Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Penalty KILLING the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers penalty kill is bad. Really bad. Like, among worst in NHL history bad.

Since the NHL expanded to 21 teams in 1979/1980, only four teams finished the season with a worse penalty killing efficiency than the Oilers current 71.4%.

They rank 990th out of 994 teams. Only the 1986 Detroit Red Wings (71%), the 1985 Vancouver Canucks (70.5%), the 1983 Los Angeles Kings (68.6%) and the 1980 Kings (68.2%) were worse.

This is not just a bad spell. The Oilers penalty kill, is literally killing their chances to make the playoffs.

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And the PK has been an issue for over a year now.

In the first 14 games last year the Oilers allowed only four goals on 41 kills. They were 90.2%, but in their final 68 games, the PK was only 78.5%. They allowed 39 goals on 182 chances.

Their struggles have continued this year and somehow have gotten much worse. They have given up 24 goals on 84 opportunities.|

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In their past 94 regular season games they have surrendered 63 goals in 266 chances, for a woeful 76.3%.

Somehow, they righted the ship in the playoffs when they killed off 42 of 49 (85.7%), and scored two shorthanded goals, but the playoffs won’t be happening if this group doesn’t figure out how to kill a penalty.

Last night the PK allowed two goals on two chances, and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored on both of their only two powerplay shots. It was comically bad.

The Maple Leafs scored with ease. The first goal they were in a straight line with the two forwards, leaving Matthews wide open.

Again on the second goal, the forwards are in a straight line. So clearly, that is what the system is at this point. It makes little sense to me.

When the players are doing that formation twice, there is no doubt they are told to do it. It is a new wrinkle, but there is no way it should continue in my eyes, based on how wide open Matthews and Nylander were. On the Nylander goal, you’d like Brossoit to come off his goal line, but even if he made the stop, I still don’t like the singular line formation.

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Jason Strudwick killed penalties for 13 seasons in the NHL. He shared some thoughts on what is going wrong on the powerplay.

I read how some felt Darnell Nurse should have jumped out and attacked Nylander, and he might have, but Strudwick felt Nurse did do one thing well.

“We were taught, if you can’t get on his stick, If you can’t get the shot then take away one half of the net, and the goalie will take the other. Nurse took away the far side and Brossoit should have known it was short side. If he is a foot further out he might made the stop. But the major issue is how did Nylander get that open and be able to take two full strides before shooting? Nurse can’t fire out too far on him there, he is the low D-man.”

But this isn’t about one goal. The PK has been an issue for a calendar year, with numerous different players.

Strudwick feels their spacing has been the biggest issue.

“They aren’t going out in straight lines. Up, back, straight lines. There is too much distance between them. They need to stay tighter. Stay tight, so they can’t get the passes though so easily. Sticks need to be perpendicular to the passing lane,” he said.

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“Right now opposing teams are scouting them and I’m certain they are saying, ‘If we move from low to high and across, we will spread them out, and that will open seams,” continued Strudwick.

He sees other issues.

“Why are they not taking away the middle of the ice on zone entries? You never want the puck coming up the middle, and too often I’ve seen easy entries. That allows teams to set up, and even the best penalty kills will eventually get scored on. You can’t allow easy entries. Even the most structured PK has a weakness due to being a man down, and your odds of success go down quickly when you allow easy entries and the most skilled players in the game have time to set up,” continued Strudwick.

“I’m not in the meetings so I don’t know what the coach is saying. We can only see what is happening on the ice, and when you see the top forwards in a line on both situations, I presume that is the system.”

Right now the Oilers penalty killers are struggling mightily. Everyone knows it. Strudwick has been on teams where the unit struggles and admits it can be tough.

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“When something isn’t going well on the PK, it feels like you have three players and they have six players. Your mind is so screwed up, you are chasing all the time. The players are thinking they need to bring their average up. I would have a reset within the room and say we are starting from scratch in Calgary. We will track starting from today. And then you only look at that number, otherwise it is too daunting to look at the big picture. You can’t change the first 26 games, so focus on what is ahead. It can’t get any worse, so if I was the coach I’d just walk in and start from scratch.

“And when it is struggling I’m curious: how long are the meetings? Sometimes coaches over coach. Keep it short and simple. ‘Get in shooting lanes. Sticks in the passing and stay tight.’ Keep it short and simple. The PK doesn’t need to be complicated. I believe simple is better. It is about hard work, getting in the lane and making sure everyone is on the same page. If one player attacks and the others don’t then you are screwed. Everyone wants the Oilers to pressure more, but if the players aren’t in sync that will only open up more holes. I’d focus on keeping it tight so there are no easy seam passes and slowly build some confidence,” continued Strudwick.

Strudwick felt it isn’t just coaching — the players need to make smarter reads as well. But in his experience, players follow what the penalty killing coach outlines.

Last night, the special teams cost them the game. The penalty kill didn’t get a stop, and the powerplay barely mustered a good chance. They missed the net on their best chances, but right now the penalty kill is the main detriment to the team.

Did you know the Oilers have scored the 8th most 5×5 goals (50) in the NHL this season? They have allowed 54, which ranks 27th, but their 5×5 play isn’t crushing them. The team can score at 5×5, but defending is an issue, and if their PP, which consists of the best offensive players, could get going it would help ease the pain.

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The PK is dreadful, and it needs to be fixed pronto. They can’t afford to wait. Their playoff chances are very low as is. Another two weeks of 71.4% penalty killing and they can kiss the season goodbye.

The coaches need to make some adjustments that work, and ones the players can perform.


