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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 21.0: Pressure is Mounting (8:30pm, SNW)

Tonight the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks will play the only game on the NHL schedule. All eyes of the NHL will be watching, and it won’t just be for what is happening on the ice.

Early this morning I felt Todd McLellan was on the hot seat and needed a victory to keep his job. Turns out I was mistaken. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli decided he wasn’t going to wait and he fired Todd McLellan.

That means four Western Conference teams have replaced their head coach in the past 16 days. The Los Angeles Kings fired John Stevens on November 4th. Two days later three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville was let go by the Chicago Blackhawks and last night the St. Louis Blues fired Mike Yeo after losing 2-0 to the last-place Kings.

The Oilers sit in 26th place in the NHL. A victory tonight would vault them up to 19th spot, one point behind the Vancouver Canucks for the final playoff berth in the Pacific Division. The Oilers still have two games in hand on the Canucks after tonight.

But despite being that close to a playoff spot, Chiarelli decided it was time to make a coaching change. But hiring Ken Hitchcock is a clear sign that Bob Nicholson and the rest of the Oilers upper management isn’t sure if Chiarelli will be here long term.

Hitchcock’s contract is only until the end of the season. I will be very surprised if he returns next year regardless of how the remainder of this season unfolds. If the Oilers don’t make the playoffs, Chiarelli will be gone.

McLellan was fired today, but everyone in the organization is acutely aware of what is going on. Chiarelli built this team. And if the Oilers miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under his watch, he won’t be around for a fifth season. Bob Nicholson is also aware of the business side, and another spring without the playoffs will have many Oilers season seat holders unlikely to renew. Numerous suite holders signed three-year contracts which expire in April.

Make no mistake, the pressure is mounting at all levels within the organization, and whether it is fair or not, usually the head coach is the first man thrown overboard when things go astray. McLellan wasn’t perfect, and like any head coach, some of his decisions were not the best, but at the start of the season I felt this roster was, at best, a 90-96 point team. I don’t think a new coach changes that.

Maybe a new voice and a different approach defensively will help. Through 20 games the Oilers proved they could be very good some nights, but also very bad other nights. How much of that is on the coach? The answer will vary for all of us, and likely varied within the halls of the Oilers offices.

This move wasn’t a total surprise, although I admit I thought Mclellan would coach tonight and if he won he’d have kept his job, and if he lost they would have fired him. Chiarelli didn’t want to wait, and now the Ken Hitchcock eras begins.

The pressure within the organization is still mounting, and by removing his head coach Chiarelli is now facing the most pressure.

He needs this decision to work out. His job depends on it.

LINEUP

Oilers

Caggiula-McDavid-Draisaitl
Spooner-RNH-Chiasson
Lucic-Marody-Rattie
Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Gravel-Benning

Koskinen

Mikko Koskinen and Cam Talbot have split the last ten games, each making five starts, and the numbers are staggeringly different.

Player          GS    W-L-OTL   SA     SVS     SV%     GAA
Koskinen      5       3-2-0      166    153      .921      2.60
Talbot           5       0-5-0      129    109      .845      4.63

Talbot was pulled in one game, and Koskinen played the final 34 minutes. I didn’t include those 34 minutes in Koskinen’s totals, because I wanted to look solely at start totals. I think it is clear who is the Oilers starting goalie right now. Koskinen gives the Oilers the best chance to win and I’d start him all three games on this road trip.

Sharks

Hertl-Couture-Meier
Kane-Pavelski-Donskoi
Sorenson-Thornton-Labanc
Goodrow-Suomela-Karlsson

Ryan-Burns
Dillon-Karlsson
Vlasic-Braun

Jones

Martin Jones is 9-5-1, but he has a subpar .894sv% and 2.94 GAA. His backup, Aaron Dell is 2-2-2 with a .920sv% and a 2.47GAA. Dell was great in the Sharks last game, but Peter Deboer wants to give Jones every opportunity to fight out of his funk. Jones is 6-2-1 in his last nine games, but in five of those victories he allowed three or more goals, and in every loss he has allowed three or more. So in eight of his last nine games the opposition has scored three or more goals. The Oilers have to find a way to get some pucks past him.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Fear the Fin:

Edmonton’s struggle to find scoring depth on the wing has been well documented, ever since the ill-advised trades of Jordan Eberle and Hart trophy winner Taylor Hall decimated their forward corps in favor of Ryan Strome and middling defenseman Adam Larsson. Still, recently, general manager and The Art of the Deal fanatic (probably) Peter Chiarelli seems busy making calls, sending the aforementioned Strome to the New York Rangers in a one for one swap for Ryan Spooner. These kinds of moves, combined with the decision to demote to the AHL first rounders Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, have left the Oilers with little to no scoring depth.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

Game Day Prediction: I had this game penciled in as a loss when I looked at the eight-game stretch against mainly Pacific Division opponents, but that was before the two losses on the weekend. As I wrote earlier I thought tonight’s effort could determine the fate of their coach. It won’t, but tonight is the first chance to make a great first impression. Many teams have won their first game with a new coach, but I don’t see it tonight. The Oilers play hard, but lose 3-2.

