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Now What?

Two games. Two horrible periods. Two losses.

The Edmonton Oilers played a solid first 40 minutes in Calgary, but collapsed in the third period and were outshot 18-5 and outscored 3-0. Last night they started well again, led 2-1 after 20 minutes, but then allowed three goals within a span of 2:12, and for the second consecutive game they folded quicker than Superman on laundry day.

Now what?

Oilersnation is livid, and has every right to be. The Oilers have essentially wasted the great start they had. Despite a lot of travel and a steady stream of quality opponents, the Oilers opened the season 7-4-1. They looked like a competitive team, but since then they are 1-6 and in their six losses they’ve been outscored 27-11.

The past two weeks have been ugly. Their lack of effort v. Colorado, in the third period against Calgary and the middle frame against Vegas are very concerning. The Oilers’ play prompted former NHLer Marc Savard to tweet.

Savard likely saw it first hand. Over his first nine seasons in the NHL, his teams (Rangers, Flames, Thrashers and Bruins) missed the playoffs every year. He finally made the playoffs in his tenth season, 2008, with the Bruins.

In his rookie season with the Rangers, they fired Colin Campbell after 57 games and replaced him with John Muckler. After two years with the Rangers he was traded to the Flames. Brian Sutter was his head coach the first season. It was Sutter’s third season as head coach and the Flames missed the playoffs all three years. He was let go in the summer. Don Hay was hired, but only lasted 68 games and was replace by Greg Gilbert. Gilbert was the head coach in Savard’s third season in Calgary and was there to start the fourth season, 2002/2003.

Savard was traded 10 games into the season to Atlanta for Ruslan Zainullin. Savard and Gilbert had a public feud and Savard had asked for a trade. Then during his first year in Atlanta, Curt Fraser was fired and replaced by Bob Hartley. Savard had played nine games with the Thrashers before Fraser got canned. Savard played three years for the Thrashers and scored 97 points in his final year before signing as a free agent with the Bruins. Dave Lewis was his head coach his first year in Boston, but was let go in the summer and replaced by Claude Julien.

Savard experienced many coaching changes in his career, so maybe he does know if a team has tuned out the coach. Every situation is different, but when you see the lack of effort in three of the past four games it makes you wonder. But I also noticed how good the Oilers were in the first 40 minutes against Calgary. They should have been ahead more than 2-0, having missed three breakaways. They didn’t look like they were tuning out the coach at that point. But when adversity hits this team right now, they don’t know how to respond.

NOT JUST THE COACH

Mar 20, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan looks up from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 7-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Todd McLellan has to shoulder some of the blame, no question, and he might be the scapegoat if the Oilers don’t play well on this three-game trip to San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles, but if he is replaced that won’t fix everything.

Combining last season and this year, Cam Talbot is 30th among goalies (40 GP) with a .905sv%. Not good enough.

The Oilers team defence, not just the defencemen, leak too many chances.

Last week GM Peter Chiarelli said the Oilers don’t have any great puck moving defenders. He built this blueline. If they lack puck movers that is his mistake. You can’t ask players to be what they aren’t.

If the Oilers struggles continue, McLellan will pay the price. Every coach knows they are hired to be fired and they realize the coach often pays for the mistakes of his GM and the short comings of his players. Joel Quenneville won three Stanley Cups in six years, and he was let go earlier this season.

A new voice could help, but a new head coach won’t be able to cover up all the warts of this team. It would be one change, and it could turn out to be a good move, because some of McLellan’s decisions have not worked out, but after witnessing six different head coaches come through Edmonton between 2008-2014, I’ve learned changing the head coach won’t magically make your team more talented, or your management more astute.

PARTING SHOTS…

I liked McLellan’s move to slot Lucic and Kassian in the top six to calm the Flames down midway through the first period, but I would have reverted back to the regular lines in the third period. Right now Milan Lucic’s effort is fine, but at this point his game doesn’t change whether he has a stick in his hands or not. He isn’t adding anything in the ways of making plays. Drake Caggiula and Alex Chiasson are adding decent complementary production, so I would have had them in the top-six in the third period.

However, that doesn’t guarantee the Oilers wouldn’t have collapsed. The Flames looked like they were on the man advantage for the entire third period. The Oilers were flat-footed and all over the place defensively.

The Oilers don’t have an Identity right now. Does the coaching staff spend enough time discussing the identity? I don’t know the answer, but the Oilers don’t have a fall-back option to rely on when things are going poorly. Good teams have that. It isn’t pretty or exciting, but it allows teams a “safe” zone to reset.

Alex Chiasson is a great example of how it is impossible to really know when a player has found their stride. All 31 teams felt he wasn’t worthy of a contract this summer. He signed a PTO with the Oilers, and after sitting out the first five games he has scored eight goals in 14 games.

It is obvious Cam Talbot has no confidence. McLellan’s only option at this point is to give Mikko Koskinen the opportunity to be the starter for the next few weeks. The Oilers have a very cardio-friendly schedule the next few weeks so Koskinen should be the starter. They play don’t play back-to-back games until December 13th in Winnipeg and home to Philadelphia on December 14th. Talbot can work on his game before, during and after practice with goalie coach Dustin Schwartz, and despite him starting the second most games in the league since the beginning of last season, McLellan must go with Koskinen. It is the easy decision.

