Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Why is the Oilers’ PK so bad?

With another round of practice retirement in the books, we’re all back at work looking for ways to kill time until we can go home again. As always, the Mailbag is here to not only help you get to quitting time a little bit faster but to also teach you a little something. Free, time-wasting learning? You’ve gotta like that. As always, I need questions and if there’s something you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Have a good week, everyone.

Dec 7, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) makes a save on Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise (11) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Taylor asks – Can anyone explain to me why the Oilers’ penalty kill is still as bad as it is? It seems to me that the team has changed coaches, personnel, goaltenders, and almost everything you can to try and improve but it doesn’t ever seem to get better. Why? WHY!?

Jason Gregor:

To me, the group isn’t committed enough to consistency. One game it is bad reads to give open look. One game average goaltending. Another game they don’t get puck out when they have a chance, thus extending the PP in the offensive zone and eventually a breakdown occurs. Players like Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, Nurse, RNH and Kassian kill a lot of penalties. The group needs to hold one another accountable and say enough is enough. RNH is in his 8th NHL season. Being 37% in the faceoff on the PK isn’t good enough. He like the D-men need to take more pride in their play on the PK.

Robin Brownlee:

Good question, and one I’ve asked myself many times without coming up with an answer. One thing that sticks out for me is the Oilers are guilty of puck-watching too often — at even strength and shorthanded. That’s bad at anytime, but particularly costly when you’re down a man and the opponent sneaks a guy to open ice. Not something I’ve dissected with video or anything, but it’s something I’ve noticed.

Chris the Intern:

It’s extremely frustrating. Especially when we are losing games strictly because of the PK. On a technical aspect, I really can’t tell you why we suck, I just feel your pain.


The penalty kill is like sniffing farts. Even if you like the way it’s going, everyone else is judging you.

2) Nathan asks – I know that some fans are concerned that Stolarz likely won’t hit the 10 appearances needed to maintain his RFA status but I can’t help but feel like the Oilers need a more experienced backup than him anyway. What are your thoughts on Anthony Stolarz potentially not hitting his required games and becoming a UFA on July 1st?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think it matter much. If they want to re-sign him they will before July 1st. I’d play Koskinen as much as possible down the stretch. In his last 12 starts he’s had 10 good ones and two stinkers. I might lean towards a more veteran backup at $1.3 mill than Stolarz at $800,000. They don’t need Stolarz and a veteran backup, because they have Shane Starrett in the AHL and he will be the starter with one of Wells/Skinner as the backup.

Robin Brownlee:

Not particularly worried about it, although I’d like to get a better idea of if he can play and might be worth re-signing either as RFA or UFA. I’m not worried about where or if Stolarz fits in the top-four of organizational goaltenders — two in the NHL, two in the AHL — as much as I am about the lack of experience in net with the Oilers. Koskinen and Stolarz don’t add up to enough games in my mind.

Tyler Yaremchuk:


Chris the Intern:

I think Stolarz would be easy enough to sign ourselves as a UFA if need be this summer. I’m torn on the subject, I think we need a more experienced backup, however Stolarz seems like a good goalie prospect to have. With that said, we already have a few good goalie prospects, so I’m not sure if we’re loading too much up with them.


Meh. I think with Koskinen as your starter you’ll need an experienced backup, and I don’t necessarily think Stolarz is that guy.

3) Clay asks – Given the history between them, which scenario is more bizarre to you: 1) Sam Gagner and Zack Kassian are now teammates and have played on the same line, or 2) Connor McDavid and Brandon Manning on the same team, or 3) the fact that both situations happened in the same season? Explain your choice.

Jason Gregor:

Manning can’t play. The fact Chiarelli and Hitchcock thought he could is so damning it is amazing to me. The play in which McDavid got hurt means very little to me since it wasn’t on purpose, but I still vote for Manning/McDavid because the insanity displayed by a GM and HC in thinking Manning could actually play and was a better option than Kevin Gravel. That is insanely bad player evaluation from them.

Robin Brownlee:

Manning because the Oilers didn’t need him. Gagner and Kassian happened a long time ago and Gagner filled a need with the Oilers, so there wasn’t anything “bizarre” about that move in my mind.

