Photo Credit: © Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Three Thoughts: Chase Mode

When you’re constantly playing the game in chase mode, there’s no margin for error. The Edmonton Oilers got another lesson in that Sunday in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Chasing opponents in games by falling behind when you’re already chasing a playoff spot in the big picture is a loser’s game – one the Oilers are playing far too often.

Already devoid of anything resembling offensive confidence in a four-game stretch that had seen them lose 5-0 to Winnipeg and Los Angeles and 5-1 to Dallas with a 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim in the mix, the Oilers gave up the first goal of the game for the 26th time this season against the Blackhawks, spotting them a 2-0 lead for good measure, on the way to dropping to 18-22-3.

The Oilers have won just seven of those 26 games. Right now, they don’t have the offensive wherewithal to constantly be playing from behind. As if giving up the 1-0 goal to Nick Schmaltz 8:03 into the game wasn’t bad enough, the Oilers were staring at a 2-0 deficit less than 10 minutes in when Alex DeBrincat banked a puck off the skate of Mark Letestu. The Oilers weren’t playing badly at that point in the game, but one unlucky bounce and it’s 2-0.

“You’ve got to work your way out of it,” said coach Todd McLellan, who put the trio of Pat Maroon, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl back to together to try and get something going during a stretch that has now seen the Oilers win just once in seven games. “When you’re not at the top of your game you’ve got to be more detailed. You’ve got to be positionally strong . . . you don’t take the easy way out of the crap. You work your way out.”

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Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli makes the Oilers pick of Connor McDavid (not pictured) in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The truth is, the Oilers haven’t even been close to finding a way to get points in far too many of their games this season. The loss to Chicago marked the 12th time in 43 games this season the Oilers have lost by three-or-more goals – that’s something they’ve done in each of their last four losses. The Oilers lost by three-or-more goals just seven times in 2016-17.

While some fans might point to that dozen not-even-close games as proof McLellan has lost the room – I don’t think that’s the case but I wouldn’t be my life on it – I think it’s more of a reflection, at least in part, of the job GM Pete Chiarelli has done building this team, or hasn’t done if you prefer to frame it that way. In those dozen games, by the way, the Oilers have been outscored 61-14.

Coming into the season, I thought the blueline would be fine, even with Andrej Sekera recovering from knee surgery. I thought right wing would be OK, even with the downgrade from Jordan Eberle to Ryan Strome in a salary dump. Well, between Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson having sub-par seasons, Sekera struggling to regain his form and a right side that hasn’t produced enough, it hasn’t worked out. It seems I (and many others), like Chiarelli, under-estimated potential issues at both positions.


Nov 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers lost the goaltending battle, again, Sunday as Chicago’s Anton Forsberg stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced while Cam Talbot allowed four goals on 29 shots. It’s yet another instance of the Oilers being beaten by a back-up goaltender. That’s not to hang everything on Talbot, but he’s playing nowhere near as well as he did last season.

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In Talbot’s last five appearances – coinciding with a time when the team in front of him hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn to save its life — he’s been below the .900 mark in save-percentage four times. Talbot was .862 Sunday following games of .789, .971, .848 and .868. On the season, Talbot sits at .902. You don’t have a chance to win games with a save-percentage like that.


It looks like Jordan Oesterle, who played 25 games for the Oilers over parts of three seasons but was cut loose by Chiarelli last July, has found a home on Chicago’s blueline alongside Duncan Keith. Oesterle, who scored his first NHL goal against the Oilers back on Dec. 29, scored the 4-1 goal Sunday. He’s tallied 3-5-8 through 16 games this season.


  • Hemmercules

    Circling the bowl. I would say after the last 5 games they are unofficially eliminated. Interested to see what changes go down here leading up to the deadline. I would think at least a couple guys get moved and maybe a firing or two. Maybe the firings get held off until April. Not looking forward to seeing RNH get moved this summer if Chia is still GM by then, I guess he’s due to win a trade though so see what happens.

  • freelancer

    These were issues that were front and centre this off season and Chia did nothing to address them. I figured Oil for third in the division this year only because I thought teams like San Jose and the Kings would continue to regress and don’t get me started on the Knights.

    Truth is more and more it looks like laat season was the aberration. What could happen if everything clicked perfectly. 7 different career seasons for players… a franchise setting year for a goaltender. None of that can be thought to be sustainable. While I was worried about Chia’s deals long term effect on the team I thought he could make a competitive team for the short term. He hasn’t even managed that and now on top we have to deal with the fallout of his deals.

    • Flint

      Well, that’s the thing. Around here in the summer most comments were that the Oilers were going to fill the holes through natural progression. McDavid, Draisaitl, etc were just going to get that much BETTER. And many scoffed at the idea of any regression. Last years team is better on paper than this years team. This year there’s more injuries. Were all of last years performances that likely to be repeated including Draisaitl? (excluding McDavid of course)

      The Oilers aren’t really this year bad, but maybe they weren’t really that last year good either, and Chia didn’t make em better.

