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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas for Todd

There’s so much for Todd McLellan to be happy about. He gets to coach Connor freaking McDavid, he has the keys in his hands to what is supposed to be one of the most exciting franchises in the NHL, a young team, a new barn, and a passionate fan base. Yet, just like Charlie Brown, there’s so much for him to be depressed about. His team can’t score, there’s a lack of effort at times, the special teams is a disaster, and they’re on the outside looking in on the playoffs.

When Todd McLellan stepped up to the podium after Wednesday night’s loss, all I seemed to hear in my head was the sound from the Charlie Bown cartoon when the adults talk. It always seems to be the same story, and it’s starting to sound like a broken record.

I do want to say that TMac took a bullet for his team when they were blown out on November 21st in St Louis. He accepted the fact that there were problems on all fronts, including with his coaching, and that made me wish I had managers at my former workplaces like him. After accepting his part in things, the team responded well the next night, winning in Detroit, but now we’re back to square one only two weeks later.

Remember the Arizona game that the Oilers barely won and some lucky guy won $259,177?! I fell asleep in that game because the Oilers came out so damn flat. Even though the team came back and forced an overtime win, it was not one of their better nights. There have been so many other games just like that except for the fact that they couldn’t pull out a win. That’s not a great spot to be in.

The Oilers are really in a pickle now, and LB’s goaltending will maybe mask the fact that the team is struggling. I doubt it though — the fan base has noticed and are all aware that LB isn’t getting help. Matchups have been questionable all season, as have been special teams. It’s not all TMac’s fault, he has assistants, but when does he override their judgement and try to save those ships, or has he already? Peter Chiarelli might have called it death by a thousand cuts, but it’s really a sinking ship that when you patch one hole another one appears. There’s just no stopping it from going down.

After Wednesday nights loss to the Flyers, the Oilers bench boss let his team have it at the next day’s practice. If you haven’t seen the video yet let me give you the CliffsNotes; he criticized their effort and passes with lots of beeps, all during practice. If you watch the video be sure to take note of the player at around 0:18 seconds who turns around. That’s not great body language. In my opinion, this outburst is about a month and a half too late.

I won’t lie, I think TMac has lost the room. How does a team who had so much swagger last year come into this year and look like they’re being forced to read Romeo and Juliet in a high school classroom? He can’t jumpstart his team to come out and compete like it’s game seven of the Stanley Cup to play a game start to finish. I think this season is going to be a wash, a learning experience for young Connor and his teammates moving forward. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Oilers give TMac until the All-Star break to figure things out, and if he’s smart he’ll download Uber, so he doesn’t end up another Gerard Gallant. 

How long of a leash do you think Chia has given his head coach? Would you axe him now or do you think he’ll get it going again? Let me know your thoughts below!

  • Disappointed

    Everybody get in, we are going back in time, a time when MacT was coach and Klowe was gm. Those were the days my friends, I know they’ll never end, la la la la la la.

  • morsecode89

    I like Todd a lot. He seems to be a pretty solid match-up coach. It also seemed like in the past, last season especially, he could really motivate this roster to come out strong after a bad period.

    His real inditement is the special teams this season. A lot of that is on the coaches, even if the players aren’t shooting the puck. Another thing is his over-reliance on veteran players or players he likes to pull weight when they’re over their heads. Eric Gryba is an example of this, so is Mark Letestu.

    We can criticize Todd’s line-up all we want and the underperformance of key players, but realistically, we’re almost 30 games into the season, and we all know what’s wrong… This team was gutted of a lot of speed and skill over the offseason. Those players were let go, traded, or lost and the GM expected ‘internal’ growth from players he acquired or inherited. This team just doesn’t have enough speed of skill to compete with a faster league. Look around, skilled teams like Tampa, Toronto, and Nashville are lighting it up. And the Oilers lost 2/3rds of a very good – if overpaid and under productive in playoffs – 3rd/2nd line.

