Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Chaos and the Oilers

The Chaos Theory is derived from a branch of mathematics, but we do know chaotic behaviour exists in weather, climate and even traffic. A stall on the high level bridge can lead to traffic snarls 20 blocks away.

I’d argue it also exists in sports, and that the Edmonton Oilers are strong evidence for any theory involving chaos.

When one penalty killer makes the wrong read, then another tries to cover up for him, it leads to chaos, wide open seam passes and eventually a goal. We’ve seen it over and over this year season.

You might be more familiar with the Butterfly Effect. Last night one shot led to a complete meltdown by the Edmonton Oilers.

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The Oilers trailed the Kings 1-0 with one minute remaining in the second period. After a sluggish first ten minutes, the Oilers woke up and were playing quite well. They had generated many chances late in the first period and through the first 15 minutes of the second period, but Jonathan Quick was stoning them. Even after the Kings scored, the Oilers didn’t fold.

They kept attacking and with 40 seconds remaining in the second period, Jesse Puljujarvi faced a wide open net. He spun around and proved he was paying attention in the pre-game meetings, because he shot the puck high, but it rang off the crossbar. He missed the net. An unlucky play. He made the right play by shooting high, it just hit the bar instead of going in.

If he scored the Oilers wouldn’t have completely unravelled over the next 5:14 of play. The Oilers still might have lost, we’ll never know, but hitting the crossbar instead of scoring altered the game significantly.

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To be clear, I’m not blaming Puljujarvi, far from it, just outlining how one play changed the landscape significantly.

Thirty-five seconds after Puljujarvi hit the crossbar, the play was still in the Kings zone and Patrick Maroon hit Drew Doughty and was assessed a match penalty for hit to the head. The Kings had a five-minute man advantage and scored three times in the first 4:39. For me that sequence illustrates the difference in the Oilers this year to last.

Last year they found ways to overcome adversity, or chaos, whether it was a missed scoring chance, unlucky bounce, a bad call or a bad decision. They battled back. They had a swagger. This year, however, we have rarely seen those traits.

In 2016/2017 the Oilers had the third best winning % when trailing after 40 minutes. No teams were great at coming back, but they battled back to pick up 17 points when trailing after 40 minutes. They only trailed 27 times heading into the third period, 6th lowest in the NHL behind Washington, Minnesota, Columbus, St.Louis and San Jose. You’ll notice playoff bound teams weren’t playing catch up very often.

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Through 40 games this season the Oilers have already trailed 20 times. They are 2-17-1 when trailing after forty minutes. Only Arizona and Buffalo have played from behind more entering the final frame. It is another illustration of the Oilers inability to be ready from the opening faceoff. Slow starts, combined with a penalty kill that is so bad you can’t describe it, has the Oilers playing catchup far too often and right now they aren’t mentally tough enough to overcome adversity like they did last season.

When chaos arrived — it does for every team — the Oilers were able to handle it. It didn’t consume them, but right now they can’t handle it. And the most damaging factor is much of their chaos comes from within. They are making major mistakes and giving up far too many glorious chances, mainly on the penalty kill.

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Last night Kris Russell made an ill-advised pinch and it ended up in their net. Up until that point of the second period the Kings only had three shots. One major error, and boom it ends up in their goal.

Chaos occurs and the Oilers can’t stop it.

Another perplexing aspect of the Oilers season is how often they wilt on home ice. They have been shutout four times in 21 home games. And they lost those games 4-0, 4-0, 5-0 and 5-0. They have allowed 28 powerplay goals at home. They are down 1.33 goal/game before the puck drops. How is that even possible?

But it isn’t just the PK. The powerplay has dried up. They are 11.3% in their last 20 games. The biggest issue I see is their lack of quickness in moving the puck. They are very good at entering the zone, but once they get set up they delay too long. The extra split second allows the PK to reset. Right now opposing powerplays are zipping the puck around and the Oilers PK breaks down, but the Oilers PP is too deliberate. It is often one extra stick handle and that extra second or two allows the penalty killers to get back in position.

The Oilers PK it too chaotic and their powerplay isn’t creating enough chaos for the opposition. It is a recipe for losing.

