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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Second Guessing…

Hindsight being 20-20, a lot of observers and couch coaches had no idea why Edmonton Oilers’ coach Dave Tippett decided against using a time-out with 1:50 remaining in what would turn out to be a 6-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday. The thing is, all that angst didn’t just come post-game, it simply got cranked up then.

The circumstances we know. After Connor McDavid cut the Jets’ lead to 5-4 with six attackers on the ice, Tippett had a time-out in his pocket. Rather than use it to rest McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins for a final push, he kept it in his pocket and sent out third-liners Kyle Turris, JAMES NEAL and Zack Kassian. By the time Tippett got his top line back out, it was too late as Andrew Copp hit an empty net with 52 seconds remaining.

Suffice to say, it was a frustrating finish to a game in which the Oilers blew a 3-1 lead and gave up three goals in the span of 3:27 in the third period with a chance to sweep the Jets. While there’s no guarantee, obviously, that the Oilers would have come back to tie the game had Tippett opted to go down blazing with his big guns, I didn’t understand the coach’s thinking at the time and neither did many of you. 

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What was he thinking?

WHAT HE SAID

Nov 24, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“We wanted to get a short shift out of that one group,” Tippett said of putting out Turris, Kassian and Neal in response to a question by Jason Gregor. “Dave-O and them were awful tired. If you take a time-out then, that’s 1:50, so they’ve got to play that whole 1:50.

“We were trying to get 30 seconds, so we’d have a time-out, so they’d play the last 1:30, but you’d have a time-out to take midway through there, so . . . it was right on that point where, if you take your time-out then you’ve got to play them for two full minutes. That’s a long time at the end of a game.”

I get it that Tippett has, or should have, a far better feel for the game on the bench than those of us looking on via TV. Likewise, that he’s got 1,271 more games of experience as an NHL coach than you or I do. Tippett was there. He had eyes on the players we assumed he’d be throwing right back out there. Yes, questioning his decision is hindsight, but I still don’t get it.

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McDavid played 18:38 last night, his lowest total for ice time this season. He’s averaging 22:09 through seven games, 21:28 for his career. Draisaitl played 20:04, his second-lowest total in a season in which he’s averaged 21:12. How many times these past two seasons have we seen both of them pull shifts of 1:50 or more? I’d have sent them back over the boards after a time-out and taken my chances. By the way, Darnell Nurse played 29:01 last night.

“That’s not my field,” McDavid said when asked by Gregor in the post-game Zoom availability about Tippett’s decision not to call a time-out. “You’ve got to ask someone else there. I think that we have a balanced line-up. Kass and Nealer and Turr were going all night and they gave us an opportunity to score as well, so . . .”

THE WAY I SEE IT

Throw in Tippett’s decision not to challenge a potential off-side and his tweaking the line-up after a win – notably to take Slater Koekkoek off the blueline – in a loss that drops the Oilers to 3-5-0 in the North Division going into back-to-back games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, you’re going to get a lot of second guessing. Hindsight being what it is, that’s to be expected.

If the Oilers don’t give up three quick goals in the third period, we’re not having this discussion today. If Mikko Koskinen can make another save, we’re not having this discussion today. Those aren’t the cards Tippett was dealt. That said, the way I see it, Tippett didn’t play his best hand with the money on the table. He held his aces when it mattered most.

Previously by Robin Brownlee