BACK THE TRUCK UP

Rollercoaster

Given what they’ve witnessed over the past decade, fans of the Edmonton Oilers don’t need a written invitation to overreact to what they see, so it’s no surprise they’ve been all over the place given the start the Oilers have had.

After four consecutive losses and then three straight wins, Oilersnation has swung between “we still suck,” accompanied by obligatory expressions of doom and gloom, and “we’ve turned a corner,” cloaked in optimism. Framed in that, a fresh set of eyeballs, like those belonging to coach Todd McLellan, comes in handy splitting the difference.

Not prone to blowing smoke at either end of the spectrum, McLellan served up some pretty damning observations after the Oilers turned in their worst performance of this young season in a 7-4 loss to the Washington Capitals, a far better team that doesn’t need the kind of help they got at Rexall Place.

The attention-getting part is we’ve heard the kind of criticism McLellan offered far too often in recent seasons from Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins – about as broad a cross-section of personalities and coaching styles as you can get — after the Oilers dropped to 3-5.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

Homer

“They’re a very talented team and they took advantage of a team that was sloppy in a lot of areas,” McLellan said. “We overwhelmed ourselves with stupidity in some situations. Too much easy play all over the rink.

“I’ve been disappointed in our team, the Dallas game in particular, but tonight, I’m much more disappointed in individuals. Certain players that didn’t bring it, weren’t alert, weren’t sharp weren’t performing well. We’re a good team, we’ll grow as a team and we’ll develop as a team, but we have to do it as a team, we can’t afford to have four or five guys not with us.”

Didn’t bring it? Too much easy play all over the rink? Overwhelmed by their own stupidity? Four or five passengers? The Capitals, picked by many to finish at or near the top of the Eastern Conference, don’t need any favors. A bad night by Anders Nilsson was plenty, but to compound that with the rest?

McLellan was asked if his team wasn’t as sharp as it should have been after running off three straight wins against Calgary, Vancouver and Detroit. “Maybe the coach has to keep his foot on the gas pedal all the time,” he said. “You like to think the guys can step up and accept success maturely, but obviously tonight we didn’t.”

WORK TO DO

House

As was the case with the four losses to start the season and the three wins that followed, getting carried away over one unquestionably bad performance doesn’t make sense. It does make sense, however, for McLellan to call out his team – without ridiculing individuals by name — for any hints of inconsistency in effort and execution, which is what we got Friday.

We know, and so does McLellan, the Oilers aren’t deep enough from front to back in terms of talent and experience. The top six, up front and on the back end, is a work-in-progress. Goaltending, despite being better overall in the early going, is far from proven. We just saw that in spades.

Being short here and there in player personnel are issues for GM Peter Chiarelli. What we saw Friday falls to McLellan and the players. McLellan is a stickler for details, and there’s no question that’ll be made abundantly clear again before the Los Angeles Kings come calling Sunday, as it should be. Those who got comfortable will become uncomfortable in a hurry.

Fans will have another 40 or so losses to digest and lament over the balance of this season. That’s the way it’s going to be. As for the number of games we’ll see that are lost for the reasons McLellan talked about Friday without naming names, my guess is you’ll be able to count those on one hand. That, or the names will change. 

BY THE NUMBERS

Numbers

  • Connor McDavid is playing at a point-per-game clip with 5-3-8 through eight games. McDavid has scored those five goals on just 14 shots for a shooting percentage of 35.70.
  • Nilsson went into the game against Washington in the NHL’s top 10 with a save percentage of .953 (and a goals-against average of 1.98). After allowing six goals on 17 shots, he’s at .902 and 3.92.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • ziyan94

    As if this wasn’t obvious already, Ference looked completely out of his depth yesterday. Hopefully Reinhart can recover soon, he has done well with Gryba.

  • Nursing bronchitis, I was prepared to record the game, but settled for the couch instead of going to bed – probably not the best idea I’ve ever had. Regardless, I watched until the end of the 2nd and these are my thoughts.

    1 Ferrance taking a really stupid roughing penalty, we get scored against

    2 McDavid getting an own goal – accidents happen

    3 Not playing Talbot after his great games vs Detroit, strange?

    4 Not pulling Nillson after the 4th goal allowed?

    So if not for those 4 things we could have been tied right? NOT

    I was relaxed at the start of the game – #1 PK, great goal-tending, Yak & Schultz playing better, tired Capitals. Man was I ever wrong. Pathetic play from just about all players, once again. Is it that once we win 2-3 games we are so sure we can just sit back and not play properly? Do we enjoy hanging our goalies out to dry? All of these things made me really mad, but the worst of all? The SAME LAME excuses next day “we know what we were supposed to do, we just didn’t do it”. How many times have we heard that over the past 9 years. I vote that the next moron that says that should have a one way ticket out of Dodge. That’s my rant for today.

