Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

McLellan discusses disappointing season

Todd McLellan addressed a number of topics in his end-of-the-year media avail this morning.

The Oilers have a lot of areas to improve and McLellan will be in charge of looking for solutions. He spoke today like someone who knows he will be back next season. I expect he will be, but there will be some changes to the Oilers coaching staff.

McLellan will have some say in who stays or goes, but he ultimately won’t have the final say.

“There is a flowchart when it comes to evaluation. There is an owner, President and Manager and they look at the head coach and the assistants. We have to look at everything,” said McLellan.

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I expect McLellan to return. Ian Herbers was the fourth coach on the staff, and I’m not sure how much coaching he was able to do. He likely won’t have his contract renewed, and I do wonder how much input he had. Jim Johnson runs the defence and the penalty kill, and I sense he won’t be back. Jay Woodcroft is 50/50 at this point.

McLellan and Woodcroft have worked together since 2005/2006 in Detroit. They were on the same staff for three years in Detroit, then moved to San Jose when McLellan got the head coaching job in 2008, and came to Edmonton three years ago. They have spent 13 years together. They know each other very well, and Woodcroft knows what McLellan needs, but you wonder if it is time for a change. Sometimes a new voice is needed.

Regardless of who is on the staff, I expect McLellan will be here and I asked him what he will be looking to improve on as a coach and a staff.

“Sometimes it is important to have experience. I’ve been in the league a long time and I keep a little notebook with notes going back to 2005. I can open up and see notes from training camp every year and compare what we did well and what we didn’t do well. Did we like the presentation? Did the players get the message? We try and takes bits and pieces from the past. Now, 2005 is too far back, but the last three years I can see what we liked and what we didn’t,” replied McLellan.

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He then when into specific areas he will look at.

“Then we look at where we are systematically. Do we need to alter or adjust? We dramatically changed our penalty kill and that’s what the results were from down the stretch. We will look (this summer) at our power play, our five-on-five play, the presentation of our ideas, both on and off the ice. The accountability factor. Our we overaggressive, or under aggressive? Are we going after the right players? Are we rewarding the right players? That is not just our hockey club, every team will do this, but the performance of the team is on my shoulders and I accept responsibility for it.

“The first thing I have to do, before looking at the players, is to look in the mirror and evaluate what I’m seeing, and whether or not I like what I did this season or not and how I need to adjust,” said McLellan.

Good coaches adapt and learn every year. McLellan will not be satisfied with his performance, however, we won’t know how many changes, systematically and personnel-wise, he will make until we see the Oilers in training camp. But you should expect some changes to the coaching staff.


Jan 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (11) attempts to control the puck against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) and defenseman Andrej Sekera (2) and goalie Cam Talbot (33) during the second period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

It is clear Kris Russell plays better on the left side than on the right. He is much more effective on his forehand than his backhand, but the problem the Oilers have is they have four left shot defenders. Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are the top-two left D right now, and ideally, Peter Chiarelli will find a way to move out one of Andrej Sekera or Russell. Both have a full no-movement clause until next summer, so one of them will have to waive it, or the Oilers will consider a buyout.

The latter is not ideal.

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Sekera has three years remaining at $5.5 million. If they bought him out, he’d be a $1.61 million cap hit next season, then a $2.61m cap hit for two years and then back to $1.61 million for the final three seasons. The Oilers would create $3.88m in cap space next season, $2.88 the following two years and have three years of dead cap space at $1.61 million.

Russell has three years remaining at $4 million. His buyout cap hit is different. He’d only be a $611,111 next year, then $1.1 million the following year, and a $3.61 million in the third year. The Oilers could create $3.38 million in cap space next year, then $2.88 million in year two and only $388,889 in year three. The final three years he’d created dead cap space of $1.1 million.

It is fair to question why Peter Chiarelli signed Russell to a four-year deal knowing they already had three left shooting D-men. Russell is a proven NHL defender, but right now the Oilers have too many left D, and their two oldest, who combine for $9.5 million in cap space are the third and fourth best left defenders. Chiarelli created the problem, and I’m curious to see if he can fix it this off-season.


“This year was easier than last season. They weren’t waking up three or four times a night. They were a non-factor in my season,” said Cam Talbot on suggestions being a father led to his struggles. Talbot was quite emphatic about it, and I agree with him. There are many young fathers in the NHL and in the workforce and none would, or should, suggest kids are the reason they struggled, especially when last season his twins were newborns would have been much harder. Anyone who has had kids will tell you the first six months is the most tiring, because they don’t sleep regularly.

Andrej Sekera is hoping to play for Slovakia at the World Championships. He didn’t play very much this year and wants to play some more games. He will need to get the green light from doctors, but his plan, yesterday when we spoke, was he was going to play. The Worlds don’t start for another three weeks.

