Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

Former Oiler, Iiro Pakarinen, blasts organization for lack of communication

Former Oiler, Iiro Pakarinen, didn’t mince words when speaking to the Finnish website MTV Uutiset over the weekend about what it was like to play for the Edmonton Oilers during his four years here and it was the coaching staff that seemed to draw his ire. In the interview, Pakarinen claims that the Oilers have a serious lack of communication between the coaching staff and players and that it’s a problem that was very “irritating” during his time here. Could it be true? Let’s find out together.

Pakarinen, who spent parts of four seasons in Edmonton before signing with Metallurg Magnitogorsk this past summer, was asked about his time with the organization and what he thought of Jesse Puljujarvi’s recent demotion to the Bakersfield Condors.

As it turns out, Pakarinen didn’t seem all that surprised based on his own experiences with the current regime. From his standpoint, there was very little communication between the coaching staff and players which was frustrating to deal with and kept them guessing as to why they were in the doghouse.

Keep in mind, I translated the quotes in Google so there is a real possibility that something got lost in translation, but you get the idea:

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They don’t say anything or talk to you about why you’re not playing. At least the Oilers never did. That’s what annoyed me the most.

Wait a minute… you’re telling me that McLellan would pull you from the lineup without so much as a conversation? No reason or anything? Did you ask why you weren’t playing? Telephones work both ways, bro. Regardless, this all seems weird to me. Go on.

Coach never gives you a reason or reasons. You have to figure it out why you’re sitting in the press box by yourself. Also, in general, the coach and GM talked to us very little. It’s almost like they have some top secret information. I think it’s unfathomable.

I mean, I understand why you guys wouldn’t talk to Chiarelli all that often, he’s the GM and has to oversee more than just day-to-day operations, but not speaking to coach does seem very odd to me. Shouldn’t these guys have some kind of open door policy in place to make sure that everyone is on the same page?

Communication should be more open like it is in Europe. Here it goes like it should. In the NHL, it feels like the coach is one great ego. Of course the coach will talk to the players about random things, but never about anything personal or things related to your own game.

Ahhhhh, so in Pakarinen’s eyes, Coach Todd isn’t one of those buddy-buddy type of coaches that wants to know what you got up to on the weekend. He’s more of a ‘nuts and bolts’ kinda guy that only cares about the job at hand. You know what? I can see that. Todd McLellan doesn’t seem like the kind of coach that will get up on the tables with you to belt out Closing Time at the end of the night, ya know? But I also don’t think it’s only the “hey how are ya” conversations that were missing, he makes it seem like there’s something more there.

At NHL it feels like the head coach is a great ego. Of course, the head coach is going to talk to some of the players about something else, but never really personally, about any jokes. There’s never to say anything about it if it does not play. It remained the most irritating thing in the mind.

Okay, so this just took a turn now. So Iiro thinks that McLellan cares more about his own ego than giving the players some of his time on a personal level? That would be a problem, if true. I know Coach Todd doesn’t like when us mouth-breathing bloggers give him advice or feedback but to withhold information or dialogue with his own players?

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On the flip side, I was just looking at Pakarinen’s stat line from his time here and maybe, just maybe he should have had a better idea of why he wasn’t in the lineup? I mean, if you shit in your pants, do we really have to have a conversation for you to realize that you stink? Maybe? Anybody? I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on here.

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At the end of the day, it sucks to hear former players take shots at the organization after they’ve left no matter who it is or for what reason. Part of me feels like maybe Pakarinen is a little bit salty about how things worked out here, but he’s also not the first one to complain about a lack of communication with Todd McLellan. Back in April of 2015, Joe Thornton also hinted at McLellan’s lack of communication with his players which makes it seem like there could be something there that needs to be addressed.

Then again, how many of us normies have personal relationships with our own bosses, though very few of us would ever spend as much time together that these guys do. All I know for sure is that it’s never a great look when a former player takes shots at an organization after they’ve left, and that, if true, the lack of communication between coach, management, and players is something that should definitely be addressed. How? I don’t have the answer. Fixing this problem would take a conversation which is something that isn’t allegedly happening in the first place.

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What do you guys think?

