Purcell hires Adam Oates

We’ve discussed the idea before, and I’m happy to see that NHL forwards are hiring their own skilled coaches. A few of them have one. Jordan Eberle works exclusively with Steve Serdachny every summer and has for many years, but Serdachny was the Oilers skills and skating coach as well, up until this fall.

Many players didn’t want a skills coach because they worried it would conflict with what the head coach was saying, but in reality that isn’t the case. A skill coach shouldn’t focus on systems. He focuses on scoring, just like strength coaches help players get stronger and goalie coaches help goalies.

I believe NHL forwards should have a personal skills coach to help them improve and change their offensive game, and one of the most creative NHL forwards the league has seen has been hired by a few players.

Teddy Purcell hired former NHL player and former head coach, Adam Oates, this past summer to help him bounce back from what he said, “was my worst NHL season.”

Purcell struggled last year and he realized he needed to make some changes to his game if he was going to get a new contract in the summer of 2016.

He hired Gary Roberts to improve his training and nutrition, and he hired Oates to help his on-ice skills. Roberts is very popular among NHL players as one of the top trainers in the business. If you want to get in better shape and eat properly you hire Roberts.

The NHL is all about speed. You have to play fast to succeed, but only until recently have we seen offensive players hire a skill coach.

Earlier today, Purcell and I discussed his relationship with Oates.


Gregor: When did you hire him?

Purcell: I met with him this summer when I was training with Gary. It
is kind of like a strength coach, but at first I was worried if I was stepping
toes because I have a head coach and I hired another coach, but he has coached in
the league before and he is not here to change anything, he just wants to add
to my game.

He has worked with Ovechkin a lot, and obviously most of us
aren’t at Ovechkin’s level, but if he can help the top guys why can’t he help
us. Having a down year last year I felt I could use all help and tips I could find.
So far it has been working.

It is a lot of individual stuff. Little things about
positioning and angles. I’m a student to the game and I love watching games and
other players and tendencies and always trying to get better. I think it has
been a good fit.

Part of the contract is we don’t discuss our team’s system. We only discuss my game and how we can improve my play.

Gregor: He has to find things you do well. I assume he doesn’t tell
you to change your style and become a rugged, power forward type player. What exactly does he work on
with you individually? 

Purcell: He coached in Washington and New Jersey and they had very
good powerplays. He talks to me about positioning on the powerplay and where
players get their shots off to have success. Small changes that are some times only an inch or two different to put you in a better shooting position.

I used to use a longer stick. Seven games ago I cut it down
four inches. I didn’t think I would be able to do it because I used to be crazy
about my sticks, thinking even cutting it a half an inch was too much. I worked
on it in practice and it has helped.

He showed me clips and I was kind of handcuffing myself, a puck was in tight
and I was looking for it and then I was slow getting out of the blocks to
skate. As a guy who is not blessed with speed like most guys on this team,
anything that can make you quicker is better. I don’t feel I’ve been
handcuffing myself as much since I cut the stick, I’m more in control,
therefore I can get my feel moving and I’m a more effective player.

Gregor: Do you stick handle better with the shorter stick?

Purcell: I do. I feel I’m in
more control. It is closer to my body, I get my shots off better and I feel I’m
getting more pucks on net. Because I’m not reaching and handcuffing myself I’m
in a better position to get more shots through. Maybe times before I thought I
could shoot, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the positioning of the puck or
I wasn’t comfortable with my stick. I don’t know if that is the exact reason,
but as an athlete, as just like you do, criticize and analyze everything, I
think there is a bit of a correlation there.

Gregor: Yesterday Todd McLellan said he believes skaters need to
study the game more to match the work the goalies put in. Are you watching games differently and do you watch more video on other
teams based on the conversations with Adam?

A little bit. As a player you realize the game is changing
and it is getting faster with more transition. I’ve always watched a lot of
hockey before and I’m not watching any more this year, but I do watch it
differently. I look for specific tendencies, and he sends me video of what
other guys are doing to score and get in better positions to score.

How does the relationship work? How often do you talk with

It is not over the top. He has coached in this league and as I mentioned before he
doesn’t want to step on Todd’s toes. He helps me with individual things.
Positioning, where I am on the ice and things that will make me quicker. We don’t
sit down after every game and analyze the tape.

Every four or five games we watch a couple of things. We talk quite a bit. He
watches a lot of games and I watch the other guys that he is working with to
see what they do. I’m studying the game more and I’ve learned a lot. So far it
has been a great relationship and I believe it is helping my game.



The biggest challenge moving forward will be if teams are willing to spend more time in practice working on offensive skills. It would be a huge change in philosophy, and while the goalie equipment needs to be smaller, I believe the NHL has to spend more time working on offensive situations if they want more scoring.

Until the teams are willing to spend more time in practice on individual offensive skill, it is up to the players to do it on their own.

The best goal scorer in the NHL, Ovechkin, has a skills coach, as does Steven Stamkos, and if the best scorers are hiring a skills coach I expect more players will do the same.