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I also expect the Oilers to make a coaching change in Bakersfield. Gerry Fleming’s contract is up and I sense there will be changes. One coaching name to watch for is Manny Viveiros. He is the current head coach and GM in Swift Current. I could see him moving to the AHL as a head coach, or possibly an assistant in the NHL if he wishes. He will be sought after by many NHL organizations.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      Right now I don’t feel too bad about the current d core (when healthy), unless there is a significant upgrade (unlikely to be available for anything less that a major over payment) and Sekera is willing to wave. Otherwise I agree with your statement, the current d core should be good enough to get this team into the playoffs.

  • DannyGallivan

    Clearly coaching is an issue Worst PP at 14.8% and 25th PK at 76.7%. Last year 22.9% and 80.7%. Generational talent in McJesus and very good offensive players like RNH and Drai. Last year was the base for improvement.
    I agree the PP and PK improved late in the year but to start with 22.9% and 80.7% and collapse as they did is horrible. They should have been ready to go when the puck dropped last fall and they weren’t.

    Off with their heads! (If it ain’t Chia nor TM this year then others – next year will mean Chia and TM if they don’t improve dramatically)

    • 24% body fat

      well 5 lefties on the first pp is smart. i mean lucic and his useless hands and inability to get to loose puck before the defenders is always good. and caggulias complete lack of skill helps too. so much better than a hard right handed shot opposite of 97 like strome slep or JP

  • Consultant

    So another off-season for Chia to clean up his mess from the previous year? Or perhaps it is just another year to continue making a mess?
    Will he be allowed to make it four years in a row wearing the GM goat horns with the worst trade of the summer? Chia must go now, all else is secondary.

  • Consultant

    So another off-season for Chia to clean up his mess from the previous year? Or perhaps it is just another year to continue making a mess?
    Will he be allowed to make it an unprecedented four years in a row wearing the GM goat horns with the worst trade of the summer? Chia must go now, all else is secondary.

  • 24% body fat

    so we talk about two of the problems. sekera and russel. i bet on sekera bouncing back. so ditch russel. no mention of how bad caggulia is. he is an nhl replacement player at best and he is deployed in all 3 situations. any correlation with a bad pp and bad pk. his usage is strange.

    as well. signing russell with 3 other nhl lefties. ya we all knew it was a bad decision. the same as we all knew trading for another left d 3 years ago who had only played 15 games in the nhl was horrible to.

    why is it everyone who follows the oilers except the three or four media guys closest to the team see how bad these moves are but management cant.

    because punching players in the face is more important than skill. Heavy hockey is outdated.

    skill without will is still an nhl player. will without skill is not.

  • lee

    With all the mistakes and just plain stubbornness that this coaching showed, bringing them back shows the fans that ownership is ok with this terrible leadership that the coaches showed.

  • crabman

    The Oilers had probably their most disappointing season in franchise history. I’ll be disappointed to see McLellan back next year but if he is joined by an all new assistant coaching group it will be a little easier to swallow. I know familiarity can be a good thing in management but sometimes people get too comfortable together and start to group think too much. Having assistants that can challenge the way McLellan thinks and add a new perspective might not only be good for the Oilers but for McLellan as a coach as well. It is hard to continue to learn and grow in your chosen profession when you are surrounded by the same people and aren’t being challenged to look at things different from time to time.

    Riding the team of either Sekera or Russell may prove to be difficult this offseason. If Sekera never got hurt and would waive his NTC I think there would be a number of teams that would take him. The problem now is the uncertainty of his future. 3 years left on a player who hasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery will be a tough sell. I can only assume the Oilers will need to eat a good portion of his salary just to have a couple of teams take interest.
    As far as Russell’s contract goes, after the Oilers poor season it looks even worse. I didn’t like it the day it was signed because of the abundance of LHD already under contract. He played well enough this year and I believe he lived up to his contract this year. But the Oilers still lost and now we have a potential bottom pair costing the team $9.5M all with NTC. I have to believe that if Chiarelli knew that the Oilers were not going to be competitive this year he would just be non competitive with someone like Franson on a 1 year contract and regroup this summer. The fact that we are even considering a buyout just 1 year removed from signing a contract looks really bad on Chiarelli and just reinforces the reasons some people hated this deal from day one. And that is after Russell had a pretty good year.

    What I still see happening, but don’t want it to happen, is Chiarelli moving Nurse or Klefbom, probably Klefbom, for help now at either RD or on the wing and counting on 1 of Russell or Sekera to hold down the 2LD spot then trade 1 the following off season when they only have a MNTC. Rob the future to try and solve an immediate problem and hopefully his job. Desperate GMs make desperate moves and he needs to turn this team around next year.

    And I agree the kids aren’t/shouldn’t be Talbot’s problem. It is a young man’s league filled with young fathers and not everyone had a bad year.

    • OilerForLife

      Russell and Sekera were both picked up in free agency, and ultimately any team that does this overpays in amount and term. No GM will be able to unload them at this point without taking less talent or assuming part of their wages. In fact; due to his injury Sekera not only has a NMC, but moving him is a moot point.This does nothing to move the team forward.
      The best and only option might be is to hold these two players. If Russell has a better year, and Sekera recovers then lets burn another couple of years and re-evaluate.

      The Oilers need to develop more D men as they did with Klefbom and Nurse and wait. This is by far the least expensive option in acquiring top defensemen Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we have McDavid for a long time, and we have nothing but time.