  • bcoil

    If not being able to be buddy buddy with the coach and going out to beers with him is the reason he is not in Edmonton any more I have to wonder why he isn’t on some other team ,Hmmmm maybe its his skill level

  • camdog

    I’ve always been under the impression that (in the NHL) the role of the assistant coaches is to be the go to between the players and the head coach. Todd’s guys got removed last year. I’m hoping the situation has improved with the new assistants.

  • ellebee

    Yes!! This.. all of this…
    This style of coaching isn’t working for this group of players. Random press box games, the linemate merry-go-round & player berating post game interviews aren’t working. You can’t leave all the communication up to a frustrated 21 year old captain. This is the team you’ve got, you’ve lost them, time for a new coach.

  • Odanada

    I think that GM Chia and, by extension, TM are not the best at asset management.
    It’s a lot easier to be confident in the coach and GM when the team is winning…..
    I mean, really, it’s their team. I dutifully watch (and marvel at McDavid) but I am not privy to all the inside info. I judge the team strictly on effort and performance and if I say so myself, there are some pretty weak links.

  • Mantooth

    I don’t know what you’re point is here Baggedmilk, at trying to belittle what this man is saying. He was asked direct questions about the organization and I feel he answered them as honestly as he can. I don’t know what you were reading into his answers but what I took from it, is the fact that he wasn’t given any direction on what he needed to be working on, what he needed to be watching while in the press box and what would make him a successful NHLer. That is a recipe for disaster in my opinion and I see it happening with our young prospects. These are young men who want to improve. They sit a night or 2 and they come back making the same mistakes. That right there tells me that there is a huge disconnect between players and our coaching staff. Thank god yamo and pupu were sent down and I hope to god they don’t get recalled until TM is gone. Unfortunately that means our team is in the toilet once again…..
    So grow up Baggedmilk, you’re just embarrassing yourself with your condescending take on what he said.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Yikes… You can believe whatever you want, but hockey isn’t a mystery, or some labyrinth requiring special unspoken knowledge to successfully navigate. Then again, you are the one with the crystal ball, so I guess you know what Todd says/doesn’t say to his players.

    • Vanoil

      All of this. I don’t know who “Baggedmilk” is, but I doubt anyone takes him seriously, nor do I think he wishes to be taken seriously, by the very moniker he chose to go by. I tuned in not for his interludes, but for the takeaways from Iiro, who was a solid team first guy here, who wasn’t given the time of day beyond a cameo notwithstanding his European resume. Gives good insight into the locker-room dynamics between staff and player though.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    This doesn’t surprise me, listen to TMc in his interviews. When he speaks you have to try interpret what he is saying. When somebody speaks to you don’t you like it to be black and white and to the point. I do find arrogance in the way TMc conducts himself. Just my opinion tho.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Todd’s ego seems to get in the way of good decision making. It explains why our number 1 picks regress. They are confused and end up not playing the game with their talent, but with fear of making a mistake and ending up stapled to the press is pine.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I was so relieved the other day when a different wrap picture was used… Sigh.

    Cheapshots @Baggedmilk aside, if Pak’s comments are translated well I think they reek like a bush league dressing room. I played hockey from Whitemud West peewee until AJHL and never had a true “player’s coach” (if that is even a real thing). He’s not in the NHL, Todd is. I think that fact speaks louder than the interview.

  • Pakarinen seemed to take Poolparty’s “demotion” harder then Jesse actually did. Im not going to call him sour grapes or anything because his concerns are legit, this organization is far from perfect and Todd’s problems are more then well-documented. Did Iiro expect a full conversation and breakdown everytime he was a healthy scratch though? He was either an AHL callup or 13th forward his entire career here and never scored more then 13 points in a season. Was it really hard for him to understand the role of a depth player? Did he bother to ask questions either?

  • corky

    If youre not getting constructive feedback, thats a legit issue. If your not having touchy feely convos, stop being a snowflake. Coach only has so much time and a full plate. Babysitting shouldnt be one of his duties.

      • The Beej

        I agree. Its part of leadership. Communication is one of the skills of leadership. A coach is expected to be a leader and someone the players can talk to and trust. Anyone with even a smidge of leadership training knows this.

        Either TM is just not doing his job or he doesnt even know what he is supposed to be doing.