    This roster – constructed by the GM – just isn’t good enough. And Todd should not share the most blame for that.

    • Natejax97

      This is correct…I would ask one question though…if Eberle was here, and he had 5 goals and 15 points this year…Chia would be harshly criticized for not getting rid of him, and would you not be very upset that Eberle was still on the team? Also when you look at his playoff performance, I don’t think we were looking at a good return for him.

      I do agree though, we should have signed some gritty speed in the summer if it was available instead of loading up on AHL talent. Bets were not covered, and that is not on Todd and his staff. Neeeeeeeed to get special teams going, and we neeeeed to draw more than 2 penalties a game. Start there and we can turn this thing around.

      • morsecode89

        Accept that Eberle has 12 goals already and is playing a vital part in a second line role on a very good Islander’s sqaud that has a lot of depth scoring… And he was traded for Ryan Strome who looks to be a healthy scracth next game.

        The Eberle trade – either way you look at it – was a bad trade. If you’re going to trade someone who’s going to score 60 pts a year – call them weak or soft all you want, but 60 pts is 60 pts – then get someone back or fill that lost scoring up with someone who can actually score. Don’t expect Drake Cagguila (11 career goals) and Anton Slepyshev to cover the distance.

        This was Chia’s problem. He tried to cover losing talent and skill, with more players that had less talent and skill.

        Either way, this oilers team is likely missing the playoffs in the final year of McDavid’s ELC. And that’s unacceptable. I like Todd. I liked Chiarelli when he was brought in. But they both seem to be botching it. The roster just isn’t good enough. And that’s wrong. It’s a complete and utter failure. And it’s sad. We’re out of the playoff race and it’s not even the New Year.

        • oilerjed

          Many players show a bump in performance after getting traded but how does he pan out over the long haul? Using his starts from the last couple of years, Eberle would not be the answer this year either and as said by others Chia would be getting railed for not offloading him sooner. Face it, no matter how well Ebs plays this year or for the rest of his career, he had to go.

  • Natejax97

    It is a tough stretch for sure. Chia kept mentioning Klefbom’s “other off ice problems” during his presser. A lot of the guys look off this year, as in not emotionally invested.

    One would hope the players respond.

    My first reaction is always “Fix it, whatever it takes!! Fix it now!!” but I think that was the process for the DOD. MacLellan’s career numbers show he is a winner (maybe not a cup yet), so maybe we give him some latitude to see if we can get this ball rolling. I don’t think changing the coach will make or break the season, so hopefully everyone (coaches and players) pull it together. I can appreciate what Todd brings to the table, and I look at this more of an execution and willingness to win by the players than a coaching issue.

    One last thing, a win on Wed against the Flyers and we would have been 4-1 (with a bad break loss to Toronto) and this story line would have been 180°, even if the Oilers won ugly.

    Just my 2 cents…

  • the dope $teez

    Yelling at these mopes isn’t going to do any good, they’re already checked out for the season. They won’t play in front of LB because it doesn’t really matter, they’ll lose 6-5 if they try or 6-1 if they don’t. The dressing room is guaranteed all f’ed up, the youth of the team is ill-equipped to lead men into battle, and the veterans may be vocal in the locker room but cannot lead by example because they aren’t good enough.

    Compounding issue would be coaching on special teams is mind numbingly stupid and ineffective, full stop. When you draw the least number of penalties in the league and you lose the special teams battle literally every single night, you’re going to lose more games than you win.

    Death by a thousand cuts is right Pete. A thousand self-inflicted cuts that in many ways could have been avoided. Oh well we can look forward to the draft and a summer of Chia and TMac actually sweating about next season.

  • I am Batman

    On the summer of ‘14, I was ready to give up.
    But then I sat to watch the nhl draft lottery on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and as I repeated to myself “please, no Toronto, anyone but Toronto “ , Toronto got passed by and the golden card appeared. Mac-t got interviewed on the phone and even he didn’t know what to do with his hands, Taylor tweeted and in my mind it was sweet and sour: “we are going to spoil this pick too”.
    But then…. Nicholson, Chia, TMac…. Sekera signs as a free agent and it felt like the Oilers were gonna do the right thing: build around that golden shiny ticket they just found themselves with, through nothing but luck.

