Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Even keel for Kris Knoblauch
2 months ago
It’s obvious that Edmonton Oilers’ coach Kris Knoblauch has a little bit of the tried and true “never let the highs get too high or the lows get too low” approach as part of his repertoire because we’ve already seen both ends of that.
When the Oilers lost three straight games — against Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina – early in his tenure after he took from Jay Woodcroft, Knoblauch showed no signs of being prone to panic. After a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes Nov. 22, Knoblauch talked about his players worrying too much about mistakes and not playing with enough confidence. No hair-on-fire stuff there.
Eight straight wins later and with a chance to equal the franchise record of nine tonight when the Lightning come calling at Rogers Place, Knoblauch, 45, was talking about the flipside yesterday – keeping this hot streak in perspective and not to allowing over-confidence to sneak into the mix.
The former member of the Alberta Golden Bears is just 13 games into this new coaching gig with the Oilers, but he’s been behind the bench long enough – this is Knoblauch’s 17th season as an assistant or head coach in the WHL, AHL or NHL – to know how results can ebb and flow. There’s a happy middle ground when it comes to dealing with winning and losing.
WHAT HE SAID
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch looks on against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“I think there was a lot of frustration. Obviously, we’re sitting near the bottom of the standings. We had just lost three games in a row after that Carolina game,” Knoblauch said. “There wasn’t much to be optimistic about, but I think we looked at our goals and what we needed to do, and we didn’t look at the long term.
“We just looked at what we needed to do within the next game and maybe even the next two or three weeks, and we just did some goal-setting. “I think that was able to clear everybody’s mind and think about if we just take care of these things now, we’re going to put ourselves in a good position down the road.”
Now, the other half of that middle ground – enjoying the win streak they’ve put together but understanding there is more to do with 56 games to go to get where they want to be.
“We just need to be getting better every day, and certainly, we should be very happy and proud of the way we’re playing right now. We’re winning hockey games, which is the ultimate goal,” Knoblauch said.
“But right now, we’re not good enough to win in February and March and certainly not April and May. So, if we want to do that, we ought to be still pushing the boundaries and trying to get better each day.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The turnaround has been startling. During this eight-game streak, the Oilers lead the league with 4.75 goals-for per game, 1.63 goals-against per game and a power play that is ripping along at 44 per cent. The PK is second in this stretch at 96.2 per cent. Then, there’s Connor McDavid with 4-18-22.
The Oilers spanked the Canes 6-1 to open this homestand. Now, they get the Lightning and Panthers, two-thirds of the three-game losing skid, to close out the stand. I can’t imagine there’ll be any shortage of motivation to stay on the gas.
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