        Whats the point of going through a rebuild(s) and having all these young players if you dont try to develop them.

        TM has never been a developmental coach. So Chia got the hire wrong.

        Either hire a developmental coach or hire one for Bakersfield and let the young players stay down there.

  • Oil DAWG

    Sounds like the same crap that happens in most organizations or workplaces… nothing new here. At the end of the day it’s up to you to ask questions if you feel you need the proper direction or explanation.

    • The Beej

      I find this funny because you are actually advocating for a lack of success. Have things actually gotten so bad in this city that rather than strive for a winner we will now just turn in our tails and support and be advocates for this crap from the Oilers org?

  • ubermiguel

    I’ve known lots of people like this I working life. “The boss is a jerk and has it in for me.” Yeah, it’s because you suck at your job, aren’t self-aware enough to see it and ignore managers when they tell you.

  • Svart kaffe

    “Then again, how many of us normies have personal relationships with our own bosses”

    Maybe not, but we all have had some good and bad bosses. Picture some of them before you and see where Pete & Todd fits in. I hope some of the trouble went away with the change of assistants though.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    This is the problem with TM I believe, when TM gets a question from the media about a player whther that be Milan, Jesse, Strome Benning TM doesn’t really answer the question he speaks in generalitiesnever really answering the question more of a tap dance around.

    Look when the media was asking TM pointed question about Jesse and him sitting out and what problems does he see in Jesse’s play and what not, TM didnt even want to talk about he tried to deflect it off and the more they asked the more pissed he got.

    Coaches at any level need to communicate to the players on the ice and off it, it’s what they do. if the coach wants to sit you thru half a period or a whole period to send a message , the player gets it right away.

    No one says it has to be a love in, but from TM down to the assistants it is up to them all to communicate to the players what they expect and what is lacking. TM isn’t great at communication I think this goes with the assistants to from last year., and this was a huge issue last year.

    Think about how terrible the oilers were, what problems did most of us see? Problem with zone breakouts, problems with the PK and the system and players being used, same with the PP, Talbot going down to early and staying there too long, Benning a tire fire all last year, Cagguila just terrible last year, Kassian invisable, Strome didnt get going till the season was over, Letestu, seroious breakdowns pn the PK, Maroon losing the man in front of the net costing us more than a handful of goals, Lucic slow and frustrated,

    There were a ton of issue last year, did anyone see anything getting fixed, did it look like they had a heart to heart on the problems with their game, hell no. There is no way, how could they be so continually bad if they were spoken to and showed video, why didnt any of them seem to look like they were starting to get their issue solved? Why didnt the PP and PK change ? the assistants run the PK PP and defence but yet nothing changed, TM didnt say to his coaches hey this isnt working, lets change this up or go to the basics…nope didnt happen.

    You look at other teams and look at how much those coaches and assistants are in their players ears in a game, hows they got a talking in the locker room about strategy or what they are seeing from the opposition or from certain player on the other team.

    The coach is the one in control of the assitants and the players, he has a lot of say, but if your not seeing issue in the team like last year and refuse to change things when they clearly werent working like last year, there is something wrong. Chia doesnt control the PP pk or the style of play, that is TM, Last year the emdia and fans were all over complaining about the whole game the Oil was playing nothing changed till we were way out of the playoffs and their were a handful of games left.

    You cant tell me TM just lets the assitants run the whole show, hell no, but if your not getting the message out to the players and the assitants on what is working and what isnt and what players arent doing enough or doing things wrong their is an issue and that starts with TM and filters down to all the coaching staff and then to the players

    I believe what Pakrainin is saying, it isnt the first time players are frustrated with the coaches, look at Jesse and TM’s relationship, so mnay people want to throw it all in Jesse’s lap for why he hasnt made it, well it isnt all on him, the organisation is terrible at development. and if there not communicatijng to the players what the issues are and working with the assitants to help get the players working on the issues, how can you expect the player to know what the hell is wrong with their game. Look at Talbot going down to early and staying there too long…going on for over a year…Schwartz has done nothing to fix it, so is it not a issue? TM doesn’t see it from the bench or the assistants … and they just let it continue?? That tells me tehre is a communication issue in that the player has no clue, no one thinks it a problem or the player doesnt know it or he does and wont fix it… same with Benning all last year, How does a problem go for two years running in his game and never gets yanked out till thsi year and still gets tons of ice time, something tells me there is a serious lack of communication going on.