    Ffwd 3 years. The team has no discernible depth, no assets to trade, they’re not even winning “now” and their future looks bleak with the cap.

    Other franchises (28 to be exact) are doing better than the Oilers and they didn’t get the golden ticket. Future in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, looks very bright..,.

    Why do we cheer for these losing organization? Defies all logic.

    I just hope McDavid does go elsewhere, he needs to win a cup, it won’t be here.

  • Jason Gregor

    I never understand the “Lost the room” argument.
    The Oilers are outscoring teams at EV. The most difficult time of game to score.
    Their special teams are atrocious. That is what is killing them.
    If he lost the room, why is team have a positive GF/GA ratio at EV then?

    The “lost the room” is easy to toss out, but their play on the ice at EV doesn’t match that theory.

    Special teams have killed this team. So too has below average goaltending. And Cam Talbot gets to play all the time, which he wants, so I question why he would suddenly not like a coach who plays him all the time.

    I don’t agree with lost the room theory.

    • TruthHurts98

      Riddle me this then: Why does this team come out flat most games and play long stretches of uninspired hockey? Quite a few of the 5 on 5 goals came when the game was already lost or out of reach. On the other hand if they play like they did the first 40 minutes of the Calgary game they would be in a playoff spot. The special teams have let the team down, but most games they come out unprepared and flat. Which leads to them taking penalties and then the other team scores easily on the PP. That is on the coaching staff plain and simple. Oilers Rig had a right up on just how bad the PK is: all time NHL worst. If we keep the coaches behind the bench this team finishes bottom 5 in the league.

    • Paige Bednorz

      Gregor, I didn’t buy into it at the start of the season. He can’t seem to motivate them to come out and play hard every game; they look like they just don’t care. The tipping point for me was watching that player turn around on him while he was yelling at practice, body language says a lot.

      • Chainsawz

        I don’t buy that the coach motivates the player ever. Either the player has it in them or they don’t. What does the coach have to do with that? If a player can’t look to the guy next to him and want to play that next shift for each other, that’s a sad state that runs way deeper than the coach.

        • oilerjed

          Scratch that I just saw it. Doesn’t look like anything to me except a player re positioning himself in the lineup he was in. Maybe reading into things a bit and seeing what you were looking for?

    • The Greaser

      Fans are frustrated with this current situation so a classic chestnut like “lost the room” is gonna get thrown around as media and analysts pontificate endlessly as to what ails this team. Consider the source.

      Remember – numbers don’t tell the whole tale of the tape. When you regularly begin to hear descriptors like “flat” and “lack lustre” those are red flags in terms of how the coaching staff are getting their messages thru to the players IMHO.

        • oilerjed

          I think he is due to be sent down to the Barons for a wake up call. Not because of this video, which I don’t see as anything at all. But his play is uninspired and for a new guy like him there is no way that he should be taking any games/practices off. I wonder if we weren’t so hurting for dmen due to injuries whether Benning would still be collecting an NHL pay cheque

    • Still Hate the Flames

      I don’t even understand how it’s possible for a coach to lose the room. When I have a boss at work I don’t like or don’t agree with, I still try my ass off because I owe it to the people I work with and for, I also want to feel good about myself, feel like I’m making use of my life, and I really want to keep my job. I can understand how the grind of 82 games and practices could result in less than optimum effort at times, just due to mental and physical fatigue, but the thought that I wouldn’t try my hardest even though millions of people are watching my every move, just because I don’t like or agree with my boss, or because he somehow doesn’t motivate me enough? It’s hard for me to understand this concept.

