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Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

McLellan: “We’re not near competitive enough. We’re not outworking teams.”

After the Oilers got their teeth kicked in by the Winnipeg Jets, Todd McLellan didn’t exactly mince words in his post-game press conference. The Oilers were bad and they should feel bad. 

When asked about what went wrong against the Jets, McLellan came out firing and said that the biggest problem they have is likely between their ears.

“The big concern is where we are with the mental state.”

There was no stronger confirmation of this point than when the Jets opened up the scoring after the Oilers had dominated the first 10 minutes. After Winnipeg got that first goal, the Oilers fell apart defensively and gave their opponent way too much room to work in their own zone.

“We’re not near competitive enough. We’re not outworking teams.”

Last night reminded me of old Oilers teams that would have really solid stretches but not be able to put it together for a full 60 minutes. Does that count as not being competitive enough? I guess being generally sloppy could fit under that umbrella.

“Consistently from minutes one to 60 the last two games we haven’t come close to outworking teams.”

Coach McLellan mentioned the outworking angle a few times, which is definitely true, but all I could see was the inconsistency from minute to minute. At times, the Oilers looked good but there were other times when they looked god awful. How can a team that looked so good defensively against the Flames be this bad over their next two games?

“Structurally, we’re about as loose as we can be. We’re missing assignments.”

I was waiting for him to get to this. The Oilers were dogshit in their own zone and it gave the Jets all kinds of chances from primed shooting spots. It was like they had all the time in the world to do as they pleased and it looked like the Oilers weren’t all that concerned about it. From top to bottom, Edmonton has to be better in every facet of their game, but how does this happen?

“That’s our mental mindset right now that we better overcome real quick.”

Tell me about it, Todd. I don’t know how many games like that that the Oilers will be able to weather, ya know? Can you put your finger on a few things that are going wrong that need to change specifically?

“I think we generated plenty again. We generated a number of chances that didn’t go in for us. As it’s not going in, perhaps in the first 10 minutes of the game tonight, we begin to cheat.”

I did notice the guys flying the zone a little bit early, for sure. From where I blog, I saw a lot of sloppy defensive work. As the head coach, what did you see?

“(The defensive zone) opens up and the other team that’s disciplined and plays a well-structured game they take advantage of it. We’ve seen it for two nights in a row.”

Amen, brother. As frustrating as this has been for all of us fans, I assume you’re ready to throw a clipboard or something. With expectations as high as they are, I imagine that the pressure on your shoulders is high enough as it is without having the team drop turds like this one. Let’s try this, if you could pick three things that need work what would they be?

“One, feeling too comfortable. Two, getting outworked. Three, knowing what you’re supposed to do.”

Woof… those seem like three big problems that need to get sorted out right quick. Who needs to be better? Everyone?

“It starts with your star players.”

Top six getting called out after game three. Who would have seen that coming?

“Your stars have to be superstars every night on both sides of the puck. We didn’t quite get it done with our star players.”

I get why the best players have to play better, and I’m not going to argue against it, but what about everybody else? Surely, last night’s loss wasn’t only a result of the forward group. What about the defence? Are they good enough?

“My belief is that the six or seven we have are good enough but they’re not playing well enough.”

I think that goes for everybody, Todd, and I admire you for being kind here. Frankly, it looks like the guys were getting high off of their own supply a little bit, ya know? All summer we heard how the Oilers are going to be contenders and I think maybe they bought into that a little bit, no?

“I don’t think we remember how hard it is to win. I’ve experienced this in the past.”

What do you mean? Do you think they assumed that winning would be easier? That would be bad.

“You have to understand how hard it is. Our guys don’t get that yet.”

You sound like a disappointed parent, Todd. This comment reminds me of when my dad had to go for meetings with my Grade 7 teacher every Monday because I was being disruptive. He wasn’t mad, but he was certainly disappointed. At least there aren’t any games until next weekend and it will give you some time to iron out these wrinkles.

“I’m glad that we get four good work days coming up.”

Yikes. I hope the boys get some rest because these next few practices aren’t going to be fun. Stay hydrated, fellas, it’s going to be a long week.

      • Serious Gord

        Players get out-played – coaches get out-coached.

        At the very least he didn’t have his team playing with the energy and precision of his opponents on both nights.

        A while back I read – on a sister blog to ON if I recall correctly – that the pens coach implemented a strategy and tactics in the final against Nashville that tmc would never have thought of – that tactically tmc is a plodding coach.

        As I am not an expert on coaching hockey but firm in the logic that there are winning coaches and losing coaches I am asking if he did indeed get beat these past two games and if so, how?

      • Randaman

        Not separating McDavid and Draisaitl is a huge coaching error. Todd has panicked too quickly and hasn’t given other options time to gel with McDavid, such as Nuge for instance. Leon should be driving his own line

    • Natejax97

      Whatcha mean Gord? I think the Oiler players played the first 10-15 minutes (up until the first goal) in perfect structure. Pucks in, pucks out, forecheck, cycle, shot. Then Winnipeg scored and it seemed like the whole team started to heat for offense. I don’t think that’s on the coach. It is on the coach to correct, I will give you that. So results need to be evident on Saturday. If you are referring to line combinations, I would say Todd had no choice. But structurally, the oiler players bear this one.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      A good coach knows how to motivate his team in practice during times of slumping. Oilers weren’t “outcoached.” They were outworked. TM should take care if this in the next few practices.

  • McRaj

    Good for TMac. The star players comment is directed towards the top line and McDavid I believe. Connor has been average offensively and below average defensively the last 2 games. I expect Saturday to be a completely different game with McDavid leading by example.

  • Spoils

    not sure how this team leads the league without improving the D and adding secondary scoring…
    Regular season version of Eberle was very useful. Sekera very very useful.