    • Oil Can

      Very well written. I would only say that if Klefbom were to be traded for a right shot/side d-man. It would balance the defence better and the Oil would still have left shot/side d-men developing in the system.(Jones) and some others. Could Klefbom bring back a guy like Faulk from Carolina, or someone like that.


    There is no reason to buy any player out on this roster, that would be again mismanagement of the cap space i.e. Benoit Pouliot. Thank you Chia Again. This mess that chia has created can only be fixed via trades and selling off talent. I would hope that the Oiler’s have taken away all decisions away from Chia at this point.

    • 24% body fat

      no reason to buy out at all. sit lucic in the press box until he requests a trade. tham lucic and a 3rd for a 7tj to a team that needs cap hit and veterans.

      or maybe the CBA will allow for compliance buyouts.

  • madjam

    GM.s first priority is quality control , and thus , Chia most responsible for mess of the club this year . All the rest is because of his dealings made team weaknesses more prevalent than team and coaching staff could handle . Going into next season with little change will just replicate this seasons miseries .

  • madjam

    What we seen from Talbot this year is what we can expect next year unless they get a better defence and forwards that are more NHL worthy than AHL worthy . Talk so far leads one to think the management going to do little to shore up either , and may make things even worse for next year by doing so .

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    Actually the first three months are the easiest. Yes, babies wake up to eat every three to four hours but the go back to sleep. Its when they forget how to get back to sleep the fun (nightmare) begins. It starts around 3-6 months and last until their 3-4 years old. I have four kids BTW so I know what I’m talking about.

    My kids impacted my job performance so for Talbot to imply that it never is him being a good father. Trust me, if effected him on some level.

  • VK63

    Coach Todd’s responses can safely be collected into one tidy pigeon hole.
    Traditional neanderthal.

    Just mind numbing that the plan, as it appears, is to fix, “the players wilted under the expectations of external pressure” with… my old notebook.

    This isn’t freaking golf and you aren’t Harvey freaking Penick; Todd.

    Just wow.

  • madjam

    How much faith do fans have in the rhetoric of management , coaches or even players turning things around next season ? I would think about 33% -right where they finished this year in bottom third of league .

  • “Cam Talbot on suggesting that being a father led to his struggles.”

    I like that you cleared this up. I think an off year and struggling defense are more to blame.

    Also, there is a large car dealership in the Lower Mainland and their way of dealing with failure is this: Every salesman starts every month with zero sales and at the end of the month, the salesperson with the lowest sales gets fired. No exceptions.
    Someone has to pay the price for failure.

  • Odanada

    Connor McDavid deserves a lot more than It took most of the season to improve the PP…. but it is better…..I have notebooks…. Chia will make assistant coach hiring decisions…..

  • CMG30

    What should happen is that everyone from the GM down loses their jobs. What will happen is that a token assistant no one has heard of will be sacrificed to appease the unwashed rabble.

  • The Future Never Comes

    As I have said previously before, Todd is a great speaker but actually commands little to no results/improvements from his team. This is disappointing to hear he and his coaches will most likely be back. So now to wait for the firing of Herbers, who probably has little to no input and the hiring of Paul Coffey in his place. This will be paraded around as if this was the only change that needed to happen. I really cannot see any justification to keep any of these knobs around. We all know the crappy stats they yielded, but how about the no show performances for 40-50% of the games. I don’t want a guy in charge that has shown no ability to demand the best effort from his players at all times. It’s been proven they can collectively take nights off for games at a time with no resolution. Garbage. He writes diaries in his notebook, how cute to lead an NHL franchise. Any notes in there about how to actually create a accountable culture on the ice.

  • slats-west

    Heh Todd maybe break out that book a little sooner than the end of the season to make some drastic changes to at least on one thingif things aren’t going well.

    Like your PK you either didn’t give the players enough time to work on this new system and understand it or it was a bad system. Try something different with DIFFERENT people.

    Same for PP. Letestu??? Really? 4th line centre on your PP who wins a draw 51% yeah sure but guess what he did not have enough skill for an NHL PP and he lost 100% of puck battles leading to defending team to ice puck so your face off specialist advantage was completely useless. You didn’t make a change until he was traded. Point for next year 20G of poor performance is good enough sample sizeto change things and crack open the book.

    And Ditch Woodcroft. Sorry.

  • BingBong

    At this point our defense is the biggest problem. I don’t think it makes any sense to buy out Sekera or Russell; they can both still be useful players.
    The problem is nobody has any idea how they will perform next year. Same with Klefbom, and Nurse to a lesser extent.

    If Sekera is healthy, he’s a legit 1st pairing guy. If not, he’s useless. I have no problem with playing Russell on his right side on the 3rd pair, despite the money he makes. He’s still a useful player.

    I don’t really see how Chiarelli will manage to bring in another top 4 d-man – maybe he makes a bold trade – but I’m guessing we might be going into training camp with the same defense corps and hopefully everybody will be healthy.

    And Benning better not be in the top 6 next year.