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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:

  • 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.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Give Nicholson a folder labelled ‘Plan’ that has a single piece of paper inside that reads ‘You’re Fired. ‘

    Tell Chiarelli he’s been traded one-for-one to Unemploymentville for a used hockey bag.

    Fix the glitch in payroll that’s been keeping Lowe and MacTavish getting paid the last couple of years. Don’t bother to tell them.

    Tell McLellan that this coaching lines have been put in a blender and that he’s been benched like Dallas Eakins box of donuts.

    Send Schwartz to apologize to every former Oilers goalie that is doing better since moving on from the team. They might not all be his fault but he sure has carried on the tradition of making Oilers goalies worse.

    Give Katz an action item to personally go to every single Oilers fan doorstep and apologize for over a decade of Suck.

    Give McDavid anything he wants and thank him for being the only person in the organization to give a damn.

  • OldOilFan

    If you only have 3 good chips to play with, then play them all at once.

    McD, RNH, Drai

    Double shift them too. That’s what teams did with young stars in the not so old days. These are elite athletes, they can handle it.

    The bottom 9 can be rolled out in random order, it’s not gonna make any difference. But that top line…hmmm. Seems they would be a difference maker.

  • 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.

  • Burnward

    There is no fix. The only solution is to wait for 3-4 years for the decent drafting now underway to take hold.

    If they chase now, not only do they doom McDavid to three more bad years…they pretty much ensure his entire tenure will be one bad dream.

    • BobbyCanuck

      That is the life of a No ! over all pick, they go to the worst team, did you know? He makes $12.5M/yr absolutely do not feel sorry for his lot in life, he made his bed, now he be laying in it. Or perhaps he would have been smart to tank the last year of Junior, and drop down, like way down the prospect chart

      • Randomfan

        I personally think connor has a winning attitude in him so wouldnt have tanked on purpose. Yes he is making big money but players like him dont come everyday. He deserves to be paid. May be when they signed him they made him a promise that they (the management) will put a winning team around him but they have done absolutely opposite. I am sure at the end if the day he wants to win and his chances if doing that with oilers are diminishing faster than the price of oil.

    • BobbyCanuck

      What would you do? What can be done? Fire the GM/Coach? Neither will solve our cap crunch, or our lack of depth on the big team and on the farm.

      What we have is a pigs ear, no getting around it with management changes, hopefully decent drafting and keeping good players

      Put players on waivers/trade low/ do not re-sign, and watch them get picked up by better teams than the Oilers, and watching them flourish, is about the most painfull thing about how this team is run

  • Zav19

    Fire Chiarelli first. I don’t like the job TM has done but Chiarelli built this terrible roster and hired the coach so he should go first. I don’t think coaching change is going to make huge difference as long and Chiarelli keeps pulling the strings and putting his boy Lucic in the lineup when he is one of the worst players in entire league!! Talbot has to go to we have seen enough

  • puckle-head

    I’d like to see Chiarelli and Mclellan fired… from a cannon, hyuk hyuk. Honestly, I’m pretty sick of the debate. GMs and coaches have been fired for less than the pathetic results these two have produced. We all decided that the bar for them keeping their jobs (which I felt was way too low) was making the playoffs in a terrible division, in a league where just over 50% of teams make the playoffs, on the fourth year since drafting the best player in the world. And 20 games into the season they’re not even managing that. We’ve seen enough of these guys. They cannot get the job done.

  • 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

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    0-2, then 8-2-1, and now they’re 1-6 in their last 7 games. Changes need to happen, but we know they won’t. Until it’s too late at least

  • Odanada

    Don’t wait for the next 3 games.
    Fire TM now. Go over Chia’s head and fire TM directly. If Chia doesn’t like it, tell him he’s next. Also tell Chia that he needs executive approval on ANY trades from here on in.
    Step up to the plate Bobby Nicks and OWN this; It’s your mess after all.
    Be a real Hockey Man and deal with it instead of turtling like Tkachuk and hiding behind another “forensic audit”.

  • 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?

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • Spydyr

    Now What?

    That is not the question. The question should be what should have happened at Christmas last year.

    Katz should have hired a management consulting company to find the best hockey executive available a real hockey man not an old boy , a pencil pusher or a hobnobber . Then Katz should have hired the executive before last seasons end and gave him full reign to him on all hockey decisions and stepped back as a owner leaving the team in his hands.

    The day after the season ended. Lowe, Nicholson, Mac-T, Howson, Chia and Todd should have all been fired.

    The new hire is now free to pick his own group without encumbrance.

    Fresh start new beginning.

  • 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.

    • If Nicholson is actually in charge? , I would fire the entire management staff except K Gretzky, all the figureheads have to go as well. When those office/offices?, are cleaned out, I put my resignation on Katz’s desk and apologize for not doing what should have been done in the first place. FIRE THEM ALL

  • Simmerdown

    Now what…Nothing. 20+ years of terrible management. 20 years!! ’06 was an aberration. 20 years of bad “leadership”, non-existent player development (read complete reliance on high drafting), 20 years of bad in-game experiences (read loosing we won’t even talk about the actual in-game experience). The seats are still full. Until that changes…Now what?…More of the same.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      UR 100% right my business minded friend… BUSINESS IS BOOMING…
      The seats are full & everyone is talking about it….
      What more can a business man ask for?

  • 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??”