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1. I expect Maroon to be suspended. He wasn’t available to the media this morning. He had his phone call with the league before practice. His body language combined with Todd McLellan’s presser leads me to believe he will get at least one game…. **Updated**. He got two games and will sit out tomorrow vs. Anaheim and Saturday in Dallas. He forfeits $21,505 in salary which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

2. With Maroon out I would play McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH in the top-six. I don’t like spreading out the offence, because it just waters it down. When the Oilers did score for the first 10 games of three centres, the fourth line of Kassian/Letestu were more prolific than any duo on the 2nd or 3rd line. The problem the Oilers have is they don’t have a true third line centre. Ryan Strome isn’t an NHL centre. He’s mainly been a winger and that’s what he is at the NHL level. Nothing wrong with that, but the hope of moving him to centre has not transpired. I put that on Peter Chiarelli more than anyone. He needs to go out and find a third line centre, because spreading out your three best offensive players over three lines will not work long-term.

3. It was going to happen eventually, but Connor McDavid has now gone three games without a point for the first time in his career. It took him 167 games to go scoreless in three games. Over two full seasons. I’d be willing to bet he comes close to another 165+ games before he does it again. He was flying last night and created many glorious chances for his teammates. I would still like him to shoot more on the powerplay. It has become too predictable. Teams aren’t respecting him as a threat to shoot the puck.

4. Amazing how Florida left Jonathan Marchessault exposed in the expansion draft. He scored 30 goals last year and had another year of $750,000. Vegas gladly claimed him and he is top-25 in NHL scoring with 37 points in 35 games and Vegas rewarded him today with a six-year extension worth $5 million/year. Seems Gerard Gallant knew what he had in Marchessault more than the Panthers organization did. Those two moves by the Panthers, firing Gallant and exposing Marchessault, have really hurt them. Kind of like the Oilers trading Griffin Reinhart for two draft picks.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • ed from edmonton

    Other than Nurse and RNH no Oiler is playing better than last year (I’m nit counting players like JP, Khaira or Sleppy). A hand full are about par with last year, McD, Lucic, Russell. All others are playing noticeably below last year’s performance. This has been true more or less all year. Initially one could hope players will regress to their norm (in this case get back to playing better) but this hasn’t happened. As the old saying goes you can’t fire the team, but you can fire the coach. I gotta think team T-Mac is on a very short leash.

  • socaldave

    I just can’t fathom how those in charge of the PK still have a job(s) today. I applaud McLellan for his loyalty to his guy(s), but come on – the worst PK% EVER????? A move has to be made – nobody else bringing the same results day after day after day can honestly expect continued employment.

    Won’t something think of baggedmilk? When’s the last time he DIDN’T pee red?

  • Namicus

    Can you please figure out how to stop the ad spam that your site generates on my phone. I’m literally getting hijacked every article and in some cases hitting the previous button on my phone only gets me more ad spam pages to the point I have to x out of your site.

  • ed from edmonton

    One of the Mantras than TMAc preached when he arrived was the need to “stay in the fight”. This coming from the viewpoint of an opposing coach that saw the Oil fold for a decade at (and sometimes before) the first bump in the road. Staying in the fight has been been a characteristic of this year’s home ice Oilers. Why???

  • winteriscoming

    Chia had all summer to replace the players he let walk or traded away, he sat on his hands and counted on the limited players within the system to fill the massive holes in the lineup and kept a 110 lbs kid around way to long. What has he done to address the issues brought back a young player from Montreal who was put on waivers and brought back another from the AHL and another who is on the wrong side of 35

  • ScottV

    McL’s brand of hockey is conducive to instability or chaos.

    Uptempo all over the ice all the time vs varied speed. Split second fast in transition, slow things right down – back and forth, has as much power – with far fewer mistakes. Try to do any set of relatively complex tasks as a group or an individual at top end speed and you will see what I mean.

    Need for two puck handling d men in a pair vs a puck handler and a steady eddy – invites chaos. Giveaways at our blue, with both guys cheating on offence etc.

    Instead of a classic 3 man rush with width and trailing depth – in case of a turnover, lets throw 4 guys at it without much regard for any depth. Example – Russell last game.

    Lets take it to them from the get go, be the ones to make things happen – try to dictate and get the upper hand early vs lets play wait and see – keep things simple and mistake free, don’t over bite on offensive opportunity to see if the other team does something real dumb, that we can capitalize upon. Yep – chaos. Give up the first one or give up the winning goal in a tight game.

    Need to carry the puck and make east west plays upon entry vs driving the puck wide and or chipping it deep into the o zone. Invites chaos.

    Mass shooting at every opportunity vs establishing deep possession – protecting the puck, 5 man cycling of the puck, use of the points – towards developing higher quality shots / scoring chances. Invites chaos.

