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.

  • 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

    Considering or analyzing options, as Chiarelli has for some time now, is doing something. I’m not sure how you come up with the interpretation Matheson is saying he’s doing nothing. It’s part of the process. The suggestion by Matheson is it’s time to act.

  • Jayinetown

    Wow the I never thought I’d say this but give me stauffer over these oiler apologists. Matty is right enough of is enough someone do something. Everyone wants to sit on their hands because what their worried if they make a trade we might fall to 31st place or 32nd place. Only thing I’m judging pc by is when he finally makes a real trade.

  • Oilfaninvan

    It’s the performances in Carolina and Detriot that are incredibly worrisome. The thought that a fifth number one pick could be heading to Edmonton is rightfully embarrassing. Attempting to call out the criticisms of journalists or fans instead of the performance of the organization and its players is ridiculous.This stretch is very critical for the new coach and GM – I believe they were the right hires – now let’s see if they can pull the team back out of the hole they are yet again slipping in to.

  • Reds

    People are actually blaming the General Manager and Head Coach?

    Again? Except this time, they are completely new and not part of the old boys club and THEY’RE the first ones to get blamed?

    This is on the players. Not the guys who have only been here for roughly 20 games.

    Yeah, losing DOES do some crazy things. Like saying Chiarelli was the worst off season move. Then again, the people saying that also wanted MacT gone. And Tambo. And Lowe.

  • Slapshot

    McDavid,Draisaitl,Nurse and Klefbom,should be the only untouchables on this team.On Gregors show yesterday they had Craig Button on there and he said what has Hall,Nuge Eberle done here these past 4-5 years ? we will never get a top d man in a trade for magic beans,the makeup of this team is wrong,it was built wrong from day one,they have to many soft players and to many players that play the game the same,just like Nicholson evaluated the management and coaching of this team,Chiarelli is doing the same with the players once the trades are done people will know which players this team felt where part of the problem (culture) and which players it feels will hopefully be part of the solution moving forward.

    • Boom76

      I would add RNH to that list. Having 3 centres, one of which who can play wing, is always a great thing to have. Nuge is a back-checking monster who has always reminded me of Datsyuk in that regard. I agree with everything else you say.

    • Strange comment from Button. What has Hall, Nuge, Eberle done for this team??? Only kept the franchise itself alive.

      When you have a team slowly reduced to nothing, how do you rebuild?? You have nothing. So you draft or you buy. Buying cheap wasn’t working either. Draft talent, throw them to the wolves. Given their situation I have all the time in the world for these three. If they are traded the play of all three will also get better. You can only play as good as those around you.

    • Nicholson didnt get the job done right and the evidence is proving this out in an EXPONENTIALLY ESCALATING MANNER…lol.

      His “audit” was tinkered with by those loyal to K-lowe…his Vanguard within the org.

      Mac-L is evaluating the Players and to MY-Eye he JW and Fee have pooched it because although they have done a lot of good things on every level ,they as evidence shows us HAVE NOT provided a consistant congruent System or Process over the last 20+ games upon which we may optimally valuate individuals values as per Process requirements…..we have seen Fee/JW driven Mac-L supported Dallas Dellow type of Multi-System jumbo of disconnects.Trying to play chess matching up with Opposition Systems and constantly tweaking their own reactively instead of pro-actively led by incongruent and inconsistant tactical valuations given into the process by Fee and Mess and JW whoever else is working that side of things off-ice.

      They lack a cutting edge System Management Program they can apply to a KISS System like the NHS/H&A…lol.

      Every time the Process or System or presentation of such changes the individual player values fluctuate BY PROXY.Stats based processes and valuations are absolutely undermined by this dynamic.

      The best games the Oiler have played this season were when they executed the KISS Hammer and Anvil System,then they got cocky and vain and undermined the H&A to do it “their” way ,and the downward spiral renewed itself and continued.

      Did I mention that Dallas Eakins in reverse kind spells sneaky salad?….snikaE sallaD?

  • Boom76

    OMG, I love the fans who have no management experience of any kind already blaming Chia for being a bad manager… Like the guys at work who blame management for everything imaginable.

    Anyway, to all the moderate fans, I think we’ll see Eberle + go to a team desperate for scoring (and full of D) for a D-man in return. Tavares and Ebs would be sick. Nashville obviously a possibility. St.L, NJ, and even WPG come to mind.

  • What would make the men believe in themselves and in the Process?

    Would the entire 2012+ “book” on the Kings and Hawks System Management Programs do the trick? After all they have monopolised the last FOUR Stanley Cups and are working on a clean 1/2 Decade now.

