defensemen Jeff Petry out for the season with a hernia. And maybe that's why Schultz will fit right in with the way the Habs have been playing lately.
Because what Schultz certainly has not become is a player with a high compete-level.