The real Red Deer Rebels have to step up almost immediately and stop playing like imposters.
The Rebels have come out on the short end of four consecutive Western Hockey League games and are situated near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. In the process, they’ve squandered the majority of a six-game homestand which concludes with tonight’s 7 p.m. clash with the Kootenay Ice.
The club has hit the skids, veteran defenceman Brady Gaudet insisted Tuesday, because the more experienced players have shunned their roots and tried to perform in a manner not conducive to their strengths.
“I think it starts mainly with us older guys and just going back to simplicity,” said Gaudet. “We have to get back to what made us the players we are and what got us into the league, for that matter.
“I think that’s simply what it’s going to take and it has to involve our older core, starting with myself. I’m the first to admit that I’m not even close to where I should be right now. It’s not rocket science at this point — it’s getting down to our basics and sticking to our game plan, the plan that our coaches have put in place for us.”
The decline of the Rebels over the past two to three weeks can’t be traced to one specific area. The club isn’t scoring enough and the back end has continually coughed up the puck in perilous positions.
“When you get yourself in a bit of a hole sometimes the tires really start spinning and you try to do too much and it just snowballs from there,” said Gaudet.
“Then you have a chain reaction that turns into a bad score and a bad outcome. We have to get back to work and simplify our game.”
A major point of frustration, Gaudet agreed, is that many of the turnovers have been unforced.
“We have 12 players who have been in the league for two years or more, so there’s really no excuse for it,” he said.
“It’s just time for us to strap the work boots on and get back to what made us successful in the past. That’s more or less what all it comes down to.”
Overage forward Rhyse Dieno, who last season averaged well over a point per game and has 12 points (5-7) in 14 games this fall, reiterated Gaudet’s assertion that the Rebels have been playing a pretend style that’s outside of their comfort zone.
“We’ve been trying some different things and I think we’re all just trying to do too much,” he said. “When you get on a skid like this guys think they have to do too much. In reality, we just have to get back to the basics, back to what we’re good at doing, and I think we’ll turn this around.”
Dieno and linemates Lukas Sutter and Brooks Maxwell were big-time impressive through the first few games of the season. Sutter went down with an injury just four games in and although he’s been back in uniform for the past three games, the veteran line — when intact — has failed to show any of the earlier zip.
“Yeah, we were connecting earlier before Suttsy got injured,” said Dieno. “Now we have to get back to what was working for us.
“It’s just not working right now, so we have to hit the reset button for Wednesday and we also have to start shooting the puck more. We’ve been playing around the outside too much, trying to be too fancy. We have to get pucks to the net and really drive the net.”
l Defenceman Matt Dumba appeared in his ninth NHL game Monday and now awaits his fate. Does he stay with the Minnesota Wild or is he sent back to the Rebels?
Dumba, whose three-year entry level contract will kick in if he plays a 10th game, struggled in the Wild’s 5-1 loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks and was on the ice for three of the four goals Chicago scored in the second and third periods. Later, he admitted that he was shaken by the reality that he might be playing his last NHL game for some time.
“Obviously, it’s there and I’m not going to say that I didn’t think about it at all, because that would be a lie,” he told the Minneapolis StarTribune. “I did put that pressure on myself and wasn’t really happy with my third period. All I can do is move forward and try to be my best.”