    I happen to know a guy who knows a guy……who could talk to a guy in Zurich who might under the right circumstances call a Woman in Bejing who knows a place on the UnderWeb where you can find almost “anything” ……Katz has gotta grease a lotta rail to get his Boys that far though…lol

    But these are the kinds of things only Friends do for Friends…..and no one has ever invited me over to Katz Manor for a Cup “o” Rosehip Tea …..lol.

  • Boom76

    You have to give to get, period.
    The core needs to be broken up. Nudge,Ebs, Yak, Jultz. One, maybe a pkged pair is the only way to get a good true #1 D man.
    Fans have to end the love affair with individuals and raise the level of love for the team. What is best to grow this team…. The current core simply doesn’t do it.
    You are not getting a seabrook or a Byfguelin with a package of Lander and Nikitin.Plain and simple, this is going to cost a core player

  • bleedingcoppernblue

    No one is happy after the last two games but I would hope that Chiarelli has a little more self control than us fans. I was screaming at the TV last night and probably would’ve traded almost all of them for peanuts based on my emotions after the Carolina game. We have had to endure a lot of losing but new eyes take time to figure out where exactly the problem lies. Do you want Chiarelli to make a Seguin style trade? I am certain that other GM’s are not jumping to help him out with trades that will give us what we need for spare parts. The buy outs maybe should’ve happened but there is also a greater impact on future years when buying out. I think despite dealing with serious injury issues, this team has been better this year. Our goaltending has also been an issue yet again but I think Chia made two very good bets and sent the right guy down to the farm, with another right guy in Nikitin. Sekera was a great bet and is paying off. Gryba was a low cost move that could have paid off but there is too much of the same lack of speed and mobility already present in this defence (Fayne, Ference- I’m looking at you!) These guys will be weeded through and out this year and upcoming summer but it takes time. The future is bright- the problem is the rebuid was backwards- you cannot build from wingers as your strength. you start with defense but we’re trying to sort out the defense now- this is not an indictment of Chia who has been here all of 10 minutes… patience is still needed.

  • D

    This same squad played like champs against Washington two games ago. Had they played the same way against Carolina and Detroit, even with losses, there probably would not be so much dissatisfaction.

    If Chiarelli makes a trade, I hope it’s unemotional and with the mindset that this team already has the tools to play the game the way they did against Washington.

    • Serious Gord

      The #1 factor in winning is consistency. If a player cannot play consistently then he hurts the team, not helps. This team does NOT have the players that are consistently good, and that is a massive problem.

  • Oilerfool

    I’m afraid I have to disagree.

    Henderson wrote:

    “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 1 goal games became blowouts by the 3rd period. Now the Oilers are hanging around.”

    Last night’s game is a perfect example of the losing culture in Edmonton and I have seen it replicated in many games before tonight. Yes, the Oilers are much more competitive in their games this year. Lots of one goal games, battling back to tie at times, etc etc…

    However, watch this team after they get back to even, much like last night in the second period when they tied Detroit 2-2. It becomes a ‘tire fire.” They run around, they are missing assignments, its confused and the play screams of a lack of confidence. Same thing once down 3-2 last night. They played better until they tied it again and then it was all Detroit and only Talbot and a fortunate goal post saved Edm the loser point.

    This team only plays well most nights when they are down but in a close game.

    This is the ‘culture of losing” that Matheson is talking about. They need to want the lead and learn how to play with a lead if this is ever going to change.

  • theoil

    The Oiler remind me of the Kings,the season BEFORE they turned the corner. Everyone was questioning if they drafted and developed properly,what was wrong with their kids,and the fans wanted blood.

    The Oilers are not as bad as their record,and I at least enjoy watching the games again,and don’t find myself changing the channel when they’re down,or begging people to take my tickets,because I’d rather stay home .

    We all said this year would have no playoffs,and as long as they played hard and were fun to watch,we’d be cool with that,so what happened,and why are we no longer cool with that plan.people need to chill out. The fans remind me of chicken little,and the old boys club of media,reminds me of a bunch of inbred hillbillies,carrying torches,and just looking for someone to burn at the stake.

    Relax folks,it’s insane to think McLellan and Chiarelli can fix 10yrs of mistakes,in only 20 games. Chiarelli has over $12 million dollars playing in Bakersfield,plus another close to $4 million in Andrew Ference,who fetches McDavid popcorn and Orange Crush.

