Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ask

So, the Edmonton Oilers begin their post all-star break schedule after 10 days off against the Philadelphia Flyers, winners of six straight games, Saturday. They’re three points out of a wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference with 32 games to play. They have five teams between them and a post-season berth after staggering into the break with three straight losses at home.

The Oilers’ goaltending has been a roller-coaster ride, everything from ghastly to great, but overall, it hasn’t been good enough. Of that there can be no debate. Cam Talbot, who will get the start in Philadelphia, and Mikko Koskinen, who gets the crease against the Montreal Canadiens Sunday after getting a three-year contract extension from Peter Chiarelli before he was shown the door, are a combined .895 after 50 games.

Coach Ken Hitchcock still doesn’t have an answer to the question of who, beyond captain Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson, will score goals in front of his sketchy goaltending, so he’s been blending bodies and line combos more frenetically than a barista working the counter during the morning rush at Starbucks.

And, while Oscar Klefbom will be a big add on a blueline that has been overmatched during his 19 games out with a broken finger that required surgery (the Oilers went 6-12-1), the big Swede has got rust to knock off. Plus, the busted digit that’s kept him out since Dec. 11 is still tender – that was obvious during the team’s return to the ice for practice. He’ll need time to get up to speed. We don’t even know yet if he’ll be ready for Philly.

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Playoffs? That’s a big ask, no?


Nov 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock watches a game against the Dallas Stars from the bench at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re here to play and this is 32 playoff games,” Hitchcock said after the Oilers returned to the ice Thursday. “There’s going to be some real highs and some real lows. Somewhere in this 32-game stretch, we have got to tread water and then when we get on a run, we’ve got to run it all the way and go as far as we can with it because that’s what’s going to happen.

“A couple of teams are going to get on a run here — we want it to be us. We’ve been on two of these runs before already and we need to get on one more to get right in the middle of the race here,” said Hitchcock of a couple of 8-2-1 stretches that were diminished by some losing streaks, including that pre-break skid.

With the Oilers longshots at best, even with none of the teams in the pack of wildcard contenders managing to gain much traction of late, Hitchcock has to squeeze as much as he can from the players he’s got until interim GM Keith Gretzky and the rest of the front office finds some help – or at least attempts to. Today, Hitchcock ran McDavid between Milan Lucic and Ty Rattie, Draisaitl with Tobias Rieder and Chiasson, RNH between Jujhar Khaira and Zack Kassian and Kyle Brodziak with Jesse Puljujarvi and Colby Cave.

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“Chemistry looks good on paper, and you want to stay with it, but we’re on a game-by-game basis,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to adjust accordingly. These are lines that we like, (but) depending on the score clock, we’ll condense things. We’d like to be able to stay with this. We’d like to take this as long as we can into every game, and not have to force our hand, but we’re prepared to make the changes necessary to get the wins.”

Make changes? Bet on it. Rattie is going from clearing waivers to playing on the first line with McDavid. Draisaitl gets saddled with Rieder, who doesn’t have a goal this season. Chiasson has cooled right off after a torrid start. What’s the over/under on how fast we see Draisaitl back with McDavid against the Flyers?


The line-up aside, Hitchcock and his staff met with players Thursday to discuss what’s next. “Hopefully, we look quicker and hopefully we look like we’re playing on our toes more,” he said. “A lot of this is technical stuff that would bore the heck out of you but it makes sense to the players. It made sense to them today in the meetings. It made sense to the coaches, so we’re going to put them in place. The overall projection is we want to look quicker, we want to play on our toes and we want to be more aggressive.”

Yes, the Oilers are going to need more than “hopefully” to take a run at this, starting against the Flyers. They’ll need more balanced scoring. They’ll need Talbot and Koskinen to climb well into the .900’s. They’ll need Klefbom up to speed in a big hurry alongside Adam Larsson. They’ll need the kind of run that Hitchcock talked about. Head-to-head, they’re going to have to beat the other teams in the wildcard race.

It’s a big ask. Buckle up.

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Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • McHitch

    Comments on here are getting tough to read.

    Oiler “fans” who write about how terrible this team is, how they dont care anymore and how everything is pointless.

