A Losing Culture


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.

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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.

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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

Losing Culture

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.

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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.

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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.

  • Anton CP

    If Chiarelli is indeed in charge he would have fired Lowe and MacT. The fact they are still here and that neither Nikitin or Ference were bought out tells me Chiarelli is in fact a puppet. He is being controlled by Lowe and MacT. Until they are gone I say bull ship to anything else. Same old. Same old.

    • Boom76

      Lowe’s not in hockey opps anymore so doubt he has any influence.

      I highly doubt a savvy proven GM like Chiarelli, who 100% could have found employment in the NHL had he not signed with the Oilers, would have signed on with the Oilers if he wasn’t given full autonomy.

  • Boom76

    It’s just you Henderson. The rest of us are done with spin stories and hopeful/maybe prospects. Team sucks again, last place again, hope and optimism died this offseason with the failure to aquire legitimate NHL defenceman. Stay positive I suppose but 9 years of garbage fire drains you. I find it stunning you infer chiarelli would be making a trade to “make a trade”. How about he said 20 games to see what he had? Well, we all know it’s a steamy pile of something. Good call, stay the course. It’s clearly not working.

    • Spydyr

      I have been saying what Matheson just said for years.

      The team is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy to soft.

      Losing has been accepted, moral victories and all.

  • Digger

    “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.”

    It’s just you. Glad you have that clear.
    Who is worse then? If you saw the Carolina and Detroit games you canno say with a straight face that this team is better. You, can’t, is not only the result, is the way they get to the result.
    I see a lot of games and I see a lot of teams with character and heart and will to win. I don’t see it in this team (and is not just me). And we have double the talent (without considering MCDavid)
    The only constant in this teamis the players from the core, we need to trade a couple to shake this thing up. It doesn’t matter how talented is Eberle if he is play watching and afraid to make a hit, it does not.

    I am embarrassed of my team. I hope the players feel as I do, they are getting paid.

  • ChillyPepper

    I think the team is hanging on by a thread. The trade of 1 core player could create the “domino effect” of players wanting out. It might just be the best way to restart the rebuild.

    I think Eberle is the key trade. He may not be worth the most, or even bring in anything in return… But the response of the rest of the team will be telling of the actual depth of the issues.

    If Eberle gets out, will Hall want out too? What happens with RNH when Hall and Eberle leave and are seeing success and a chance to win? Will he stay or request a trade?

  • freelancer

    It’s a tough position for Chiarelli. Who even has value in a trade right now? I don’t see him making many trades with us sitting here afterwards saying he got fair value for what he gave up.

  • Oilerfool

    7 wins in 23 games is terrible indictment of this team’s “losing culture”. However, before everyone pulls the trigger on trading anyone and everyone, let’s remember – this is the first year since the ’06 Stanley Cup run that the organization is solid. From the top to coaching and it looks like there will be stability going forward. (Yes, the old guard is still there, but I suspect the advice that group offers has systematically been voided by the reeking habeus corpus of their terrible decision making and poor judgement re: Ference, Nikitin, Schultz, et al).

    It’s hard to pin the blame on the “core” because they have had to lead themselves over the past 5 years. A new head coach every year will do that. Seeing and hearing Tmac talk and more importantly seeing the proof in the overall play of this team vs last year is evidence that there is an improvement happening. Exhibit A – Taylor Hall – who was always good offensively, but is now taking his defensive game to the next level and those comparisons to Messier are no longer a diehard Oilers fans’ delusional dream.

    I think most thought this team was NOT a play-off team this year, so why blow up the core now? They all have been injured or sick or in the AHL over the past 23 games. I’d like to see what they can do with the full roster healthy. Was adding Dougie Hamilton really the difference maker that the Flames (and Oilers) thought he was going to be.

    Unless Shea Webber or Carey Price are up for grabs…

  • Spydyr

    Losing Culture?

    How about losing Coaching! Yea put out your three most struggling players and expect to win it in overtime?

    On which basis do you put out Eberle and RNH as your overtime option? On which basis do you assembel Gryba and Ference as a duo?

    The only thing worse is listening to Drew Remenda tell us how great TM is over and over again……….Drew take down your TM posters and resign as President of his fan club you big fool.

