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The Quotes: Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft speaks to media

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Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
5 months ago
So as it turns out, transcribing 30-minutes of press conferences is more time-consuming than one would think.
While I broke down the 5000+ words from the players earlier this week, I also got to Jay Woodcroft’s press conference.
And with that, here are all 3000+ words of what he had to say on the season he had with the Oilers, his future and the future direction of this club.
Next up, Ken Holland.
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On his future with the Oilers: “I’ve worked here for seven years, proud member of the organization. This is my third different job title and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed my time here. I don’t have any update on it. Ken and I are getting through our player meetings right now and i’m sure we’ll sit down early next week and work through it.”
On how he evaluates himself: “You mentioned one of them right there, I take detailed notes on every day. AS you work your way through a season and I go back and personally look at the things I was thinking at different times and looking at the reasons why we made certain decisions, how we handled different situations, how we got through different moments. Those type of things. I think though what happens immediately after your season ends is that you want to make sure that you’re wrapping things up with your players the right way and in a timely fashion. Yesterday, obviously, there were some medicals and team meetings. We got through meetings with some of our younger players who didn’t play in the playoffs and then over the next couple days, you meet with players and you ask good questions and most importantly you listen.”
On how much better of a coach he feels he is now vs. game one against LA: “I do, I think experience is really important. I felt ready for this opportunity in February based on my preparation through 17 years in professional hockey. I felt ready heading into the playoffs because I’ve been a part of a lot of playoff games in different fashions or job titles. IT wasn’t my first time in this league getting ready for a playoff series. I think when you work your way through, you learn different lessons along the way. That first series against LA, it’s not like it all went smooth and was smooth sailing. There were adverse times. We learned a lot about each other in that series. I thought our habits held up under pressure. We worked our way into the second series against a heavily favoured Calgary Flames team, the number one team in our division. We were able to dispatch them in a timely fashion and learned a lot of lessons about our group during that series. Heading into the third round series it didn’t go our way and i think you can learn as much and maybe even more lessons when you don’t achieve what you want. That’s the process we’re filtering right now. We’re learning and processing these lessons.”
On the most important thing he’s done since being promoted: “I can tell you what I tried to do. I think it’s the job of the head coach to define what’s most important. To provide a sense of true north and that’s what I tried to do, a sense of hope at that time when the team was out of the playoff picture. I tried to provide a sense of hope and optimism.”
On heading into the offseason, how much it will help him to have time to prepare for training camp: “I’m going to get to that question. I’m going to start out by saying one of the advantages of Dave and I coming up at that time was there … we got thrown right in the fire. I think it was five games in seven nights, seven in nine, travel all over. The team was out of the playoff picture. We were going to play a murders ow of Tampa, Florida and Carolina on one of the road trips. What we did at the time was just try to use our eyes, use our instinct. We weren’t beholden to any biases on players or anything like that. We just came in and tried to use the benefit of our experience in order to make the best decisions possible. It doesn’t mean we made every right decision, but we weren’t caught up in all the stuff around the team at the time. We just tried to push our team forward each day. That, I think even though it wasn’t ideal, typical or normal for people in their first opportunity, I didn’t see it as a bad thing at the time.
“I think going back to your initial question about the advantage, I think the preparations for next season began yesterday. It starts with a thorough review of what occurred. What occurred during the 2021-22 season, it’s about what occurred from February 11th to June 7th. It’s also about what occurred just specifically in the playoffs. I think when you do your work you go through and you’re meticulous in your approach and how you view things. I think answers become clear. When you start to find answers, that informs how you want to proceed going forward. I think there is an advantage to that.”
On knowing the young players within the organization heading into training camp next season: “I think the players you mentioned and based on my experience in Bakersfield, I have shared experience with a lot of the players in our organization. It’s not about seeing them for seeing them for three preseason games and making an immediate judgement on only what you see. You have shared experience. You mention Ryan McLeod. One of the first things when Dave and I came up, we knew Ryan McLeod was an elite penalty killer in the American Hockey League. At the time, the penalty kill was taking on a little water from December 1st to February 10th or 11th. Based on our knowledge of what we could do at that level, it informed some of our decisions in terms of his elevation of penalty kill ice-time. Same thing with Kailer Yamamoto in that situation. That’s an example of how your experience with that player allows you to make some informed decisions. For me, with those players, I not only have shared experience with them, but they have shared experience with me. They understand that I value being tough-minded on standards of performance and I think they could attest I have a keen understanding of how people operate, and I believe that’s a core tenant of my coaching philosophy. I don’t think it’s one or the other, I think it’s a blend of both.”
