Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers: WTFundamentals

Every Edmonton Oilers player admitted their effort wasn’t good enough in losses to Vancouver and Winnipeg. The Oilers worked harder versus Ottawa, but their fundamentals were almost non-existent.

Passing, shooting, reading the play, supporting the puck — the Oilers did this very well in game one versus Calgary, but on Saturday at home to Ottawa they struggled to make simple tape-to-tape passes.

It resulted in an ugly 6-1 loss and the Oilers dropped to 1-3. Many in Oilersnation are concerned.

I understand the frustration and the concern.
The Oilers started 1-7 in October of 2013 and finished with 67 points.
They went 0-4-1 in 2014 and ended up with a paltry 62 points.
In 2015, even the addition of Connor McDavid couldn’t help them out of the gate. They started 0-4 and finished with 70 points.

Last season they jumped out to a 7-1 start and rolled all the way to 103 points and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

This group is not as a bad as the teams in 2013-2015, but they aren’t playing nearly as well as last year’s team.

The concerns about the Oilers start are valid, but many aspects of their game are fixable.

Watch the Sens first goal. Anton Slepyshev needs to make a stronger play along the boards, but what is Yohann Auvitu doing? He is the last man back. He can’t cheat up the ice, hoping the puck gets out. He turns up ice, and then can’t recover in time to pick up Hoffman in front, and he also makes a very soft play trying to tying up Hoffman’s stick. If he skates directly towards the slot, instead of up ice, then he’s in position when Dion Phaneuf keeps the puck in.

The Sens second goal came from some nice passing on the powerplay, but Cam Talbot reads the play perfectly. However, he slides across his crease without his stick on the ice and the shot beats him five-hole. That is a fundamental error, not one of ability. His ability had him in the right position, as did his hockey instincts, but he knows he can’t come across the crease with his stick off the ice. He over-commits originally and his stick is too far to his right, so when he pushes back to his left he can’t bring his stick with him. Also, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wins the face-off cleanly and Adam Larsson has a bad clearing attempt. When you win a draw that cleanly on the PK the puck should get out of the zone.

Hoffman has one of the best releases in the league. If you give him an open look he’ll beat most goalies. Talbot stays down longer than he’d like. Also, Patrick Maroon has a slight hesitation and then cant close the gap. Of the first three goals, this one concerns me the least. I credit Hoffman with a great shot. Hockey is all about split-second decisions and I don’t expect players to always make the right one. Mistakes are a part of the game.

However, Talbot needs to be better early on. He discussed it after the game. “I’m not happy with my play. I could have done something different on the first three goals. I have to figure it out,” he said. At Sunday’s practice he spent a lot time at one end of the ice one-on-one with goalie coach Dustin Schwartz working on his fundamentals and positioning.

The fourth goal was unlucky, but by then the game was over. Talbot was pulled, and Laurent Brossoit came in, but after the 4-0 lead not much really matters. The game wasn’t in doubt.


  • My biggest concern is the Oilers overall team speed. With Caggiula and Draisaitl out of the lineup they lose some speed. Their overall team speed is a concern and that won’t change until those two return or Peter Chiarelli makes a move. They can still win with this group, but Jussi Jokinen and Ryan Strome aren’t fast players. The Oilers haven’t been playing fast and that makes their lack of overall team speed even more apparent recently. Not everyone has to be a thoroughbred, but when the Oilers aren’t attacking they look slow.
  • Their defensive zone decisions and overall coverage have not been very good. This is fixable. They proved last season they can be a solid defensive team. They proved versus Calgary they can play sound defensively and bring a good effort, but this group is not good enough to just expect it to happen. They were a very good defensive team last year, but they’ve gone away from it so far this season. Too many players are cheating, looking for offence, and it has really hurt them. The entire group needs to get back to basics.
  • Their powerplay is completely out of sync. Up until last game their first unit was the exact same five as last year when they were dominant. Draisaitl is a big loss, but my issue with the PP right now is they are doing the opposite of what worked for them last year. Mark Letestu and Klefbom were the shooters and found the open lanes. This year, we’ve seen those two passing more and looking for McDavid to shoot. That has to change. I also didn’t like the set up last game were McDavid was setting up on the left side. I’d rather him set up on the right, so if they do pass to him he’s at least on his off-wing and can get a better shot off. And when Klefbom was in a good spot to shooting he was missing the net. The PP should be better.
  • Talbot’s play through four games. His .880sv% is gaudy, and remember he started the season with a shutout versus Calgary, where, in his own words, he didn’t have to do much. The Oilers gave up very little that game, but Talbot has been pulled in two of his last three starts. He is better than his numbers and I expect he’ll improve, but he needs to find his game, and find it quickly.
  • Offensive zone time. The Oilers haven’t been able to gain momentum with continual solid shifts from their lines. They had one shot on goal in the first 17 minutes versus Ottawa on Saturday. They had ten shots in the final three minutes, but only one was really dangerous. Their puck support was excellent in game one, but since then we haven’t seen them put a team on their heels for any extended period of time. Their passing was atrocious on Saturday and often lead to turnovers in the offensive zone. For me, bad passing is a lack of focus. This is easily fixable. It isn’t due to a lack of talent.
  • The Oilers are good, but I’m not sure they are good enough to dig themselves of a massive hole, which is why a win tomorrow is vital. It is far from a “must-win-game,” but the Oilers only lost three (regulation) games in row twice last season. They only lost four in a row once. They don’t have to match that in their first five games of this season. They need to find the same effort and focus they had in game one versus Calgary, because since then they haven’t come close to playing a solid game.


