Oilers need a composed and disciplined Leon Draisaitl for their playoff push

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are currently on a three-game losing skid, and they need to end it sooner rather than later before it spirals out of control as it did at the beginning of the season. Yet, for those on the brink of pushing the panic button, consider the bigger picture: they’re still 20-5-1 in their last 26 games, which is still rather impressive.
Nonetheless, the Oilers are streaking in the wrong direction with their third straight loss, and what’s alarming is that their effort levels have been subpar over the last couple of games. They’ve also faced challenges in their play, like their declining penalty kill, but one notable observation is the obvious frustration shown by Leon Draisaitl. On many nights, he’s considered the second-best hockey player on the planet, and even on some nights, the best, but for Edmonton to separate from the pack down the playoff stretch, they need the former Hart Trophy winner to maintain his composure and set a positive example for his teammates.
Edmonton came out flat against the Calgary Flames in the latest Battle of Alberta. In their effort to mount a comeback, forward Mattias Janmark electrified the crowd at Rogers Place when he threw haymakers at Blake Coleman’s face in response to a hit on captain Connor McDavid. Yet, the wind was taken out of the Oilers’ sails only a few minutes later when Draisaitl took an undisciplined penalty. Visibly frustrated, he hit Martin Pospisil and did not let up, resulting in an unnecessary hooking penalty.
Calgary scored on the ensuing powerplay, making the game 5-2 and nearly squashing Edmonton’s opportunity for a comeback. Needless to say, Draisaitl’s actions weren’t the wisest decision, which even led some hockey pundits to speculate whether he should be stapled to the bench or not. The three-time 50-goal scorer also displayed signs of frustration in the game prior versus the Minnesota Wild. He appeared unsettled and had what seemed like intense words with his teammates, officials, and even asistant coach Glen Gulutzan on the bench.
In the postgame interview against the Flames, when asked about his undisciplined penalty, Draisaitl explained, “Undisciplined, stupid — stupid penalty on my behalf. It certainly didn’t help our team in that way, I take full ownership with that.” The conversation then turned to his rising frustration levels and how he’s managing it, and he responded:
“When things aren’t going your way and you know, you lose a couple in a row, it’s easy to get down on yourself. It’s something that obviously we, you know, led by me, can do a much better job with and going forward we’ll continue to chip away at that.”
On the bright side, the 28-year-old understands his actions, what he did wrong and what he can work on to improve. On the other hand, we’ve seen this behaviour before — being frustrated and taking a penalty that cost his team. During last year’s playoffs, the Oilers were up 2-1 in Game 3 and Draisaitl gave Los Angeles Kings’ blueliner Drew Doughty an undisciplined slash, which resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty. The Kings scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game and also scored in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.

Draisaitl Elevated His Play After the “Pissy” Question

Additionally, this isn’t the first time Draisaitl’s frustrated behaviour has been pointed out and it’s not new for members of the media to mention it to him either. Back in January 2022, the Oilers were on a seven-game losing skid when the centreman was asked by a media member about his frustrated demeanour, resulting in the now-famous question directed at him: “Why are you so pissy?”
That said, it’s possible that exchange lit a fire under him. Over the next seven games that followed, he scored six goals and three assists, leading his team in points in that span and the Oilers went 5-1-1 over that stretch. In light of his most recent undisciplined penalty against the Flames and the recent questioning of his frustrations, if history repeats itself, there’s a good chance that he’ll take charge again and lead his team to a string of victories over the next few games.
Despite all of this, Draisaitl’s still been rather productive, tallying eight points in the last five games, and Oilers’ head coach Kris Knoblauch offered encouraging remarks of him, saying:
“Leon is a leader on our team and a lot of guys look up to him and he’s been showing his frustration, but his work ethic has been there and he’s been doing things well. Has he been playing at the top of his game? No, but it’s still pretty good. And just like him, just like a lot of guys, or almost everyone, we can all be a little better.”
All things considered, it’s remarkable that a depth player like Janmark stepped out of his comfort zone and dropped the gloves in a very impressive fashion in an attempt to shift momentum in the Oilers’ favour against the Flames, but moving forward, ultimately the team’s success hinges on core leaders like Draisaitl, and his ability to lead by example will become even more important in the last 27 games of the regular season.


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