Oilers’ Mclellan “happy” about the loss

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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.

Bad giveaways.

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.

PARTING SHOT…

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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  • Spydyr

    Well, if the Oilers play Reinhart and one of the key Dman, they are worse off that thought.

    He is slow, terrible with the puck, can’t hit.

    Most of all, no foot speed.

    He looked like a Pee wee in last nights game.

  • Spydyr

    Seeing as McLellan has such a high winning % as a coach , it will be interesting seeing how we perform Saturday in comparison to last night . Do they want to face another McLellan stare down or royal spanking ?

  • Spydyr

    How are we gonna win the Jack Adams trophy if team keeps playing like this , I ask . Time for McDavid to go on a tear . This losing streak has got to end , as we are not accustomed to it anymore .

  • Spydyr

    I think it is a tad early for the sports press to be writing the Oiler obituary so early this season. The Oiler play has been sloppy all through the exhibition season. Given the amount of change from season to season it’s no surprise there are growing pains. Don’t listen to the Debbie-Downers in the Edmonton sports media. The Oil have Nicholson, Chiarelli and McLellan et al. I feel the ship finally has the sails and rudder to navigate this season and years to come.

    Once the expiring contracts are done and Chiarelli isn’t handcuffed by the mistakes of the Old Boys Club he will make astute moves to finish the major portion of the rebuild.

    Look up, look way up…

    • Oilerz4life

      This is not going to come across as a popular opinion in Edmonton, but it’s a bit early to be singing the praises of Chiarelli. Boston is handcuffed by expensive long term contracts handed out to aging veterans. This is a trend that may not effect Edmonton in the immediate future but could possibly re-sink the franchise. So there’s that to consider. I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to it.

      • Oilerz4life

        Fair enough. Not everything done in Boston was solely Chiarelli’s decision.there was some speculation in the press of some organizatioal intrigue involving conflict with Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. I think the jury has to be out on Chiarelli to see how things go in the Oiler organization.

  • Spydyr

    A dose of reality for players and fans alike. I think there has been some “overhyping” of certain players given the Connor McDavid effect. Certain players, particularly on defence, are being pumped up a bit. It is understandable there is a “high” but lets face it. This is still going to be a challenging season for this team in terms of a fair number of losses and conference beatings.

    • Spydyr

      NO WAY!!! YOU’RE WRONG!!!!!

      Only thing I can’t decide is who’s gonna win the Norris this year… Schultz or Sekera???? 2 Norris candidates! How awesome is that gonna be!!! Letestu with the Selke and Talbot with the Vezina!!! How can we not win the cup?!?!?

    • ChillyPepper

      As a fan, I think at the start of every season we get excited to watch hockey again. After 9 lean years, we all hope this next season is the breakout season, but we forget that this team didn’t make that many changes this offseason. A team that finishes in the bottom of the league, and the fashion that they lost those games, with a lack of passion and compete, speaks of the genetic make-up of this team.

      I admit, it was nice to see Schultz stick up for a teammate for a change, but what would happen if the opposition decided to push Schultz around. Would he have the marbles to fight back? And would he win any kind of fight he gets himself into? I’m not so sure he would. He knows that, and all the other teams know that. We simply have too many “Schultz” types on our team and that is a liability, and this competitive edge may be something you can’t teach.

      Personally, I think sending Nurse down was a mistake. I think it’s good for his overall development, getting more seasoned playing big minutes in the AHL, but the team toughness feels very different without him in the lineup. The mistake was not in sending Nurse down but that he is the only one who visibly wouldn’t let the opposition have their way with them. The mistake was not replacing his presence with someone of the same pedigree. We have too many small skilled forwards and defence, too many big players who play small, and a slow defence who isn’t always willing to protect the crease. Our team toughness is a long way from competing in the western conference. Combine that with a lack of passion and competitiveness and we have another year of missing the playoffs.

      This team needs more than a generational player to help their woes. This team needs a more balanced lineup willing to compete in whatever situation that is asked of them, and that means players need to be moved. The tough part is finding the right balance, I guess that’s why Chiarelli was hired, and I hope he can right the Oiler ship. I would start by building the most skilled AND meanest, most physical defence I could ice. At least make the opposition think twice when entering the zone. Looking back at the post-glory seasons, the ones where we had success included tough and mean D the likes of Jason Smith, Igor Ulanov, Matt Greene, Steve Staois, Jeff Beukeboom, Dave Manson, Bryan Marchment, Craig Muni, and the beast Chris Pronger. Man it was fun watching these guys punish the guys coming at them. Nobody taking liberties in those days that I can remember.

      • bazmagoo

        There is no chance we make it to the playoffs this year dude, it’s a development year. Nurse in the AHL is a cap/development decision, don’t be surprised if Reinhart follows. The mess MacT left on defence can not be undone in one summer. Nikitin $4.5 million, Schultz should be around $2.5 million, letting Petry go for picks, Ference’s potential retirement contract. That is MacT’s legacy for the defence. Considering our defence was minimum bottom 5 in the league when he started, it’s impossible to recover in one summer. He made some progress in the forward group, but all his pro defence decisions were pitiful.