    The team looks better,plays better,plays harder,and has been in how many one goal games? We have the right pieces,including management. When we look back at this time later,it will be with thoughts of,that was right before they turned the corner,and started crushing teams,not they tanked again,can’t win,and only know how to lose…

  • CMG30

    The comment section make for amusing reading these days. Lets see if I can sum it up:


    • bleedingcoppernblue

      Just saw that Reinhart has been sent down. I think there have been many moves that show good logic driving decisions. This was the right/best decision but Chiarelli had to eat some words to make the move and ignore his ego. This is a good sign… in the same mould as sending down Nikitin and Scrivens- not easy calls but the right ones. I’m definitely interested to see how the d looks tonight. in my mind Sekera, nurse has been strong; Klefbom, Fayne not bad but I prefer Klefbom, Davidson on merit and small sample results. We’ll see but I am hopeful about this defence once some dead weight is removed and further decisions made. Both coach and GM know the defence is a problem and are trying all combos to see what sticks. I’d rather this approach currently, then make a trade based on strong intel about exactly what is working and what is left wanting… patience!

  • Serious Gord

    Matheson comes to a conclusion that the team has a losing culture after watching the team play this way for almost a decade? In the name of God, Take away his credentials. Give them to someone who actually has some guts to do the job of reporting.

    A week ago the culture of losing looked to have been beaten. The EI bum attitude seemed to be behind them – the counselling and taking away the bong seemed to have the team playing with some persistent work ethic.

    Then the last two road games happened. All the old habits and results returned. They collectively fell of the wagon.

    Why? Is there a single player who is poisoning the work ethic chalice? Or is it a clutch of players? That is what chia and his staff have to determine.

    No one on the team with more than 100 games in the NHL should be above suspicion. And if it is one or more of the “core” – the rotten core – they need to be dumped as soon as is reasonable – I use the term reasonable because from the outside of the GM trading floor I have no idea what is being put and what is being called – to heck with the fan reaction (and chiarelli has made similar moves elsewhere).

    One thing chia can very likely count on – the sheep in the oiler media will be very muted in their reaction.

    • Serious Gord

      I often disagree with you gord but you’ve been pretty much bang on so far today. Guys like matty and terry Jones think they’re above the team, but in actuality are no longer journalists and just talking heads for hire.

    • hagar

      Mac-L has been opening the Oven door to many times and his Cake is sinking…..he needs to get back on track and focus on one KISS system projection and learn to work it with his men….he and JW have tweaked things System-wise to many times to play chess tacticlly with opponents in terms of over-reliance on inadequtely supported and built Pre-Game Plans…

      Mac-L has NOT provided a congruent consistant 20+ games of one KISS System focus upon which he or we could properly evaluate his new Crew…he did lead them in easy but he began experimenting with different System focuses like Dallas Dellow did …way to soon….the Coaching Staff have been impatient well intended and driven and passionate ….but to twitchy on the trigger…they have to learn to let it come to them.

      No way Mac-L will tell you he and his Coaching support Crew havent been underperforming on their own expectations because there is no doubt they have been,as have the men.

      We just took the training Wheels off to soon…lol.

      So everyone relax and lets not begin sniping each other and Players and Coaches off one by one …we dont eat our own.. lets just slap the Training Wheels back on again and go back to one single KISS System focus for the next 25 games so we can build a decent valuation baseline before this season is over and and we begin NEXT SEASON WITH SKEWED DATA or make poorly concieved of Trades in a knee-jerk manner based upon realime skewed data integration.

      Its not hard to pick out the periods where the Oilers have been absoluely dominant and to identify causality and effects.We have a small set of sample sizes of very very good hockey in small stretches.Time to put them together and look for a common thread right?

  • Serious Gord

    I am not with Matheson here, mostly because he has the arrogance to believe he fully understands what’s going on in the background. With chiarelli in charge I doubt he has the same insight he used to. I think chiarelli has been trying to do something, but the only offers he’s had don’t make the oilers better. That’s just a guess, I have no idea, but it’s also the most likely reason something hasn’t happened and was confirmed as much by chiarelli today

  • S cottV

    I have no doubt PC will make player moves.

    He has to wait till other teams are eager to trade or he gets screwed.

    Pretty obvious that the core to build around is McD, Drai, Nurse, and Klefbom.

    I would like to think Hall should be retained, but I wish he would stop running around the ice whining like a baby whenever something doesn’t go his way.


  • S cottV

    Henderson wrote

    “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.”

    This is not correct…… Klowe, MacT and Howeson appear to be very involved with the team, on stage at the drafting of McDavid, sitting at the draft table, beside Chai at the games, etc

    These 3 are the losers and the common denominator for the past 10 years and need to be removed before we get rid of players like RNH or Hall.

  • tileguy

    The sending down of Reinhart is the last flush of the toilet from the Klowe era. I really do beleive Chiapet was under intense pressure to make that trade from the curly hair kid.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Maybe Chia can bring in an elite superstar #1 Center to the team in the new year.

    Oh wait… McDavid will be back, and the team will start winning again…

    Winning puts the team in a much better position to make trades, the players hold more value.

    If we make a big trade it should be Eberle that goes and it should done in the OS.