    • Re: point 1, I think this is a “because it was Ference” comment. For years people have complained that this team doesn’t stand up when pushed around. I have no problems with these kinds of penalties. It did lead to a goal against though, yes. But I’m not a fan of them wallflowering when someone gets hit in a bad way (which was the case on this one).

  • BabyNugeMonitor

    As a fan/paying customer, it is reasonable to expect a certain level of effort in exchange for my money. Seeing the same players dog it, lack attention to detail, and repeat the same mistakes game over game, year over year, is frustrating.

    OilersNation can finally expect competence from established management in Chiarelli and McLellan. While I’ll curse the poor, insufficient effort over the short term, there’s trust in the coach to evaluate and offer input to a GM who will cull the weakness from a player pool long on individual talent but short on the consistent application of determination.

  • Lots of mistakes all around. McDavid did a nice job getting back to defend, but then proceeded to be extremely soft on the guy in front of the net… redirects in off said player and McDavid’s stick. Nuge makes an oddball decision to leave a man he was glued to, to go after the guy who just got the puck and was being covered by Sekera. Several times, the defense were “walked” around by the speedy Capitals. Hall carrying the puck through heavy traffic too much and then losing it. Plenty of blame to go around. I think this is one of those coach-frustrating games where the team just lost the message for a bit.

    I feel like McLellan can get them back on the same page again. Like he was saying, he shouldn’t have to constantly reinforce things, but he does here, it would seem. Back to school for everyone and then on to the next game.

  • freelancer

    This is going to be a continuous issue this year. As the season progresses, McLellan and Chia will be able to identify who the regular “passengers” are. Get them out and bring in guys with the work ethic they want.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    One play in particular that stood out for me was when Shultz thought he was playing for the Blue Jays and tried to catch the puck, missed it, then didn’t bust his ass back on the break away. Shultz, imo, even though he seemed to turn a corner at the begging of the season seems to be going back to the Shultz of seasons past.

      • srbuhr

        Absolutely agree this was the most engaged I have seen Hall however he did not have a great game.

        It’s not a coincidence that McDavid scoring took off after Hall was removed from his line or Nuge’s just can’t find a right winger.

        Taylor is trying to do way to much himself and his game is poorer for it. Every defenceman in the league knows he will carry the puck down his wing to the hash marks and shoot. He may be getting a lot of shots on net but they are play killers. Try to drive the net!.

        • ubermiguel

          Agree, for example Hall’s penalty was a direct result of him trying to play Hero Ball and carry the puck into the zone on his own. Dump it in man! You have a team!

  • BabyNugeMonitor

    We can guess and debate which 4 or 5 player TMac was talking about but the top two are beyond dispute, Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz who stood around, checking no one, hitting no one, blocking no shots and looking totally disinterested and out-classed. Ference contributed absolutely nothing, committing two bonehead penalties which both resulted in goals. Yak had his poorest game of the season, despite a nice assist on the Oiler’s first goal. Even McDavid played too soft, although he did contribute offensively.

    • oilerjed

      Fayne, Fayne, Fayne, Fayne and Jultz of course
      Fayne is the posterkid for players that play a style of game that PC doesnt want to see.
      Funny how Fayne isn’t an anagram for soft, trust me I tried a few different times.

  • Danglishish

    Recognizing it’s very early, just want to point out:

    McDavid shooting percentage – 35.7%.
    Mike Bossy career – 21%
    Kurri – 19%

    I know I know, 8 games in. But one of the things I was initially frustrated with McDavid was he wasn’t shooting enough.. always looking for the pass. Now I just wonder if this guy isn’t just super efficient. Alternatively, what happens when he starts taking 6 shots a game? My god.

  • oilerjed

    Hopkins , Schultz, Klefbom , McDavid and Sekara is my guess . Players that are expected to make positive results most frequently . Ference maybe a sixth for penalties he took .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Should be interesting to see who buys in and who doesn’t. Some, have grown far too comfortable with losing during the last 5 yrs.

    Is it possible to re-aquire the fear of losing once you’ve learned to tolerate it for nearly half a decade? Todd McLellan certainly has his plate full. That list of who does buy in and who doesn’t may have a surprise or two on it.

      • We didnt see enough truculence and this made some guys stand out in a bad way.

        Maybe someone running over their goalie might have changed the flavor of the game and anyone can do that.

        They stood us up a lot and it took the wind out of our sails.

        The Core of anything is protected by the external layer or body of work….where was our body of work?

        We had no external layer or shell of cannon-fodder willing to jack up the volume and try to change the games momentum for us.

        Roles within roles are like layers of the onion we can peel back LONG BEFORE we get to the Core.

        Passing up to many hits sends a weak message to the opponent.They feel less stress and urgency.

        Methinks a good Coach can send a flier down the bench in 5 seconds and have everyone jack it up and NEVER TURN DOWN A HIT until he changes the marching orders……..why not? If you say keep your sticks down that should ripple down the bench and out onto the ice immediatly so why not truculence as well its just another detail of the game.