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  • ponokanocker

    Effort seems to be the underlying issue, as you allude to in your first sentence. The eye test backs this up, and the issues that they have been having can all be related back to a lack of effort. Why has the effort level not been good enough since the first game?

  • TruthHurts98

    I watched part of the Vegas game last night, they play with structure and support each other well. Not a lot of talent, but they are hungry and play their rear ends off. The Oilers don’t look like a well coached team right now and are not playing with passion. If that changes and they start playing smarter, things will turn around. Some of this is on coaching IMO and some of it is the Oilers reverting to lazy habits and not being hungry enough to fight 60 min for a win. They looked great against the Flames, what happened afterward???

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      My feeling is that they are falling into the success trap. The team breezed through pre-season and looked like a well-oiled machine in game 1, then likely made the psychological error of thinking it’d all be this easy. There’s a fine line between confidence and believing your own hype.

      Once Talbot steals a game or two and they get a couple bounces going their way, I think they’ll get some swagger back, but right now it might be good for the team to be reminded of the lesson that winning in the NHL is damn hard.

    • I am Batman

      The coach isn’t responsible for the effort and passion of the players.
      They all get paid. One would argue that should be incentive enough.
      Starts with Connor.

      • serlio

        The coach is responsible for the effort and passion of the players, at least partially. Obviously a lot of this comes from the players themselves but suggesting that the coach has no role in motivating his players seems ridiculous to me.

  • TKB2677

    I hope that is the first and last game that Auvitu plays for the Oilers. I am not a Fayne fan and quite frankly I think he’s not a good dman but I would much rather have Fayne as a 6-7 dman thatn Auvitu. I know the advanced stats guys say they liked the signing but this is a case where spread sheets don’t always tell the whole story on a player. He’s NOT an NHLer.

    If you watch the play that Gregor put up with the Hoffman goal. The puck gets dumped into his corner, there is an opposing forward there with him so there is going to be some kind of contact if both guys go for the puck. He sees that so he lets up!! He actually stops and just lets the Ottawa guy get the puck uncontested. You don’t have to rock guys but you do have to touch a guy, especially if you are a dman. All you have to do is nudge the guy, tie up his stick do something so he has to put at least a little effort into retrieving the puck. He just let the Ottawa guy have it. That shows a complete unwillingness to even compete. How do you have even a chance to win a puck battle if you won’t touch anyone?

    • Oilerz4life

      Yes, someone that hates that acquisition as much as me! I need to stop banging that drum but what a joke. Fancy stats, JW probably loves this guy.

      Don’t even get me started on Strome. I know it was a salary dump and cry about Ebs he puts up points. Surely PC could have found something better, cheaper for Eberle than Strome.

      You don’t have worse guys in the line up and take a step up. After last season the Oilers had all the momentum to build on and the D gets built up with Auvitu? Bring in a character guy up front let’s try reclamation project Strome?

      Say what you will I’m really disappointed in PC this last summer, he took a crap on the roster. The foundation is there for a great team but some guys no and that Auvitu guy needs to get sent packing ASAP, like back to European hockey.

  • PleaseWinOilers

    There’s just really not much to like about the team right now. They suck at ES, on the PK and on the PP, their defense is a mess and they’re really missing Sekera/Draisatl. And then there’s the goaltending…. They need to win next game and look good doing it because the rest of the month has a bunch of tough teams.

  • oil.99.97.11

    It’s rather pathetic when it looks like the only guy really battling hard for a job, and with the apparent ability to actually play the part, is a 19 year old undersized rookie. We need way more effort and focus from way more guys that truly want to, and can, play a big part on a winning hockey team…and far less of just cashing oversized cheques for lacing ‘em up a few times a week.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I’ve always like Nuge, but after watching him in his post game interview the other night it made me think he has no fire, and never will have fire in his game. He just brushed the loss off to them scoring on their chances and us not. He accepts loss way too well…reminds me of the dark day Oilers…oh, right, he was one of them. I’m sorry, but has to go…we need guys that want to battle every night and don’t accept loss so easily. Also guys look like they were in a hockey game after it’s over….he seriously looked like he came out of a spa treatment. I’m sure he got his nails done too. 😉 I know Nuge is a nice guy, but that doesn’t give him a free ride. He’s never going to be anything but a soft player. Granted the league is pretty much taking contact out of the game….but I’m sure it will come back in the playoffs. We need guys that can get us into the playoffs, and then once there perform and not be afraid to get a black-eye or bloody nose once in a while.

