End of the line

“It (effort) has to get better or we need to make huge, huge changes,” said Todd McLellan last night after another lacklustre effort.

You’ve witnessed many bad games during the past decade, especially during the previous seven years, and I’ve seen coaches mad, but it was refreshing to hear a coach say what everyone is thinking.

The effort, work ethic and execution of this group is not good enough and changes need to be made.

McLellan didn’t mince his words when asked about his team’s performance.

Veteran writer Terry Jones asked if his team had pulled the chute?

“I won’t put them all in that category, but there are some who should be embarrassed when they leave the rink,” seethed McLellan.

“At what point do you bench players who aren’t giving you the effort you need?”, I asked.

“We are probably talking about two or three guys in particular, one maybe, and he should be. The potential for it exists greatly in the next ten days, but we will get through this next little phase first,” said McLellan.

He didn’t name names, but everyone knew he was talking about Justin Schultz. (He did say this about Schultz later “Very disappointing game for him individually and it affected our team.”) His inability to control a pass led to an easy third goal for the Senators and deflated the Oilers. McLellan’s patience has run out with #19. A change of scenery will occur, either via trade or a trip to Bakersfield after the trade deadline. I don’t see any way Schultz plays much more for the Oilers. The coach has seen enough and Schultz looks defeated. I’m sure he is at the point where he’d like a change as well.

But it wasn’t just Schultz. The Oilers had 15 giveaways in the first period, with Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot leading the way with three each. Outside of the final four minutes of the second period, the Oilers did not play with any urgency or consistency.

“Right now I’m really disappointed. I’m concerned about the spirit of our team. I think there are a lot of guys waiting for something, what that is I don’t know, if it is changes coming, them leaving, new guys coming in, but it is a dangerous, dangerous thing,” said the head coach.

ToddMclellan

Too often the blame has fallen at the feet of previous head coaches or the fourth line. Thankfully under McLellan it seems accountability will fall on the players who play the most.

I asked McLellan about their penchant for making the major gaffe, and how they can eliminate it from their game.

“Maybe we get rid of some players,” McLellan replied bluntly.

I suspect Oilers fans across the land said, “About damn time,” upon hearing him utter those words. Everyone knows they need a top-pairing defender, but one player won’t cure all their problems. Too many players continue to make egregious errors, and it is obvious McLellan has seen enough to know who he wants on his team next year and who he wants traded.

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug asked McLellan about how his team seemingly doesn’t know how to pull anything out of games this time of year and how their effort wanes.

“I think that is a good observation,” said McLellan. “I’m still early into it here, but as I mentioned I’m concerned about our spirit right now. At the beginning of the year I talked about fighting through crap like this, so I’m concerned. The spirit of the team isn’t where it needs to be.

“There has to be ten guys in there who have so much pride they pull the rest of the team along. We will see what happens over the next six or seven days, maybe there are guys waiting for that, I don’t know. But it (effort) has to get better or we need to make huge, huge changes.”

McLellan challenged his entire team. A few will be traded by next Monday, but the majority will remain and they will have 21 games to show McLellan they aren’t quitters. They can show the coach and GM, Peter Chiarelli, that they realize the importance of work ethic and commitment.

Those who are mentally soft, and unable to put forth a respectable effort won’t enjoy the wonders of the brand new arena, or have the luxury of calling Connor McDavid their teammate.

For far too long many players escaped the blame during another losing season, but that trend is over. McLellan and Chiarelli aren’t going anywhere. This time it is the players who will be moved, and not just bit players, but those who play the most.

It is long overdue, and the players will decide their future. Their on-ice performance will show who wants to improve and who wants to leave.

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  • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

    I would like to see the following go by Monday then look at what can be saved from the rest:
    Purcell looked like he was already gone last night.
    Shultz, I have given up any hope
    Fayne: skill and size prone to mistakes and soft
    Korpokowski Isnt working out.

    Bring up Shep and Kharia and another defence (Musil?)

  • Shameless Plugger

    The worst part is the threat of a trade or changes isn’t really a threat at all. I’m guessing most guys would welcome a trade away from this difunctional organization.

    • Shameless Plugger

      The ship was already sunk when he took the wheel. We’ve tried changing the coach what 5 times already? Perhaps the players should look themselves in the mirror. They’ve been the only constant in this mess. Talking bout you Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Schultz, Nuge……….the list goes on. Players play. If a coach preaches don’t dangle over the blue line and the player continually dangles over the blue line is that a coaching problem ? When are we going to hold the players accountable in this mess????

  • Sal-Sational

    Major Shake up needed for next year.
    Trade our first Overall pick (auston Matthews) for OEL
    Trade Eberle for Hemonic
    Sign Lucic
    Sign Kris Russell

    Hall-Nuge-Dri
    Lucic-Mcdavid-Yak
    Pouliot-Lander-Kassian
    Hendricks-Letestu-Pakarinnen

    OEL-Klefbom
    Sekera-Hemonic
    Nurse-Russell
    Davidson

    Talbot-LB

  • Sal-Sational

    Schultz should have been left in the Pressbox for the past 50 games. Last night he showed again how useless he is. And that was only during the Lowlights on the News

  • Good article Greggor, this team is clearly lacking leadership from its core group and it seems like the veteran guys are waiting for the 19 year-old to make everything better. Regarless of how good Connor McDavid is it should be veteran guys leading the charge in the effort department and playing the game properly, like not turning the puck over at the offensive blue line 5 times a night every night creating odd man rushes and it’s not just Schultz however he is horrible. Until that mistake is corrected along with d zone coverage as a team the oilers can have a number one d man and still won’t win.