        Coaches are responsible for answering opposing Coaches adjustments…if Mac-L sends an edict out and 2-3-4 guys do not immediatly comply,his entire job is terminally undermined, he has to take it personally how else can he take it?

        I or 2 might not be dialed is but 3-4-5 guys is an Asst Coaching issue or a Head Coaching issue,a communication issue.

        I didnt see JW talking to these “goats” during the game on the Bench and I didnt see Mac-L following up on the exact same players with a 2nd wave of motivation shortly thereafter…..nope…and its their job to identify and help men who are not dialing in properly….I just did not see evidence of this process being actioned on the tapes…..evidence based valuations cut both ways IMHO.I saw the “need” to micro-manage specific players….but no remedial efforts by the Coaches in a timely organised manner.

  • ubermiguel

    I watched the entire game and could not believe that our team could not make more than one or two passes.

    I suspect that the players are trying really hard to adapt to the new system………but if constantly skating ahead of the play is the system, I’m totally confused.

    Washington made zone entries look so simple I think TM should force the entire team to watch the whole game. I’m going to chalk it up to “Out of Sync” flu that is going around!

  • ubermiguel

    Getting a little tired, but it seems everything dies on the backend.I taught guys like Schultz, Sekera, Klefbomb were ” skaters” and were very capable of moving the puck out of the zone.

    They are still banging up around the boards, passing to open wings or into guys skates. Its pretty ugly back there. The play dies in the neutral zone! Appear to be brain dead, not knowing what to do with the puck.?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Mac-L has the men on the same page,we can see when he and his Crew are not winning the Coaching battles through a game now.

    Venting post-game on Players using no names is professional .

    Certain players stand out when the Process fails, the nail that stands out the most gets hit first right?Early warning Red Flags right?

    Robin how much of the accountability for the loss falls upon the Coaches vs Players in your opinion?

    Did an emotionless Oilers bench early forecast the entire game?

    Early on Hall was banging ,no one catalysed and the energy and urgency disappeared.

    IMHO the System was misfiring , Mac-Ls Crew lost 4-5 Players without proper Bench support and management being there for them.

    NO JW or Mac-L going up and down the Bench micro-managing men on time in the 1st?

    IMHO 5 minutes in it was clear we couldnt stop their d-zone exits and prevent their n-zone transitions they ultimately ran on us all night long. Why no Plan-B forecheck adjustments?

    No cohesive stand-up contact above our blueline in the n-zone all night long?Why not stop the upspeed man exiting unmolested to penetrate deep up our middle?

    No Process adjustments to protect the middle of the ice?

    Do we call it an old fashioned shootout loss and appreciate the epic excitement and thrills of actual offense for once and make it a mulligan for everyone ?

    Every NHL City deserves games with explosive exciting offense. I LOVED THE GAME…..man we were a couple of PP goals away from being right in it…we werent blown out in terms of opportunity just results.

    The closest link to sucess was cashing on a few PPs and JACKING UP the offense as opposed to cranking up the defense.

    Maybe now we dont beat everyone up and we turn the frowns upside down and in practise work on our PP rush with lateral full zone cross-ice passes into give and goes with a one-timer back-door long range snipe finishes in practise?McDavidsky can make those passes right?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I don’t know about everyone else but i’m completely sick and tired of the Schultz experiment. All these pro Schultz fans its just one excuse after another. 1st he was rushed into too much ice time. Then it was Eakins ruined him. Then maclellan shows up and everyones on about how much better he looks. Enough already. The guy is at best a 3rd line D man that requires sheltering. He’s got no heart. no character, cant pass, cant shoot.. BRUTAL. GET HIM OUTTA HERE

    • camdog

      My favourite d-man on the Oilers last season was Jeff Petry. He is a really good number 3 d-man and would be the best d-man on this team. He didn’t get to where he is until the age of 27. I also know that as much as Tom Gilbert was disliked he would still to this day continue to be an improvement on what they have.

      I don’t know if Schultz is going to be any good, I just know that when compared to the other d-man on the team he is not the worst.

      • camdog

        Yah I know you’re right. I just dont like that he’s so counted on and expected to play such a prominent role. And there’s just something about watching him play that lackadaisical style all the time effing things up. It is so irritating.. And yet the experiment continues. But your comment is logical so i can appreciate that.

  • S cottV

    Yeah we could of have had Petry instead of Shultz?

    That play at center – when tied 3 – 3, shows that Schultz is not getting it.

    We don’t need his risky brand of limited (no heavy pp slapper from the point), offensive upside, when it comes with a laughable flip side.

    Trade him for whatever his present market value is, because it ain’t gonna get any better.

  • camdog

    Very curious to know which forwards McLennen wasn’t happy with. RNH with his weak coverage and missed passes? Hall with his typical 1 vs 3 and turnover move?

    In any event our D was a disaster all night. SchultZ, Klefbom and Sekera looked lost at sea. The other D-men weren’t much better.