Todd McLellan liked the play of a few players last night. He was impressed by Griffin Reinhart’s ability to always make the right play. He liked Justin Schultz’s play at EV, PP and on the PK, and was also impressed when Schultz uncharacteristically sped to the defence of Oscar Klefbom. McLellan wants this team to stand up for each other, and it was a step in the right direction.
However, McLellan went out of his way to point out one aspect his team must drastically improve.
“I didn’t think our game management was particularly good at
all,” said McLellan.
“Not understanding situations. Who is tired on the ice, who isn’t. Where
are we in a shift, where are we in a period. Situational play that has to
improve immensely for us to have success.
“We can talk about systems and all that stuff tomorrow, but moreso
we will spend some time reviewing situations. What are you reading? What are
you thinking? Why are we executing this way, when we should maybe be doing it
that way,” continued McLellan.
I’ve long believed the chatter about systems is overblown. Systems aren’t much different from one team to the next. There are few different types of forecheck and two or three different defensive approaches.
But how a player sees the game and reacts is often what creates mistakes and odd man rushes, not just the system.
In his brief time in Edmonton McLellan has stopped practice on many occasions to address a lack of focus, but more often he stops it to discuss why a player did what he did. It becomes a conversation between the coach and player.
He doesn’t just tell the players to be in this position or that position. He explains WHY they need to be there.
He went out of his way in the post game presser last night to discuss game management. He wasn’t happy with it. He wasn’t mad or upset, but he wanted it to be known his team didn’t think their way through the game very well.
Those habits will take some time to change, but McLellan seems determined to make it happen.
Last season, we discussed how often the Oilers just gave the puck away. They would pass it to the wrong spot, or move it when they weren’t pressured. They made plays that other teams simply didn’t make, and after listening to McLellan he is determined to ensure his team learns how to manage the game better. They have skill, but they need to combine that with smarts and determination.
McLellan has a reputation of teaching his players, more than just coaching them. He won’t be able to fix all the mistakes right away, but I’m curious to see how differently this team plays in game 40 compared to opening night.
If we watch closely, I suspect we will see a significant difference in how they attack, when they attack and where they attack.
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