Our 7th annual Month of Giving begins today. Every weekday from today through to Friday, December 22nd, we will be auctioning off a package on my TSN 1260 radio show with all the proceeds going to various charities including Santas Anonymous, Operation Friendship Senior Society, The Christmas Bureau, JCI Holiday Hamper Program and a few others.

We will have a new package every day, and packages will include tickets to sporting events, signed jerseys, golf packages, jewelry, training sessions for you or your kids, dinners with Oilers and Eskimos and much more.

Package #1

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  • $1,000 in Hughes Gift cards to be used for fuel or car washes.
  • Four tickets in their Theatre Box at Rogers Place on December 15th for the Edmonton Oil Kings. It includes dinner and an underground parking pass.
  • Pair of seats to Oilers/Flyers (row 21) courtesy of BFF Woodworking
  • Hand made Black Walnut charcuturie board with maple inlay.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260  or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santas Anonymous.

Package #2…

Today we will have a Pyramid of Giving for The JCI Holiday Hamper. Tune in at 2 p.m. to hear how you can help feed 900 families at Christmas. Hopefully the Month of Giving will cheer you up after watching the struggles of the Oilers.

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  • Consultant

    Right so why not use the waiver pick-up on a guy who can help the PK?
    Seems like there is disconnect between Chia and McLellen.
    Or maybe the disconnect is just between Chia and everything/ reality.

    • MessyEH!

      Have any PK specialists passed through waivers lately. I see this kid has killed penalties, I see he’s fast. Get good players, keep good players. Its obvious Hero Pakarinen wasn’t making our PK good. Time to retool.

  • Harry2

    Im so glad someone pointed this out. The two forwards on top of eachother is shokingly inept penalty killing. It makes no sense at all and it leave a prime shooting position wide open. Embarrassing

  • This comment by Strudwick greatly sums up the biggest part of the Oilers’ PK woes: “Right now opposing teams are scouting them and I’m certain they are saying, ‘If we move from low to high and across, we will spread them out, and that will open seams,”

    We see it all the time when a team scores on their PP.. a few passes, and the Oilers fall apart in a hurry. They kill themselves as they very quickly expose a cross-seam after a little bit of movement. Doesn’t take much. And yet our PP is probably the exact opposite. We seem to spend so much time looking for a cross-seam, but don’t find it that frequently.

    • elpol

      so our PK moves too much and won’t/can’t stay in a tight formation, yet our PP can’t move enough (especially the 1st unit) and cause some lanes to open. Maybe they should try something radical and attack the net from below the goal line and go for greasy blue-paint scramble goals.


    Those stats are truly horrific. WOW. I knew it was bad, but had no idea it was that bad. Those stats are staggering. Almost beyond belief. Something must be done immediately. We have already lost sight of the playoffs this year, so can we please give the players a chance to prepare for next years PK? Perhaps bring in a modern system/PK coach so that everyone can be on board for next season?

  • Natejax97

    Confusing…much better on the road. Last game on the road they were very aggressive on the PK. In that they would actually attack guys on the half wall, rush the pass. At home, seems they stand still, then move apart and then a quick cross seam and boom bardownskies…should just stay aggressive, it is working on the road.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Nuge is having s great season but I don’t really like his penalty killing. He doesn’t block many shots and I don’t like his reads on when to pressure. Rarely do I see him intercept a pass or strip a puck along the boards. We need grittier guys to block more shots and who play less even strength to kill penalties. Another two weeks of this straight line penalty killing and they should fire the coaches which I don’t want to happen since we have gone through so many but this is embarrassing. Either you make an adjustment or see you later. The power play isn’t much better. If the coaches are drawing up a plan to give it to McDavid on the half wall and everyone else stand still then the players are executing it to a tee.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    Yep, this is 100% on Coaching. There’s no way with the talent that these players possess, that they should be that bad. It’s either the coaches not teaching it right, or the players just not buying in to what the coaches are selling.

  • Kr55

    PK stats from natural stat trick:

    Our CA/60 is #1 in the NHL
    Our FA/60 is #1 in the NHL
    Our SA/60 is #2 in the NHL

    High danger chances against per 60 though? 26th in the NHL

    The oilers have really built a reputation now. Teams don’t even bother with low percentage shot attempts anymore, they wait for the gold the oilers are serving up on a platter. There’s really no personnel excuse to be had when a PK is this bad. The coaches are either telling players to do something that doesn’t work (except for in the coaches imagination and in practice), is too complicated to be reliably execute or they are just not effective at getting their message through.

  • Mr.Snrub

    In football the offensive & defensive coordinators are regularly shown the door by the head coach but in the NHL it’s basically a package deal.

    Loyalty is great and all but when someone can’t do their job then they have to go, friendship or no.

  • JimmyV1965

    Maybe we should have a group of 6 players who are always on the PK. Right now we have McDavid out there sometimes, we will have Drai out there sometimes as well. And they’re out there not just for the last 30 seconds.

  • Margret

    The problem in Edmonton is that good penalty killers never get any credit. We’ve had excellent penalty killers in the past, but they were run out of town for not scoring enough goals or points. I think of Eric Belanger as an example, or even Anton. The media wants everyone to score goals or produce points. The best teams have an identity. Right now the Oilers do not. Players trying to figure out their rolls. “Am I a scorer? Should I be playing a defensive game?” Too much movement across the lines. Have your top two scoring lines, a checking line and an ‘Energy Line’ that’s how things are going to change. That is why they were successful in the playoffs last year, each player had a defined roll.