Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Milan Lucic’s Commentary on the Oilers’ Penalty Kill Rings Hollow

You’d like to think that Tuesday night’s 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings marked a new low for the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers, but really, it’s just more of the same.

As of writing this, the Oilers are 6th in their division and 13th in the Conference, nine points out of a wildcard spot. According to Dom Luszczyszyn, their playoff hopes rest at a lowly seven percent. It’s going to take about 94 points to make the show and to do that the Oilers are going to have to play .700-plus hockey.

How did the Oilers get to this point? We’ve covered a lot of the reasons, and they are legion. Mostly, they’re self-inflicted wounds.

In Tuesday night’s loss, as in many before it, it was the penalty kill that reared its ugly head. The game was relatively close going into the third. The Oilers were down one to the Kings and playing a tight hockey game at five-on-five.

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Then Patrick Maroon threw a high, headshot on Kings defenceman Drew Doughty near the end of the second period, and suffered an ejection and a five-minute major. By the time that major had expired in the third frame, the Oilers had surrendered three power play goals (Maroon has since been suspended for two games).

The game was over. It’s one that everyone involved surely wants to put behind them as soon as possible, but Milan Lucic’s comments in the wake of that most recent loss, and even Maroon’s suspension, means it’s all the talk of the town a day later.

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Speaking to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector on Tuesday night, Lucic said of his team’s penalty kill unit (which he’s not a part of) that “We’re in it, all game long, get a five-minute penalty against, and they get three out of it.”

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“Too many games this year we’ve talked about or PK not getting it done. I’m not here callin’ out the PK, but that’s the reality of what happened tonight.”

That’s a really funny way of not being out here “callin’ out” the penalty kill. It’s an odd comment that’s made especially more confusing when one considers the source. Has Lucic not built a mythology around his career about accountability? When he qualifies his comments about the penalty kill by saying he’s not calling out his penalty kill, is he not asking for a get out of jail free card? Sure, I’ve got something to say, but hold my own words against me and the like.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end there, though. As many were quick to point out on Twitter, Lucic is second on the team in penalty minutes with 49 to his credit. In first place? Maroon, who has 53 after Tuesday’s major. Of course, it wasn’t Maroon — you know, the player who forced the five-minute penalty kill on his teammates — who Lucic went after though (an issue consistent with the NHLPA and the players that make it prioritizing the earnings of their members ahead of their safety, so really, it’s par for the course).

And perhaps you let Lucic’s comments slide given the heat of the moment, but a part of what made him such an attractive option in free agency to Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli all those years ago was his qualities as a leader. Certainly, you want to see that if you’re the Oilers, paying him $6-million annually for production and a two-way profile that doesn’t register as close to commensurate with the cost. Those intangibles, and so on.

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Could the Oilers penalty kill be better? Without a doubt. Some of that is on the players. When Edmonton goes on the kill, they’re surrendering the second highest rate of expected goals against per hour of any team in the NHL. They’re not giving up a tonne of shots (second-best shot attempt rate against in the league), but they’re giving up enough high-quality ones that it doesn’t quite matter.

Only compounding matters is the Oilers inability to get a save when they’re down a man. Neither Laurent Brossoit or Cam Talbot have held up their end of the bargain. The Oilers have a league-worst save percentage of 79.1% on the penalty kill.

Everyone shares a certain amount of blame. But for an Oilers forward who’s played barely 30 seconds on the penalty kill and is responsible for a significant portion of their workload, it’s an odd bit of finger pointing that should be out of character for someone with his reputation. Perhaps, try starting with the man in the mirror.

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    • Armchair genius

      Somebody needed to say something and the simple fact is the PK ISN’T GETTING IT DONE! Does the fact that Luc doesn’t play on the PK make that statement not true? NO! Why does it matter that he made that statement? It is what it is, I’m sick and tired of everyone blaming systems and coaches, it’s the players that need to read and react, and Lucic simply pointed it out, people need to get over themselves. As a profession hockey player you should be able to give and take criticism by this point in their careers.The system the Oilers employ is not heads and tails different from any other team in the league, however our players are not executing properly! I don’t know if they’re not smart enough or if its an effort issue. In watching the games I see both being an issue.

      • CMG30

        Of course it matters that he’s making these statements.

        ‘In the room’ don’t you think it matters when a guy who’s handing you the second most penalties to kill yet doesn’t have to kill them off goes and mouths off to the media about how crappy a job YOU’RE doing covering for his mistakes? Sure, call them out. But keep it ‘in the room’. That’s what real leaders do.

  • NDOilersfan

    So, you’re mad a Lucic for giving a subtle jab at the PK? Everyone knows the PK has been awful this year. The fans, the media, and most definitely the players. To me, there isn’t any reason to publicly shame your teammates when they already know they have to be better. I would bet money that he, and the rest of the leadership group, are laying into teammates in private when the occasion calls for it, and supporting them in private if their confidence is shot. Kicking them while they’re down by bashing them in the media isn’t a leadership quality. Showing support of your teammates in public while calling them out in private, when necessary, is.

