129
Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 12.0: The Yawney Effect (7pm MT, SNW)

The Edmonton Oilers allowed the fifth most goals at 5×5 last season, but they scored the 11th most at 5×5. Scoring goals wasn’t their downfall, preventing them was. Their team defence and goaltending has to improve this season, but they really need an upgrade in play from their defencemen if they want to compete for the playoffs.

The Oilers didn’t add any big-name free agent blueliners in the summer, instead they lost one of their top-five defenders, Andrej Sekera, to an achilles injury. Jason Garrison, Kevin Gravel and rookie Evan Bouchard are the new faces on the ice, but the most important addition the Oilers made to their blueline was hiring Trent Yawney.

Yawney was drafted 45th overall in 1984 by the Chicago Blackhawks. He played 12 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, Calgary Flames and St.Louis Blues before retiring in the spring of 1999. He started his coaching career in the fall of 1999 as an assistant with the Blackhawks and is now eleven games into his 19th season as a coach.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Yawney was a head coach in the AHL for eight years, was the Blackhawks head coach in 2005 and 2006, and he’s been an assistant coach with San Jose and Anaheim. He came to Edmonton with a strong reputation of helping young defenders improve. The Oilers have four D-men dressed tonight who are 25 years and younger, and Bouchard in the press box, and they have really enjoyed their first month with Yawney.

“I coach players how I liked to be coached,” said Yawney. He challenges his players, but he focuses more on what they do well, rather than when they make a mistake.

So far we have seen a major improvement in limiting 5×5 goals. The Oilers allowed 176 last year, but through 11 games this season they’ve only allowed 18, tied for seventh fewest in the NHL. Edmonton has only surrendered two 5×5 goals over the past four games. If they can figure out their PK they’d make life much easier on themselves.

“One thing that stands out about him is his positivity,” said Adam Larsson. “If you’re happy, you’re playing better, that’s just how simple this game is sometimes. It’s a confidence sport and I think he’s very good at building up players. He doesn’t show you ten negative clips if you have a bad game. He tries to build you up again and I think that’s a really good strength for a coach to have. It’s not easy some days, you’re going to have bad nights, but you want that support to bounce back and I think that’s one of the big keys I felt this year.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I asked Matt Benning about his first impressions of Yawney.

“There’s a lot of positivity there, he trusts us, he goes to bat for us and I think that’s an important thing for confidence. He’s been around a long time; he’s played and coached, and done a really good job with younger D-core’s. We’ve got five D-men under 25 years old, so there is a lot of learning still for us. He’s done a great job in maintaining our confidence,” said Benning.

Can you give me an example of how he does this?

“In the first period against Minnesota I made a bad pass in our own zone. I came to the bench after my shift and I was still upset. He calmly leans over and says, ‘Let it go. You made good passes earlier and you’ll make more next shift.’ The next day he doesn’t show that clip on video. He doesn’t even focus on it,” explained Benning.

Larsson shared a similar story.

“I’m really hard on myself. I know when I make a bad play and I don’t like it. Earlier in the year I came back to the bench and slammed the door. I was mad from making a bad play. He let me be frustrated for about 30 seconds then came over and said calmly, ‘Don’t take it with you on your next shift. It’s over.’ He rarely yells or is negative and I’ve found it has really helped me,” said Larsson.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

MORE PASSING

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) skates with the puck during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve noticed a big improvement in the passing from the Oilers defenders this year. Larsson is looking for more tape-to-tape passes rather than just getting the puck out of the zone. Is this part of the Yawney effect?

“He discusses it often,” said Larsson. “And it’s obviously helped the whole team play with confidence. You have more outlet passes that click, more breakout passes that click. It’s more a team thing I think; you can see everyone bringing their pieces to the puzzle, and it all comes down to confidence. I feel good; I have a partner who is healthy and probably at the top of his game. He’s playing extremely good, and that also helps me.”

The partner he is referring to is Oscar Klefbom, who has had a very strong start to the season. I asked Klefbom the difference Yawney has brought to the blueline.

“Just the way he approaches the game,” said Klefbom. “How short the meetings are, and how he approaches the players to be there and show video if you need it, or talk to somebody if we’re not sure. It’s been really different, but really different in a good way. I really like how the communication between him and the players has been so far, and I want to see that develop and be even better.

