Pump the brakes. The season is not over. The Oilers aren’t guaranteed another 28th place finish.
They lost a preseason game.
They didn’t play well.
They didn’t battle hard enough.
All of this is true, and head coach Todd McLellan seemed almost happy it happened.
“Despite losing, I think this was something our team needed,” said McLellan in his post game presser.
“It resets things for us. I thought we were negligent in some of our responsibilities on the ice to begin with, positionally and being responsible. That is a good teaching tool for us tomorrow. Those are situations we have already talked about as a team. Are you absorbing it? Do you choose not to do it, or are you not sure? That is on the coaching staff to make sure it is clear or isn’t,” continued McLellan
The coach, who loves to teach, was almost giddy thinking about how much fun he will have in video session today. He knows this team has a lot of work to do, and every Oilers fans who had a stomach strong enough to watch the past six seasons and not upchuck constantly, should realize the road back to respectability will not be easy.
The Oilers bad habits were front and centre last night.
Unwillingness to compete for pucks or space on the ice.
Did not force the Canucks to earn their chances.
They wanted to stick check rather than engage.
I think McLellan has been waiting for a game like this. He knew it was coming, and I guarantee you his video session today will showcase on how not to play the game.
“We weren’t inside the Canucks equipment enough. That might sound
strange, but you are can play three feet off of it or you can be involved in it. We either choose to or we can’t, and I think tonight we chose to play on the perimeter. We have work to do,” McLellan said.
He saw what we all watched, and instead of sugarcoating it, he went right to the heart of the matter. This team needs more desire and determination. He won’t lecture them, that isn’t his style, but he will point out their faults, and most importantly he will explain to them why they need to play differently.
We should all expect a few games like this during the regular season, and often it is a great opportunity for coaches to re-affirm the foundation they are trying to instill in their team. The Oilers have enough skill to compete, but they need to play smart and with determination.
Vancouver beat them to pucks all over the ice. The Oilers were a step behind, and McLellan will need to see if it is an overall lack of speed, or just an off night. I believe the forward group has enough speed, but I’m concerned about the footspeed on the backend.
Oscar Klefbom and Mark Fayne will be a better tandem than the Gryba/Reinhart and Nikitin/Ference pairings. Their presence should help, and maybe it was just one night, but the mobility of the backend will be closely monitored all season. I see it as a concern.
How this team responds in Vancouver will tell us a lot about this team. Was it just one bad game, or is this group of players simply unable to compete at the level necessary to win in the NHL? McLellan believes they have it in them, he just needs to ensure their competitiveness comes on more regularly.
I don’t have the Oilers as a playoff team this year, but if they want to improve they have to be able to compete with Vancouver, who I also don’t have in the playoffs. Arizona can’t be the only team they are better than this season.
I understand the trepidation among Oilers fans. You’ve seen this movie too many times the past few seasons, but I’d wait and watch a few more games before writing off the entire team.
This is still a young group and they have virtually no success at the NHL level. While the game means nothing in the standings, the coaching staff will use it as a positive teaching tool.
The film from last night provides McLellan and his staff many opportunities to illustrate the flaws that still exist within this team. He is a strong believer in showing players the positive plays they make, but there are times they need to be reminded how not to play.
McLellan suggested the loss was a positive, let’s hope he is correct.
I had an eye-opening conversation with Andrew Ference after the game. We discussed the captaincy. He told me he was the one who initiated the conversation with Peter Chiarelli, as well as with McLellan and his teammates. He believes it is better to be upfront and open and discuss the situation. He wanted them to know it wouldn’t be uncomfortable.
He won’t change who is he whether he has the “C” or not, and he understands the dynamics of the room.
He’s always been very upfront and honest, and whether or not I agree with what someone says, I always respect a person when they are honest and open.
I believe the Oilers won’t have one player wear the “C” this year. I think you will either see a few alternates, or they will rotate the “C”, similar to how Minnesota did.
I’ve always felt we overrate the importance of who wears the letter. You need more than one leader, and good leaders will lead regardless of whether they have a letter on their jersey or not.
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