    Constantly blending lines – looking for elusive offensive chemistry vs more established lines where the guys have time to work out important details between them. Chaos.

    I could go on but my point – the chaos is largely self inflicted.

  • OilersBro

    With Maroon suspended I wonder if they’ll play Khaira with McDavid seeing as he is one of the few guys who has played better than expected and wins puck battles. We can’t just keep going with the same lines and put guys who under perform in the top 6

  • Gazoinks!

    Edmonton 2 rounds of playoffs after 4 first round picks does not make a cup winner!
    but sure does look good on you welfare recipients… enjoy holding yer breath for another lottery winner!

    • Gazoinks!

      Chaos is when u get 4 lottery picks at #1 and a new arena, and everyone wants “in” …
      poor Connor, I’m sure he wants out now …
      being a Cgy fan, I figure a team is “built from within” not fancy lottery picks (teachable moment) but it is good to see the Oil brass soiling the new confines of Rogers!
      Sad for ticket holders.

      • MrBung

        Calgary fans should be more worried about their arena situation. There is a real possibility the team will move if they don t get an arena done. And it doesn’t look good

    • OilersGM

      Chaos happens when players play to their level and not the GM’s. The GM expecting too much from hope and possible potential instead of proven players.

      Chaos happens when players don’t execute the coaches msg but when the coaches are clueless the chaos looks even worse.

      Chaos happens when you trade your core players for a lesser talent.

      Chaos happens when the organization is run by bunch of idiots.

      Chaos happens when mainstream media and bloggers support the organization when making the wrong decision instead of having the balls to stand up to them.

      That’s Chaos for you.

  • Disappointed

    Who’s job would it be to fire Chia? Please don’t say bobby nic or klowe as their job is with oeg. Does the owner of this team know what is going on? Perhaps it is klowes job to give his opinion to the owner as tonwhat is going on. Upper mngt is in shambles.

  • Dean S

    Peter Chiarelli will be releived of his duties as the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, We ultimately feel that this change is necessary in order to ensure sustainable success for the club both in the short term and the long term. Our search for a new General Manager will begin immediately.” Our vision to build a fast and exciting hockey team must be priority #1.

  • Oilman99

    Nobody on the PK has any confidence they can kill a penalty off, so panic sets in, and everybody forgets everything they have been taught,chaos results. A lack of urgency on the power play makes it almost impossible to even get into the other team’s end. When they do get set up, puck movement is too slow, and no first rate scoring chances are created. Chaos is experienced by anyone watching.

  • RJ

    Let’s look at this objectively. Outside of one magical game last season where the Oilers scored 5 PPGs in a single game, the Oilers PP has not been great at all under McLellan in his time as Oilers GM.

    This despite the fact that for a brief moment he was the highest-paid coach in hockey and was going to bring that elite offensive approach to Edmonton.

    Over McLellan’s tenure, some folks have had the temerity to question this assumption.

    Statistically speaking, I’d guess that the Oilers PP under McLellan is no better than it was under Eakins, and Eakins had a much better PK than the Oilers have had this season.

    Having watched this gong show before, Oilers media and Oilers Nation don’t typically openly criticize a coach or GM unless they’re on their way out. The question for me is whether this will happen before or after the Allstar break. Unless of course they go on a 10-0 run or something.

  • jfk11

    Speed. Speed. Speed. Oilers are way behind the rest of the league in this dept. Name our best D man? Any name you come up with is not a top D man in the NHL. There are lots of reasons for this type of play and it is not all players lacking IQ… some of it has to do with the lack of ‘over-all’ team speed compared to the rest of the NHL who have chosen to go with the speed movement over bigger, slower skaters. The rest of it should be blamed on the coaching staff and GM.

  • Slipknot 8

    Gregor says:
    “If he scored the Oilers wouldn’t have completely unraveled over the next 5:14 of play.”

    I would wager they still would have unraveled because of the PK, Had JP scored and the penalty still had taken place the Oilers would have let in 3 PP goals and unraveled anyways….

  • Natejax97

    I want to take back a few things that I said out of frustration yesterday. It’s hard for for hard fans to control emotions sometimes. I listened carefully to Nurse’s comments today…he said that inside that locker room they still believe in each other but outside the faith is gone…a commenter said below that they should look in the mirror…hit me funny.

    Look…all I know is that as hard as losing is on us it is 10x that on the players. They have been taught that losing is not an option their whole lives. This is not all about money. These guys are 20 year old kids and they go to war with each other at least 82 times a year.

