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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:



  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • wiseguy

    I would resign in shame and admit that I’ve robbed the team of $$ and its future and then move somewhere where I will never be seen or heard from again.

  • 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”.

  • Señor Frijoles

    It would seem like a new head coach is needed, but do you let Chiarelli hire someone when it’s just as likely he’s next out of the door? If I’m Nicholson, I think if Quenneville is interested in the job, you grab him and a let both Chia and Todd go at the same time. It’s clearly time for a change – why wait for another ruined season, it’s not too late to recover for the playoffs this year.

  • 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?

  • A-co

    If I was pistol pete I would stand up and declare myself incompetent and quit my job as gm. He has done nothing but set this franchise back…a new coach might have the players ears for abit but the problem at the end of the day is the roster that was put together.

  • 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:
    Spooner-McDavid-Rattie
    Nuge-Drai-Chiasson
    Caggiula-Khaira-Marody
    Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Bort

    TMac looks just as lost as his team does. No timeout after quick goals to calm them down? No pulling Talbot after the 3rd goal against by Vegas? It doesn’t look like he has any idea how to coach this time. Which is partly the fault of Chiarelli too. He built this travesty. His “Plan” sucks. Wasting a single year of McDavid’s prime should result in termination, for coach or GM.