    (Did you see him backcheck on the OT winner… LAZY)

  • Semi

    If you want to build a heavy team then most of top six need to go . You might keep Hall with Draisaitl and McDavid . Our team will never be heavy with the others .

  • passenger

    Agree with the AnthropologyBro or whatever

    Separately, In my (ever so humble) opinion, the people running this team know far more about hockey than the media covering it and a bunch of sadboys on the Internet combined. I’m sure no one in the media would ever claim to know more about building a winner than the current Oilers management team. The journos job is to report on the team, and they do that well. That’s where their expertise ends, however. Stop blaming them for having opinions, and stop putting their opinions on pedestals. They are simply opinions, just like yours and mine, but with the added advantage of exposure, editing, and (in most cases) a commitment to rigour.

    I have faith in this management, and these players. Every one of them knows far more about hockey than any one of us. They’ve barely begun. Keep being passionate, but jeeeeez louiiise, just settle the fug down.

  • BubbaZanetti

    Trade both Hall and Eberle, and the culture of this team will change. I haven’t heard/read as many excuses made for Bush and Obama as I have for their actions. The two of them play like their grandpa owns the team and they can’t do any wrong. Both will bring back a good necessary return needed, and at the same time the losing culture they bring will be gone.

    • Semi

      Yes let’s trade a top 5 scorer for pennies on the dollar in hall and hope to get back a real winner like Dustin brown because he plays gritty and has won cups. Give your head a shake

      • BubbaZanetti

        I got better idea,

        Hall and Nugent Hopkins for Ryan Johanson and Boone Jenner ?

        But Columbus probably doesn’t do that deal. Both their players can produce and be “physical”.

      • BubbaZanetti

        Who’s Top5 in scoring? It is one thing to lie to yourself, but it is another when you do it to other people. It’s poor character, like Jordan and Taylor.

        • theoil

          I’m sorry with the games the other night hall is now 7th…. Biiiiiig difference. Sick burn bro.

          My point still remains. Give me a example of fair value for hall that makes us better and I’ll give you some credit.

          • By your logic and belief, the Oilers shouldn’t have a problem getting anyone they want for Hall-he is Top 5 player in the league.

            I don’t need your credit, you give way too much of it to Hall anyways, so save it for Hall.

            This week 7th, next week 14th, in a month 30th, but still the best in your eyes.

            Hall may have the skill to be one of the better players in the NHL, but he definitely does not have the heart or determination. He is a brat, and he acts and plays like one.

  • bleedingcoppernblue

    I’m 43 years old and have been an oilers fan since 1981 , I reside on the east coast of Canada and have fought mightily night after night and year after year for this team . I’m done with trying to protect them I’m just a broken sole now … Although I am still a fan I can’t even come up with a come back on FB any more .. My A$$ hole is about 6″ wide and all I can say to my so called friends on FB is”your right ” you know what it’s like to give into a Hab fans … It’s like agreeing with Isis!!! I’m done with this crap , most my friends are actually giving credit to me for hanging in there … They almost don’t even say anything now … I feel like the blind kid now !!! I go to bed every night crying and wishing I was blind so I don’t have to watch this crap !
    Yours Truly
    One beat up Oilers fan

  • Semi


    11-44 were the scoring totals for both teams bottom 6 going into last nights game.

    It doesn’t matter who the core is, 5-6 guys can’t make up for numbers like that.

    Losing culture or not, until the Oilers get supporting players that actually contribute, they will remain in the basement.

    It doesn’t matter how good your engine is if your tires are flat.

  • Serious Gord

    It occurs to me that the “losing culture” is systemic to a point far far more widespread and much more enduring than it seems to most.

    Since 1991-1992 the oil have been a losing franchise – making the playoffs – barely – only eight times in 24 years (I think my math is correct). I’m pretty confident that they have the worst record over that period in the entire league.

    Over those years mediocrity and incompetence in management and the players and the media have been tolerated – even excused – no money, small market, nobody wants to play/work here. Even fans got in on the act.

    Inertia is a beyotch. 26 years of same as it ever was is very hard to change. The mcdavid lottery win precipitated the biggest attempt to change that course ever. The last two games demonstrated that that course hasn’t been changed – at least not permanently.

    Daryl Katz clinging to his nostalgia and fever dream of having klowe and his name hammered into the cup(s) together means some very visible vestiges of the losing culture are still there. Perhaps they are even contaminating the winning wine. A philosopher once used the example that an ounce of wine in a gallon of fecal slurry doesn’t make the slurry drinkable but even a drop of fecal slurry in a gallon of wine makes the wine undrinkable.

    Perhaps this continuing losing culture at the top top continues to pollute the entire organization.

    God knows many many oil fans would be relived to see them completely purged.