  • The Future Never Comes

    It’s funny we keep pushing back the deadline for the “playoffs is officially not happening” theme, which is due to our undying faith. But in reality this season was over back in November. The team has been nothing but warm bodies out there taking up space for the majority of games this season. The goalie isn’t stopping pucks, the big tickets aren’t scoring like their salaries indicate, the big bodies ain’t banging, the leadership isn’t there, the hearts not there, players seem satisfied with hiding in the shadows behind McD, the secondary scoring is non existent, the defense can’t break a puck out, the PK can’t defend, the PP is as threatening as a baby kitten, the coach has no answers, the GM did not supply the new NHL style personnel (speed, IQ). There’s your reasons why it’s not happening this year.

    • I had the Oilers out of the playoff picture Dec. 11. I’m looking through pre-season predictions by MSM, fans and blogs and I’m seeing a lot of people who got fooled. I’m one of them. I didn’t see this season turning into what we’re watching right now.

      • The Future Never Comes

        Nor did I. But the team was playing like zombies from pretty well the beginning of the season without any indications of progression, except for that 8 game stretch in December. The more I reflect on this season and carefully dissect players effectiveness the more holes I see. Players like Caggs, Slepyshev, Brossoit, Benning, (although playing a little better lately), are pretty well AHL players. Jokinen was slow as molasses, swapped out for Cam who has a higher scoring ability but is a turnover machine. Strome, I have termed as “the ghost” to my buddies- invisible and pulseless. Gryba who was penciled in to cover for Sekera, is the all but extinct caliber of big lumbering defenseman. We could keep going, but hindsight is easy, the gross thing is the more I reflect, the grimmer the situation looks for next season. There are so many holes to fill up front alone.

      • nijames

        The Oilers defense was never good enough to be a cup contender. I thought they would make the playoffs but without a true 1/2 combination on the back end never a cup contender. We have lots of 3/4 and 5/6 guys but no top pairing guys and good teams exploit that. When you play 3/4 guys in 1/2 situations they get schooled which happens a lot with the Oilers. Its the same old problem in Oil town as has been the last decade, asking guys to play roles they are not up to. Recipe for disaster as we are seeing.

  • McRaj

    I wonder if any fan still thinks this team has a chance to make the playoffs. The bigger concern hast o be what needs to be done so that they can make it next year. The team is flawed. Nuge and Nurse are the only 2 who look better than last year, everyone else is either the same (Maroon, Lucic, Drai, other scrubs) or regressed slightly (McDavid) to big time (Talbot. Klefbom, Larsson). Still looking for that Right Shot #1 D-Man. I guess trading Hall, Eberle, 16th OA (barzal or kyle connor or boeser) and 33rd OA (Carlo) wasn’t enough ammo to get that player.

  • morsecode89

    Despite this team having no offence on the wings, one of the worst trends is the huge step back taken by players like Larsson, Klefbom, and Benning. I know Klef has been playing injured and Benning is younger, but Larsson hasn’t been nearly good enough. He’s barely producing offence, leaking goals and chances against, and has been brutal on the PK. He ranks low on all the shot metric charts as well.

    The debate is always going to be framed in the cost it was taken to aquire Larsson. That being said, the elite winger who was traded for him is now gone, and Larsson looks like a 25 yr old 4-5 D man on one of the worst Defensive teams in the NHL. That is not nearly good enough. I think he has more to give, but the cost to aquire such a player was enormous and looks to be another massive mistep in the already tarnished legacy of Chiarelli.

    • nijames

      Larson was never a point producer and thinking he would become offensive is a huge mistake. Excellent 3/4 shut down guy but not a 1/2. Its a shame we gave up a number 1 overall pick to get a 3/4 defenseman. Unfortunately the team to the south of us has 2 guys possibly 3 that would be our number 1 D man.

  • Rama Lama

    We were told that coaching would make a difference prior to TM being hired. We were told that he could handle pressure and adapt to the situations that sometimes junior coaches struggle with. A lot of pundits were very pleased with this hiring, and I have to admit to some degree, I too bought into this narrative.

    The thing that is most frustrating with this coach is his inability to adapt, or his stubbornness to change things for the better. Take for example the PP, just how many time do we have to the see the first PP unit try the same old crap, and expect a different result. TM like certain players in certain situations……..I get it but come on man, just walk upstairs and talk to the numerous legends available and get some fresh ideas!!

    I do agree with the premis of this post that PC has more to do with it than TM…….it’s hard to argue with that. I think most Oiler fans knew this when he traded Larsen for Hall…….stupid trade is the best way to sum it up!

    • RJ

      The hype was that he was an elite offensive coach. I’d argue that all things considered he’s made them worse.

      Outside of one miraculous game last season where they scored 5 PPGs, the Oilers PP has been no better than it was under Eakins. In fact, I’d say it’s worse because Eakins had no McDavid leading the league in points playing for him.

  • 1)Thought I would watch the Dallas game, that ended before the 1st was over.
    2) Thought I would pack up Oilers memorabilia for the basement after the a**kicking and I did.
    3)Thought I would not watch this tire fire anymore on Sunday, and I did not and will not until they do a REAL forensic audit.

    • Hemmercules

      That new years game was my check-out game. Now the games are just background noise unless the wife is watching something else. After the last 10 years of stressing I have to quit worrying about the Oilers so much. What ever happens happens. We have no control.