Purcell has and he believes it is helping his offensive game. Since cutting his stick Purcell has eight points in eight games. If he continues to play well and produce, Oates is likely to be hearing from more NHL forwards this year or next summer.

Recently by Jason Gregor:        

    • Heschultzhescores

      Let’s settle down a little… He has had 3 good games or so, it’s not like he’s a completely different player. He’s still soft. Let’s not be too irrational here.

    • Jason Gregor

      That’s Jason Gregor at his finest. The guy knows how to write an article and capture people. He doesn’t just throw numbers and stats around and call it an article. There’s time and effort and it shows. Personally I only look for his articles.

      Don’t wanna pump his tires too much though..

      Keep up the good work Gregs

  • Wonderful behind-the-scenes insight here.

    Oates is a student of the game with a feel for subtleties, a stickler for details. Despite struggling to produce during his only season here, Adam spent a lot of time working on face-offs with the Oilers younger centres — Jarret Stoll, Marty Reasoner, Shawn Horcoff — during and after practice sessions.

    Oates never preached “the right way to do it,” but instead offered minor tweaks and adjustments to his teammates without trying to completely overhaul their style or way of doing things. A true pro.

  • freelancer

    If Purcell can continue to play with some skill I would not be against a new contract. If this team can be fully healthy come February it will be interesting to see how that is handled. When McDavid is healthy we could actually see three scoring lines. Hall Draisaitl and Purcell. Pouliot Nuge and Eberle. Hendricks McDavid and Yakupov. Not labeling any of those as a first second or third line because they could all feasibly get similar ice times.

  • I loved it when Purcell initiated the contact in the corner – if he plays like that I’m good with it.

    I’m tired of Oilers not finishing checks and just doing skate by’s. So often I see the opposing defender fake a pass because they know the Oilers forecheck is just looking to intercept the pass and so they skate on by giving the defender an extra second to think about the pass.

  • Andresito

    Ive said this for years but stauffer would never say the text. Yakupov should have Brett Hull as his mentor. He has a wicked shot and is quick. Brett hull was a slow skater but had a world class shot and would “hide” and get open. 4 or 5 one timers a game he was going to score once or twice. Perfect mentor.

    • fran huckzky

      It’s a nice thought, but being great at something doesn’t translate into being able to teach it. As great as Gretzky was at hockey, he was a mediocre coach. Ditto Patrick Roy (I know he has a Jack Adams. They should have given it to Varlamov instead).

    • ubermiguel

      I would love Yak to become half the scorer Hull was. But Hull may not have the patience, skill or desire to be a mentor. However Oates played a helluva lot with Hull, he must have picked up a thing or two he could pass to Yak.

      For the younger guys here who never saw him play I want to stress how elite Oates was in the 90s. Only Gretzky out-scored him that decade. 97 assists one season. He and Hull were just sick together.

      • TKB2677

        Someone needs to buy Yak a shooter tutor. All the Yak lovers continuously bring up his shot and his one timer. Well barely hits the net and if he does hit the net, it’s right at the goalie so who cares about his shot.

  • Andresito

    The whole stepping on toes thing intrigues me… The oilers have a staff of coaches, I’d like to know how they feel about it.

    I thought this was just an off season thing

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Interesting how shortening the stick had led to success.

    I’m sure one of the other “veteran” Oiler fans will note this as well, but shortening the stick is basically right out of the Walter Gretzky Playbook, right after the chapters about skating to where the puck is going, not where it was … and standing behind the net to use it as a pick.

    Wayne Gretzky mentioned that his dad would often shorten his stick over the course of his minor hockey season. Quarter-inch here, half-inch there. No. 99 said this forced him to work a bit harder because he knew he had to make a conscious adjustment in his body (and his skating) to compensate. It forced him to think a bit more. Given that Gretzky was the most intelligent hockey player who ever lived, it obviously worked wonders and I’m sure it can only help guys like Purcell.

    Interesting stuff.

    • ziyan94

      It’s psychological. Leon’s had the physical tools for a while, but dominating the WHL last year gave him a good dose of confidence heading into this season.

    • freelancer

      That’s the interesting thing with Draisaitl though. He did not look this good in TC. He played well but not nearly this good. From what I can tell, getting sent down pissed him off big time. He has certainly proven he should not play a single game more in the AHL

    • Jason Gregor

      He just got stronger.

      He did a lot of squats and lunges. He wanted to be able to have his speed last entire shift, not just first 15-20 seconds he told me.

      Draisaitl simply worked hard in the gym. He didn’t do much skating in the summer, but he worked hard in the gym and it has paid off.

      • Happy McDavid Decade

        Great article and insight, Jason!

        I believe I heard on Saturday’s HNIC game against the Kings that Dr Drai in the summer worked with a skating coach in the Czech Republic (or somewhere in Europe) to get that initial explosiveness on the first few strides. I think that along with all the other hard work in the offseason has paid off. It also helped that he was sent down to Bako as additional motivation to play the way he has since being recalled.

        • Jason Gregor

          I asked Leon yesterday how much skating he did in summer. “Not a lot actually,” he said.

          “I worked hard in gym on getting stronger lowerbody and my cardio so I could maintain speed for entire shift, not just the first 15 seconds of a shift.”