“We’re off to a really good start and everybody is happy when we’re winning games so it’s very easy to stand here and say everything is great when we’re winning some games, but I think even if we were playing bad hockey and losing games we would still be on the same course and not be panicking. We know we’re capable of playing good hockey and we’ve shown the fans and ourselves. We have all the tools in the tool box we just need to stay on the course and not panic. Our PK has not been good enough at all, but we’re still very calm, and know what to do to fix it. It is small details we need to fix and how we have our meetings and communication I’m confident we will fix our PK,” said Klefbom.

Yawney isn’t a magician, so he couldn’t fix all of last season’s issues in eleven games. The 5×5 defence was a major concern and so far it has been much better, and arguably the strength of the team thus far.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Quick passing is the key. Yawney discusses different things with different players, and with Benning he has focused on moving the puck quickly. He calls it the three second rule. He encouraged the same rule with Josh Manson in Anaheim and last year Manson told me that helped him a lot. Just thinking 1-2-3, move the puck.

“Yeah, it sounds harsh but it makes sense,” said Benning.” Get the puck and get it off your stick, and I think he’s totally right. You see the play, you make the play. In this league everything is so fast that if you see a play, and are hoping to make a better play, then the first play is closed. I think that has helped me in moving my feet and moving pucks quicker and then let the forwards do work.”

Darnell Nurse spent his summer working with skills coach Adam Oates on improving his puckhandling and building his confidence on making plays in the offensive zone. Nurse has had a good start and he feels Yawney’s approach to coaching works well with his personality.

“You can always clean things up, but he doesn’t try to overcorrect things,” said Nurse. “Bad reads are going to be made, and you can learn from them, and anyone who plays in this league knows when they make a bad play and when they don’t. It’s trying to limit those, and not trying to over-correct everyone’s game and that’s been huge for us. He’s been great for us as a D-core so far, we need to continue to grow and I believe he’s a great guy to show us the ropes,” Nurse said.

The Oilers defensive position has been much better early this season, and the defenders are moving the puck quicker and more accurately. It helps that the forwards are in better positions, and are giving the D-men better outlets to move the puck, but from my seat the passing from the blueline has improved significantly.

The blueline combined to produce 1.57 points-per-game last season, and so far this year they are averaging 1.72 points/game as a D corps. It is slight improvement, and only over eleven games, but if it continues it means they will have 15 more points and they’d be back at the offensive level they were in 2017 when they produced 1.70 points/game.

LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Caggiula
Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson
Lucic-Strome-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Benning-Bouchard

Koskinen

Mikko Koskinen gets his first home start after defeating Nashville on Saturday. He will play one of the back-to-back games v. Washington or Tampa Bay next week as well and could get in a rhythm and give Talbot some rest. If he keeps winning he will likely play more frequently.

I don’t really understand all those upset because Drake Caggiula is skating on the top line for one game. Ty Rattie skated hard again today and is very close to returning. He is hopeful he will be ready Saturday in Detroit, so Caggiula is just holding his spot for a game. I see no issue with this.

Jesse Puljujarvi hasn’t played very well this year, even the most staunch Puljujarvi fan would begrudgingly agree to this, and like all the other forwards who were a healthy scratch this season he will return to the lineup in the bottom six. He should be. He needs to get comfortable doing the small things: reading the play, making good passes and when he is going for the puck, taking an extra stride instead of fishing and reaching.

I see him having a much better chance of playing better against Brandon Manning and Brandon Davidson than going up against Duncan Keith, which happens when you play with McDavid. Caggiula has played better this season than Puljujarvi. Period. One bad defensive decision v. Minnesota doesn’t change that. Caggiula isn’t a regular top-six forward, no debate there, but Puljujarvi hasn’t shown he is either and this season Caggiula has played better. The players know how is playing well and who isn’t.

It wouldn’t make much sense to me to play Puljujarvi on the top line for one game, and then put him on the third line when Rattie returns. Even if Puljujarvi has an okay or good game, it would feel like a demotion.

Blackhawks

Saad-Anisimov-Kane
Debrincat-Toews-Kahun
Fortin-Johnson-Schmaltz
Kampf-Kruger-Hayden

Keith-Jokiharju
Gustafsson-Seabrook
Manning-Davidson

Ward

The Blackhawks have allowed 3.62 goals/game (7th worst in NHL) thus far. They lost last night in Vancouver and Patrick Kane, if he plays, is battling an illness. The Oilers need to take advantage of a tired opponent playing their backup. They had a great start v. Minnesota, and despite firing 21 shots in the first period they only scored once. They need another good start and have to exploit and the Hawks second and third D pairings.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Second City Hockey:

All eyes will be on Jonathan Toews, as the captain is one goal away from tallying his 300th career NHL goal. Toews has not scored in Edmonton since 2014, but that just means he’s due for a big night. He has seven goals in 13 games this season.

