Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The way I see it

After a decade of watching the Edmonton Oilers trying to fill countless holes and re-invent themselves every summer after yet another dismal season in which they missed the playoffs by a $5 cab ride, I’ve got no real concerns with what’s been a relatively low-event off-season.

Time-wise, the Oilers aren’t that far removed from the bad old days when turnover – in the front office and the coaching staff, not to mention the roster – and talk about “culture change” was standard off-season fare. Teams languishing like the Oilers did during a 10-year stretch in which they managed just 62 points three times and managed to surpass 80 points just twice better examine everything. We saw plenty of that – with mostly lousy results.

Team-wise, the bad, old Oiler teams under GMs Craig MacTavish and overwhelmed Steve Tambellini and a carousel of coaches seem like a speck in the rear-view mirror as we approach the third season under GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan. Coming off a 103-point campaign and a postseason in which they went two rounds deep, there is no need to turn everything upside down. If it ain’t broke . . .

Of course, that doesn’t mean the job is complete and status quo is just fine heading into 2017-18 – getting a new deal done for Leon Draisaitl tops Chiarelli’s to-do list – but there’s something to be said for consistency and maintaining the course when you’re coming off a 103-point season. Not so much with the mess we’ve seen in recent seasons. McLellan touched on both during a media availability Wednesday. A couple of things stood out for me.

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Apr 22, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan meets with his players during a timeout against the San Jose Sharks during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. The Edmonton Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 to win the series. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On the coaching staff: “In year three we have a much better idea of how our players are going to react to different types of coaching and motivational tools, whether that’s a push or a shove or a hug or whatever that might be. We should have a good idea of what buttons to push with most players. We have a better idea this year of their ceiling and how close they are to it individually, but it’s the collective part of it that concerns our staff coming in.

“We have to come to camp with a very focused and direct approach. We can’t get casual, we can’t get relaxed and that’s where we’ll have to step in as a coaching staff. Some of us on that staff have the experience of going through that in the past so we’ll have to help them as much as we can.”

On raised expectations: “Expectations will be a word we’ll be hearing a lot of heading into training camp and throughout training camp. Expectations make it a little harder on a hockey club mentally and physically. We haven’t experienced that as a group yet and that’s why I still consider our team a growth team.

“We’ve got to go through that now. Teams will be ready for the Oilers. They’ll be prepared to play against us night in and night out, and people expect us — our fans in particular — to win on a more regular basis than we have in the past. Our task just gets tougher.”

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Oct 10, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan talks with the referee after a disallowed goal during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

If you ask players what they want and expect from their coaches, consistency is always at the top of the list – in systems, philosophy and expectations in general. With McLellan, Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers, the Oilers have it. That consistency was woefully absent when the coaching carousel was spinning out of control during a six-year stretch, 2009-10 to 2014-15, in which Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson took turns running the bench. Big positive here.

As for expectations, McLellan has been around long enough to know there’s no place for complacency. The higher you climb, the steeper the grade. It gets more difficult now, not easier. McLellan consistently had 100-point teams and Stanley Cup contenders in San Jose. He never got over the hump and sipped champagne. Last season’s success was part of the journey this team has to make, not the destination. I expect that will be a message McLellan drives home every chance he gets.

There’s always personnel questions to sort out and that’ll hold true again this season. Who plays with Connor McDavid? Where will Ryan Strome and Jussi Jokinen fit? That said, the personnel on the blueline is more stable than it has been in years. The group is, essentially, intact aside from the challenge of getting by without Andrej Sekera to start the season. The loss of Sekera is significant, but there’s some help behind the go-to pairing of Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson in developing Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse.

Bottom line, I like the moves made by Chiarelli so far this off-season and I liked what I heard from McLellan Wednesday. Of course, I’ll like this summer more when the Draisaitl deal gets done. The obvious caveat is there is always more to do, but we’re at the point now where it’s a matter of tweaking and tuning rather than grasping at straws and taking desperate shots in the dark. I’m good with that.


  • A-Mc

    The only time we use cable is when there is a hockey game on. I found the remote under the couch with a good layer of dust on it… *sigh*

    53 more days until preseason.

    • Jagrbaum

      Sportsnet Now if you plan to cut the cord. It’s $20/month (which is alot less than the minimum $40 cable costs, assuming you only watch sports) and it will give you all your oiler games. Get a chromecast to stream to your TV.

      • A-Mc

        So Sportsnet Now doesnt require an active cable subscription? And i’ll be able to stream ALL games on the sportsnet website? ie: is this the Oiler specific WORKING version of what Game Center Live should be?

        I may need to check this out!