    Even in the win against the Flames, there just wasn’t much happening outside of McDrai.
    2.33 pts/gm right now. That would be good for 27th in the league last year.

  • madjam

    Not like the players have not heard this message before . Are we not as skilled as we might believe , and are the players turning a deaf ear to same message ? If Talbot remains in a funk , then rest might not be near enough to turn club around . Knowing and consistently applying adequately are often two different things for many on team . Message sent , but players seem lax to implement it for unknown reason(s) . More problems than resolve right now , Oil leaks everywhere .

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I think this is a classic case of the players believing their own press and forgetting that they actually have to work hard if they want to win. They’d better turn this around fast. There are no easy games in the NHL.

  • the reasonable person

    Gimme a freakin’ break. Benning on the second pairing and Strome to replace the highly undervalued Eberle are problems, as if that was not likely to be the case months ago. And a funny thing happens when defence corps and teams don’t play well defensively, the goalie starts looking bad! See every Decade of Darkness goalie, for example, and Talbot himself during the DOD.

    Now smarten up and start playing better, Oilers.

  • OilerForLife

    The Oilers have to scrap this more shot policy of fixing this problem their having. A whole pile of outside shot, long shots, or unscreened shots don’t equal 1 good scoring chance. They need to be a little more selective, being too cute and being smart on their shot selection are two different things. They need to practice their special teams to become more effective on both special teams. Once they become too far behind 8 ball in the standings, it will become too hard to make up the points to catch up, and then the season will be lost. They better get it together – and quick, because sooner than later-the season will be lost.

  • hagar

    It’s amazing how often this team needs to be told what to do. Why do things that never change, and haven’t since they started playing hockey, have to be drilled into them time after time?
    Lots of talk from Tmac about things that the players need to re-apply to be competitive again, what about the fact the players on this team constantly need to be told what to do?

  • hagar

    If all the coaches and management went out of town for a meeting and left the oilers to play a game by themselves, would the whole team even show up? Would they be eating pizza on the bench and watching funny youtube clips?

    • OilerForLife

      The Oilers need players to step up every game. Early last year they got wins, but there was a stretch were different players seemed to be the game hero. We need more from a lot of different players, it’s a team effort.

    • hagar

      What are they supposed to say? I can’t stand eberle, glad he is gone. Hard to say anything about the team after three games without looking like a weirdo. Do you think eberle would have us in a different situation after three games, or are you just talking about their lack of responses on here? I guarantee eberle wouldn’t have us in a better spot than we are now, he is the absolute epitome of what the oilers are doing right now. Picking and choosing at random when to play well.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    Everyone was telling McDavid to shoot more, so what does he do? He starts cheating, looking for the breakaway instead of playing Defence. He’ll adjust and drop that tactic & we’ll be back to winning 4-2 again. Not the ONLY reason, but a very big one – his teammates see that and start to emulate it.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    McLellan: “We’re not near competitive enough. We’re not outworking teams.” Coach nailed it our boys are being outworked too much reading their press clippings. Its all good the kids will figure it out they just got to get their work boots on.

  • bwar

    There were numerous defensive mistakes, mainly by the forwards. One the sticks out was the complete lack of backchecking on the first Ehlers goal. Ehlers meandered around the ice for so long there was absolutely no excuse for the play to develop into a 5 on 3. The second play that sticks out is the Kulikov goal where there was a clear coverage miscommunication between, I think, Pakarinen and Yamamoto.

    Major defensive errors by the forwards led to the loss but I still feel that the Oilers were also outcoached. McClellan doesn’t seem to know how to properly deploy his personnel, which is shocking to me since the roster changes since last year are quite minor. There is a mentality that a player like Yamamoto has to ‘earn’ his spot and get buried on the fourth line where he clearly won’t be effective. Yamamoto already earned his spot on the roster and he earned it playing with skilled players, so the Oiler’s either need to play him with skilled players or send him back to juniors. Then you have the bizarre line combo’s that emerged after the Oiler’s fell behind. Pakarinen-Draisaitl-Slepyshev? At least mix in Lucic, you know a left winger Draisaitl has been successful with in the past. The out of the blue decision that Strome, the guy who everyone thought would start the year at 1RW before flaming out in preseason, was now a Center with with no exception also bizarre.

    Blah I’m ranting.

    TLDR; Get your s*** together McClellan.

  • EastVanOilFan

    When you’re winning, winning comes easy. Until than you gotta grind out some games with some hard work… where’s Matt Hendricks when you need… oh, right…. The Oil will be tearing up that “W” column soon enough. Nurse needs a crack at the 2nd pairing with Russell seeing as he has sorely outplayed Benning… or who knows maybe Nurse and Benning should play together again for consistency

  • Big Nuggets

    I expect we will be fine. only 2 losses, its frustrating to watch the team lose when you know they are capable of more. Once they settle in and get their compete level up we will see some good games.
    You always want more secondary and deeper defense but I’m not going to panic just yet.

  • OriginalPouzar

    After Game 1 – fanbase: No way we can split up Drai and McDavid they are way to good together!

    After Game 3 – fanbase: Huge mistake by McLellan not splitting up Drai and McDavid – getting outcoached!

  • OldOilFan

    Drai needs to develop playing as 2C more than 1RW. But when he’s 2C, it bumps RNH too low. Bigger problem is at RW… I’d do the following:

    C: McD; Drai; RNH; Strome; Letestu
    RW: Yam; Kassian; Sleps; Caggs; JP

  • This.Is.NHL

    The oilers were playing good but the jets just waited for the oilers to make a mistake and cashed in. To me the Calgary game wasn’t a real game but the last two were also Tbot wasn’t up to par but from what ive seen in the last game it looks like hes back.