Chris the Intern:

Number three for sure. This has been the oddest year ever and those two extra story lines are hilarious. Between the two, I think the Manning/McDavid situation is definitely more odd because the tension got carried over to the next season and future games. I can’t remember if the Kassian one did as well.


The fact that both of these things happened in the same season is the most Oilers thing I’ve ever seen, but to answer the question, the Brandon Manning storyline is stranger because he’s not even playing in the AHL.

4) David asks – Player Safety is handing out two-game suspensions like crazy right now. Is it overkill, still not enough, just right? Are you happy with the work Player Safety has done this year given the trend?

Jason Gregor:

Those hits were direct headshots. I have no issue with the suspensions. I have an issue with the fact the league won’t call regular infractions against skill players. Just call the damn rule book.

Robin Brownlee:

Not happy with player safety. There isn’t enough consistency in their rulings and they’re not handing out two-game suspensions like crazy. Several suspension-worthy hits have been overlooked while some borderline calls have resulted in suspensions. Still trying to find a standard and not doing a very good job of it.

Chris the Intern:

It’s easy for them to get carried away and have it snow ball. I understand their intentions to crack down on head contacts, but if you start to do it, you have to go all-in which will get them in trouble. I just want consistency whether they go all-in or not.


All I want is consistency. Until the NHL can figure that out then they’ll look like a joke. #SuspendTheMall

5) Lance asks – Last week, Jay (the Squire) was caught on camera at the Calgary Flames game fist bumping after Calgary scored and I’m wondering everyone’s take on the matter. For a guy that calls himself a diehard Oilers fan, that’s not the kind of behaviour I would expect and I’m wondering if the social reaction to this betrayal was worthy of the crime. Personally, I think everyone was too light on him. What are the panel’s thoughts on the matter?

Jason Gregor:

I never saw a fist bump, but I also would never spend more than two seconds watching a video of The Squire. Anyone who gives themselves a nickname is not trustworthy.

Robin Brownlee:

When Jay wears his Johnny Gaudreau onesy with the J-Hockey namebar in the privacy or his own home, that’s one thing, but his public displays of fandom for the Flames isn’t acceptable. I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.

Chris the Intern:

I think it’s absolutely hilarious because this whole scenario is happening to Jay. I know how much he hates the Flames, and for him of all people to be caught on camera (twice) is too perfect. I do think Jay needs to be punished for his actions by a jury of his peers.


Jay is a traitor and we need to make sure that he never forgets it.


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  • That's My Point

    Q – Why can’t Hitch change the goalie?

    A – The “TANK” has been on a while now and there’s no way to make playoffs so why not switch the goalie when his catching glove has holes in it.

  • TKB2677

    I completely agree with Gregor, the issues with the PK is 100% on the players. The guys that they are using are not committed enough. How many coaches have tried to fix it? They keep changing out coaches and it stays the same. A coach gets fired, moves to a new team, uses a similar system with the new team and their PK does fine. So it can’t be the system. I don’t think it’s because the team is lousy. Crappy teams can have good PK’s. A lot of it comes down to flat out out working the other teams PP and the Oilers don’t outwork anyone on a lot of nights.

    As an example. I am a big time Nuge fan. I watched him in junior. I hear all the time how great of a “2 way guy” Nuge is. Nuge is -14 on the season. He was -2 last night, -1 the night before. Coyotes game, their second goal by Galchenyuk. Nuge is the center is you watch the replay, he’s coasting into the zone watching, the closest guy to him and watches Galchenyuk shoot the put in. Vegas game. Same thing. Nuge is right there in front and he doesn’t pick up Stone. He’s just standing there and let’s Stone fire it in. Nuge is supposed to be the Oilers best defensive center and one of their vets, yet he STILL has defensive zone coverage problems. So if their best defensive center, a guy who’s on the PK a lot still has coverage problems, how can we expect anything else from the others? Plus he’s at 46% at faceoffs. How can you be a top PK and top defensive center if you can’t win a draw?

    • ed from edmonton

      Nuge has always struggled with the physicality of NHL hockey. He has played every game this year and has logged big minutes at times. I think he is wearing down and will its showing in his recent games.