Cam Ward will likely start in net for the Hawks (6-4-3) after Corey Crawford made 24 saves against the Canucks. Ward has looked ordinary in his last few starts, averaging a little more than 35 saves a game with a 4.2 goals-against average. His last appearance was admirable though, as Ward made 24 saves Sunday against Edmonton in Chicago.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers continue to play well at 5×5 and win 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid sets a new career high with a goal in his sixth consecutive game.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Seven Oilers have played 10+ games this year and don’t have a goal. Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, Jujhar Khaira, Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Rieder and Ryan Strome. They have a fun bet between them with all throwing in $200 in the pot. First guy to score wins the pot. Russell scores and on the bench he flashes the Johnny Manziel “money” sign when looking at his teammates.

GDB BROUGHT TO YOU BY COLLIN BRUCE MORTGAGE TEAM

Find out why so many people are using Dominion Lending Centres #1 broker in Canada.
We are paid by the banks on the size of the mortgage, not the interest rate, so we try to get you as low as rate as we can. Whether it is a purchase, renewal or refinance, contact us to see what we can do to help!

Recently by Jason Gregor:


  • OilCan2

    I like the add of veteran experience and a calm voice in Yawney. Just spend the money; no trade , no draft pick to give up. Just improve the team (D) a lot. Day to day roster calls are just that. No panic. When someone gets banged up a bit Jesse will slide in. He has the team practises going and really showed well in the pre season. If two of Rattie, Yamo & Jesse crank it way up this season its a BIG WIN.

  • Randaman

    JG, you see no issue with Caggiula for some unknown reason. Is he a relative? His results don’t speak to his effort, I’ll give you that but maybe that is because in the NHL he is nothing more than a fourth line winger. He’s horrible on the PK and doesn’t go to the net half as often as Yamamoto does.

    • 99OilersFan

      Cags is on the top line for 1 (one, single) game… did you miss that? He’s a placeholder, nothing more. JP is on the 3rd line where he belongs, as is Chiasson. What are the alternatives here smart guy?

      • The Ghost of Alex Plante

        Doesn’t matter if he’s just a placeholder, every game counts and he somehow manages to turn McDavid into a 3rd liner in terms of a goals, shots and scoring chances perspective 5-on-5. Seriously, he’s that bad with McDavid. The alternative would be to keep Yamamoto in that spot for this game until Rattie is back. What are your thoughts on that smart guy?

      • Khaira , Kassian, anybody else really, he should be in the press box after the last miserable performance, I don’t question his effort at all, the talent just is not there to be moving him up the line up. He cost us the last game , and he gets rewarded? Back ass word as my grandpa used to say.

    • AJ88

      You must be a relative of trainwreck and spider. The three Daryl’s definitely have all fallen from the same tree. Losses only make you guys happier because it is much easier to criticize and the only thing you are capable of.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Hearing Benning’s and Larsson’s experience with Yawney reminds me of a clip from the first game of the 15-16 season. Hallsy makes a bad play and Todd comes over, pats Hallsy on the back, and says something in his ear.

    Having a coach who does this is probably a very positive thing, because it lets the players forget their mistakes almost immediately.

    • SRELIOFAN

      No, he can be here for more than 9 games, he just can’t PLAY in 9 games without wasting a year of his ELC.

      I agree though. If he’s not playing here might as well send him back to London and let him destroy the OHL.

  • yahsper

    NSOGDP
    Caggiula gets 2 points and the fan base demands he stays up on the topline. ON commenters erupt with Drake bandwagoners claiming they believed in him all along.
    In all seriousness. I like Caggiula and hope he takes advantage of this opportunity to contribute to a win.

  • OilersBro

    I am gonna call the NSOGDP with Strome scoring. His line has been strong with Lucic and will get better with Jesse. Everyone in the stadium could hear him drop that F-Bomb after ringing it off the iron on Tuesday. He’s came close and has been snakebitten this season and last. Regardless, I’m rooting for the guy to have a bounce back game!

  • JayTee

    “I don’t really understand all those upset because Drake Caggiula is skating on the top line for one game. Ty Rattie skated hard again today and is very close to returning. He is hopeful he will be ready Saturday in Detroit, so Caggiula is just holding his spot for a game. I see no issue with this.”

    Uhhh because he pretty much cost us the game against Minny and gets promoted to the first line. That’s why we’re F’n pissed.

