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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?

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  • Boba The Fett

    I am seeing several issues.

    1. The biggest difference between our good stretch and this bad stretch is the way we are defending the middle of the ice in our own zone. There is no intensity from the forwards like there was when we were playing vs murderers row.
    2. We just dont win enough board battles, once again an intensity issue.
    3. The players are great at continually talking to the media after the game and saying how they just lacked desperation/intensity. Well if they keep saying it then maybe its tine to practice what they preach and actually show desperation for 60 minutes. Quit paying lip service to the media and actually do what you know you should be doing.

    The lack of intensity/desperation is the biggest issue and maybe the coach needs to instill this in the players through his practice methods.

    • NickL89

      The board battles are painful to watch. Why would you dump it to the corner every time when you know whoever gets there will lose the battle and turn over the puck?? It’s either insanity or a lazy “my shift is done, if I dump it I can go have a little rest” mentality. If the players are being coached to keep trying this… well let’s not even think about that.

  • ed from edmonton

    I think it’s less than 50/50 that Tmac is the coach on December 1. Not that I think he is the main problem, the coach is always the first to go.

  • Truth

    They should have fired Chiarelli on June 29, 2016. The day of the Hall trade, and just about one calendar year after the Reinhart trade. If Oilers brass had not known Chiarelli was incapable of improving the team at that point, then they are all equally at fault.

    Fire Lowe, fire Mac T, fire Chiarelli. Bring in a competent GM under Nicholson and let him decide if McLellan is capable or let him hire his own coach. You can’t blame McLellan for the Oiler’s woes, he has the world’s best player and his GM still somehow continuously makes his team worse as time goes on. There is no quick fix. The team has been sewered so bad they need to put someone in place that will make smart acquisitions.

  • camdog

    Right now both PC and TM think they can play a soft skilled defensively deficient winger that scores about 12 goals a year with RNH at centre and that will solve their goal scoring problems on the second line. We’ve done this with RnH multiple times before it doesn’t work.

    It’s clear they both don’t have any solutions, they both need to go.

  • Peanut butter and Jo-Jo

    Hard sell for any prospective head coach to have little to no say in who his assistants would be which appears to be the situation here with an entire compliment of Assistants being hired within the last six months. Can’t imagine an elite coach like Quineville would accept such terms, even with McJesus and Drai here long term. Seems an internal promotion or a complete gutting of the recently hired coaching staff, which would destroy our reputation in the coaching community, is the only possibility. Looks as though the half measure reaction to last years shat in bed is biting us in the ass.

    Maybe Katz needs to hire an advisor that is brave enough to tell him the truth of his actions. It’s either genuine ineptitude or the sycophants at the the red wine summits are in his ear and keep him from dropping the axe on the right people’s heads.

  • GK1980

    No matter what changes they make now I don’t think it will make enough of an impact to suddenly turn this team competitive. It’s all mental because we have seen how this team can perform when they are on top of their game.
    1. Trade Nuge for a legit top winger to play with McDavid and keep Drai on the second line for the rest of the season
    2. Trade Nurse at the deadline for picks and maybe a prospect, unless he signs long term for less money because he isn’t a top D right now. Athletic but not very smart.

    Changing the coach won’t do a thing at this point. New coach takes time to get system in place.

  • 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.

          • 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?

          • 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.

  • abmule

    The frustration is no fan knows the plan, in our minds the plan is to win the cup…..every year. The Chia/TM plan after 4 years obviously isn’t working. It was a sleight of hand by coincidence, we want to redevelop the down town and by the way luck has given us a shiny generational talent for you to look at and we don’t really have a plan for the other 19 players. Rinse and repeat. If the oilers have shown anything it’s number 1 drafts do not change a team alone.

  • Slipknot 8

    Both GM & Coach have to be fired, the sooner the better for McDavid.
    I still don’t understand how a GM that had Hall – RNH – Eberle – Draisiatl Nurse can pee away that much talent for a negative return and still hold his job, not only hold his job, but get a vote of confidence in his own press conference………But….he has a plan…

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Fire TM, Fire Peter Chiarelli. Kick all the old boys club out, except Gretzky. Bring in the best, like Joel Quenneville, Steve Yzerman, etc. Pay them handsomely – rebuild this team completely, the way it should have been done.
    That means get RID OF all the bad contracts on this team, Sekera, Lucic and Russell any way you can.
    Rebuild using the prospects/youth on the team.
    Sign free agent goalies for the foreseeable future, until a young, good goalie becomes available via trade.

  • 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

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    First off TM needs to go, I would love another coach, but right now TM is not the answer, the team is bordering on being out of the playoffs before half the season is over, like last year. Why must the Brain trust wait until it is too late, TM isnt going to lead us to the the playoffs, we are going to be lucky if we will beat last years records at the rate things are going. I get that the Oilers wouldnt hire a new coach till after the season which means that we go with Gulutzan, but right now if that is the option then we take it, TM is being out coached this losing streak just shows it is time for a coaching change, not later NOW!