On how felt his decision-making came along this year, into the playoffs: “I think for me, I tried to follow the same processes that led me to this position. I think on February 11th, the team was five or six points out of a playoff spot. I think my mandate was to get this team to the playoffs. We made playoffs, we won two rounds, we made it into the third round and along the way, from February 11th to June 6th or 7th, we had to demonstrate an ability we, and me specifically, had to demonstrate an ability to make hard decisions. I don’t profess to say I made every right decision, or our coaching staff made every right decision, but we played hockey in the month of June. I think if we would’ve taken that bargain on February 11th. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of our coaching staff. I’m proud of our organization we made it to that point, but there’s more there. In order to get to where we want to get to, we have to continue to strive to improve. That process began yesterday. Your initial question was about decision-making. I think when you demonstrate an ability to make hard decisions, then when you speak of soft values, I think people get it.”
On what needs to happen to win the Stanley Cup in Edmonton: “I think you got to do your work. I don’t think there’s any substitute. Hard work works. Now we’re in the process of really looking at every aspect of our operation. We’re happy with how far we got in the 2022 playoffs. When I say happy, we’re pleased with how we took a step here, but we’re not satisfied. Our belies aren’t full. For us, we’re going back to examining every aspect of how we do things. There’s no substitute for that. We’re pleased with how far we’ve got, but as I said, we’re still hungry. Our bellies aren’t full.”
On Puljujarvi’s play: “I think it’s only fair if I comment… on the 38 (games) I was here for. On February 11th, one of the first things I wanted to do with our lineup was distribute the centre icemen. We ended up having Connor on one line, Leon on another, Nuge and Ryan McLeod. We called it at the time the spine of the team. When we did that, I believe in the first game I put Jesse with Connor and Zach Hyman in that game. I forget the amount of games he hadn’t scored a goal in a long time, but he scored a goal on the powerplay against the New York Islanders — an important goal in a 3-1 win for us in the third period. He played against San Jose in a great team win for our team, we won 4-0 on the road. Went to LA, won an important game against a division rival in LA. We came back, we played a game against Anaheim and he scored a goal in the second period, and he got hurt.
He had two goals in four games as the new coach came in. I think he was starting to build a little bit of personal momentum and then he got hurt. It’s not an easy injury, it was a six, seven-week injury that affected the way he was skating. It took him a while to get back up and running. When he came back from injury, I think we put him with — and it was around the trade deadline — we put him with Leon Draisaitl and on that line. It took him a while to get back up to speed. Then towards the end of the regular season, he missed a full week with a non-COVID-related illness. Those things I don’t think helped his personal confidence, his personal momentum, but he never lost the belief of his teammates and his coaching staff. I thought he had some good moments. Scored a couple big goals for us, one in the LA series, one in the Calgary series. He’s a good player for us. He’s a good, young hockey player for us.”
On if there’s still something there with Puljujarvi where he’s an offensive player, not just a player who provides energy: “I think if you look at his point totals for this season, he set a career-high. Not in goals, but in point totals. He’s a young hockey player. I think for him, he is not dissimilar than Ryan McLeod, Evan Bouchard, Stuart Skinner, Dylan Holloway, some of our young players. That’s where the growth is going to come from and they got really good experience in our playoff run to aid that growth. We have a strong belief in the next wave of young players coming through our organization, and Jesse is one of them.”
