Can the Oilers change?

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/erikkain/files/2015/02/groundhog-day.jpg

I’m sitting in the stands watching the final Monday practice of the Oilers season and I feel like Phil in Groundhog Day. It’s sure seems like every Oilers fan and member of their organization has been in this exact same spot for the past six years. It is another lost season for the Orange and Blue. They need two wins in their final three games just to avoid finishing with the lowest win total in franchise history. Ouch.

There hasn’t been any tangible improvement in six seasons, and unless the forensic audit of the organization decides to uncover the truth about what ails this team, I don’t see them improving much next year.

I would hope the audit asked the following pertinent questions:

Why are we a perennial loser?

They must look honestly at every facet of the team off and on the ice.

Why haven’t they made any improvements in six seasons?

This isn’t about a head coach, or four, or who is on the 4th line. Their problems start off the ice. How they build a team. How they evaluate players. Their process is not working. It has to change.

What is the plan of the organization?

Do they have one? Who will they execute it, and do we have the right people in place to lead the team? Past history says they don’t, but will the owner and Bob Nicholson recognize this?

What do we need to do to improve?

The answer is not a simple one. Of course, improved play from your goaltender and better, more experienced defenders would help, but every single player, coach, and person in management needs to improve, and I believe they need a philosophical change in how they run their organization (more on that in an upcoming article).

How will we build the team?

This is crucial. Winning in 2015 is different than it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Drafting and development are integral for long-term success, but they have to find a way to change the identity of their team. It won’t be easy, but it has to happen.

What expectations do you have for yourself and the players you bring into the organization?

They need to create a better culture off and on the ice. They must take a long look in the mirror and recognize their strategy and plan on how to build a team has not worked. They can’t keep doing the same thing and expect the team to magically improve.

These are just a few of the questions I’d hope they would have asked themselves during their internal audit, and there are many more that need to be asked.

But the Oilers must face the harsh reality that their organization is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

They are not one or two players away from competing. When you watch them play the top teams in the western conference it is clear they are no closer to being competitive today than they were in the spring of 2010, and that is the extremely concerning, not to mention disappointing.

LEARNING HOW TO WIN…

WinLearn

A few new players or another head coach won’t fix all the woes of this team. Much of it has to come from the players in the room now, because the majority of them will be back next season. Even if management makes a few trades or UFA acquisitions in the summer, I’d expect at least 12-14 of these players will return next year.

The players have to be better.

“We need to come in (next season) with a more confident outlook in terms of the way we need to play. We’ve done some growing up, but we need to continue to grow up. We need to become a team that doesn’t have that big mistake late in games or even early in games. We’ve lost a lot of one-goal hockey games because we’ve hurt ourselves late. That is one area we need to improve. We have to cut down on the major mistakes and be more confident as a group,” said Matt Hendricks.

The players can’t control what management does, but they determine their own work ethic and commitment. This group needs to become more resilient and focused. I believe they need to hold each other more accountable for their actions on the ice.

Every player in that room needs to be better next season. Taylor Hall can improve, so can Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have to demand more from themselves and their teammates if they hope to improve.

Their is no miracle cure for the woes of the Oilers.

If they fire someone in management that won’t solve all their problems. It would appease some fans, and based on the lack of success it would be warranted and would signal the a fresh beginning, but new management won’t be able to transform this organization into a winner overnight. It would be step one in a long process.

A new head coach won’t magically make them more aware on the ice. Nelson, nor any other head coach, plays the game. A coach is only as good as his players. 

A new goalie, defencemen or centre won’t fix all the other deficiencies on the ice. There is no debate having better defence make them more competitive, but every player on this team needs to play better and with more intensity, drive, smarts and emotion.

Every single player, coach or member of management must do their job better next year.

If they don’t, this team will be in the exact some position in 2016. 

I don’t expect the Oilers to make the playoffs next year, I believe they have too many holes to fill, but they damn well better not be out of the playoffs in November, December, January or February. They have to show some resolve and find ways to become more competitive.