    • madjam

      Are we entering a Shark type conundrum here , as was done when Todd eventually was fired for questionable reason . J.Thornton told GM Wilson to shut up . Wilson had poor personnel decisions in off season leading to a shift /change in culture -“that doomed what could have been a contending team that year of collapse ” . Chia seems to have done much the same and the culture left may not be acceptable . Couture ” on culture not great ” , but failed to elaborate . Thornton on McLellan ” has to talk to his family in here as well”- sarcastic comment . Oilers season seems eerily similar to Todd’s last season and perhaps circumstances like the Sharks and Thornton went thru . McLellan was the fall guy then . Has the Oiler culture turned negative from last season due to what I feel the actions of the GM in off season ? Who is most important for the culture of players to thrive in -coaches and/or GM ? May have not lost the room , just has not found the right room as yet , nor have the players as yet by the sounds of it ?

    • ET

      Gregor, I too believe that there is too much talk about the lost the room theory. I think it goes bigger and deeper than that. It’s becoming more and more obvious that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG IN THE ROOM, SOMETHING JUST NOT RIGHT WITH THIS TEAM. I don’t equate that with the coach losing the room or the team as the problem in the room may have nothing to do with the coach. While I don’t personally like some of the decisions Todd makes I also readily admit that he no doubt knows WAY more about hockey than me. I am however a very very perceptive person when it comes to reading body language, etc. Leon is so unhappy on this team that he does not even smile when he scores. I remember a recent game where he did not even high five the length of the bench, he high fived a few players before he waved the rest off and went into the bench. I’m not saying that Leon is the problem or that everyone has to love each other for teams to be successful. I am saying that I don’t think Leon wants to be here and his play certainly shows it. Peter has no doubt made some plain stupid moves but that’s been the story of his career. If not for the NHL telling officials to put their whistles away and let the Bruins break as many rules as they wanted they would never have won a cup under his leadership. Look at the state he left them in?? He got canned in Beantown for a reason and it was a bad move by Nickelson to hire him in the first place. Why don’t you media guys spend more time trying to uncover why these guys won’t play for each other and what is wrong in the room? People who say it’s not the coaches job to motivate players is 100% correct in my opinion. I also agree that special teams are also a big concern and that is on the coaches. I would also like to see the stats about when our 5V5 goals are scored as I tend to agree with the person who said we scope a lot of them in garbage time. My two or three cents.

    • Vanoil

      “Lost the Room” — doesn’t mean he is a bad coach, it means that the players simply don’t listen to what he has to say. They have heard it too much or they don’t hear anything beyond the negativity of the tone of voice. Nothing constructive or substantive is being communicated (received) by the players, with the end result that the end-product on the ice doesn’t change. Has McL “lost the room” — does anything he says ever reverberate with the players anymore??? If you watch the games, you get the sense that players are starting to “coach themselves” — when plyers do what they think is best rather than what the coach thinks is best, then you have very disjointed hockey, no team cohesion or coordination. Sound familiar??? When things the coach says (systems) don’t work, players view of those systems are negatively re-inforced, they start to believe the coach (coaching staff) is “wrong” …. Power-play, penalty kill, zone entries, checking, break-outs, all start to fail — negative re-inforcement.

  • Roberto

    Bringing back Howson and signing Keegan Lowe this off season felt like a serious insult to the fans of this tire fire organization, after all of the back lash for the past few years (before last), I couldn’t believe the nerve. The team counted its chickens before they hatched and assumed they were the cats meow like the 80s again so no one would question them. They were wrong, and they suck again. Embarrassment. I wish they moved to Seattle a few years ago, eventually another team would come to Edmonton and the expansion team would win the cup before this organization.

  • Winterkush

    If Chia looses his job at the end of the season does that mean the next GM is going to wait a year before he does any decision making? Isn’t the standard for building a cup winning team within at least 5 years?
    The biggest fear with Chia is that he is so stupid.
    If oilers kept Hall and Yak, Leon would’ve stayed on as the 3rd C and not be worth $8.5million.
    Stupid moves from day one brought the Oilers to this point in time.
    Russel scores on his own net ???