Obvious Game Day Prediction: The Sharks PP has been average, 18th in NHL, but they score a PP goal tonight.

Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Oscar Klefbom scores his first goal of the season. He has had more offensive success against the Sharks than any team in the NHL and that continues tonight.

Recently by Jason Gregor:


Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/20/2018 – 14:00 pm MT



  • Rob...

    It’s rare to find someone in their mid 60’s capable of effectively adjusting strategies/tactics on the fly. I hope Hitch is one of those rarities, because that ability has been missing for a long time.

      • OilerForLife

        So far so good in San Jose. A win here will go a long way in restoring team confidence. Koskinen was here to push Talbot, push him right out the door at the end of the season.

  • ed from edmonton

    Changing the coach before this game. Standard practice is to change the coach after this loss and give the new guy a couple of days with the team and vs lesser teams.

    Usually changing a coach doesn’t change much, the players are still the players, although I hope this case is an exception.

    • Hemmercules

      When was the last time the Oilers did something that was standard practice??

      And if they plan on losing tonight, why wait to change the coach?? What if Todd stayed and they won 9-1 tonight, then what??

  • kormega

    The Art of the Deal fanatic

    Lol, they got the point. Since Chia arrived he made 30 trades, not to mention countless free agents signing and going, waivers and etc.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      Is there anybody that truly believes the current plight of EDM is all on the coach? As a Canucks fan looking in from further away, I would have said that 75% of the teams problems are on Chia with 25% on TMac for his stupid dump n chase philosophy and absurdly awful PP/PK deployment/strategies these past few yrs..

  • TKB2677

    I don’t think Hitchcock is the long term solution for the Oilers but for the short term, the Oilers could use a guy to give them a serious kick in the ass. The roster has flaws that need to be addressed big time but they have shown if they play hard, they can compete. Guys who need a boot in the ass are:
    Lucic, Khaira, Brodziak, Kassian, Caggulia who has been not bad but is so inconsistent and makes plays like he did as a rookie, Benning hasn’t taken a step yet, Nurse was supposed to continue to be on the rise and held out for money but hasn’t been that great. Leon needs to play away from McDavid and needs to be a hell of a lot better and be the dominate player he can be. Even precious Nuge, who everyone in Oilers land protects needs to be better. He’s got 4 freaking goals. That is a 16 goal pace. I am sorry but 16 goals for 6 mill doesn’t cut it. Klefbom has no goals yet. He could barely use his arm last year and scored 5. What’s his excuse this season? NO goals in 20 games.

    Hitch isn’t a goalie coach but Talbot has sucked all last year and this year. Klefbom has

  • Spydyr

    Player GS W-L-OTL SA SVS SV% GAA
    Koskinen 5 3-2-0 166 153 .921 2.60
    Talbot 5 0-5-0 129 109 .845 4.63

    So Dadbot fans, still think Talbot is the starter?

    What new excuse can you come up with?

    The proof is in the pudding.

  • camdog

    5-6 years ago if the Oilers would have traded Sam Gagner for a right shot centre that is defensively sound everybody here would have been ecstatic. Now we do the opposite and people are happy. I just don’t get any of this anymore.

  • Hemmercules

    Klef doesn’t have a goal yet??!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy Sh*tballs. Isn’t he our offensive defenseman getting PP time and huge minutes? I hope Hitch knows how to make diamonds out of cow pies.

    • NickL89

      Love the optimism. Let’s enjoy it while we can before a certain Mr Bung shows up to inform us that this team won’t make the playoffs. This should get no down votes!!

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Probably won’t win tonight… too early after the transition. Unless it was the players that wanted TMac gone. Wouldn’t surprise me how he threw blamed the players for every loss. Never one said that they were beaten, it was always “a lack of effort from the top guys.”

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Honestly I dont care if Hitch stays on or not right now, what I do care about is that Hitch will negage with the players and challebnge them to be better, he will tell them what is wrong with their play and what they can do to fix it. Hitch will get the Oilers to play a defensive system in their end, he will get them to work work on a PP system that works, he will get them to work on a PK system that works, he will lets the assistants do their job and when he thinks their systems aren’t working will tell them time to re-think what your doing.

    When players are not playing or are making too mnay mistakes he will staple them to the bench or will sit them out and will tell them what they are doing wrong instead of letting them do the same thing for 3 years and not saying anything in hopes that they figure it out ( Benning )

    The Only thing that saddens me as that Dustin Schultz is still here and he is the golatending coach problem, but mmaybe if Hitch tells him your goalie has a problem you need to address , Dustin will do something instead of doing nothing like he has been.

    I am not expecting miracles but I think we will see a marked improvement over TM , because Hitch will have the Oilers getting pucks up the ice efficiently and using speed. And you can bet when mistakes are being made Hitch or an assistant will let guys know what to do better, not wait ten games and hope they figure it out.