        • Jagrbaum

          Yeah from last I checked you don’t need an active subscription and you will get all Oilers/Flames and MLB and whatever they have less regional blackouts (Leafs etc). it’s a good deal if you literally watch nothing else. Mind you I called Shaw to do just that and they just gave a year of cable at $25/month for all sports (including TSN) to stay. So try that too. Open with “I only watch hockey so I don’t need cable right now” and customer retention will try to fire up a deal. If you are a more skilled negotiator you could probably save more than I did!

  • Missing Sekera for a big chunk of the season will most likely hurt the PP. Getting a strong, puck-moving defenseman for the PP was a priority before his injury. Having a big shot on the PP could really put the Oilers over the top. I’m tired of speculating and left wondering when and how this will happen. Is Chiarelli really planning to start the season with the current defensive lineup? Am I missing something?

    • geoilersgist

      I disagree with this. Klefbom is an internal solution to this problem. He has a rocket of a shot and manages to get it through. Losing Sekera hurts, but it wont effect the PP

      • Jagrbaum

        I agree that Klefbom/Benning are the projected internal solutions, but I also have hesitations with our line up when it comes to injury. Our blue-line was remarkably healthy last year, with only Nurse seeing significant time on IR, and it would be crazy to assume we will have that kind of luck again.

        I’m worried that while Sekera is out, do we have anyone that can fill in for any of Klef, Larsson, Russell, Nurse, Benning? We’ve signed Auvitu, but he’s not a known commodity as far as being able to step in case. In this case, it seems Chia is very comfortable in his options to replace one of the above in case of injury. If I were him however, i would have made a bigger push for a temporary vet like Mark Streit or Oduya while they were available.

        • NoBuBlackOPS

          @jagrbaum I disagree ya the sekara injury sucks for the first few months but it’s a great opportunity for nurse or Benning to prove there ready for top 4 deployment. Also this might be the deepest D core the oil have had in close to a decade. With sekara healthy we prolly have 9 NHL caliber defense men something we have not had for a long time. Not to mention 3-4 really good defensive prospects either starting there pro career or making the jump from the KHL to the North American game.

        • Mike Modano's Dog

          That’s why I would have kept Osterle. I felt he was a great defenceman to fill in for injuries and I can’t believe we let him go. Then we went and signed Lowe’s boy the very next day and that does not go over well with me…

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            Oesterle had likely made up his mind to walk anyways as he probably wasn’t ever going to make the Oilers as a regular and he knew it, and Lowe was signed as an AHL player with call up potential. he’s another guy who will likely never play full time here.

        • Oilerchild77

          Jagrbaum and what if McDavid or Draisaitl gets injured, and what if Yalbot gets hurt, and what if the roof of Rogers Place caves in, and what if the sky falls and kills all of us.

          You can’t manage a hockey team if you’re worryung about what ifs. This is the cap era, so teams can no longer afford to go out and sign a bunch of free agents.

      • Randaman

        I like Sekera but he is not a top 2 D and should not have the negative impact being discussed out there. Benning & Nurse will be better, Russell should be steady and Gryba is good on the third pair, not to mention our new French player. Solid numbers but name escapes me. We’ll be fine until Sekera returns.

  • Big Cap

    Cynics and wanna be experts are now speculating about future injuries and how we won’t be able to cope because of past years rosters?!?!?

    Chiarelli is building a winning roster, and everyone can see it. The same negative people who lecture us about future injuries are the same people that still cry “What about the Reinhart trade”???

    Chia and the coaching staff know exactly what they are doing, and this will be a huge year for the Oil.

    • NoBuBlackOPS

      If PC knew what he was doing like you say he wouldn’t of give up two premium assets for a third paring Dman. The Reinhart trade was a disaster for the oilers we could have a young club controlled players for years in Brazal and who ever we would of drafted in the 2rd. When the team is going to need many value contracts to make the cap work starting this year. Just think we could have Brazal puljuarvi and Yamamoto all breaking into the NHL over the next three season that’s a good number of value and financial control the team is sorely going to need in the coming years.

      • Bumbo

        Although this is very true it’s too late now. Hind sight is 20 20 as they say. I understand why Pete made the trade at the time but he really missed with his choice of player. Had it worked out like he planned then the oilers would have been much better in McDavids first year and Hall would probably still be on the roster. Instead we have JP who would not have fell to the Oilers because they would have been pushing for a playoff spot that year. It was a bad trade but i get why he made it.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        It’s been said many times before the Oilers weren’t taking Barzal with that pick, they were going to take a dman and decided to trade it for Reinhart who should have been further along and more ready for NHL than he was.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          i know and it’s frustrating to continue to hear whining about Barzal Barzal Barzal when at the time he likely wasn’t even going to be the player picked due to his lack of size and Chia’s desire at the time to draft for size. we all seem to be forgetting that a fair amount of teams also passed on him and not just the Oilers. too bad for us because with Chabot, Eriksson-Ek and Svechnikov sitting there waiting to be had and all 3 looking like they could be NHL ready now, the Oilers lost a great opportunity to add a solid young player this season because they weren’t patient and they targeted the wrong player.