  • Redbird62

    Not a particularly well researched comment. Lucic only has 7 minors so far this season. He has 3 majors for fighting and 2 misconducts to up his total minutes. So assuming those all resulted in power plays for the other team instead of offsetting minors, with a good penalty kill that would be 1 goal against, and with the Oilers PK that would be 2 goals against. So maybe he is not that much of a hypocrite.

  • Dan 1919

    Let’s summarize; your article is wrong, Lucic is right, the penalty kill needs to be better.
    Any linguistics, feelings and meanings can be left for the left wing and mentally weak to dwell on. Focus on facts not BS I wonder if hes thinking what I’m thinking garbage.

  • I think you’re doing the same thing by pointing out a comment and dissecting it. Our special teams got us into the play-offs last season. They will prevent us this year. End of story.

    That loss is Maroons’s fault. Plain and simple.

    • grumpyKoala

      Maroon play wasn’t smart or anywhere near acceptable. But the oils did not score a single goal and by nhl standard that a strong indicator that you will not be granted 2 pts. Maroon decision making are questionable but at least he was engaged in that game. There a couple of guys that had dial off between putting on theirs jock and stepping into warmup.

      • The only oiler coach

        Maroons fault! Suck an egg. We scrored zero..we lose no matter what. At least he hit a guy giving Conner grief. The most emotion i saw out of that team.

  • Jason Gregor

    JD, you realize penalty minutes doesn’t mean the team is shorthanded. Lucic has taken 7 minor penalties all season. That is tied for 8th on the team. RNH has taken 10. Should he be ripped for taking too many penalties?

    Lucic is bang on in his assessment. The PK is killing the team. They can’t kill a penalty to save their life. How is this a negative? And using his penalty minutes, not minor penalties is very misleading. He has two 10 minute misconducts and three fights. That equates to 35 of the 49 penalties minutes he’s taken. And of those 35 minutes the team is not on the PK.

    • The Future Never Comes

      That is a pretty low quality written article, I hope he isn’t a stakeholder receiving advertising shares for this piece. If this is the bar set for ON, I know I am more than perfectly capable of writing a article with vastly more substance than this.

  • Jason Gregor

    One more thing…Lucic hasn’t taken a penalty since November 21st. The PK has been horrible, under 75% since then, so saying Lucic is a hyprocrite, because he says the truth about the PK being brutal, is simply incorrect.

    • The only oiler coach

      Lucic needs to lead…i dont care about his speed. we got him and we are going to pay him. He needs to lead this team. Conner is twenty…..he needs to just play…Milan stand up show Edmonton you are pissed off and play like a leader. Win or lose you will then be an oiler!

      • The Future Never Comes

        I thought he was brought in largely due to his “intangibles, leadership qualities, and swagger”. All I see from him this year is a permanent scowl on his face, as if to show that he’s not accepting of this. Personally, from a players perspective, I did not really care for the rara guys in the room, anybody can cheer lead. I was motivated from seeing the guy across from me with his head down focused not saying a word in the dressing room, then coming out first shift and trying to put someone through the boards. Milan passes up way too many hits or puts a half hearted check into someone to get his box-scores up in the hit category. When he does not play with physical aggression he is as good as useless out there.

  • btrain

    Every team has to kill penalties on behalf of their heavier players from time to time but its only the Oilers who let in a goal (or multiple goals) almost every time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sorry excuse for a PK is a reason Lucic has taken less penalties this season as he is much more hesitant to play his usual physical brand of hockey. The benefit of wearing down the opposition with physical play, which also carries a risk of taking penalties, is lost if your team can’t make it through a PK without getting scored on.

  • Redbird62

    Overall the Oilers are in the bottom 1/3 of the league at taking penalties, so the issue really is the PK. Maroon is the worst offender on the team with his 14 minors plus the match penalty.

  • The only oiler coach

    Am I the only one who doesnt see enough pissed off players here? No pride, no honor and no leadership. We have a twenty year old captain, where are the vet leaders?

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I find myself coming on this site now just to see if the coaching staff has been replaced…
    Or other changes to make this team better…
    Until that happens it’s “same, same”…
    life is too short, with far too much negativity in the world to read this s**t…

  • McRaj

    Thank you to the smart people commenting on here stating how Lucic has only taken 7 penalties for which the oilers were short handed. Nurse, Maroon, Kassian, Nuge, Larsson, Benning, and Gryba have all taken more while Klefbom, McDavid, and Drai have taken two less. JD if you just wanted to write an article with an excuse to bash Lucic, at least be honest about it and do some research. This article is the type of thing that should be posted on CNN or Fox.