    • NickL89

      This. All of this. We’re seeing the same old dump and chase, Talbot too low, sloppy passing, ineffective special teams baloney over and over again. To make it to the big leagues you’ve gotta be good. Anyone who argues that isn’t worth listening to. These guys can play BUT, they do what they are told. Or at least that’s the point of having an expensive veteran coach. The fact that we see the same mistakes over and over tells me that either the players aren’t being directly told to change anything OR (and I shudder to think of this) they are being fed the same “patience, there is a plan, don’t stop believing” line that we are and they are buying into it. Just my thoughts, I’ll let you guys make up your minds about that. Either way, let’s get em tonight boys, hope it’s a good one!

  • Clayton

    Funny how everyone thinks that a player should figure out why he is stuffed in the pressbox. They know it is because they aren’t playing well in the coach’s mind, but they may not know what they need to do specifically to get their game on track. That is what they rely on coaches for. Every player knows when their game is good or not…they know when they are producing points…the stats sheet tells them so…and they know when they are playing poorly as the stats are not there and they see themselves getting beat, being on the ice for goals. It is a coach’s job to COMMUNICATE CLEARLY with players so they know how to improve. It is also a coach’s job to figure out what makes each player tick…if getting to know a guy likes a good joke and that will get him going, buy a F’n joke book and work on your stand up!

  • OilCan2

    I can see both sides. Iiro is right that the entire coaching staff could have been more positive pointing out areas to work on in his own game. Todd has to try and produce Ws. He has at least two dozen players in addition to several assistants to watch over. How much time he can give to ONE individual in a bottom six forward role? Todd is judged by how well he gets his charges to perform. Let’s hope he can excell.

  • RexHolez

    Breaking news… oilers are a terriblely run organization. Go figure, we’ve only known this for a decade. How many ex players have come out and said some critical things about the organization? Maybe, just maybe there’s actually something to it

  • PimpTaco

    I used to think that Todd McClellan was the best answer for this team but I am seeing more and more a coach who values his vets more than his prospects. Case and point Puljujarvi.

    What did Paul Maurice do with Laine? He put him on the top two lines and gave him gravy powerplay time. He didn’t staple his butt to the bench after a turnover he let Laine do what he was drafted to do. Score.

    How the hell are our prospects supposed to break through this line up? Are they going to be a better two way player than Brodziak? Do you think Laine is ever day out games because he missed a check? Laine sits at the top of the circle and hammers one timers. The same thing Jesse can do, but never gets a shot. He got a sniff of second PP while we have an absolute joke of an all lefty first unit.

    I hope that one day Connor will say to Katz, we need another voice in the room. I am sure even McDavid thinks this PP is ridiculous. He is stuck feeding people on their wrong hand. The decisions McLellan makes are terrible and the refs never listen to him on the bench.

    Call it sour grapes if you want. I am starting to see a different tMc

    • MrBung

      They shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is the Edmonton way. The Eskimos fire assistants and the Oilers fire assistants. Both teams need to accept that the problem is the HEAD coach and GM. The Eskimos Owners were more interested in provide access for the jock sniffers than having a winning team. Well here you go Oil and Esks. Losing teams.

      • OldOilerFan

        I agree. I don’t know what the proper way is to develop someone, but it seems to me every prospect we’ve had gets a brief shot at the first lines, but then gets shuffled to the 4th line real quick. You take a guy whose resume is to score goals and you put him with pluggers and grinders? I think I agree, the Coaches need to be communicating, saying why moves are made and what is expected for results and what to focus on. We are all speculating but IMO I think there’s an issue. Some players just simply need that extra coaching.

  • MillHoodsHockey4Life

    I understand where Iiro would be upset, he would have games where he’d play well and then sit as the lines got shuffled but others who struggled would stay in the lineup. The trend continues now when it doesn’t seem obvious who is in or out and who is in the top or bottom 6 based on their play but shuffled based on picking names out of a hat.