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Dave Tippett: “There was a lot of growth within our group”

Yesterday, @Edmonton Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, jumped on a conference call with reporters to talk a little bit about the growth he saw in his team this season, the new guys picked up at the trade deadline, and what to expect from his boys if the NHL is able to safely resume play.

At just over 15 minutes in length, there was a lot to get to in this conference call so I wanted to clip a few of the most interesting portions to talk about and see if we can’t learn a little something about how this team operates at the same time.

EXPECTATIONS AND THE TRADE DEADLINE

When asked about what he expected from the Oilers before he took the job, Tippett echoed the sentiment that Ken Holland tabled for us shortly after he was hired as General Manager.

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I think Ken (Holland) put it best when he said we wanted to be playing meaningful games in March.”

I love that our bar was so low that having ‘meaningful games’ at the end of the season was the goal. I mean, I know what he’s getting at but it’s just funny to have it expressed so matter of fact, ya know?

It’s hard when you’re coming into a new situation because you don’t know the players as well as you could, so my expectations were high coming in. When you have players like McDavid, Draisaitl, Klefbom and Nugent-Hopkins, you’ve got players that are good core players and you should be able to find a way to earn a playoff spot. So to say that my expectations weren’t high would be wrong.

I loved hearing this from Tippett because it’s so obviously true that anything less than a playoff stop with this kind of high-end talent on the roster is almost criminal. I don’t know how Peter Chiarelli managed to do it, but he borked this team in a way that only he could have done (as we learned last week, he didn’t learn anything from it either). Sure, there have still been some challenges this season, but I feel like the Oilers have been able to handle them better than we’ve seen before and the coach agreed.

Even when we had some downtimes, we found ways to rebound, found ways to grab it, and when you go through some of that adversity it helps you moving forward. I like where we are, and as I said before, the last little bit there before we finished we were trying to find a little rhythm in our lineup with adding (at the deadline) to make us a deeper group and make us a real competitive group. We’re still in the mode of doing that.

Sounds like he’s asking us all to be patient, doesn’t it? Bah, I had to do it. Respect the process!

I like where we are, but would you rather be in first place? Sure, I’d rather be in first place. I’d be there all day long, but I think we were trending in the right way. I still think we’re trending the right way, it’s just we have to get back and get up and going to see where we actually get to.

When asked about the new players that were acquired at the trade deadline, Tippett regrets not having enough time to fully evaluate the new guys.

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I think all the guys that came in, we only had a short look at Green but obviously he’s a veteran in the league and we have an idea of what he can do.

I was thinking about Mike Green the other day and couldn’t believe how long he’s already been around. It feels like only yesterday that he was ripping it up for the Capitals, but that was literally a decade ago. Time is a cruel mistress, ain’t she?

I think AA (Athanasiou)… when a young player like that moves organizations, his first move, a player that hadn’t moved around much before, the adjustment period gets to be longer.

This was the quote that I really hope people will read and think about. Before the Coronavirus put us all on house arrest, @Andreas Athanasiou was taking a lot of heat around here for being unable to produce right from the jump and I thought that was too harsh on the kid that was coming into a new city from a tough spot in Detroit. I still love the Athanasiou trade and it bums me out that we weren’t able to see a larger sample size of what he can actually do while not playing through injury.

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And Tyler Ennis?

I think Ennis came in and jumped in right away. He had been on a couple of other teams, is a veteran guy and knows how to read and react. He adapted a little quicker. But like I said, having the ability to bring those guys along and get acclimated was something we were looking forward to. Hopefully, we still get that chance.

Hopefully, indeed. Hopefully, indeed.

REMAINDER OF THE SEASON AND PLAYOFFS

Like everyone else involved in these NHL conference calls, Tippett was asked about what to expect from the remainder of the regular season and playoffs and, right from the start, he threw cold water on the idea until we get a better idea of what’s going on in the world.

Once a timeline becomes a little clearer, then you can start to get into different scenarios that might work.

Of course. This whole thing sucks, but what about if the NHL was actually able to get going again. Any ideas?

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I go back to when there was playoffs series that were best of three, playoff series that were best of five, where you played four games in the first five nights then had a travel day and then you played the fifth game if you needed it. There are so many different scenarios but for me, it all comes down to how much time you have. Is there a time to finish some regular season games or all the regular season games? What’s the time frame for playoffs that you envision? It’s hard to comment on any one scenario when you don’t know the timeline.

Ignoring what could happen or what might happen depending on the massive unknown of when society gets a handle on this virus, I’m curious to know how you think this affecting a young team that was on the verge of getting back into the playoffs. Outside of the obvious fact that they aren’t playing games right now, what are the boys missing out on right now that we may not necessarily be thinking about?

You get to those games where the intensity level is there, the pressure to win is there, and those are all things that you put in that memory bank. That’s in the regular season to get that playoff spot, and then you get into a playoff series.

Ahhhh, okay. We’re talking about the added pressure that comes with playing in “must-win” games down the stretch. Character building games, we call that in the biz. What about the playoffs themselves?

Playoff series are different. You have one opponent. You’ve got to make adjustments not just in the game, but from game-to-game. You have to find advantages over a team when you’re playing them night in, night out. Those are things that are different from your regular NHL schedule that you get into that playoff series, and you have to find ways to win. Sometimes those ways are different every night.

I know we’re talking about NHL players here, but as a lifelong fan of this team, I also feel like I’m missing out on all of this stuff too.

Those are experiences players go through, especially the young players, that they can put in their memory bank. As you continue to go through those scenarios, you build up more of that knowledge of what it takes to win in those scenarios.

I’m not going to lie to you, Tipp. This was the best feeling a lot of us had felt about this hockey team in quite some time and the fact that we’re missing out on all of this together is a real kick to the shin. Then again, maybe getting through this adversity can make everyone strong? They say adversity builds character, don’t they?

I talked to a bunch of people over the last few weeks, and St. Louis went through it a bunch of times before finally it just clicked in them. Now they’re a very confident group. They think if they come back, they have a chance to compete for a second Cup because they have that knowledge in place. Those are things teams need to learn. Not just our team, but there are plenty of teams through the history of the league that go through those experience and then break through. We’d like to have some of those experiences.

Those experiences are all that Oilers fans have wanted for the past decade, Coach Tipp. That, and having an excuse to punish our livers for a couple of months every spring. We’ll get there. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

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Coming in at just over 15 minutes in length, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t get to so if you want to see the whole thing, you can watch Tippett’s entire conference call here.

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