    • moosewacker

      Chia’s moves could have already crippled this team beyond repair. Cap issues beyond this year are frightening, and they don’t have enough good prospects to fill in the gaps.

    • GG and T Mac should both be gone during the holidays, so the new guys can instill their system. Chia definitely has not helped , but his roster decisions are laughable as are the special teams . At the very least the PK and PP coaches should be skidded, have enough people on the payroll contributing jack squat already.

  • This is effing crazy. We have one of the best coaches in the league and you guys are trying to run him out of town.

    The entire team played above expectations last year, this year everyone is injured and we expect the same results. This is not on the coach…he isn’t John Tortorella.

  • Jaybee

    I’ve posted this before, but I’d love to see Dave Tippett at the helm and see if he can instill a more defensively responsible system in place. I don’t necessarily blame MacLellan for all the problems, but unfortunately he is they do need to shake something up.

  • ubermiguel

    Every 2 to 3 years it’s “fire the coach, lost the room, fire the GM, asset mismanagement, cancer in the room, not playing for each other” etc etc etc because the team is in lottery pick position. Nicholson, Chiarelli and McLellan were supposed to be the best hockey guys available. Are they actually that bad? But who would be better? And there are an insignificant number of players left from the Decade of Darkness, why does this team play like those awful teams? It’s so frustrating being an Oilers fan.

    TL;DR: What is wrong with this organization?!

  • BobbyCanuck

    This issue with the Oilers not being ready to play at puck drop has been going on since 1984, the only difference being back then, the Oilers could afford to fall asleep during the first 2 periods, wake up in the 3rd ans score 6 goals, but those days are gone, yet the wierd culture remains…got no answers

    • D

      You know, you raise a valid point here. Even in Game 7, 1987 against the Flyers, the Oilers came out flat for the first ten minutes of the opening period. Gave the Flyers a two-man PP and went down 1-0. Then they woke up and took over the game.

  • moosewacker

    Todd McLellan is a good coach period. He has been dealt a bad hand by a GM who keeps throwing away assets, overpaying and wrongly accessing talent. To top this off horrible goaltending has not covered up anything ! All of this on Chia, Todd did not ship out the teams best winger, 2 of its best penalty killers (Pouliet & Hendricks) for nothing in return. Having no goaltending depth after last years debacle with Gustavsson and a clearly unready borderline backup in Brossoit, has torpedoed this season. Fire Chia Now !

    • Clayton

      The team still has plenty of pieces to be competitive…maybe not a cup contender…but certainly should better than a lottery team. Chia can take blame for downgrading talent, but Todd McL must take the blame for doing utterly nothing with the talent that does exist on the team.

  • Clayton

    Yep…berating your players like that is certainly going to motivate them to play for you. Speaks of a coach getting desperate and not knowing what else to do!

  • Also, rememeber when we had a new coach every single season? If only we could have a good coach like Babacock or our current coach come here…

    Coaches don’t motivate players. They coach them. Coaches don’t motivate at any level of hockey.

    Coaches have longevity are usually successful. Belichek in the NFL, SA Spurs coach in the NBA, Babcock…

    We finally have a respected coach come in here and we are treating him like he is Dallas Eakins. You can’t discount the health of our team. Nobody was injured last year; this year, many injuries.

    I don’t think we can give our GM a pass either, but you cannot win every trade. I wish we had Eberle here still, but this is the kind of thing he compalined about only a couple of weeks ago. The “fans” magnifying every detail.

    Smarten up people. A player turned around….whoopty do. Todd lost the room…ZOMG.

  • CMG30

    The Oil have had plenty of bad luck this year, but really last year was the opposite. This team rode the wave of vezna quality goal-tending and a lot of good luck all season. There was a fair few games where they came out flat but still pulled out the wins.

