The Oilers are having a distinct problem winning games. They
have only done it seven times in the last 23 matches, and that’s really beginning to
wear down some key veterans.
It almost looks like paralysis by analysis by Chiarelli. He has to do something major to break this culture of Edm losinng.#EJLive
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) November 28, 2015
I should be more clear. Some veteran media guys are getting fed up with the losing and are really antsy about the whole thing.
This tweet is about 140 characters of pure 100% Colombian exasperation. None of it really stands up to a shred of logic, but this is what happens when faced with loss after loss for almost a decade.
Let’s start with acknowledging the facts at the root of this. The Edmonton Oilers are 30th in the NHL once again. If the season ended today we would be talking about Auston Matthews and potentially the fifth first overall pick on the team. That’s embarrassing.
The Oilers have been tarred and feathered, paraded through downtown, made to eat a bowl of spiderwebs, and then swirleed by the media since winning their fourth first overall pick — Connor McDavid — and they’re lining up for pick number five at this moment. Sportsnet (Edmonton’s rights holders) ran articles saying the NHL should have rigged the last lottery against the Oilers. I cant imagine what’s in store this coming spring if this doesn’t get turned around.
And that’s probably why there’s an ever growing sentiment to just make a big trade even if it’s really stupid.
If we boil that tweet by Matheson down we get to two main ideas.
1) Edmonton has a deeply embedded culture of losing
2) Peter Chiarelli has been sitting on his hands doing nothing to change this squad
There is no team in the last five years who has lost more games than the Oilers. Since the 2010-2011 season the Oilers have picked up 209 losses. The Sabres are second with 196. We are the best at losing. That’s just a fact.
If a “Losing Culture” were as simple as a 1:1 relationship with a losing record then the Oilers definitely have a losing culture in 2015-2016. No question about it.
However, I think when we talk about a losing culture we’re talking about a lot more than just picking up L’s. Surely a losing culture refers to an attitude that permeates the dressing room and infects the players. It’s about not believing wins are possible. It’s about not playing games the right way.
Having a Losing Culture is about every aspect of the game, from planning to preparation to execution, being broken deep down in the psyche of the individual members of the team.
It’s a big accusation to make of a team, or at least it should be.
Here’s the part where I disagree with Mr. Matheson. I don’t actually believe the Oilers have a losing culture in 2015-2016.
When I watch the Oilers play I see a team that is in almost every game they play. I see a team that is playing better defensively and has been competitive. There have a lot of one goal games or games that ended in empty netters. Last year these one goal games became blowouts by the third period. Now the Oilers are hanging around.
Looking back to a year ago and comparing it to what we see now, I’d say that the team was definitely trapped in a losing culture. In fact, Bob Nicholson probably saw the same thing when he did his forensic audit. It’s why he changed the entire management structure and coaching of the team.
The Oilers have made massive changes to the entire organization to change the culture of the club already.
We are just two months into the coaching regime of Todd McLellan. He and new GM Peter Chiarelli haven’t even made it to their first Christmas with the Oilers. The line of “paralysis by analysis” from Jim Matheson is about four years and two GM’s late to the party. Where was that when Steve Tambellini was watching his blueline turn into ash?
The new Coach and GM have stripped the Captain of his ice time and his letter, got Nail Yakupov playing on the right side of the puck, shipped high priced vets to the AHL, added three new defenders to the Oilers, and played two others as regulars who weren’t full-time a year ago.
Meanwhile, reports have been coming out steadily for the last week that Peter Chiarelli has been aggressively trying to land Travis Hamonic since before the season started.
Paralysis by Analysis indeed.
Change Is Coming
Losing does something nasty to people who are used to winning. It eats away at them. Sometimes we see otherwise really bright people start to make really dull choices. Making a trade for the sake of making a trade is not the route I want the GM of the Oilers to take.
The Oilers don’t have the depth to make any more bad trades. They have to make the right trade.
One day, pretty soon, that trade is going to happen and the Oilers will move out a bigger piece of the team. It might be Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, or even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leaving, but they can’t afford to move big pieces just because they’re losing a lot of one goal games. It has to be because there’s a deal that makes them better in places they are the weakest.
Edmonton might be finding ways to lose games, but we really need to look at how they play and why they’re losing before we default back to their supposed losing culture. I don’t see an Oilers team that was defeated before the game even began when I watch them play. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the 30th best team in the NHL even though they sit 30th in the standings this morning.