    Maybe we as fans need to look in the mirror and decide what kind of fans we will be. Are we only there for the good times and spend our time pitchforking whoever the flavor of the week is? or are we going to slide our orange jerseys on, load our kids in the car, drive through the -25 weather and be part of the solution instead of being part of the black cloud?

    I’m choosing the latter. Im going to cheer for this team and whoever is on it. I’m going to eat beets with baggedmilk and pretend to like them and enjoy this season for what it is.

    We need 30 wins so until the math says so I am going to keep the faith.

    Rogers Place could use an infusion of loud support…maybe we can help our young team get it’s confidence back.

    • Superdave

      I hear what you’re saying but sometimes it’s hard for people to shell out $3-400 to watch bad hockey and still be motivated to cheer. For many it’s a significant sacrifice to go to a game and maybe they’ve purchased the right to express disappointment. I wish it weren’t so, cuz it probably doesn’t actually help as much as harm.

    • Gravis82

      This is not a hollywood movie. Faith in what? A mediocre team with a few amazing players? The team is not going to suddenly be 100% different in the last half, this is what they are. There will be no miraculous turnaround and storybook ending. The team is not good, so don’t waste your energy on them, or money. It is not going to happen this year. Loyalty to a bad team is just rewarding bad ownership and poor decision making. Hold them accountable.

      I stopped going to games before Dec as it was clear this was not their year.

    • DXB

      They are underachieving. You can’t look at this team when they’re going and destroying teams as some sort of act of god. They are a good team with major holes. Some tweaking and this team will be competitive for a long time. Let’s not forget some of the seriously enviable pieces other teams would kill for. We need desperately a big shot from the point which currently we don’t have, until Klefbom sorts out whatever is plaguing him. We need some compliments up front and a backup. The emotional outbursts and sky is falling children on this site need to relax. What we saw last year and seen patches of this year will come.

      • Gravis82

        No one is saying that we dont have good players, but the problem is we dont have enough of them. And the moves the GM made last year actually made us worse.

        • DXB

          If your expectation was the Oilers were going to win this year then you need to temper your expectations. This is an incredibly competitive league and it takes time to build a winner. The Oilers are extremely young, have cap space, 3 blue chips down the middle, 4 solid NHL defensemen and some decent pieces on the wing. With a few savy acquisitions this team will be competitive for a long time. Fans aren’t big on patience I get it, but the rebuild started when we drafted Connor as far as i’m concerned everything before was Lowes time fire.

  • madjam

    Lack of scoring advancement of young stars is well below what was expected with such talents as Connor and Leon leading the regression from last season . Defensively , the more we get healthy the worse the defence has seemingly become , yet overall the group also regressed markedly from last season. Sekara already a minus 7 in 7 games as an example . Talbot still well below last years goaltending . Nurse and Hopkins probably only 2 on team that shows any marked improvement from last season . Chia’s off season moves weakened the team and killed the chemistry the team had , adding to a regressive season rather than one that could move forward . GM is in control of quality control and he missed on several fronts this season .

  • The short memory and people opinions on hindsight is getting old on this site. This team is basically the same team that giving us thrills in the spring last year. I think Peter had every right to basically stand by them. What gets me is the difference in the team on the road and at home. Besides that blues game it’s been way better than home. We have players that are planted in the top six cause of a lack of 200 ft game. Kass and Jj have both earned their chance to play up but they have been blocked by Lucic and Maroon. Hopefully we get winning and build value for some moves at deadline or the draft.

    • Gravis82

      The difference between home and away is because the oilers are a bad team. A good team with better players wouldn’t be awful at home. There is no magic bean here for the team. They are not winning because they don’t have enough good enough players. That is the fault of the GM. He will be fired.

  • Heschultzhescores

    No Chaos…I’m drawing upon my 10 years of missed playoff experience to get myself through this season. Thanks to the Oilers, I’m a seasoned veteran.

  • Gravis82

    Team needs a goalie, puck moving defense man, 2 top 6 forwards. We traded hall for a non-puck moving defense man and Eberle for a third line winger. Seriously, add all the context and blah blah blah chemistry comments you want, but those are fireable moves.

    Not to mention not taking barzal, and even worse, not even being interested in him if they didnt trade those picks.

    I get the hindsight thing with the draft, but come one, literally everyone had the oilers taking that player.

    Organization is still rotten at the top.