    The constant bashing of fans who hold onto hope and wish the team to perform well the remainder of the season.

    Than you get the guys who say trade Nuge or Klef. I just dont get it. You hate the team, you dont want them to win, but your a fan of them? What are you a fan of?

    The negativity is just getting ridiculous.

    Why are you on here posting if you feel this way? I dont get it.

      • McHitch

        As of today my new goal is to bash everyone making the same comment over and over again.

        We suck. We are a joke. Chia sucks. We have no cap space. Our wingers suck. Klowe sucks. Mact sucks.

        Same regurgitated comments written over and over… whats the point?

        Post a solution. Post some hope. Post something you are a fan of. This is a fan site…. not flames nation.

        If you hate everything about the team, hate all the players, and have no hope… dont call yourself a fan of the team. Your a troll. Maye your a flames fan. You sure aren’t a fan of the Oilers.

        • Gary

          Fans complain and criticize the organization for one reason only, and NO its not Flames fans its diehard fans of the Oilers who expect more.
          If your happy with the current performance than I would say that you sir are a Flames fan or connected to the OBC.

        • The solution is to fire all the idiots you just listed. There is no hope with the same management in place. I am positive this is not what McDavid envisioned. I am positive he will win a cup elsewhere, when he decides he has had enough Appears you are just an idiot as well. Send them your resume.

          • Derzie

            This is absolutely correct. Truth is surprisingly painful sometimes. In the small picture, it great that the troops are fired up and it will likely serve them well. Big picture, this team is 1 elite line and the Bad news Bears due to years of poor management. Until those managers are gone, that’s what remains. They cannot judge talent. They make historically poor decisions. They surround themselves with people who agree with them and blame the fringe hires when it all goes to crap. Every game is winnable: positive. Long term outlook, negative.

    • Hemmercules

      It’s called venting. We have all seen this movie before and know how it usually ends.

      Trading those guys is stupid though. Keep your good players if you can. Anybody is expendable though if the return is right for the team and the future of the team. Minus McJesus of course.

      Looking back at the last 12 years, there really isn’t much thats positive about this team. The only good players they have are from drafting them in the top 10, a result of being terrible almost every year. Even then, they blew it on a some of those drafts. Multiple coaches, GMs, bad contracts, terrible trades, poor development. The list just keeps growing and growing.

      The one good season was a result of zero injuries and a goalie playing way over his head.

      Imagine being a Pittsburg fan. Classy organization. Perennial playoff contender. Balanced roster. No need to overpay everyone just to play there. Goaltending is typically above average. I want that for us so bad.

        • McHitch

          Here is an example.

          We have 3 good centers. Two on pace for 100 points. Our C depth is the envy of the league. The hardest position to fill.

          We have 4 solid dmen under team control for a long time in Nurse, Klefbom, Larsson and Bouchard.

          We have some great pieces in place that we can build around.

          If we get hot goaltending and McDavid wins another art ross we have a shot at the playoffs.

          We are playing meaningful games in February.

          These are normal comments a fan would make. Most of you trolls feel better putting anyone down who has anything positive to say but call yourself fans. Its a joke.

          • Derzie

            3 good centers is solid and true. The rest are exaggerations or incorrect. Nurse is decent. Klefbom is fragile. Bouchard is a prospect. Larsson is declining. Most of the rest of the lineup, including the goalies, are cannon fodder. 3rd from the bottom in the west/league is hardly who plays ‘meaningful games in February’. That’s Kool aid consumption.

          • Hemmercules

            Those are all great points for sure. Thanks for that.

            It’s hard not to think they should be way further ahead at this point since they landed Mcd though. Even with all that stuff you mentioned its going to be a tough road for a couple years and you cant deny that. Being capped out with guys that can clear waivers with ease is a tough situation.

            I still believe they will find a good GM this time but it will take a couple years to pull out of all the bad moves Chia made. Two years from now actually looks pretty good if they play their cards right between now and then. Bunch of dead wight will be gone and they may be able to lose one of Sekera or Looch at that point assuming the both dont rebound somewhat.