      Chia assured us yesterday that no one will be fired and they are going to work it out together. Apparently they have been working on the special teams constantly which is kind of worrisome since they keep getting worse…….

        • Hemmercules

          Last season was a lot of fun, I drove up for a few games and my first ever playoff game and we had a blast every time. They won every game but the playoff game. The game I attended this year was a steaming pile of garbage but for some reason I still had a lot of fun. I think I have finally learned not to let the Oilers get to me so much. I think its time to put the wallet away too. I’m done with the memorabilia and going to multiple games a year.

      • Dapper Dan 3099

        I live in EDMONTON and I wouldn’t drive to Rogers to watch a game at this point…I feel bad since my wife got us tickets to the Vancouver game coming up (and I feel bad telling her it was an awful gift) and I’m dreading having to go watch this dumpster fire live, and have to pay $12 a beer to try and drown my despair….

        • Hemmercules

          Don’t let them get to you, win or lose. Games against Vancouver and Calgary are always good ones too. Enter that building with the mindset that you are going to have a good time no matter what. Drink, eat and waste money. If you go in expecting a bad time the night is over before it begins.

  • Jordan88

    I think there needs to be an evaluation done on player development. How many junior players have we seen trend up and make it to the pro system and then stagnation sets in?

  • madjam

    Miscalculation by GM and staff on internal growth within the team , factored in with new regulations against physical play , combined to see teams fortunes regress rather than move forward this season . Oilers one of the teams most adversely effected by the new rule clampdown , not just the lack of internal growth . Most effected seems to be the widening disparity between the goal differential from last year to this year . Scoring seems stagnant as far as growth concerned , but defensively the team has regressed markedly and are near bottom of league . Despite lack of stellar goaltending , team still lacking defensively . It is doubtful this years watered down caste can play itself out of it’s tailspin . Expected growth never came , except for partial breakthroughs like Nurse and Hopkins have shown to some extent . Which way do Oilers go now , seeing as current caste shows negative signs of being able to move forward ?

    • RJ

      It’s the same problem that Dubnyk had. Quality of shots go up due to poor defensive play and goals against goes up as well.

      Is Talbot just playing worse or is his defencemen allowing a higher quality of shots.Given how many times I’ve read recaps here where the blogger writes we can’t blame Talbot, I’d say the quality of shots has gone up steadily.

  • Archer

    there is either something seriously wrong with this team (internal dissension etc.) or they are playing to get the coach fired, and these are not mutually exclusive

  • ScottV

    Dont like the style of play and the manner in which McL handles certain things like line blending and mass shooting – among several other things.
    Didnt like it last year, even when winning. Talbot had to stand on his head, far too often.
    Poor starts have to do with game management or lack thereof.
    Last game more to do with poor d zone coverage, than poor luck re being down early.

  • OilersDynasty

    Losing guys like Pitlick, Pouliot, and Hendricks is why the PK is atrocious. I don’t know what’s wrong with the PP. Just so many things going wrong. #FallinForDahlin

    • Hemmercules

      Gregor pointed out the other day that missing those guys on the PK likely has little effect. The PK is just bad all round and neither of those guys would save the day.

      I do wonder if they miss Hendricks in the room though? he was very popular and sometimes one guy can be the glue that hold it all together on or off the ice. Too bad Hendy got old and somewhat useless on the ice or they may have kept him around

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    my relationship with this team can be summed up like being in an abusive relationship with some skank who loves to watch you suffer….

    …it all starts when you fall in love with her (the oilers) many years ago and hope to spend the rest of your life in happiness and bliss together, but then she (the oilers) turns into an arrogant and abusive skank…every year you work up the courage to leave her, but she finds the odd moment and convinces you that you still love her and she will change….once she has your attention again, she kicks you in the balls, goes and gets and STD, and then comes back to abuse you again…..just over the last 10 years, I swear this abusive skank (the oilers) has given me PTSD, and I can safely say I drink ALOT more now then I did when I was younger….

  • Vanoil

    Since we are speaking of the GMs shortsightedness; the one glaring miscalculation that is see he made, was thinking that the rest of the league was just going to stand pat and not try and get better. Every other team (including Arizona and Buffalo tried to get better — more skill, more speed, more tenacity, better finish. While Chiarelli thought the OIL were already at the level they needed to be at, then started subtracting. When they re-upped on Russell who struggled in the post-season against big, skilled forwards, and then promoted him in the absence of Sekera, I knew this team would not go any farther than last year. Instead of getting better and replacing the weak link on the back end, they re-upped and got worse. Then they did one better on the offensive side of the puck, and exchanged Eberle (and Desharnais), for Strome and a bought-out Jokinen. In what world did he think all things would remain equal. Sorry, I didn’t like the Reinhart trade, I thought the Hall Trade was short on return, the Eberle trade was senseless … even the Brandon Davidson trade last year didn’t add up for me (nothing against Desharnais, but was he really better than Lander?). Leaving aside the other decisions he made (Lucic, Drai, Pitlick), I simply can’t support the way Chiarelli has steered this ship.