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Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
2 months ago
There’s no question Jay Woodcroft did a terrific job behind the Edmonton Oilers’ bench after being parachuted in from Bakersfield to replace Dave Tippett last February 10. That Woodcroft coached a team that was outside a wildcard spot to a 26-9-3 record and all the way to the Western Conference final against Colorado speaks for itself.
As impressive as it was that Woodcroft and Dave Manson hit the ground running and turned things around as the Oilers played at a .724 clip in the final 38 regular season games before post-season series wins over the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames, the 46-year-old bench boss is looking forward to starting at square one in Penticton this week.
“This year, we get the opportunity to run a full training camp,” Woodcroft said in an interview with morning show host Dustin Nielson on TSN 1260 today. “What I’m excited about is really rolling up my sleeves and digging into different parts of the game.
“When you honestly reflect on our team, what our strengths are, how far we got last year, I don’t think there needs to be wholesale changes in every part of the game, but I think there are areas we can improve. There are parts of the game the best teams consistently excel at and (I’m) looking forward to introducing a few tweaks, not major changes, in certain areas. I know that our players are excited as well.”

THOSE TWEAKS

May 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft on his bench against the Calgary Flames during the third period in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
We know the Oilers score enough goals to get the job done. They finished seventh last season with 285 goals and had a power play that clicked along at a 26.0 clip, third in the league. It’s the other side of the puck Woodcroft is looking at. The Oilers allowed 251 goals, 18th in the league. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are out this season in favor of Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner, but there is more to improving defensively than swapping stoppers.
“I think we can continually work to shave goals-against off and I think there’s different ways to do that,” said Woodcroft. “Checking is obviously a word that gets used in the media and in hockey language. I might have a different point of view in how you can check or eliminate goals against.
“I think there’s ways you can do that in the offensive zone. I think being organized on the way back to your own end is important – instilling certain types of principals on the way back to your own end. I think contesting lines is an important quality of the best teams in the world. I think being clean on retrievals and being rehearsed in breakout patterns is very important.
“The better you are at doing all of those things, the less time you spend in your own zone, you have more of an opportunity to do some damage in the other team’s zone. Those are areas of focus for us. Like I said earlier, I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

With the three seasons Woodcroft spent as an assistant coach with the Oilers 2015-18 and the time he coached the AHL team with Bakersfield 2018 to last February, it’s not like he was a stranger to the players on the roster he inherited from Tippett. The same goes for many of the prospects who played for him with the Condors last season and are in Penticton now.
That said, Woodcroft, Manson and Glen Gulutzan have had a full off-season – short as it was — to prepare and will have a full camp and pre-season to implement the defensive components Woodcroft says he wants to focus on and improve. This team is Woodcroft’s show now. I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

#NATIONVACATION TO LAS VEGAS

  • When: On Thursday, January 12th, we’re jumping on a flight at the Edmonton International Airport and making our way to Vegas. On Sunday evening, we’ll fly back from Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates that you need to block off for this trip are January 12th to 15th.
  • Where we’re staying: After landing in LV, we’ll jump on the free shuttle and make our way to the Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
  • What you get: Your roundtrip flight, hotel, shuttle, viewing party (Friday night), game entry — we got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry into our pre-trip ‘get to know everyone’ event.
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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