  • ziyan94

    With do respect, might be a good idea for guys like Yak and Lander to get some extra coaching on their own if they want to save their NHL careers.

    Although I think Landers should go down to the AHL, and get some confidence back in his game.
    This guy is totally lost out on the ice.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      No, Lander should go join his buddy Omark in the KHL. The guy is a complete tool, totally useless. Will never be a good player at the NHL level. 0pts.

  • TKB2677

    Very interesting article. Although Purcell is the goat to many Oilers fans (myself included at times), it is very valuable getting this insight into his frustration with his own play and desire to improve for his team. That’s all you can really ask for.
    To me he looks more driven and more able with the puck. His hands are his biggest strength but I think the final step for him will be winning the one-on-one battles with his size and ability to angle off opposing players. If he is willing to work on that I wouldn’t be opposed to chia-pete re-signing him.

  • TKB2677

    Whatever Oates is telling Purcell is working. In his last 8 games, Purcell has 8 points. I hope Purcell has passed Yakupov’s Oates’s card because Yakupov doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do in the offensive zone since McDavid went down. All the Yak lovers can’t blame him being shipped to the 3rd line because that only happened recently, Yak hasn’t scored a goal in a month and has 1 point since McDavid went down.

  • toprightcorner

    The Oilers need to have their centerman hire Oates for faceoff training. I don’t no if the team can hire him since Washington is still paying him I beleive.

    When Oates played for the Oilers, he worked with Horcoff, Stoll and Reasoner and all were well below 50% before and were well over 50% for the rest of their careers.

    I never understood why teams don’t focus more on faceoff training considering so many offensive chances are created or prevented by winning the faceoff.

  • BDH

    I remember talking about this a tone with some junior coaches a few years ago. If you ever watch a full practice at any level, watch how much time is spent on systems and especially defensive aspects. Then look at how little time is spent teaching offense other than a power play. Coaches don’t teach offense at any level these days. I know a lot of players do this kind of stuff in the summers but I think you’ll see more and more of it in season.

  • fran huckzky

    I wonder if the day will ever come when NHL coaching staffs become like the Nfl. We will have a right wing coach, left wing coach, right defenseman coach, pk coach pp coach etc.etc. This is not meant as sarcasm but is just an observation,

    • BobbyCanuck

      Wow, it only took NHL players over a 100 yrs to figure out skill matters

      thanks #20 BDH, I have often wondered, why is it so difficult for certain players to hit the net, I always though this was the type of thing a player would spend a lot of time on.

      Yeah, Yak/Schultz I am looking at you

      • Heschultzhescores

        You took the words out of my mouth. I pictured/picture Yak as a sniper, yet he’s had glorious chances, which a sniper would bury, and he’s punished the boards with the shot. Some guys are trying to be too accurate. It’s pretty obvious, for guys like this, they should first shoot for the centre of the net and see what happens then. There are rebounds and clearly missed shots which will pick the corners now, whereas before they went two or 3 feet wide. Just a thought, I’m sure their egos won’t allow them to believe that just a shot on net is better than what they’re currently doing.

    • Heschultzhescores

      I think they’re already there.

      Look at Nashville. They have a Hall of Fame defenceman, Phil Housley, coaching defensemen. Granted his title is assistant coach, but that kind of specialization makes sense.

      Katz can afford it; is there a Hall of Fame defenceman that could be coaching Oiler D?

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Awesome. I know he had a slow start and was the goat but he’s looked great recently. At least he’s putting in the work. That’s all you can ask for.

  • Happy McDavid Decade

    I picked Purcell as my goat; great to see that he’s proving me wrong the past 8 games or so.

    That’s an real eye opener to take an entire 4 inches off the stick length. I thought something of this magnitude would really throw someone off their game initially. Good to see that it’s helping in a short time frame.

    I’ll play Devil’s Advocate; I think Purcell will not be with this team next season. I just do not see how we can offer a multi-year deal unless he takes a paycut. We all know that will not happen unless if his play falls off a cliff for the remaining 60 or so games. If it does, it’s an easy decision not to re-sign. Best case scenario is either trade him by the deadline for something in return or sign a one-year deal at even money to see if this 8 game stretch will be the norm and not the exception.

  • TRAIN#97

    Off topic but did anyone see how Peluso of the jets handles Sbiza after his hit on Ehlers? That’s exactly the response I want to and should have seen for games leading up to McDavid’s injury.
    That’s what payback is!

  • Steveland Cleamer

    Is it just me or does Adam Oates and Ray Liotta look eerily similar.
    I don’t want to say they are the same person, but I’ve never seen them in the same room before….have you??

  • YFC Prez

    While he’s working with Purcell a few of the oilers centers should hook up with Oates for some face off coaching. He was one of the best on the dot when he played.

    Couldn’t hurt.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I wonder what our roster will look like when McDavid, Nurse, and Draisaitl come off of their contracts. They will become pretty expensive, and I don’t see us keeping all three of Hall/Nuge/Ebs, as well as pouliot/purcell/korpikoski and still being able to have some depth in the bottom 6.