Chris Douglas has seen this story play out before and he’s eager to stop it.
A veteran of 121 WHL games, all with the Red Deer Rebels, the Richmond, B.C. native knows how quickly a losing streak can spiral out of control.
He played all 72 games last year for the Rebels in a season when they had losing streaks of 11 and 13 games in the span of three months.
Although the current losing skid is only three games, the 18-year-old knows the bad habits have to get erased quickly.
“I have been through a lot of different stuff, last year we did a lot of losing. A big thing is you can’t let it become a habit. It’s been three games right now and it’s time to nip it in the bud. We can’t let those habits set in, because it’s hard to turn back once you go down that road,” he said.
“You have to really let it bring your group together. You can’t point fingers at your teammates. You have to look in the mirror and put it on yourself just as much as everyone else. Try and get through this as a team.”
Douglas cited chemistry as a major reason why the Rebels are still the team to beat in the Central Division and also pointed to it as a way to get out of their current funk.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s probably one of the closest groups of guys I’ve ever been a part of,” Douglas said.
“It’s great that I can say that I’m pretty much friends with every single guy in the room and I think that goes for everyone. That’s one of the biggest parts to winning– if you can have a close group. In times like this, that’s what is going to get you through it.”
He added that while chemistry is a big thing, it has come to the point where someone beyond Brandon Hagel, Jeff de Wit and Reese Johnson needs to step up.
Those three forwards have shouldered a big load for the Rebels this season and going forward, lines two through four need to bear a bit more of the burden.
For his own efforts, the right winger has had a somewhat productive 2018-19 campaign.
In 25 games, he has six goals and five assists and is on pace for his most productive year playing mostly second line minutes. He’s also been used in a lot of different roles, including penalty kill and power play. Two of his six tallies this year have come on the man advantage.
“Bit of a slow start, but I’ve been playing better in this last little bit,” Douglas said.
“Just being able to play a full 200-foot game and be depended on to play penalty kill or power play. Just be that guy that is relied upon. It’s not just on those top players, those older guys, it has to go through the whole lineup. It’s time for guys to take a bit more weight on their shoulders.”
All around, the Rebels defensive effort needs to be better this weekend if they hope to get back in the win column. That includes the forwards, who need to start playing a bigger role in keeping the puck out of their own net.
“We’ve given up a lot of odd-man rushes in the last couple games and if you look at the shots on goal in our last game against Medicine Hat, it’s really just the little things you have to do right,” Douglas said.
“Having a man high in the defensive zone. Make sure defence comes first and offence comes second. We really need to focus on that. We’ve done it in the past, we’ve shown we can do it, just have to back to it.”
Douglas added that losing can quickly get frustrating and it is up to the leadership group to help turn that attitude around. On top of that, their special teams play needs to improve quickly. They have scored just twice on the power play in their last 14 chances and allowed four goals on 16 penalty kills in their last four games.
“We have to focus on that and that’s a reflection of how you’re playing the rest of the game. If you’re playing well in the other parts of the game, that stuff will come,” he said.
Red Deer will play a three-in-three this weekend. They welcome the Calgary Hitmen to town on Friday, followed by the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday. The Rebels will finish the weekend Sunday in Lethbridge taking on the Hurricanes, who added forwards Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn this week.