      • TKB2677

        He might be wearing down but this isn’t a late in the year problem, it’s all the time. He’s been crappy at faceoffs his whole career. If you look at his career numbers, he hasn’t improved much. When the puck starts in your own zone for every PP, winning that first draw is pretty important. You win it, you kill off almost 30 secs. You don’t, you may never get it out. He’s one of their top PK guys yet he isn’t good at draws. Tough to be that guy. Plus even if he’s wearing down a bit, doesn’t excuse not picking up the open man in front of your net.

    • Deezy

      It might be a good time to sell high on Nuge. McDavid and Draisatl need to be the top 2 C’s for the team to go anywhere. We need wingers, in the worst way to play with those 2 guys and Nuge is the guy we need to move to make that happen. Gets rid of a salary that we won’t be able to afford in 2 years anyways.

  • The Oilers are a leaderless team that is made up of too many players that don’t know how to win and accept losing as part of their culture. This clown college needs to be dismantled from the top to bottom. Unfortunately too many blind homer Oiler fans laughingly believe that this team is one or two moves away from contending for the cup. As a hockey fan that see this once great organization become a laughing stock its so frustrating to read some of the unrealistic drivel written about this team. At least you have two 100 point players that are more concerned with individual accomplishments than their team winning to believe in.

    • JimmyV1965

      So what you’re saying is if McDavid and Drai each had 80 pts the team would be better? Got it. Shocking that some people in this town still blame the best players for the team’s crappiness. Maybe, just maybe, we suck because we have three NHL forwards and nine AHL forwards.

    • HockeyRooster

      This isn’t a Connor or Leon problem. After those two, the problems on this team are almost endless but it is ridiculous to call out the two guys who have tried to drag this AHL team into respectability.
      “more concerned with individual accomplishments” = absolute garbage; go away.

    • tkfisher

      If you think McDavid is a poor leader (aka a poor example to follow) you are a fool. If you think either player wouldn’t gladly give up 10 points from their season totals to get into the playoffs you’re an even bigger fool. The fact is that in the oilers last 17 goals McDavid has points on 13 of them. He’s doing his part (leading from the front), problem is there isn’t much around him capable of following at an NHL level.

  • ed from edmonton

    Playing Koskinnen in back to back sayd all we need to know about the oil’s regard for Stolarz. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t even try to re-sign him.

    • TKB2677

      New Jersey is 28th in the league, are a pretty lousy team and are 4th overall in PK. Buffalo is pretty lousy as a team and is 9th.

      One of the best teams in the league this year is Calgary and they are 20th. So I don’t think it comes down to if you have a stacked team or not.

  • Darcy yaceyko

    We all know there are some arrogant players on every team that choose not to follow instruction. They know the coaches will take the bullet. Accountability has to be directed at some of these players.

  • Heschultzhescores

    We don’t pressure the puck like every team does to us. I watch Nurse and Klef not even try to close distance when a guy is in a very dangerous shooting position. More and more I believe we have physically talented D-men who severely lack hockey IQ.

  • Oiler Al

    Best- Tampa @ 85.6% on PK… PPGA=34 … Times SH=236
    Worst-Oilers @ 75.6% on PK…l PPGA=54 …Times SH=221
    I think the secret is in the defense and goal tending.

  • camdog

    If you are not committed enough on the penalty kill that equals to a “cultural problem”. I personally don’t believe that both Hitchcock or McLellan would allow work ethic/commitment to be a problem on the penalty kill. The players simply are not good enough.

    There are no Hendricks, Letestu’s or Boyd Gordon’s, Todd Marchant’s, Mike Grier’s, Ethan Moreau’s in their prime at forward. Brodziak used to be good, but he’s lost a step. There’s players in this league that have a skill set that works on the penalty kill, the Oilers don’t have those guys.

      • Towers-of-dub

        They signed him knowing that somewhere along the way along would come Chiarelli with his usual offer of any other team in the league better, but his own. Here’s an NHL player for a sack of last years garbage. I’m surprised he didn’t offer the hawks a bunch of money as well.

  • Alfonso

    There’s no shame in cheering on those surging Calgary Flames … they’re extremely entertaining, skilled & show up for near every game … Godspeed, yes …

  • billsbills

    I only read the title and I can answer that. No it is not the skill level. They play a T style of pk instead of the standard box. Two guys high end up switching sides so often they are in a straight line. It opens up passing lanes and gives the other teams PP more room. PK is a pretty standard system, play a box and challenge the puck holder. Don’t follow the damn puck and stay in position!!!!