If they elect to just change a few name bars on jerseys or office desks, like they have for the past five seasons, then none of us should expect any tangible improvement.

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  • SUMMIT STU

    The term ” FORENSIC AUDIT “, normally applies to things of fraud….

    Upon close inspection the AUDIT, discloses the biggest fraud scam in the history of the NHL:

    Charges: LOWE AND MCTAVISH POSING AS PRESIDENT OF HOCKEY OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER.
    IT IS EVIDENT BY THE RESULTS OF OILERS PLAY IN THE PAST EIGHT YEARS,THAT THEY ARE IMPOSTERS.

  • SUMMIT STU

    You know when I think about this, my team a lot has saddened me over the years. Not long ago we had the charm of a small market team going up against the man so to speak. We had not one not two not three but thirty seven small time businessmen who aspired to keep our small Alberta fun times going men from various aspects of life and who made their modest fortunes on things from Oil to Comic Books. Their courage and investments took this team from one who should have been rocketed to Houston to one that stayed in Edmonton. They took our strong Alberta Spirit and injected it back into a fan base longing for anything really to cheer about. They gave us seasons where we felt so good to cheer for the underfunded, outmatched underdogs and gave us actual feel good memories. I remember Todd Marchant going roof on Andy Moog, Cujo laying the paddle down to maintain a four zip shutout of the Avs in a game seven of the ”98 playoffs. Then through the fortune of a cap and revenue sharing almost brought a whole new era of fans to the mountaintop of the 80’s with a Cup we can call our own. Guys like Pronger, Spacek, Samsonov and Horcoff took us there. Minds that had nothing to work with got given the mile they never had with their inch. Times were good and got better with a local boy done good who had billions of dollars and a dream for glory for this team. Finally we can play with the Dallas, New York or Colorado teams in terms of money. But wow has that taken a turn for the bad and really bad. Nine years into our billion dollar owners regime and his turn has still never come. He has three number one overalls and is at the bottom of the pack every year. Yet he still draws hordes of fans and he still keeps the main problem of his organization. I hope that someday soon Katz can recognize what’s really wrong here before we all lose interest. Because really other then Gretzky, Messier and Pronger…… What else can we look forward to in our crappy winters??

  • pkam

    People who think macT was involved in player acquisition before May 2012 are morons!

    Lowe and Tambo purge of youth Nilsson;Cogliano; Torres; Stoll; Glencross; Brodziak; Greene. Poor guidance in Draft.

    JUdge him with what he had. in long term signed assets and Prospects. The player he acquired. 1-3 good asset adds per year is what you get from a good GM.

  • OldOilerFan

    Good article Gregor. Glad to see someone in media telling it like it is.

    This organization needs changes at every level.

    Although it’s gotten better it needs more work. The Oilers don’t stand up for themselves. The Goaltenders still get run over. That’s a leadership problem in the dressing room, that’s the players.

    The Players don’t have a system, they run around a lot not knowing their position. And that’s coaching. I like what Nelson has done, but I’d rather have Hitchcock.

    The Coach however doesn’t have good players at every position, or depth to turn to, and that’s the GM’s fault.

    They don’t have good players brought in, or developed, and that points to the Scouts.

    Overall, it’s a losing culture in the organization. And as pointed out in this blog by others, that’s at the top – the President! The Arrogant has to go.

    I don’t go to the games, I refuse to spend my money that way. I’ll gladly take in the other great alternatives we have (Oil Kings, Golden Bears etc). So I’m with everyone else that says don’t go to the games, be a voice for change. There is another way to be a voice – don’t support Rexall pharmacies. There’s alternatives there too.

  • Kr55

    First step is putting together a management group lead by people that know what it takes to win from a MANAGEMENT perspective in the NHL. Until we do that we will just continue to be behind the curve compared to the rest of the league. While all the properly run orgs continue to evolve and we will forever be trying to play catch up using MacT’s gut feelings as our guide.