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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.

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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:

  • The future never comes

    Why does Todd keep getting the benefit of the doubt, or the next few games or else statement. We just lost 6 of the last 7 games. There should be no more, “if he doesnt do well on this streak” talk. The season is in full danger of ending AGAIN before December hits. The only move we have right now is to turf the coach, if that doesnt work, well then, there are much deeper issues which rightfully validate many peoples concerns. I agree, the coach is answerless at this point, he has had over 3 years. He has no answers in his presser, the act has dried up, the players are not playing inspired under him. Goodbye.

  • Hemmercules

    The list is so long its feels like groundhog day 2010. The owner sucks, the GM sucks, the coach sucks, the goaltending sucks, the roster is full of holes, the farm guys aren’t ready. Where do you even begin?

    I guess start with Koskinen. Play him every game until he has stinker.

    Todd could go at any time but then what do you do? Hire some random dude and force him to work with the existing assistants you just hired a couple months ago?

    Maybe they win 5 in a row again and its all sunshine and rainbows in a couple weeks?

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I don’t know, You may be on to something there???
      “Hire some random dude” The Canucks fired Linden, hired some random dude to coach & look what happened to them? Are they still leading the division?
      Worth a try?

  • 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.

  • Friesenhan

    Firstly, yes, I think it’s time for McLellan to go. I like McLellan a lot, and I like the Oilers a lot. I also like both chocolate and fish tacos, but some things are better apart than they are together, and every game with Todd behind the bench is pointless at this point. The ‘good’ side of the the Oilers we have seen this year is IN SPITE of the coach, it’s the players who won those games, when they knew they had to give it everything they have, they did it. In spite of the systems, in spite of the roster.

    As for line changes, I agree with you, Jason, about Khaira. He’s better at centre. I also actually really like Marody’s play on the boards in the offensive corners.

    Just for poops and laughter, I’d try:

    At this point, what could it hurt to line up Nuge and Drai, and see what McD can do with that speed and finish?

  • 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.

  • DXB

    Todd’s usage of players and constant blender has taken its toll. He has shown zero ability to develop players and put them in positions to leverage their strengths and succeed. JP is a perfect example. We now have reports from ex oilers that he has zero communication skills, silent treatment, let guys figure it out on their own, sink or swim. The teams sinking and tuned him out. Make a change and show him and Chiarelli the door. This has gone on way to long.

  • 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

      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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Serious Gord

    Jason trying to come up with answers to your wwyd question confirmed what a mess this team and org is.

    Fiddling with the lines only marginally improves the weakness throughout.

    For example Klefbom and larsson need to be playing significantly less minutes – they look exhausted and overwhelmed- but to do that puts the other two tire fire pairings on for more minutes.

    Thus any changes on-ice are futile save perhaps making Koskinen the primary goalie.

    So a root and branch process of changing this orgs management so begin:

    The old boys need to finally be shipped out and replaced with modern professional and accountable management.

    TMC should be terminated and gulatzan put in as interim and a real search conducted for his replacement- someone who speaks millennial.

    Chia should be prohibited from making any deals – fire him if necessary- and a proper search begun for his replacement.

    Bob Nicholson should announce his retirement effective December 31 – have a nice establishment party for him – invite sycophants like john Shannon to send him off.

    Of course those changes create the challenge of who dies the hiring of replacements? Presumably it would be whoever replaces klowe. So I guess the first firing is his and maybe an independent consultant team (no old boys) could find his replacement.

  • Deezy

    I hate the argument of keeping McLellan just because we have had too many coaching changes in the past. He’s not getting the job done – plain and simple. It’s time for a change. If it’s more of the same with a new coach, then the next domino follows with Chia logically finally being run out of town. Long term view, we won’t anything in the McDavid era with Chia and McLellan running the show here.

  • 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

  • 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?

  • SylarHRG

    Are goalie coaches ever held accountable? In the (almost) last decade, we have had two goalie coaches and what feels like an endless stream of goalies. Chabot was relieved 4 years ago, I wonder what steps the Oilers can take to help their goalies regain some of that confidence. Sadly, I think the only other message that can be sent is to fire TMac. I don’t think this is entirely on him, I agree it’s a multitude of problems, but at some point you need to make a change to jump start the team.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • 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.

    • 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

  • bcoil

    When you look around the league at some of the No#1 goal tenders that are having trouble this year my first thought is “are they having trouble with the new goalie equipment rules” they cant be Michelin men any more they have to have reflexes….I Wonder ?????