    • This is exactly why when T Mac talks about accountability , we know it is just a bunch of hot air. If that had been Jesse , he would probably banish him to the minors to the rest of the season. Accountability and Oilers do not belong in the same sentence.

    • Jason Gregor

      He wasn’t on the 0-for-5 PP…Yes he ended up wrong side of Spurgeon. As for the people who think that was a bad penalty. Go watch the replay. He lifted the guys stick. And the guy sold it and fell into the net. If you think that is a bad penalty then we disagree, as did his coaches and teammates. All thought it was a BS call.

  • lee

    Putting Caggiula on the first line pretty much says it all. It seems TM is determined to give this player choice minutes. JP makes a mistake and is benched. Caggiula makes a big mistake and is rewarded.
    Tod loves to say everyone is treated the same, I don’t see it.

  • camdog

    The problem with the Oilers defence is that if any of the top 4 get banged up they are in trouble. Last year Klefbom looked poor because his shoulder looked like it was bothering him. Larsson looked poor because of his back. I have no doubt that Yawney is a better D-man coach then we have had in years, however if anybody in the top 4 gets banged up, the defence can look like last seasons defence pretty quickly.

    • Spydyr

      It looks to me like the players are putting in a better effort with less passengers every game. That might have something to do with the teams improvement as well.

  • Golstain

    Why does Todd love Drake so much? Yamo was doing fine, Id also like to see Chaisson in place of Lucic on the first PP he’s much better at screening the goalie and can finish.

  • The future never comes

    I think Caggs has played pretty well for 80% of this season. This is one game, not a big deal. He generally buzzes around the net for rebounds and forechecks/throws hits which could free up some extra space. Would I rather someone else be there, yes, but the sky isn’t falling. Rattie will be there Saturday regardless, unless a freak scenario where Caggs got a hat trick tonight.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Agreed, didn’t Caggs score two a few games back? I don’t disagree with whats being said about him completely. But he is playing much better than last year.

      • The future never comes

        Yeah, the games prior to that he was playing great too. I jump on players too but let’s wait until hes actually playing bad when it’s more warranted.

        • OilersBro

          He’s had one bad game haha – every other game he’s been rostered he’s been one of our more tenacious forwards. Give him another chance, the mistakes he’s made have never been about effort.

  • My take on Bouchard is if this team is playing well and fighting for spot I would like him to stay. I think he has played well enough and earned it. My concern is if we have another year like last year I don’t want him around.

  • Hemmercules

    I hope JP plays so bad that they send him down tomorrow OR he plays so good he’s gets a hat trick and actually earns a spot on the to 6 for the rest of the season. Nothing in between. They need to make a decision on this guy.

    • Bills Bills

      I trashed this 22 times. Make a decision to play him on the third line with second unit PP time for the next 20 games. Let him develop in a role suited to him at this time of his development, which is not in the top 6. EVERY PLAYER develops in the NHL every single one. The difference is how. Are they put in positions to succeed as they figure out the NHL? Or are they put in positions to fail and fall flat on their face until they figure things out or are moved out of the league or to another team? I have a pretty good idea which one produces better results. Unfortunately I also know which one the Oilers have been using for far too long.

  • Orm Nullman

    My take after reading JG’s article and all the comments is that if Trent Yawney coached the way the glass half empty crowd commented the Oiler’s defence would be playing like last year, their record would be worse and the comments section would be an absolute $h1t show.

  • GK1980

    So Sekera is not playing this year. Does his salary still cou t against the cap? If not isn’t there like 5 million available to grab a good D man? Probably silly question I’m just curiousz

    • Alsker

      Management has said he’ll be back this season(based on stats I believe) which is why they can’t use his LTIR $ for a replacement. Unfortunate but is what it is. Now if they’re wrong + he won’t return there will be hell to pay!!!

  • Bills Bills

    I don’t know that JP has been bad. But he needs to stay on that 3rd line with Strome and Lucic. Get used to some line-mates and get in a rhythm. He played a good game and got bumped up, didn’t play well and was bumped right out of the lineup It was dumb and made no sense. Hope he can play the next 20 games on the third line and develop his game at a challenging but not overwhelming level.

    As for the D, I think the wingers coming lower into the zone and providing support along the boards has made a huge difference. I get the 1-2-3 make a play. In Bennings case it was more like, get this thing off my stick. He never made plays, I don’t think he would even lift his head when he got the puck, it was off the boards and given away.

    Puck support and dedication to playing a system is what will make this team competitive on a nightly basis. If you can ad determination and desperation into that equation, we will have a team worth watching and not causing us all fits of rage and anger

    Strome will score tonight.