  • Semi

    PC has arguable signed some of the worst offseason free agents of any GM in Oiler history, which is hard to do. Why did he go with an unproven number one goalie, Talbot? Why did he sign a weak small non-hitting puck moving defenceman like Sekera? Don’t we already have this? Gryba is a last pairing defenceman at best. Letestu is another example PC incompetence and has proven to be a non-factor in almost every game. PC made arguably the worst trade in league history with Seguin and I hope he has learned about getting fleeced by other GMs. I hope PC knows how to handle a salary cap when McDavid comes of age, unlike he did in Boston, which devastated that team as well.

  • GM needs to do something. Fanbase cannot take more “patience please” messaging from the franchise. Watching Ebs and Nuge and the boys lose over and over again tells me that this ship will never be righted with these guys on board.

    What teams needs a proven 30 goal scorer? Call them up and see if there is a deal to be made.

    Either get busy living or get busy dieing.

    • Digger

      Speaking of getting busy dying, do any of you remember what it was like when the Oilers were supposedly headed out of town, permanently? Probably not… Be happy we got a team here with an owner who has/will spend money. Winning will come. How long, anyone’s guess. Look at the Chicago Cubs if you want to see faithful sports fans.

  • ponokanocker

    Chiarelli was handed a terrible team. The blueline still needs a lot of improvement but there has been some progress made. At least Nikitin and Ference aren’t regulars this year, but still more needs to be done. Unfortunately teams just don’t seem willing to give up their top pairing D. Hopefully we will see Chiarelli get one soon so we can start to win a few more games. I believe one top pairing D will result in a lot of these one goal losses into wins, even at the expense of an Eberle or other “star”.

    • Spydyr

      Chiarelli was handed a great team in Boston and reduced them to a cap troubled non-playoff team last year.

      Let’s not put all our hopes in Chiarelli’s hands, it’ll hurt less later.

      • Spydyr

        Chiarelli was not handed a great team in Boston.

        In his first year as the GM in Boston he took over a team described below:

        The 2006–07 Boston Bruins season, the franchise’s 83rd, saw the team working toward improving on a 2005–06 season which saw them finish with the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference.

        • Chiarelli was handed a 20 yr old Bergeron, a 19yr old Krejci and 18 yr olds Kessel, Lucic and Marchand. Tim Thomas as well.

          He was also handed a load of cap space to bring in Chara.

          That’s the core of their cup team.

          Upon his hire, his top drafts were Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron.

          He overpaid his bottom six, gave away Sequin and Hamilton and Lucic had to be jettisoned for cap reasons.

          If that’s a resume you want to argue gives you hope, then we are in a culture of losing.

  • bleedingcoppernblue

    Ugg, here we go again. “They’re playing better”. They couldn’t play worse, there was no where to go but up… This type of fan attitude is why there is a culture of losing around here.

    Instead of holding this team to account, we’re fabricating positives that really aren’t there, we’re making excuses and holding parties to celebrate first overall picks.

    And the team is hiring a GM and coach that both just got fired for doing poor jobs.

    Let’s stop analysis things ourselves and instead start putting pressure for change with our wallets and voices.

  • freelancer

    its disappointing, disheartening, sometimes disgusting to be an Oiler fan, that’s the truth. What must it be like go be an Oilers player? Wow.
    Although I get unhappy I’m just a fan, I can walk away at any time, I really don’t have to live it. As a fan my job is to support players, cheer for them, fell good as they succeed. BUT I can walk away any time. It doesn’t really affect my life. I can be a Montreal fan if I like.

    This is why I don’t really understand some comments with so much hate behind them. Surely this can’t be that important in your life that you need to crap all over basically youngsters. It does no good. It’s upsetting for no reason.

    I enjoy the analytics, I enjoy the story lines of individual players. I do not enjoy lack of effort. I won’t enjoy Katz charging me for everything including breathing air at the new Arena.

    As an Oiler fan it sucks at times but I just have to take a step back and say they have enough problems, they don’t need me piling on. Extremely frustrating as I do believe they have the tools to succeed.. Sigh.

    • Spydyr

      They are horrifically over paid under performers.
      $6 million dollars of under performance.
      The real world expects something for that money, not play better suited to ringette than hockey.
      But worst of all is Chiarelli.
      Willful inaction.

      • Jayinetown

        True. I also horrifically overpay for a god awful beer at the rink. It’s an industry, the players are pawns. To get to this level most spend every minute training I doubt many have worked a shovel and have much appreciation for a dollar. However…..

