Ken Hitchcock is extremely frustrated with what he’s seeing from the Oilers right now but his feelings likely pale in comparison to what fans are dealing with yet again. Only the most optimistic of people would truly believe the Oilers could still make a run to the post-season if you are one of them, good for you! Their Head Coach was full of criticism and disappointment after a loss to the Sharks on Saturday night.
SKILL AHEAD OF WORK
“When you put skill ahead of work you get burned, and there’s just too much of that going on, we address it all the time, we think we’re moving in the right direction and we just stumble badly,” he said. “It isn’t even what the other team is doing to us, we just shoot ourselves in the foot.”
While he didn’t directly mention Leon Draisaitl in that quote I think most of us can put one and one together and realize who he’s talking about. I see a number of people talking about Draisaitl haters and how in the end the MSM is going to run him out of town. I don’t think this is the case at all.
Draisaitl is a phenomenal offensive talent, especially when he is on the ice with Connor McDavid. If this team is going to have long term success Draisaitl will most certainly be a part of it but as a leader on this team, Draisaitl needs to know that other players are watching when he loses Evander Kane in the neutral zone or flies by the front of his own next against Chicago. Support players on any roster, in any sport, will be driven to work harder and do the little things better when they see the superstars doing the same thing.
So once again, I’m not running Draisaitl out of town; I’m merely using him as an example of elite players needing to be held accountable in all aspects of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the play of the talented German is way down on the list of Oilers issues, but him setting an example for others will go along way in the future of this organization, a future that he will be a huge part of. It is possible to really like Draisaitl’s game while at the same time thinking he can do better in some aspects of it.
HITCH OUT; GULUTZAN IN?
I was asked on The Nielson Show if it was a crazy thought to suggest that Glen Gulutzan should take over the rest of the season. It would be the most Oilers thing to do and I can why some folks would say it couldn’t hurt. The issue I have with it is that it basically means the players are once again being given a free pass for the team’s lack of success.
Would the Oilers play better under Gulutzan? Maybe. Am I intrigued to see what it might look like? Kind of. Would it be the best thing for this organization long term? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, the focus of this club needs to be the next 2-4 years, not the next 2-4 months.
THE JESSE DILEMMA
Remember all of those teams that played a 4th overall pick with their 4th line centre in hopes of properly developing him? Me neither. The fact Hitchcock couldn’t even find 11 minutes for Puljujarvi when Ty Rattie was lost for the majority of the game is just further proof they have no idea how to handle this player.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why they won’t send him down to Bakersfield. The Condors have a very good thing going on right now and by all accounts the atmosphere around Jay Woodcroft’s club is terrific. Why would an organization not want a 20-year old to be a part of that? If Puljujarvi was playing on the second line with Nugent-Hopkins and having an opportunity to develop some chemistry in an offensive situation I would understand. Playing him for 10 minutes on the fourth line instead of having him playing top-six minutes for an elite AHL squad is just plain stupid.
As of practice today JP is on the right side with Nuge and Khaira but I’m sure it will last for six minutes against the Penguins. I don’t think I’m alone is questioning why this trio hasn’t spent more time together this season. I still believe it’s the best second line they’ve been able to construct at any point this year. I’d leave this group together for the rest of the season.
A few folks have speculated that maybe Jesse and his agent have told the Oilers he doesn’t want to go back to the AHL. I’ve reached out to a few sources on this suggestion and have yet to hear back.