If I was the head coach I’d move Jujhar Khaira to third line centre. He is better in the middle, plus he skates better than Cooper Marody. Khaira has struggled making plays on the wall, so with the trade of Strome I’d consider sliding Khaira to the middle. I think Marody will be able to help in the future, but I’m not sold on his speed right now.

If you were Peter Chiarelli, or Bob Nicholson, what moves, if any, would you make?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • ubermiguel

    This team has fired many coaches, how often does it actually help? It’s pretty clear the coach doesn’t have the pieces he needs and that’s on the GM. We were warned by astute observers when Chiarelli was hired that he had decimated the Bruins, and he’s done the same here, time to cut him loose.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      The pieces are there, damn it!!!!!
      Why is it then that they can come out of the eastern swing ahead in games against some darn great teams… Get convincingly ahead to start games including the last couple of stinkers. And just give up & lose it in a few minutes… It’s definitely not for lack of talent… This is a coaching issue both head & goalie coach. Full Stop. The team talent is definitely sufficient enough to do the job convincingly. We have all seen it, numerous times. We have also seen the collapse & lack of support.

  • hammer313

    I hope they lose every game! If they go 2-6, I don’t think that gets the coach fired! I watched the games over the weekend of other teams, these teams have younger players sprinkled throughout the lineups and look 10 times better than anything the Oilers stick on the ice! The Oilers get plodders and washed up players, that honestly, no one else wants. Horrible management, with all the bad contracts that has strangled this team. Same crap, just the year digits have changed, sick of it!

    • samakehurst16

      The problem is Pete built a team that could win in the pacific… if they were playing the pacific in 2012. They are way behind the times. You have to build a team for how the game develops and try to be one step ahead of the rest. Not one step behind. The days of the big bad pacific are long gone it’s all about speed speed speed. Teams used to never have a player shorter then 5’11 on their roster if they did they got bullied. Now every team has a couple of really good short fast scoring passing players. It’s just one big missed high five.

  • samakehurst16

    This Cali road trip will determine if heads fly or not. This next stretch is so important for this season. Big games vs divisional teams. If they loose all these games they will be so far behind the rest of the division it will be a next to impossible task to climb back. If they go 2-6 during this TM is gone. If they don’t make playoffs PC is gone. Edmonton Oilers have been the most mismanaged team in the NHL for years. I’m sorry Connor.

  • Kepler62c

    Send Marody down, call up Gambardella or another older prospect to sit in the press box and get into the odd game.

    Spooner/Caggiula – McDavid – Rattie
    Nuge – Drai – Chiasson
    Lucic – Khaira – Caggiula/Spooner
    Russell – Brodziak – Kassian

  • TKB2677

    First thing I would do with the team is the lines:

    1st: Spooner – McDavid – Chiasson/Rattie – Spooner has speed and by playing him with McDavid, you should help with his defensive problems as McDavid has the puck.

    2nd: Nuge – Leon – Chiasson/Rattie. – I don’t think Nuge brings enough offense. The Oilers need another scoring line. The whole notion of Leon and McDavid is magic but unless they score 3 or 4 a night, you can’t have them together.

    3rd line: Lucic – Khaira – Caggulia

      • Nothing matters until the current and 80’s regime is out the door. Flames game was the first one I watched all season, and they disappointed, right on cue. Did not watch the Sunday game either as we knew they would lay another egg. Trying to be optimistic, but the glass is not half full, it is almost drained and there is a hole in the bottom of it.

        • Hemmercules

          The problem with Lowe and Mact is they may never be let go. Ever. Like until they die ever. They are conveniently in secondary positions right now where they can latch on and let everyone around them take all the blame. I dont think Lowe and Mact really do anything of significance right now anyway but in all likelyhood they will be in charge of finding the next GM when Katz decides to clean house again.

          If the losing continues we should see Todd getting shown the door fairly soon and probably Guly or even Yawney taking the bench for the remainder if this season. Chia probably get fired before the trade deadline if Katz and Bob have any sense at all. Mact likely hold down GM until summer. Then its anyones guess.

          • If they are reasonably intelligent people, how could they not look back on their own body of work , realize they were, and are in over their heads, and resign gracefully? If they don’t and do not get fired , there goes the last chance to exit gracefully. Should have been years ago. Complete lack of respect for the fan base.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            The thing we have to remember in all of this is that in Katz’s eyes this is a HUGE sucess… The seats are full, tickets have not needed discounting. And above all everyone is talking about the product…
            Good or Bad, it doesn’t matter in business my friends, as long as everyone is buying the product & by gum,… they are. Management is more than happy. If you want to instill change, stop buying the product. Then see how quickly they listen to us?

  • Hockeytalkguy

    The sad part is you fire TMc you still have the same defence, goal tending, and lack of secondary scoring. Firing TMc doesn’t change anything. If you fire Pistol Pete there is no cap room to acquire a better player. I said at the beginning of the year I really don’t know how you fix this train wreck. Chia has completely hand cuffed himself and the next GM after Chia gets shown the door. It’s going to be more riff raff trades likes Strome & Spooner. Shuffling out garbage for garbage. It is amazing how incompetent Chia really is.

  • Total Points

    The Oilers atre doomed. Nothing will change until changes are made at the top with the Old Boys Club and the Red Wine Summit. Klowe, MacT Coffee, Gretzky, have to go. Then evaluate Bob N, Chai. To change Chai and Todd will change nothing without changes at the top