Despite standing behind the bench and enduring the most regulation losses in the NHL this season, Todd McLellan has been surprisingly patient in his post-game press conferences. Tuesday’s loss was one of the rare times McLellan was fired up, and his frustration was split between the referee’s decision to allow the Ducks’ first goal, Benoit Pouliot taking two undisciplined penalties and players not grasping an opportunity.
The interesting part is he was also happy with how his team played for the majority of the game, which I would agree with, but it was clear his patience had worn thin with witnessing the same bad decisions and mistakes.
What annoyed McLellan the most was Pouliot’s undisciplined penalties.
“Dumb penalties, he didn’t get to play very much. It’s not rare (taking penalties) for our team right now. We just addressed it (cutting down on penalties) yesterday and it is unacceptable. We can’t keep marching to the freaking penalty box, time and time again because of those penalties. We slash a guy’s stick out his hands early, and then we reach in the third period. It doesn’t work that way,” said McLellan.
I like Pouliot’s game. He is a solid complementary player, and he doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of penalties (14 this year), but the ones he takes are often ill-advised. He is one of the few Oilers who is aggressive on the forecheck, and McLellan can live with him taking the odd offensive zone penalty because of his style, but the two he took on Tuesday weren’t from being aggressive. They were selfish and Pouliot paid the price.
I have no issue with the coach coming down hard on him especially in the first game after he told the players to smarten up. If McLellan doesn’t send a message he loses respect from his players. He had no choice but to show the players that veterans will be benched if they take undisciplined penalties.
I find too often people overreact over one bad game. Yes, Pouliot is repeat offender of offensive zone penalties, but he does more good than bad, and I will live with a player who plays on the edge, but sometimes crosses the line. You can’t expect players to push right to the edge and never fall over. If he takes that penalty on a hard forecheck, McLellan has no issue, but retaliating will get you demoted.
Pouliot might start tonight’s game in the bottom six, but I don’t see him staying there long-term. McLellan is setting the tone for this team. There has to be accountability, and I believe it carries more weight when he benches a top-six forward than if he benched Anton Lander or Adam Clendening.
Wasn’t only Pouliot
McLellan was also unimpressed with Nail Yakupov’s play.
“He gets to take the icetime I took away from Poo (Pouliot), and not a lot of success there either,” he said bluntly. He also referenced a few other players who didn’t take advantage of an opportunity.
“It was on a plate today for a couple of them. You couldn’t tee it up any better,” said McLellan.
Players have to take advantage when an opportunity presents itself, and McLellan had four different players play with McDavid and Eberle. It seemed like he was displeased with their inability to take hold of the situation.
McLellan’s frustration with Pouliot was about one game, not an entire season, but his frustration with Yakupov has been more than just one game. Yakupov simply has not improved in how he sees the game.
Once people get past the “white noise” excuse of who he plays with, they would see he has not improved how he sees the game. Watch closely what he does with and without the puck. He gives the illusion he is working hard and doing a lot, because he’s like the video game where you hit boost and he surges out with an extra shot of energy for 15 seconds.
Yakupov takes four or five quick strides with the puck, stick handles it multiple times, but ultimately accomplishes nothing. Just watch how he reads the play. Where he goes on the ice, his puck support. Those things need to be the foundation of his game regardless of who he plays with, and they aren’t. Multiple coaches have shown him video of these deficiencies and he’s yet to improve it.
If he does improve them, he will play. He tries hard. He doesn’t back down, and he has skill, but from my view McLellan doesn’t have much faith in Yakupov’s willingness to work on the weaknesses in his game. Coaches have shown him what they are, it is up to him to work on them.
Oilers had an optional skate this morning, so we won’t know the lines, but if we go off of yesterday’s practice Matt Hendricks will start with McDavid and Eberle, while Pouliot, Lander and Yakupov will skate together. Clendening draws in for Gryba and will likely play with Brandon Davidson to start.
- Anders Nilsson and Nikita Nikitin were recalled yesterday, while Laurent Brossoit was returned to the AHL and Eric Gryba is on the IR for a month with a knee injury. Gryba’s injury will keep the Oilers near the top of man-games lost due to injury. The Oilers sit second at 240 games, six behind the New Jersey Devils, but the Oilers still lead the league with the greatest cumulative impact of injured forwards or defensemen by the IIT-skater metric according to ManGamesLost.com.
- Devan Dubnyk is 0-2-1 on the second night of consecutive starts.
- The NBA All-Star weekend was in Toronto, so many hockey pundits watched it closer than usual and many have written about how excited the players are to be there compared to NHL players. I believe NHL players are excited, but the main difference between the two league’s is that only 24 players make the NBA all-star team, compared to 40 in the NHL, and not every team is represented in the NBA.
The best of the best are chosen, and that is the one change the NHL should make. Players are honoured to be picked. Kobe Bryant was voted in based on his 20 years in the league, but other than that it was the elite of the elite. If the NHL took the best 40 players, not one from every team, and definitely not an equal amount from each division, the prestige of being picked would be better. The game will never be fast-paced, which is fine in my eyes, but NHL players would look at it differently if they knew only the best players would be there.
The NBA all-star weekend is an event as well. They have many celebrities who show up, especially musicians. The NHL is starting to do it, but they need to make it more of an event. This year’s event in Nashville was a good start, but they need to make it more of an event and only pick the best players in the league.
- Former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch had a great video presentation on how the NHL can shrink goalie equipment and still keep it safe. When you watch the video the changes are significant and the goalie looks much smaller. I hope the NHL takes notice.
- Slow clap for the Kamloops Blazers and their idea to honour their teams of the 1980s, by wearing Propac pants AKA Cooperalls. This is the best. The Best.
- Tomorrow, on my show, I will be auctioning off a Game Day package complete with limo ride in the NationLimo, four tickets to Saturday’s game, a $200 Pint GC, and two crested Oilers jerseys! All proceeds will go to benefit Put a Lid on a Kid as brought to you by United Cycle.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Hockey Wilderness
After 6 weeks of truly dreadful hockey, miserable losses, and simmering frustrations that got coach Mike Yeo fired, the Wild could come back to Minnesota tonight with an honest-to-God winning streak. A win tonight makes it 3 in a row for the Wild, a feat they haven’t accomplished in over two months.
I know, I know. It’s weird to think it was possible, but here we are. All they have to do is dispel the woeful Edmonton Oilers tonight. Pretty easy, right?
Sure. The Oilers don’t consistently finish with the #1 Overall pick in the draft for nothing. Despite having their pick of the litter in 4 of the last 5 drafts, the Oilers at 29th in the standings, with only the Toronto Maple Leafs standing in the way between them and maximum embarrassment.
Thing is, the Oilers might be one of those teams that are out of the playoffs, but suddenly click and go on a meaningless second-half run that gives their fans some hope (think Columbus last year). Since the calendar flipped to 2016, Edmonton’s actually done decently in the possession battle, controlling a respectable 49.4% of the shots.
And there was a good chunk of that stretch where the Oilers were without Connor McDavid. McDavid returned at the start of February, and since then he’s picked his game up where he left off when he broke his collarbone back in November, notching 4 goals and 9 assists in just 8 games since. That’s insane production.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t lost three consecutive home games all season. They’ve lost two in a row five times, but they avoid their first three-game home losing streak with a 4-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid only has two points in six games versus the Central division, while he has 23 points in 15 games versus the Pacific, Atlantic and Metro (five games each), but he notches two points tonight. He remains hot on Thursdays. He has nine points in five Thursday games this year.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In his 50th game, Lander scores his first goal of the season, ending a 61-game drought dating back to March 16th, 2015.
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