    The trouble is that the GM didn’t recognize this and instead of trying to improve the team in the off season, he actually subtracted skill and scoring. He was so overconfident that he went into the season lacking his top defenseman or a reliable backup in goal. PC utterly failed to appreciate that a young team lives and dies by confidence and when adversity struck at the begining of the season, he had no answers.

    It looks like the plan was to coast to the trade deadline then load up for a cup push. PC needs to be fired. He has no grasp of the value of his roster, he passed all the opportunities to improve the team over the off season. Instead he continued to remove talent then held firm when all signs pointed to trouble at the beginning of the season. When he did sign players, it’s for way too much and way too long. The window was open for this team and that window now has an expiry date thanks to the boat anchor contracts that will be dragging this team down in 3-4 years.

    Time to face facts: The season is lost.

    Katz, Nicholson if your listening: fire Chirelli now so that the next guy has time to survey the landscape before next summer when the real heavy lifting needs to be done.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Cleveland Browns just fired their president of football operations.

    This was after the owner went out and met with good teams this offseason talking about how to be better as an organization.

    The advice: whatever plan you choose stick with it. Don’t look for easy fixes or constantly change the plan.

    Some pertinent advice for this organization and, especially, fanbase.

  • I don’t understand how they can have a killer PP last year with the same players and Woodcroft leading it then it go flat this year?

    I don’t understand how the PK can be so bad compared to last year. What’s the difference?

    • Vanoil

      Other teams adjust, they pre-scout and defend what it is you do (did). Good teams adjust, have multiple options and are dynamic to read what the Defense gives you. If you are robotically programmed to do the same thing, it is easy to defend against. If you are dynamic, when one option is closed you quickly realize the new one that is opened up, and exploit that. It is really that simple. Man-advantage — there is always an open man, always and advantage to exploit.

  • Chainsawz

    Just saw the video and all this talk about the player who turned his back is so overblown.

    I haven’t taken the time to study the pixels to figure out who it is but this could be easily a situation where the player is frustrated with his teammates. Or the player was jacked to go and needed to move his legs since he immediately turned to face McLellan a second after. Sheesh, I wear my tinfoil hat pretty tight when it comes to the Oilers but this is next level stuff.

  • Vanoil

    The two (McL & ChiaP) are married at the hip, no way ChiaP throws McL under the bus until it is he who is facing the heat. Make no mistake, ChiaP would rather make token player trades at this point to relieve the pressure of the media (token meaning absolute useless trade to appear to be “listening” — Slepyshev, Khaira, Davidson, or Gryba) , he won’t touch what he believes is the core, unless he starts to feel the heat close to his neck. If (as) the pressure continues, his is next step is to cut loose someone who he would have had to make a difficult decision on in the off-season in any event — Nuge or Maroon. This will be meaningless as it will be likely done at the trade deadline, when the season is already lost in any event. Only when people are vociferously demanding his head (next Christmas if things continue this way, long after he has had another off-season to try and fix his mistakes) will he use McL as the scapegoat, and then only to preserve his own arse.

    This is about self preservation, not about saving the season or building a championship team. This season is lost because under no circumstances will Chiarelli admit he is to blame, nor take any partial responsibility for where things stand, or even partially so, so as to try and take measures to save this season. By Christmas the OIL will be 10 pts back (now being 6-8), by January 1st it will be 12-13, by the all-star break it will be 15-16 and by the trade deadline 18-20. If he was going to save the season, he would have had to already done so, as it would take any new coach at least 2 weeks to implement new systems … 2 weeks today is the Christmas break (10 point gap).

    No Chiarelli is far too stubborn, far too proud. It won’t be until this time next year that the issue will come to a boil. Sad, but true.

    • Old school

      Jason who cares if it’s the special teams that are killing the oilers – that’s coaching and the bottom line is The head coach is ACCOUNTABLE for team performance period . If he doesn’t like his special team coaches who he picked – fire them. I like Todd and he seems like a good person but he was fired from the Sharks because he couldn’t win with what year after year was good enough to win it all and many years fabored to win it all and didn’t . He is at best average .. below average bordering on awful