    People say well firing TM wont solve anything, yes it will. It will give us a damn chance now of maybe making the playoffs instead of being out before the season is even half over. TM didnt seem to have any direction on where he was steering the ship, no plan, no course, that was a huge issue, because without one we were heading right where we were last year out of the playoffs before the season before the season was even half over, and that is unacceptable

  • Soccer Steve

    I think Hitch on the bench tonight is gonna knock something loose and we’re going to win. Connor had the slightest look of being just fed up with ‘it’ in the Vegas game, a look I hadn’t seen on him before. Hitch hopefully turns this thing around extremely fast. We’ve shown up and performed earlier this year……where’d that jug of kool-aid get to?

  • jcapss

    I know everybody is throwing klef under the bus for not scoring yet but please remember Karlsson just scored his first goal recently. He’s a – 6 with 12 points. Klef is +1 with 8 points. He’s still Contributing more than he is letting past him. I wouldn’t write him off yet

    • Hemmercules

      The fact that our best dman has no goals just speaks to how inept the offence on this team is. Chia should have been shown the door the same time as Todd.

  • The future never comes

    No more player coddling, hand holding, favoratism, excuse making. I hope Hitch tells them the truth about their play, time to put up or shut up!!!

    • IRONman

      Have a Logical Look!!!
      Oilers need this coach. Proven, 3rd most wins in nhl. Hitchcock said buy into his system and he will take the players to a place they have never been. Why did he take the job? McDavid. And believes he can win with McDavid. Tmac never won a cup and honestly he let the ducks destroy the oilers in playoffs. Put a f@cking shadow on getzlaf and shut the ducks down. Esa did it all the time. Wise coaches win

      • Muddy

        Its been discussed by Kypreos that Hitch began studying the Oilers when they started to take a downward turn. Word is when Peter made the call he already had a presentation on how to fix the team. Probably done in 2002 Powerpoint, same version my parents have…

  • Muddy

    There isn’t one report, radio interview or article that suggests PC will be here after the season is done. Even if they make the playoffs, unless we have Lord Stanley in Rogers, Pete will be given his walking papers. My season prediction is a new ESPN 30 for 30 about the worst GM in NHL history. Jay Woodcraft should be holding onto those kids in the AHL like a fat kid on a Smartie until this disaster is finally over.

  • TKO

    Hitch is a great coach and has a better likelyhood of turning the team around than anyone. Smart as they come. Wont be shy to tell the unvarnished truth where needed. But to fire the coach and keep the GM is not a good sign. And Hitch is only signed to the end of the season. Would not be surprised to see the Oilers win an emotional one tonight, but also wouldn’t be surprised to see the team in disarray, as both are possible. Good luck tonight Edmonton. Go rip those points from San Jose!

  • Justeen Trudope

    The problem with this team is they are playing Chiasson on the 2nd line, on no NHL team should Kassion and Lucic be dressed for the same game. Good luck Kenny

  • Rama Lama

    The first thing KH needs to do is to move Drake off the first line, and reinstate Ty Rattie back into this line up. In NO games that I observed would I have made him a healthy scratch…….there are far bigger problems to deal with.

    I just hope KH brings some common sense to the party.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    When is Bobby Nicholson going to address the media? I would really like to hear his plan?
    Why he appointed Ken Hitchcock as head coach for 62 games??

    • Kneedroptalbot

      My 1st question to Bobby? Why in the World would Ken Hitchcock sign a 62 game contract to coach the Oilers (and all the media/fan/hotbed pressure) that comes with the position, when he was happily employed as an Advisor/Consultant with the Dallas Stars.
      Bobby, just what is the rest of the deal/arrangement after 62 games 🙂 ???

  • Abagofpucks

    We all know who put this team together(PC) and getting rid of the Gm now dosen’t help us in the short term. But firing the coach is the only thing a team can do to fix things short term. I just hope hitch can fix our defensive aspect soon, but i would be surprised if he can do anything tonight. But it could light a fire under the player’s and they win tonight, but it’s a tall order for any coach you want to name to come into this situation and win right away. But my finger’s are crossed for tonight’s game.

  • KennyG

    I believe Hitch has total say on who will play and who will sit. Can’t see him coming without 100% controll. Might need a bigger press box if some don’t wake up.

  • Abagofpucks

    Now i know who Rufio Barcoli really is, he’s Donald Trump it makes sense by the comment’s he makes. It was the reference to CNN that tipped me off, you can’t fool us Rufio er i mean Donald HaHaHa.

    • Rufio Barcoli

      MOGA
      We going to Make Oilers Great Again.
      First we need to built a media wall, to keep the bias Toronto based “insiders” out.
      Deport all the fairweather fans and Cactus Club groupies back to the teams their mothers used to cheer for.
      We will further investigate all the so called sources of all the so called reporters that offer their generic lies to create a story where there isn’t one.
      As well, put all the media members that gave Hall the Hart(ironinc as he has no heart) on the stay away from the Oilers list.