  • Oilercory99

    Mclelland has been the best coach we’ve had since the 80s Glen Sather!! He seems to be able to read our players very very well and get the most out of them throu mix matching lineups against different team’s to get the best results out of each line!! Even starting Talbot 73 times wich is unheard of anymore resulted in Talbot having the best year in his career and breaking hall of fame goalie Grant Fuhrs 30yr + record and team record for most wins in a season proved to be a dangerous decision for perhaps fatigued Talbot,but instead it seemed to really boost the confidence of Talbot giving him 2 shutouts in the 1st rd against SJ!! Mcdavid scoring 100pts,1st in NHL and Draisaitl cracked top 10 in scoring as well really goes to show what a genius Mclelland is in by knowing his players potential and I can’t wait to see how much more the team will improve being that the team is mostly in tact. We did lose Ebs this season and we will miss the numbers he produced but with losing Pouliot and Hendricks and them 3 replaced by Puljujarvi Strome and Jokinen I’m more than confident our great coach will surpass there combined numbers with our new guys once he has a better idea who fits where and how to get the most out of them this team should be better than last year!! GO OILERS!!?

    • DerpSolo

      I just hope Mclellan doesn’t turn us into San Jose. A pacific division powerhouse who dominates the reg season, until they hit playoffs and are out in the second round. But then again, San Jose never had a generational talent like McDavid. So excited for the the upcoming season tho! #OilersCup2018

  • Sven Butenshon

    We just witnessed the first of (hopefully) many off-seasons that will be more about keeping the core of this team together than “revamping” it (see: oil change seasons 1 – 7). This is a good thing. The fact is that good teams in today’s NHL have expensive core players and rely on internal growth to populate the supporting cast surrounding them. It’s a good bet that one of Caggulia or Slepeshev will be able to emerge as a legitimate 3rd line winger and that one of Strome or Puljuarvi can assume a position on a scoring line. While all of these are all “bets”, we have more chips on the table than in previous years and do not depend on all of them to be winners – just one or two. This is called depth and it feels pretty good to have.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      and this is new territory for Oiler fans after years of making major changes. we no longer have to do such things and only need to tweak each off season and it’s strange for a lot of us i know because we are used to sucking and needing to do major overhauls each off season.

  • Cowboy Bill

    After the obvious top six dmen (Klefbom , Larsson , Russell , Benning , Nurse & Gryba) there’s Auvitu , Fayne & Simpson . We really don’t know how they will fit into the line up until their time comes . But I suspect they will adopt a next man up type of attitude not unlike the Esks . That’s just the way it is .

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i believe this is why they acquired Auvitu. he’s likely going to be given the chance to fill in full time for Sekera as i don’t believe that Chia has much faith in Fayne anymore nor does he completely trust Simpson.

  • Spoils

    i’d still like to see one more add to create a little more competition on wing. drive a little more scoring… who? prospects and picks in a trade? sign Jagr? stay put? what’s the move?

  • Jordan88

    The McDavid factor: Any team that covets this player has the ability to surpass expectations and make a run.

    I am not worried about Sekera. The Oilers have the makings of an offensive juggernaut and Talbot can and has stolen games. If Pittsburgh can claim 2 cups with no definitive number 1 d-man than why can’t we? We were one game from making it to the WCF and now the west is weaker ( Calgary overrated Hamonic and that deal will bite them HARD in 3 years.)

  • Rama Lama

    I would be comfortable in saying Ralph Krueger did not get much of a chance to lay any foundation or consistency. In my mind he was the right coach, minus the players, minus the confidence of senior management, minus the defence, minus the goaltending. In my mind he still managed to move the needle in the right direction.

  • Big Nuggets

    I still dont see a good reason not to sign one of those old dog RW that are looking for contracts. especially after we bought out Pouliot. If we dont use that cap space we should have burried Pou in the minors and traded him the next season.

  • Ryan68

    Oiler fans are starting to remind me of the story of the lady with a ham under each arm crying because she has no bread. This team is only going to be better next year. McDavid is a year older. So is their whole core. And Lucic aside, that will mean they’re only going to be better. My God, we’ve gotten so accustomed to losing we don’t know when we’re winning.