          • Gravis82

            Despite all those good things, the rest of our roster are overpaid ineffective and impossible to get rid of. By the time we let those contracts play out and grow new players, will
            Be too late

        • Hemmercules

          You are just angry right now. Step away from here if it’s stressing you out so much. Losing tends to breed negativity. Many many years of losing has jaded a lot of Oilers fans and this site is an outlet for that frustration. Sad but true. Its not going to go away until the team isnt a dumpster fire. Go look back at the comments from when they stormed into the playoffs a couple years and you will see what I mean.

          I were merely stating that I want the Oilers to be like the Pens. Always competitive and run by a solid group of smart hockey minds. We deserve that I think.

          • McHitch

            Im tired of the trolls on here. Half of them dont even make sense.

            If you hate the team than dont post on here. If your a fan and you cheer for them show it.

            Way too much venting happening here when we are just 3 points out. Save it for when we are mathematically out.

            Least we are playing meaningful games down the stretch snd we have a solid core to build around.

          • Hemmercules

            3 points out doesn’t sound like much but its actually mountain when you think about it. There are 6 other teams fighting the same battle. Hitch said it best, they have 32 playoff games to play in the next two months. Getting beat down by Detroit and Carolina heading into the All star break isnt leaving warm and fuzzy feelings about their chances thats for sure. Hopefully McD’s attitude lately has brought them together a bit and they are ready for some tough hockey. The entire team owes it to him to give it their all.

      • McHitch

        I was Nuge2Yak originally.

        I posted Oiler Domination To Follow for many years. I stopped a few years back.

        My positivity started to sound like the ramblings of an insane person.

        • You didn’t stop a few years back. You posted it Nov. 21 and multiple times last summer. You’ve been posting it for years under multiple names — McNugent, nudge2drai and nuge2nail — while rolling your IP. Now, you’re back as McHitch. So, you’ve dropped the old act and you’re here to ridicule people for being negative and to tell them to “f off?” That’s not going to fly.

          • McHitch

            Ridicule people for being negative. So you can ridicule the team and ridicule anyone who says anything positive, but you cant ridicule people for their pointless negative comments that offer zero substance.

            Coming from the guy who said he would ban me for posting Oiler Domination To Follow. Seems like you feed off the negativity.

            My point is being missed. If your a fan of the team post something your a fan of once in a while. The constent complaining and bashing of who show some positivity is getting to be a bit much. If you say something positive your an idiot. Is that what this site has become?

    • Glencontrolurstik

      This whole website is exactly the same way as you describe… It’s sad really. The writers feed off the fan-base & vise versa, until it’s whipped up into a frenzy of negativity & pessimism.
      Until they spark into a winning streak, then it’s all great again, except for that one guy that’ll get “ragged” on (like Ebs, Talbot, Lucic…)… It’s the Oiler Fan Way… It’s fun damn-it…

  • D

    It is a big ask to make the playoffs. And if they do, I still believe the Oil make it out of the first round. If there is a Battle of Alberta in the first round, the Flames will get bounced.

  • Uncle Iroh

    They will fail this test like they have all the others. Chiarelli has gutted this team to the point where there are gaping holes in the lineup and no cap space to fill them.

  • Arfguy

    I actually want Todd MacLellan back now. Hitchcock has done nothing with this line up and clearly has no capacity to learn that you cannot place Lucic with McDavid if you want to get results.

    Stanley Cup winning coach. Feh.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      So what (precisely) would you do with the lines? I wouldn’t know where to start, but my guess is that Hitch is trying to balance the lineup to squeak out boring, trap-type wins. Not by balancing scoring, but balancing the boat anchors with the sails. I’m not sure what else he could do.

    • Stallions #35

      Putting the “Now” Lucic with McDavid will not work, you are right…but if somehow we can get the “crash the net, stand in front of the goalie” Lucic with McDavid…there will be at least a dozen garbage for Looch the rest of the season.

  • Inglewood jack

    Mr. Rubin Brontee
    I hope I spelled it Correct, Im no hockey expert, but I do live in edmonton so that does qualify me to be one,
    With all the blending of the lines, why has Leon never been given a look on nuge’s wing.
    He has proven to be a good rw with a good center, and would give 93 a good winger, and 97 can have chaisson and a fire hydrant.
    I have wanted to see this for some time but it never happens.
    Am I not seeing something as to why it would not work?