    If it wasn’t for mcdavid indont think many of us would even be watching this team right now the effort is so bad and that’s all I have to say about that!

  • The Soup Fascist

    To my eye it always looks like the Oilers are putting in a solid team effort. Probably because I watch most games at triple speed.

    We’ve been so bad the last three weeks we don’t even look good on paper anymore.

    I say even if a player steps up and shows heart down the stretch if he can get you an impact D-man in the summer swallow hard and make the move.

    The Oilers need to trade whatever pick they get for the best available defensemen. Will Auston Mathews or one of the Finns be better than OEL, Harmonic, etc. in 4 years? Probably yes. But this strategy of “what’s best down the road” taking priority over getting better now is part of the reason we’re in the bottom of the league every year.

    “Short term thinking” has become synonymous with “bad decision” but after ten years being tied with teams who are trying to be bad I’m willing to give it a shot.

    • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

      Yep. It will be interesting. Say Schultz is gone. You’re not going to get a roster player for him, if anything at all.

      We had Fayne, Schultz and Osterle (playing his off wing) on the right side last night. Schultz goes. Somebody has to pick up his 20+ minutes.

      It won’t be Fayne. He’s probably already maxed out.

      Clendenning?
      Nikitin? Brad Hunt? Reinhart?

      I don’t care what anyone says. I maintain that if you’re a left shot, you will be a better D on the left side.

      I’d hate to be TM.

  • KPUZ

    I agree that Schultz should be on the Condors right now, but so should Nurse at this point.

    But that’s something the team can’t afford right now.

    It’s amazing that two veteran defensemen are useless to the Oilers right now and aren’t playing. And that they made a significant deal for an unproven D during the draft, one that cannot help the team this season. That’s 3 bodies that ideally would be on the roster so that players like Schultz and Nurse could be developing in the AHL or on a 3rd pair.

    So when anyone decides to pile up on Schultz, I hope they also recognize how much of this falls on management, previous or otherwise. Chia has inherited a mess when it comes to the D roster and his hands are largely tied.

    I might sound like a broken record here, but Schultz is a symptom of a larger problem here. I get the impression that too much blame (I do agree that he deserves a share) is put on one individual here.

  • Oilcounty88

    If you’re a guy like Teddy Purcell and you know you’re getting shipped out what incentive do you have to give two sh**s about how you play against ottawa. He’s gonna get traded to team like Detroit looking for some depth and have a nice little run.

    • Kevwan

      Maybe because he doesn’t have a contract next year.

      Maybe because if he wants a team like Detroit to acquire him he should give them a reason.

      Maybe because he’s getting 4.5 mil this year to be a pro hockey player so he should try to act like one.

  • MrBung

    I think all the Schultz “contract minutes” conspiracy talk is coming from the fact that lots of fans can’t figure out why they keep playing him with heavy minutes?

    In his case, it is addition by subtraction at this point. Whatever the problem is…his time with the Oilers is over.

    • Rod the Viking

      He was guaranteed minutes in his ELC contract so he could hit all his bonuses, no other team offered him that and that’s why he signed with the Oilers, he does not have the bonus structure in his current contract.

    • Hemmercules

      Your highlight of the year is the Oilers falling on their face and getting eliminated from the playoffs super early again only to have their coach call them out in the most blunt and public way possible?

      My highlight was probably when they won like 5 or 6 games in a row and half the team wasn’t on the IR. Good times.

  • After watching the “highlights” of last nights game again and seeing the 3rd Ottawa goal, it’s pretty clear why J. Schultz is getting flack. But, did anyone notice Jordan Eberle reach to stick check Smith and then quit skating on the play??? To hell with his “chemistry” with McDavid, that and plays like losing his man Sat. night against Colorado are why he is my pick for out the door after Schultz.

    • McPucker

      If that was the Schultz turn over goal, Osterle should have stayed on the puck carrier and Schultz should have taken the guy that eventually scored. There was a hesitation there by both of them that created gaps. I think had Sekera or Nurse been on the ice there wouldn’t have been a goal.

      BUT Shultz gets the blame for his play in the neutral zone. A 4 million dollar man should be able to handle a pass and if he can’t, he should immediately go into recovery mode.

  • toprightcorner

    At this point PC knows if he can get anything for Schultz and I doubt he can get anything. A big message would be sent to the entire team if they sat him until after the trade deadline and then sent him down to Bakersfield, offering minimal minutes or press box time. That msg would be the best return for Schultz.

  • Freewheeling Freddie

    I dont think Hall gets traded,Peter might get cold feet after what happened when he dealt Seguin.Eberle Hopkins Schultz hopefullyPouliot and Korpikoski will probably have changes in venues.I would think playing in King Daryls new palace would be a very good reason to stay.How could Lowe and MacT be so dumb that is my question.

  • KPUZ

    Like it is Justin “The Scapegoat” Schulz’s fault for this incompetent mess. How many games do you win with scoring one goal? McLellan should maybe smarten up and shake up his lines as his lines have not worked whatsoever during his tenure on this “offensive” juggernaut of a team. Then again probably Chiarelli is forcing him to play this lineup so he can improve trade value, instead of trying to win.

    Problem with this team is a bunch of heartless forwards that play small with no pride in the Oiler jersey (except McDavid). If any Oiler fan or media thinks it is Schulz at the root of the problem is completely and utterly clueless.