After the trade deadline, Todd McLellan challenged his team to have a solid final 18 games. He wanted them to be competitive, consistent and show a winning effort every game. The Oilers are 6-5 since the deadline, a significant improvement over their first 64 games (23-24-7), but McLellan was not happy with his skilled players after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Colorado.
McLellan refuses to sit back and let this team be comfortable. He is not afraid to voice his displeasure, but he doesn’t embarrass individuals, he simply speaks honestly about when he sees them not playing up to their potential.
McLellan was very disappointed with his powerplay, specifically his forwards.
“Our powerplay turned it over, went to break out it again, then turned it over. Then guess what? We turned it over and went to break out again. There is a lot of talk about needing a quarterback, but that had nothing to do with having a quarterback on the powerplay. It had to do with the forwards. Really high-end, talented, skilled forwards that you put out there, that can win you a game in that situation, but turnover after turnover after turnover. It’s disappointing,” said McLellan.
The Oilers have scored a PP goal in only two of their last 17 games. The frustrating aspect for Mclellan, and most fans I’m sure, is this group proved versus St. Louis (four PP goals on six chances) they can produce when they outwork the penalty killers, and focus on making crisp, accurate passes. However, too often their execution and attention to detail has been lacking.
Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl have enough combined skill to be better than 5 for 44 (11.3%) in their previous 17 games. This group still struggles with consistency. Take away the Blues game and they are 1 for 38 in 16 games. That is gross for a group with this much offensive skill.
Instead of resting on the excuse of lacking a bonafide powerplay quarterback, McLellan challenged his players to be better. He pointed out their inability to simply bring the puck up ice. He didn’t name individual names, instead he confronted them as a group.
Both units were equally pathetic versus Colorado and they have been during this lengthy power outage. All of those players, specially the four who have played all 17 games (RNH has only dressed for the last five), need to be more focused on the man advantage. They can’t just rely on their skill, they need to include a work ethic to match the penalty killers.
To win consistently in the NHL your best players need to be your on-ice leaders. The Oilers haven’t been bad at EV recently — they actually have 20GF and 20GA at EV in the month of March — but if their PP had a pulse they likely would have at least one more victory. One more victory in a eleven-game span makes a huge difference over a course of a season.
The Oilers are 6-5, which prorates to 89 points in a full season. If they were 6-4-1 they’d be on pace for 97 points, if they were 7-4 they’d be a 104 point team.
One or two more PP goals could have earned them one or two more points, which can turn into a lot over the course of a season.
Winning teams find ways to be consistent, and despite having a winning record since challenging his team, McLellan is far from satisfied. He’s coached winning teams. He knows what it takes to make the playoffs and finish with 100 points. You can never be satisfied, and in the past every time this group tasted a bit of success, they would rest on their laurels and slide back down the standings.
That cycle needs to stop. It is obvious McLellan sees the issues, and is doing is best to address it, but the ultimate decision makers will be the players. McLellan was working on the PP yesterday in Leduc before the team flew to Phoenix, and tonight is another opportunity for them to show they coach they understand, but it also another chance for them to show the GM they haven’t.
Patrick Maroon won’t dress tonight, but McLellan expects him to be ready for San Jose. The Oilers didn’t skate this morning, so we don’t know if Anton Lander draws in or possibly Adam Cracknell. As for the lines, they will start the game like this, but based on what we’ve seen the previous games it is safe to say McLellan will experiment with a few combinations up front.
- Yesterday Ryan Rishaug had Oilers fans fired up when he suggested the Oilers should strongly consider moving Oscar Klefbom for Travis Hamonic. His reasoning is Klefbom is injury-prone, and while the Staph infection was a freak thing, he has been injured every season dating back to his time in the Swedish Elite League. Some players are injured more than others, while others have a few tough seasons filled with injuries, but then find ways to stay healthy. Which category does Klefbom fall under?
Let’s look at Klefbom’s career. His first season in the SEL, his draft year, he played 23 of 55 games. He was a healthy scratch for a few, but he missed many games with an injury.
In his second season, 2011/2012 he played 33 of 55 games. The next year he only dressed in 11 of 55 games. Over three seasons he dressed in 66 of 115 games.
His first season in the AHL (13/14) he played 50 games (48 regular, 2 playoff) in the AHL and 17 with the Oilers. He missed 11 games (10 reg, 1 playoff) due to injury in the AHL, but played every game he was available with the Oilers.
Last year he played 60 NHL games, and while in the NHL he missed two due to injury. He played nine in the AHL and missed none.
This year he has played 30 games and missed 45 due to injury.
So in his SEL career he played in 57.3% of his team’s games (66 of 115). In the AHL and NHL he has dressed for 74% of the games (166 of 224).
The staph infection, which in my books isn’t an injury, has cost him 25 games. He broke his finger on December 11th and the Oilers hit all-star break on January 23rd. He was looking to return on February 2nd, but hasn’t due to the infection. For argument sake let’s say no staph infection then he’d have played in 85% of his pro games (191 of 224).
Being available for 74% of a team’s games compared to 85% is a big difference. You can argue the staph infection is a freak thing, or you can say injury, infection, cold are all the same. You are either available or you aren’t. To date Klefbom has dressed in 74% of his pro games in North America.
Travis Hamonic had played in 390 of 427 NHL games (91.3%). The fewest games he played was 69 of 82 in 2013/2014.
I would be leery of dealing Klefbom for Hamonic, because when healthy I believe Klefbom has more upside. Also I’m not sure a broken finger and staph infection equate to injury-prone. Guys with chronic groin and hip issues concern me more.
Rishaug’s argument of being unavailable does have some merit when you look Klefbom’s career since 2010/2011, and if Klefbom is better, but not available to dress as often does that lower his value? Which side are you on?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Five for Howling
Edmonton is struggling to keep their team on the up and up. They have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the tenth straight year. (Sorry Oilers fans.)
They are starting to look up in the hope department with more points than they had last season and actual goaltending. It’s just that pesky defense they are having problems with. Hopefully they will solve this at the draft (and not win the lottery again) with a good defensive pick, or some trades to bolster their D corps.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have won only two of their previous 14 meetings versus the Coyotes. A few of the skilled forwards respond to McLellan’s challenge and the Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Coyotes score a goal. They’ve been shutout in two straight, but the score late midway through the first frame.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Matt Hendricks picks up an assist and sets a career-high with points in four consecutive games. His first three-game point streak was in December of 2009, and he never had another until these past three games.
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