  • Darcy yaceyko

    Brian Burke says 6 years to clean up this mess! The oilers say they are gonna take their time with the GM search. I think they have already reached out and no takers. No self respecting GM will take this job because they will inherit garbage for a staff. So get ready for the Kieth Gretzky announcement..

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I estimate 4 with the “Jets model” and a GM that takes the job and blocks out the noise. But what do I know? Burkie has done the job, I’ve just seen the job done 2 ways here: Sather and *not* Sather.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I think with Chia gone we’ll see a different product on the ice.
      Aside from Eberle turning into nothing the personnel changes are minor when looking back at our 7 game loss to get to the Conference Final.
      I won’t even bring up that we had the game in hand, until we lost it late in the 3rd.
      But really, the main core of that team is still here, sans Eberle, but he didn’t contribute anything in that playoff run. In fact, he was an embarrassment, which is why he’s not here. I see no reason why this team can’t perform like those playoffs, now the the person hiring the help is gone…. I think that we have a far better coach now.

      • I don’t know why this gets trashed so heavy. Eberle should of been press boxed in the playoffs. I know that it is tough to swallow when scoring is a struggle but I know what I watched. What I have learn to appreciate watching this team team is a “hockey player “. The player that can contribute when the puck is not going in for them.

        Pouliot dried up offensively but killed penalties quite well, which why his buy out was surprising.

        When Hitch got hired I was excited the way we were playing. That 9-2-2 run was a breath of fresh air. Even that win in Anaheim wasn’t even close to our best hockey this year. I hope the Chia firing lights a fire under us like it has for Philadelphia.

        Watching the Flames v Caps has me believing that if we can make the playoffs somehow that we could do some damage. The whistle seems to go missing a bit in the second season. I think the Flames are in trouble in that area. Let’s get behind this team till we are mathematically out.

      • You’re forgetting that Sekera might be playing on a sledge when he comes back, nobody is replacing Maroon, Milan Lucic entire style of play is dead in the league, and that Nugent-Hopkins is accounting for his own and Mark Letestu’s role.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      This is one of the more reasonable assessments I have seen today. I don’t believe it is an oversimplification either. I like our chances with a .910 the rest of the way. I think solid (average) goaltending solves, or masks many of our other problems.

  • Hemmercules

    From waivers to top line. That is one hilarious statement. And then you add Looch to that equation. Im trying real hard to keep cheering for this team but they never let you down with their ridiculousness.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I must say that I am rather enjoying McHitch’s comments. Like him/her, I’m tired of negativity, then the justifications that follow. Being hopeful is not tantamount to being an idiot. Justify it how ever you like (realism, facing the facts, etc…), but if many of you talked the way you post on here you would be labelled a head case and no one would want to speak to you. I think the point here is that we are supposedly some of the most knowledgeable sports fans in the world, but somehow most threads on ON devolve into rants of hopeless individuals. Yikes.

    • Goaltender Interference

      Yes please. Let’s have a little more complaining about the fans.

      Notice that Chiarelli was only fired when GLobal and CBC started airing news stories about how fed up the fans were and how much merch sales have been down?

      Go smoke one with your buddy McGitch (If you aren’t actually the same person) and have fun in your fantasy bubble. The grown-ups are busy voicing their discontent and trying to do something about it.

      • McHitch

        Your truly clueless if you feel that complaining on oilersnation will make some sort of change.

        We are in year 13 of the rebuild. Your complaints will not speed anything up.

        The decision to fire chia was already made.

        I guess if complaining about the team you “love” everyday on every post makes you feel better go for it.

        I find it sad. Chia is gone. Maybe focus on the positives.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        ON just ate my post.
        Here are the highlights: let’s talk hockey, no sanctimony or name calling required. If you think posting on ON will cause any kind of real change, then I guarantee I am older and certainly more “grown up” than you. Lastly, the last time I smoked weed, you were probably unborn or an infant, but if you want to talk about the Neuroscience of the endocannabinoid system, I am your man. Good day, son.

        • Goaltender Interference

          Wrong forum to talk about neuroscience but if you feel it makes you seem smart to bring it up then, well, nicely done.

