If you’ve spent any time on social media this afternoon, you’ve probably already seen the clip of Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl getting into it with Edmonton Journal writer and frequent Hockey Twitter main character Jim Matheson at today’s team media availability. If you haven’t, here’s the clip:
I will note that this clip has one Matheson question than the viral tweet, and there’s even one before that (and two non-Matheson questions prior). I actually think it’s important here to get the full exchange on the table, so here’s the whole exchange, with the help of the Oilers’ raw footage on Youtube (that’s even longer than the above video, too).
Matheson: Leon, what’s your level of anger at how things are going right now? I know you’re frustrated with where you were at the beginning of the season compared to where you are now. Are you angry as well as frustrated?
Draisaitl: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, of course it’s frustrating. Like I said, we’re not where we want to be. Anger, I don’t know if I would call it anger, it’s more frustration. But that’s obviously something you have to put behind yourself, and go back to work.
Matheson: Do you think, the last two years you’ve been second in your division, and you’ve shown a lot of maturity. But now you’ve lost six in a row twice. Did you think your team was past that, not getting into these long losing streaks?
Draisaitl: Sure, yeah.
—– The viral clip starts here —–
Matheson: Lots of reasons why the Oilers are playing the way they are in terms of winning and losing, what do you think is the number one losing for the losses now? Is there one thing in your own mind that you’re saying ‘we’ve got to get better at that?’.
Draisaitl: Yeah, we have to get better at everything.
Matheson: Would you like to expand on that?
Draisaitl: Nope, you can do that. You know everything.
Matheson: Why are you so pissy, Leon?
Matheson: Why are you so pissy?
Draisaitl: I’m not! I’m just answering your question.
Matheson: Yeah you are, every time I ask you a question.
Draisaitl: I gave you an answer.
Matheson: Not a very good one.
Matheson: I have one more for you. Leon, you showed your frustration on the ice last game against Ottawa. Is that a good thing when you show to the other team, so the other team knows you’re frustrated?
Draisaitl: [Sarcastically] It’s a great thing, for sure.
I think it’s important to look at the full exchange when discussing what happened here. Though, honestly, it wasn’t hard to be on Draisaitl’s side from the get go. Anyone who knows the history of the establishment mainstream media in Edmonton knows that confrontation and blame-deflection is a part of their game, and Matheson isn’t of much exception. That he goes after the player mid-scrum for being “pissy” because he doesn’t like the quality of the quote is insanely unprofessional, and leads nowhere good.
Many of Matheson’s fans and peers are coming to his defence, saying that it was a fair gripe given Draisaitl’s lack of a sufficient quote. Even as someone who occasionally pops into these scrums and even relies on a quote or two from time to time, I think that’s pretty ridiculous. It’s nice when you get a good answer, but blandness and coyness aren’t exactly illegal, particularly when you ask loaded questions looking for specifics on how a team needs to improve – really serving Draisaitl no positive outcome and instead asking him to choose the person he’d like to throw under the bus. “Everything” is probably a fair answer too, given that the Oilers have lost 12 of 14, and even Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have had some dip in their production in that spell (as often happens with slumps).
Draisaitl’s frustrations make even more sense though, when you realize that the “first” leading question of Matheson’s was actually his third of the scrum, and the fifth asked by anyone overall. Draisaitl had already given lengthy quotes on basically the same subject, including one to Matheson, who continued to dig further, sharper, and more pointed, until he just flat out challenged him. While it’s commendable when a player is able to accommodate for a reporter being the less mature and measured one in a conversation, it’s not a requirement, nor should it be.
Draisaitl, like McDavid, is in a no-win situation here with having to answer for the Oilers’ problems. Local media refuses to point towards the coaching staff (Dave Tippett has now lost 12 games in a row, missing their only two wins in this 14 game stretch), management (Ken Holland’s predicted offseason disaster has once again proven, well, disastrous), or above (little will truly change until Bob Nicholson is either replaced or looks beyond the 80s Oilers and current Hockey Canada orbs of influence for guidance, and the same with owner Darryl Katz above him). The players, especially the generational talent in McDavid and the superstar MVP in Draisaitl, don’t shouldn’t have to answer for how terribly dealt their card hands are for yet another season. There are ways that they can improve on and off the ice, but they’re in a position of marginal gain, while the chiasmic holes continue to get no attention, by design.
So yeah, if I’m Draisaitl, I’m frustrated, I’m angry, I’m even “pissy”. Being led into questions of entrapment all the time while having to put out the fires of his bosses probably isn’t fun, and if I had the same guy get four loaded queries in nine consecutive cracks at the microphone, I’d probably not be very chatty with them.