        Verdad I’m curious, with the defence doing better than expected and the bottom say 9 doing less than expected, would you still blow things up for that big defence man? Or is getting some gritty hard nosed talent up front become the priority?

        • Boom76

          Great question Verdad2! Honestly, moving Eberle, Purcell, and/or Yakupov for bigger, grittier players (of equal value, of course) will be huge. The periphery game Eberle et al play is why we aren’t create lucky chances. Those players light it up in junior, but in the NHL’s western conference it simply fails… as the last 4-5 years have shown. Stick Ebs with beasts like Getz & Perry, his game works… but not on this current team.

          To answer your question: both. To any fan reading this, watch the late 80’s Oilers on YouTube and you’ll see that they could go beast-mode not problem. That’s what we need.

  • CMG30

    This post is simply more Chiarelli rationalization.
    I have said for months he is incoeyent. The Oiler record speaks for itself.
    All his moves have made the team worse.
    His inaction to not gut the rotten core is beyond understanding.
    The team record speaks for itself.
    He should bring fired next week if this team isn’t changed fundamentally.
    I have right all along.
    And yes trade Hall for OEL in a heart beat.
    A decade of OEL, MacDavid and Draisatl you can actually win a Stanley Cup, if you a competent manager.

  • hagar

    Nobody saw a cup run realistically coming this year, but everyone held onto hope the team would be winning games, work their way up a few spots, then be on track for a solid next season.

    It is completely deflating that the team is going the wrong direction, and knowing that if nothing is done now, we are going into Next year “hoping” the team will start making a positive move, so they can be competitive the year after that one.

    It’s most likely going to take a year of average hockey before we can cheer for playoffs. We all want that average year to happen NOW!

  • freelancer

    Have to give Chiarelli a chance. Most of us said this past summer that he was being handed a tire fire and agreed that it would take time to fix it.

    For those complaining about the UFAS he brought in. Sekera is a good second pairing option maybe a #2 guy. But he was the best of what was available. Talbot has underachieved but the D isn’t exactly as mentioned very good. Again it was a move that when made very few had a problem with.

    I will hold out judgement on Pete until the end of next summer. With contracts coming off the books he should have more options.

  • Digger

    I’m with Matheson. We’ve known forever that teams who make short sighted trades, stealing from their prospect pool to improve their team right now eventually fail. I think if the oilers of the last ten years have taught us anything it’s that the opposite view is equally poisonous. Never making a trade to improve right now. Always focused on making sure any move makes you better tomorrow with no regard for today. No pressure to win short term because it’s easier to write off a season than make a mistake on the trade front has sunk this team’s psyche. No pressure to win for management filters down to the players and produces the lack of urgency we see ever second game. Sometimes you have to make a trade that gives you a better chance to beat Pittsburgh tonight. 2018 be damned. If that’s making a trade for the sake of making a trade so be it.

  • Spydyr

    When Lowetide comes out and says it is not all sunshine and rainbows for the Oilers(any day now is my guess), you will know this $hit show has gone on far to long.

  • Spydyr

    Any attempt to rationalize the performance of this team is a waste of time. The Oil are like some governments, they are refuse to admit they have created a losing culture. Don’t expect any significant change until there is a public admission the Oil are losers. Then the so-called leadership can begin a true rebuild of a once proud franchise.

  • Spydyr

    “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.”

    Who are the Oilers better than? Carolina? Flames? They lost to both of those teams.

  • Spydyr

    On second thoughts…. Can somebody from ON please take this “article” down? It is insulting: “they lose like a 30 place team, they behave like a 30th place team, they have the record of a 30th place team, but they are NOT a 30th place team”.

  • Spydyr

    Matheson and his mainstream media cronies (at the behest of Lowe and MacT) ran Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry out of town.

    They said not a bad word about Lowe and MacT during the 110 games of Eakins terror and error.

    How’s that working?

    Yeah now they want to run Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Hall out of town.

    Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle are now the vets that provide the cover for McDavid and Draisaitl to develop properly….mid-career vets that they themselves did not have because the media ran out of town every slightly flawed mid-career player.

    And now Matheson wants to make the same mistakes all over again.

    • Whatever dude. We are on 30th.
      We were on 30th with Petry too.
      Gilbert I don’t even remember , is he not the dude that looks like Petry but in (even more) softer?
      Whoever thinks this team needs a shake is right.
      Look at the standings
      Then look again tomorrow.
      And next week too.