  • MattyFranchise

    I’ve heard those answers before. That is exactly the way Wayne Gretzky answered such questions. He slipped one time after he saw his old pal, Ron Low, abandoned by his Devil teammates in a 13-3 massacre, leading to the famous “Mickey Mouse organization,” crack. He never forgot that and got even duller going forward. McDavid has mastered the art, which is smart, but boring. There is, apparently, no question too stupid for some members of the media to ask the poor kid.

    • bazmagoo

      I’ve been watching McLellan’s press conferences a little bit, you should have heard Spector’s whiny question about Yakupov being on the 3rd line. Totally a media created issue, I guarantee Yakupov is ok being a 3rd line player this season and for the rest of his career – doesn’t seem like it would faze him one bit. The media in Edmonton are a bunch of nerds to be honest. If McDavid was to leave because of the media, they should all get fired. It’s like the old school coach, yelling doesn’t work if it’s the only motivator. The old school sports media doesn’t add any value to the conversation, especially during preseason.

  • MattyFranchise

    I expected this to be a skating team , with speed and puck possession as their force.

    Didn’t look like it in the last game. The backend is holding up the entire team with their puck battles, and always dinking around with the puck in their own end. Many teams, basically have one and out … not here.

    Players like Ference, Nikitin, Klinkhammer, Rienhart, Letestue would not be on a play off bound team.

    • MattyFranchise

      It has been said time and time again, the forwards are not the problem. It’s the defense and always has been.

      Offensive minded forwards – any kind of NHL level defense + a league average goaltender = not a recipe for success.

      Sekera is a top pair defenseman with the right partner. Nurse, once he calms down, is an easy fit in the top 4. Reinhart is a solid 5/6 defender. What else do the Oilers have?

      Hopefully Schultz turns a corner this year or this team is not making the playoffs. Schultz has been great in the preseason, don’t get me wrong, but he needs to continue playing that edge in the regular season for him to justify his contract.

      All that said, this is just one preseason loss, the sky is not falling. If the Oilers make it out of the first month with their depth players instead of Eberle in a playoff position than this team is going to have a huge turn around and learn what it’s like to win for once.

      It will be great for the fan base and also be a great disappointment for fans of the teams in the Pacific division that look at the Oilers as ‘easy points’.

      As a Flames fan I have to leave off with a hearty “let’s make the Battle of Alberta interesting again!”

  • O.C.

    All I can say it is a good thing that the reality check happened in pre-season and not in St Louis for Game One.

    Time to get all the ducks in a row, with each player knowing their responsibilties in each zone.

  • Anton CP

    Loss is good, especially for just a pre-season game. The perfect pre-season record was more of an illusion and the loss is a good reality check to help teams to know where do they actually stand at.

    Again, relax everyone. This is a good thing.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Is it just me, or does it seem like this organization has been spinning its tires (and in the process got some elite talent) but still yet not gained any traction??

    I have said for years now the “rebuild” was constructed backwards. Instead of goalie, then defense, then center, then wingers it has been the exact opposite. This with the proven knowledge that defensemen take much longer to groom and develop.

    Now with Hall, RNH and Eberle’s 3 year Entry level contracts chewed up, and McDavid’s 1st about to begin, we are still but-a-shell of what a competitive NHL blueline should look like.

    I don’t say this after one pre-season game. I say this since they didn’t buy-out Nikitin or trade/giveaway Ference. Reinhardt and Gryba are more of what we already have had for the entire rebuild. 5,6,7,8 defenseman trying to become top 4. Given the teams roster one would be hard pressed to see much, if any improvement from years past on the backend, which has been the root of all the issues.

    Another year of dismal hockey will be on the horizon unless moves are made to improve the defense. Unfortunately it is much easier said than done.

  • Anton CP

    You don’t just suddenly get a top pairing defense, you have to be able to farm one. Trying to sign an all-star caliber defense rarely works out, Kings and Hawks were farming their own d-corp meanwhile Bruins stole Chara from Sens just like how Oilers did with Pronger right after the lockout. So when anyone start complaining about the defense, how can you fix it? All the team can do is be patient and hope for the best. Klefbom is slowly becoming the top pairing d-man that the Oilers are hoping for and if Schultz stops Jultzing then he can also be a productive D.

    About goalies will always be hit or miss, it is a lottery by itself. 26 goalies drafted out of 1st round since 2000 and only 11 goalies so far have been a no.1 goalie for any team and only 7 goalies started for more than 100 games. Only 2 have won the Vezina and 4 (two of them as a backup) have won the Stanley Cup. The only way to find a good goalie is by endless shuffling, you can only hope that the luck will eventually be on your side and choose the right one as the solid No.1. For every Dubnyk of Wild that also a good chance for a Bryzgalov of Flyers (which ironically, both played for the Oilers 2 seasons ago and then both have significant improvement by playing for the Wild).

    In short, to get a good defenseman that you have to wait and to get a good goalie that you have to pray.

  • Anton CP

    Oh for F-sakes they played a horrible pre-season game no reason to panic. The Casucks came to play and the Oil didn’t lesson learned. I don’t think their defense is any better than the Oilers at all. I’m calling it tonight 4-2 win for the Oil!

  • Anton CP

    Tonight we find out if Oilers just had a bad game , or Canucks just rounding into the playoff team they were last season where they beat us all 5 games . Off last game it appears Canucks rounding into form for season . Canucks 3-2 .