    Schwartz needs to go out the door with TM, look at Talbot and tell me Schwartz is doing his job? Brossoit was in the system, TM has no confidence in him, Brossoit goes to the Jets the Jets goalie coach works with him to get out of bad habits and Brossopit hasnt lost a game yet ( yes I know he hasnt played any but a good goalie coach can do a lot of things with a player.

    The Oilers face a lot of divisional opponents in a short stretch they are close to the basement of the western conference, LA is dead last at 15 th, and the kings have 13 pts the Oil have 19 pts, it wont take much to dig a hole big enough they cant get out of, these loses show that.

    Last year Chia did nothing and left TM in Charge, and the results were out of the playoffs before the season was half over. Look where we are, why do we need to keep TM around when we are trending in that same direction? TM blendering lines when they are working is another problem, his Blendering screwed us in Calgary. Benching Marody for no reason what so ever is another sign of a coach who doesnt trust anyone who isnt a vet, no reason to bench Marody, yeah lets shatter that kids confidence like Jesse.

    There is no reason to wait to see what TM can do this season, we already see what he cant do, coach a team, cant use his players effectively and sure the hell doesnt have the confidence of the players. Chia does not need to wait, the result of the Oilers record speak for themselves, time for TM to go

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    You can blame the coach for the line choices, but the players are the ones that gave up on Saturday. Were they using the Glen Gully approach to winning games? Play for the one goal lead, or at worst play for OT. Fire the coach, and Gully is what you get. Trust me, you don’t want that.

    Want to shake up the team? Healthy scratch McDavid until they get a win on their own. Most teams don’t have the luxury of playing a guy like that 22 minutes. When the team realizes that offense doesn’t mean passing it to McDavid, they might get it.

  • The Dave

    So I see two options:
    1.) Fire those accountable.
    2.) Realize that if we had Sekera in the lineup everything would be perfect, wait for him to return. Assume McDavid has unlimited patience and no further ambitions for greatness in his career, which is already about 15-20% over.

    I expect the Oilers are leaning towards option 2. Me? I’m going to watch the Jets for a few weeks until the firings start happening.

  • Van isl Oiler

    If I was Bob Nicholson or Peter Chiarelli what moves would I make?

    Well, if I was Bob Nicholson, I’d fire Peter Chiarelli. May as well start with the source of the problem.

  • OldOilFan

    Chain of command problem:

    Owner
    ^
    President
    ^
    GM
    ^
    Coach

    If the top rung doesn’t care about the product on the ice, then us fans b_tching for new hires in the lower rungs, seems pointless.

    The TML iced pitiful teams for years and years, plagued by the same chain of command problem that seems to exist here now. A revolving door of GMs and Coaches made no difference on the ice there.

    We have the better “superstar” courtesy of the Draft. The league salary Cap is the same everywhere. So the problem must be something else.

    Since the Oilers and Leafs have “enjoyed” similarly favorable positions in the Draft this decade (Edmonton probably even more so than Toronto), you gotta ask yourself:
    “Why aren’t the Oilers a top 3 team in the West by now??”

  • Since 72

    Wow! Don’t know what the answer is but this is a huge dumpster fire. This team is against the cap and Conner McDavid is doing it all with Leon.
    Someone needs to go but who? You can’t fire everyone, lots say the coach can only be as good as his team but look what Barry Trotz is doing in New York.

  • Vanhellian

    I would think Vegas proved to an extent last season that the roster, and star power, is less important than work ethic, passion, grit and SUPERIOR COACHING. I personally dislike Chia butthis team has had an abundance of talent over the years and yet never found success. The players never improve year to year. They can’t run simple plays, such as a breakout. How often do we see players occupying the same space, not knowing what to with the puck. D-men holding the puck, not making a play, then eventually dumping it to nobody. Good individual efforts but no support from teammates leading to turnovers. Missed defensive assignments. Offsides. All these errors are indicative of poor coaching. The league today is all about systems, and running set plays. Not about size, or speed or raw talent. Fire the coach.
    Then in the offseason axe Chia before he does more damage.

  • Panda13

    Laundry list of things to do next:
    Approach Lucic and Russel for a a list of teams
    Workout trades with salary retained for picks / prospects if need be
    Make deals 3-way with floor teams to include cap space with late pick as compensation similar to Ott-LVK-Pit trade last season
    Offer sheet or trade for Nylander
    Fire TM and give reins to Gultzan
    Fire MacT, Howson and all special advisors from Red Wine Summit

  • Johnny Zylon

    Bring a case of Crown Royal into the dressing room and get them all hammered. Then Start a therapy session while they are all drunk to bond and start to love each other.