On if he thinks Stuart Skinner, who is waiver eligible next season, is ready to be a 25-30 game backup in the NHL: “When you have some shared experineces, and I was the coach in Bakersfield when Stuart first came into professional hockey. His first year of professional hockey he was up and down between the American league and East Coast league. In the end, he played three games in a second-round playoff series that year. I felt good about him. The next year, he took on the lion share of the games and had his ups and downs. Went back down to the East Coast league again. HIs third year, he backstopped our group to the division finals. He played a hockey game on May 31 of 2021 in T-Mobile Arena to help the Bakersfield Condors win something in their last game. This year, I think he got more NHL experience. I think his last NHL game he got a shutout in. That was the We’re happy with how far we got in the 2022 playoffs. When I say happy, we’re pleased with how we took a step here, but we’re not satisfied. Our bellies aren’t full. San Jose game, my second game as a coach up here. I have a strong belief in Stuart’s ability. I’ve seen him grow with his on-ice skill set, I’ve seen him grow as a person. I feel good about Stuart Skinner and his potential as a really good NHL goaltender.”
On if Puljujarvi is someone who can PK in the future: “Potentially. I think it’s important to be open-minded and I think the time for experimentation is in training camp, is in pre-season, is early in the season. If your question is about penalty kill ice-time, when Dave and I came up, as I said I referenced going back to December the first, the penalty kill was taking on water. It was in the 60’s in that time frame. And we slowly chipped away. One of the ways to do that was to go to what we knew as coaches and eventually the penalty kill became a source of strength for our team.
I think that is a potential area for increased ice-time. It’s also important that players in your lineup find a way to garner more ice time, you have to play on one of the special teams. It is a potential. There’s two parts to the equation. It’s nice to have a plan, but then you have to use real-time information that players give you and judge if the plan is working. You have to be light on your feet in terms of reacting to what you’re seeing as well.”
On how beneficial the increased practice time in training camp, pre-season will be: “That’s a very good question too because when I look at one of the challenges we faced as a team from February 11th on, was the schedule and lack of practice time to be able to implement some of the things we want to implement. That’s why I would walk in here and you guys would roll your eyes when I would say we’re concentrated on one thing, or this is the lead domino. It’s because it’s hard in that situation to give the buckshot theory of this, this, this and this. You have to be very focused and specific with what you want to achieve understanding the schedule, understanding the lack of practice time. I think training camps are where you begin to lay a foundation. It’s where you’re able to make system adjustments. It’s where you’re able to set yourselves up to compete because you’re able to compete with each other in training camp, so you can compete for each other as the season goes on.”
On being a first time NHL head coach in Canada, this environment, the media: “It was a lot different than it was in Bakersfield, California. That’s not disparaging the great people in California. Typically one newspaper reporter and maybe a TV camera. For me, I looked at my daily opportunity to be with you good folks as an ability for the coaching staff and me specifically to communicate to the fan base. I think we have the best fans in the National Hockey League. THe most passionate fans, the most knowledgeable fans. I think it is unique, it’s unique to a Canadian market, It’s unique to a great city like Edmonton. It made me better, it made me really think about the message I wanted to get across to our great fans. It’s part of teh job and a part that I accept and I think it was a different year for the city with all the COVID stuff. It was a different year for our team with a great start, then a tough middle, a coaching change and then the great run we went on in the end. I think what’s most important is our fans stood by the team. Our team had the goal of making this city proud and in the end, we held together through stormy seas. We know there’s more to give, but we’re proud of our effort this year.”
On his evaluation of the Oilers’ blueline, if it’s strong enough to win a cup: “i’m proud of our effort. Not only on the blueline, but in net and upfront. You don’t make it to the third round of the playoffs without a lot of good efforts. I think we saw growth. I think we saw improvement. I think in order for us to get to where we want to get to… I think defending is a team thing. It’s not just on our dcore. I think there’s areas we can get better in and improve. If you’re asking me about the men who dressed on our blueline, I’m proud of their effort and we’re not where we got to without them.”
On if he expects Philip Broberg to be a full-time NHL player next year: “I’m very excited about Philip Broberg as a long-time Edmonton Oiler. I think he’s going to be a heckuva hockey player. I think he has a very high ceiling. I got to see him in a different way in the American League and I got to see him in some stints in the National Hockey League. WHen you look at Philip Broberg, you go back to even before his draft year, he just kept playing hockey and kept playing hockey with very little break in between because of all the national program things, the draft. I think it’s a big summer for Philip Broberg. I think he has the potential to be a really good player in the National Hockey League for a long-time. What he does with his summer, what he does with his training camp is up to him. I’d be remiss to commit to anything in June here, but I’m excited about Philip Broberg. He’s a heckuva person and a heckuva player.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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