          So post something about hockey then. Be the change you want to see. Don’t like Hitch’s system? Which winger would you rather see on Connor’s line? What tricks can Lucic learn become a contributing member of the offence again?

          How are our prospects doing? How’s Woody actually doing down there running the farm team? Would kids like PJ and Yammer actually learn more down there then up here playing in the show.

          I don’t claim to be an expert in hockey but I see stuff like this in the comments all the time. But I guess it’s just easier for folks like you and the other one to come on here and blast everyone for being negative.

          No better than the trolls you claim to dislike.

          • Beer_League_Ringer

            100% wrong. Look at other threads. Read a little. I contribute in a thoughtful and respectful manner. I am certainly “better” than the trolls I dislike.

          • Beer_League_Ringer

            Yes!!! Despite some ups and downs (people seem to forget he’s only 23). I like it when he’s flying around making plays in the O-zone. He has the speed to gamble a bit more in that regard and it seems like his stint as our #1 in Klef’s absence has sped up his development.

    • Big Nuggets

      I think most fans feel about the same except for a few outliers that are always negative. When Chia was still here I felt the negativity was necessary to get them to fire Chia. The OBC hate, while I understand the point of view, it just boring for me to think about. I am interested in hockey. As for the Oilers chances this year I think if the defense is actually healthy down the stretch it is very possible, but I would not bet on it. The roster is too thin so adding a player at the deadline seems foolish, not to mention we can’t even activate Sekera because of our cap situation, how you are going to trade prospects to add a top six player is beyond me.

  • Wesley41

    To McHitch you have the right to be positive if you like I’m not going to put you down for that,but you can’t tell others to only post about sunshine and lollipops when some of us have been seeing this team flounder for other than literally 2-3good seasons for over a quarter century! Some of it had to do with the team not being able to complete financially before Katz got here.The problem some Writers and some of us sour fans see is since Katz,the perception right or wrong is in this one instance business is secondary to him,hanging out with his buddies is number one and that none of them are ever held truly accountable and they think they are the smartest guy in the room and sometimes they give the attitude to prove it.Along with prices getting so expensive.This team is going through the same cycle every 3-4years (firing) sometimes a coach and gm and replacing them with individuals who either can’t or won’t tell Katz that his friends management culture is probably the major reason for the teams lack of success because they can’t be fired and they always have a voice in the decision making process so things never really change .Just the public perception for a little while no matter who the new face supposedly in charge is.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Sorry, I’m playing logic police again…
      No one is selling sunshine and lollipops, or kool aid, or anything of the sort. No one is trying to get anyone to believe anything. Being a fan is about enjoyment. We all know as fans how bad this team has been. It is normal to be upset. However, if that’s all one is, then THOSE are the individuals I believe McHitch is addressing. You know, the type of person that complains no matter what. The type of person that keeps spouting negativity even when things are looking OK, just so they can say “I told you so” if things go wrong. Again, just because someone chooses to be positive, it doesn’t mean they are ignoring facts or being and idiot or posting “sunshine and lollipops”. There are more than two options, not everything is black and white.

      • Wesley41

        I never called anybody dumb or any idiot!Yes constant complaining does nobody any good but if people want to post their frustrations leave them be and don’t comment or respond back!

      • McHitch

        Im addressing the fans who hate the team, hate the players, hate management and come on here on every post snd regurgitate the same negativity.

        Do you believe the fans reading on here dont know the holes we have. The cap mess we are in. The lack of depth on rhe wings.

        We dont draft or develop well. Lowe sucks. MacT sucks. Katz sucks.

        Ok what else? Why post that over and over. Whats the point?

        You think Katz will sell the team? I just dont understand so much hate for a team your a fan of. Its pointless.

  • Wesley41

    So we have people complaining about people complaining?Hmmmmmm well in 2019 I know this is a novel concept but don’t read a comment or respond to a post if you don’t like it that goes both ways for positive and negative comments,but don’t act like the smartest guy in the room with the logic police bs dude lol!