    • AJ88

      What a ridiculous comment. So you’re the guy that’s throws temper tantrums like a 2 year old when you don’t get your way. Players are trained specifically for media scrums. Now go have a tantrum!

      • I am Batman

        You would think the desire to win and the fire in your belly after losing like that would supersede any training for dealing with the media. I’m not saying “he should lose his poop” but he can simply look mad and tell the interviewer “I don’t want to talk about this game because it was a terrible effort on me and our team, as is obvious in the result. I don’t mean to be rude, but let’s do your afternoon hours thing and move on”. Like that he wins a bunch of fans for being accountable and “wearing “ the loss instead of coming across as a “well, it is what it is, we still got paid”.

        I agree : he has to go

        • GriffCity

          Have to agree, I had the tv on mute then and thought that interview with Nuge was pre-recorded! No way should a player be smiling and cheerful like that after a 6-1 thumping. Let alone a veteran 6 million dollar player who wears a letter on his sweater. Acceptance is complacency’s ugly cousin.

    • Oilerz4life

      Yeah but what return are they going to get? Any game I’ve seen Nuge play live he does the little things well that you don’t see on TV. He’s a really good defensive center and he is already doing better offensively this year. He’s a really teachable player according to the coaches and has a really good attitude. One of the strengths of the Oilers is at center and besides the salary dump we are not going to see any return for the Nuge. He’s one of those Oilers gets traded away and does really well elsewhere. The Nuge is going to be one of those guys with a strong NHL career.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    To me, it looks like this team has lost all of it’s confidence. The game against Ottawa was about as pathetic as it gets. Every pass was either to no-man’s land or in someone’s feet, and their PK and PP sucked the life out of the building. And to be honest, I don’t what can be done to restore the confidence in this group. Does McLellan play video of last season to motivate the team? Does he bring in a random fan to plead to the group to play better. Or does he call up another NHL coach and ask for some advice. I don’t think firing McLellan as he’s done a great job since coming to Edmonton (that and the only available coaches are Bylsma and Ruff), but something has to be done to motivate this group. To me, it seems like the Sekera/Draisitl injuries have sucked the life out of the locker room.

    • Derian Hatcher

      “Does he bring in a random fan to plead to the group to play better”

      If we go this route. I vote a trio of “Hockeyfan” , “Ken Bone” and “Serious Gord” with threats of daily visits from these 3 if the team does not improve. That should turn things around quickly

  • Jordan88

    If they can’t play to speed, they need to play to strength, and that strength is driving the net and potting home rebounds its not pretty but it instills a blue collar work ethic. Yeah McDavid will still be himself and give the man 2 pylons and I am sure they would end up in the top 20 in points. (Actual Pylons not players.) Defence, yeah its gonna be a slog but other teams find depth.

    Talbot will come around, and for the love of god shoot the puck the players who should be shooting are not except for McDavid,

  • tileguy

    The biggest concern for me is line combinations. Almost everybody agreed going into the season that Draisaitl was to be the second line centre and yet we have seen very little of it. In fact every period of the last 3 games the blender has been out. Yes, Drai was out last game but no need to upset all the lines. Make your lines Todd and stick with them.
    Now, in what makes me look like a hypocrite, someone suggested that since 97 is being asked to shoot more perhaps it is time to get Lucic back up on that line for a net presence instead of Maroon who really isn’t one at all.

  • Jordan88

    I hate to be “that guy” but how come Trouba did not have a hearing for his hit on Draisaitil? he clearly leaves his feet prior to making contact and his elbow hits him square in the head. I am all for hitting but jumping to make the hit needs to be removed from the game and Trouba is a repeat offender.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Hmm, prior to reading this article, I thought we were a good team just going through a bad stretch…oh well at least we will not have to worry about the out of the play-offs record for another 10 yrs!

  • A-Mc

    These games have been really sloppy. Hesitations, knuckle puck passes, tunnel vision and periods of low effort, have made the last 3 games look like the Oilers of Old. They better figure it out and get back to putting up some points, or else this slippery slope might take them for a ride.

  • Natejax97

    I think the start of this season has been absolute crap. There is no rhythm, no flow. 1 game in 7 days…good grief. Then 3 more days off until the next one. How is anything supposed to be crisp and clean when there is absolutely no games. The Eskimos have played as many games as the oilers. Hockey is a lot about rhythm and ebs and flows…I understand the crappy play, I get it, they are pros and need to be better, but I think / hope they will start having better games when it is every second night instead of once a frigging week.

  • Hemmercules

    Can’t say I’m all that surprised. Everyone gets their big paydays, Hockey writers and odd makers have them contending for the cup before the season even starts. Got too high on themselves and now they need to check themselves.

    Fact is, this team did really nothing to improve this off season and they are now down a top forward and a top Dman. Last season was a dream having very little injuries to anyone, especially the top guys. Teams are playing them tighter now and their depth isn’t overly strong.

    Good news is they still have lots of good players and lots of time to right the ship if they choose to work for it.