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      ON keeps eating my posts. Your choice of words doesn’t matter… “Sunshine and lollipops” is tantamount to “idiot”. They are both phrases designed to belittle someone’s point of view without offering a logical counterpoint. And for the record, I could be the smartest one in the room, but who knows for sure?

    • Wesley41

      No it’s not. Don’t change people’s words to fit your narrative! it means some people don’t think there’s much to be positive about this team period!

  • Hemmercules

    I would just stack two lines with the best 6 players they have and play them heavily. The defence is what it is, not much you can to do there. Play Koski like a rented mule and pray to the gods that Talbot can look decent enough in his minimal starts that you can trade him on deadline day for basically anything.

    • I know I come across as pessimistic, but I do seriously think they will get smoked in both games this weekend, go into a nose dive, and then put a winning streak together when it does not matter anymore. Sound familiar?
      And then come back next year with the clown car intact.Change comes from growth, and this management team, braintrust, whatever we want to call it is stagnant (Kind of like stagnant water) They insist they know what they are doing, and then almost instantly prove they dont.

      • Hemmercules

        It doesn’t look good I will give you that, especially starting off with those early games. They tend to start really slow in those games.

        With two months left and Mcjesus in beast mode maybe they can pull it off, it will be the test of a lifetime for these guys. Koski and Looch will really have to step up to make it happen. A goal a game from the bottom 6 will be really important too.

        They will hire a good GM. They can’t afford to screw up this time. They have to let him pick his colleagues too. Forcing the scouting group and KeithG on the new guy would be a bad move.

  • Ted

    Calgary loses … and Turtle Boy took some knuckles to the face! It’s no wonder he Turtles! …. I’m feels good now back to back wins over the weekend will make this the feeling we are supposed to be feeling!! BOOM

  • Wesley41

    For someone who responded to post for someone else you sure are upset.Are you a millennial Beer?Just like one your trying to bully everyone who don’t think like you and say everything is a ok everybody!

    • Beer_League_Ringer


      What? No… I was born in 1973, I have a PhD. (yes, in Neuroscience), but I don’t think that makes me more intelligent than anyone else. I am married with 2 daughters. When I was young and living in Edmonton I played minor hockey for the Whitemud West Blues and Canadian Athletic Club. I was a goaltender. I played all the way to AJHL, but was too “busy” with other things, so I never took the next step. At least that’s what I tell myself. Chances are I just wasn’t good enough to play major Jr. Anything else you’d like to know?

      I am neither a bully, nor a millennial. I am astonished that you gleaned either conclusion from my posts.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Robin, (& you know this)… if any NHL teams lines don’t click they are blended.
      Most great coaches blend their lines based on the style of game & who they are playing. It’s not as though it’s an Oiler thing.

  • Towers-of-dub

    How much better are Colorado, Vancouver, Anaheim, St. Louis and Arizona? All those teams saw the Oilers struggling for the past 15 games and not one was able to really able to solidify a wild card spot. None of those teams have gone on a run to put some distance between them and everyone else.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    My cousin in Kitchener loves to chirp me about his beloved Leafs. He insists the Oilers are shopping Larsson for an established winger & that Toronto were sniffing around but passed. Is there any substance to this or more drivel ?

    • camdog

      Toronto was sniffing around everywhere looking for a d-man. Go to Corsica player rankings for defenceman. Look at the 20 names above him and 20 below him, he’s rated like he’s a third pairing d-man. If your heavy into analytics, like the Leafs are, you’ll likely pass on Larsson expecially considering the return the Oilers are looking for. He looks slow to me. It’s 2 years in a row he’s struggled when Klefbom got hurt. The one year he looked good Klefbom played the entire season and had a career year.

  • slats-west

    @McHitch aka drai2nuge,etc etc I think you can write what you want on ON – positive or negative. Just be thoughtful, insightful and respectful. Probably on that order. Otherwise fave the wrath of Robin…..

    • McHitch

      Thoughtful, insightful and respectful.

      Basically the opposite of 90% of the posts on here that repeat the same nevative comments over and over with no thought or insight.

      • IRONman

        No player gets on the ice and wants to lose. Blame management. Hall did not want to go. I remember 2015 summer Hall and Ebs played with Crosby and said they forgot what it was like to win a championship. Sad. Very sad management