“It (effort) has to get better or we need to make huge, huge changes,” said Todd McLellan last night after another lacklustre effort.
You’ve witnessed many bad games during the past decade, especially during the previous seven years, and I’ve seen coaches mad, but it was refreshing to hear a coach say what everyone is thinking.
The effort, work ethic and execution of this group is not good enough and changes need to be made.
McLellan didn’t mince his words when asked about his team’s performance.
Veteran writer Terry Jones asked if his team had pulled the chute?
“I won’t put them all in that category, but there are some who should be embarrassed when they leave the rink,” seethed McLellan.
“At what point do you bench players who aren’t giving you the effort you need?”, I asked.
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“We are probably talking about two or three guys in particular, one maybe, and he should be. The potential for it exists greatly in the next ten days, but we will get through this next little phase first,” said McLellan.
He didn’t name names, but everyone knew he was talking about Justin Schultz. (He did say this about Schultz later “Very disappointing game for him individually and it affected our team.”) His inability to control a pass led to an easy third goal for the Senators and deflated the Oilers. McLellan’s patience has run out with #19. A change of scenery will occur, either via trade or a trip to Bakersfield after the trade deadline. I don’t see any way Schultz plays much more for the Oilers. The coach has seen enough and Schultz looks defeated. I’m sure he is at the point where he’d like a change as well.
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But it wasn’t just Schultz. The Oilers had 15 giveaways in the first period, with Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot leading the way with three each. Outside of the final four minutes of the second period, the Oilers did not play with any urgency or consistency.
“Right now I’m really disappointed. I’m concerned about the spirit of our team. I think there are a lot of guys waiting for something, what that is I don’t know, if it is changes coming, them leaving, new guys coming in, but it is a dangerous, dangerous thing,” said the head coach.
Too often the blame has fallen at the feet of previous head coaches or the fourth line. Thankfully under McLellan it seems accountability will fall on the players who play the most.
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I asked McLellan about their penchant for making the major gaffe, and how they can eliminate it from their game.
“Maybe we get rid of some players,” McLellan replied bluntly.
I suspect Oilers fans across the land said, “About damn time,” upon hearing him utter those words. Everyone knows they need a top-pairing defender, but one player won’t cure all their problems. Too many players continue to make egregious errors, and it is obvious McLellan has seen enough to know who he wants on his team next year and who he wants traded.
TSN’s Ryan Rishaug asked McLellan about how his team seemingly doesn’t know how to pull anything out of games this time of year and how their effort wanes.
“I think that is a good observation,” said McLellan. “I’m still early into it here, but as I mentioned I’m concerned about our spirit right now. At the beginning of the year I talked about fighting through crap like this, so I’m concerned. The spirit of the team isn’t where it needs to be.
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“There has to be ten guys in there who have so much pride they pull the rest of the team along. We will see what happens over the next six or seven days, maybe there are guys waiting for that, I don’t know. But it (effort) has to get better or we need to make huge, huge changes.”
McLellan challenged his entire team. A few will be traded by next Monday, but the majority will remain and they will have 21 games to show McLellan they aren’t quitters. They can show the coach and GM, Peter Chiarelli, that they realize the importance of work ethic and commitment.
Those who are mentally soft, and unable to put forth a respectable effort won’t enjoy the wonders of the brand new arena, or have the luxury of calling Connor McDavid their teammate.
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For far too long many players escaped the blame during another losing season, but that trend is over. McLellan and Chiarelli aren’t going anywhere. This time it is the players who will be moved, and not just bit players, but those who play the most.
It is long overdue, and the players will decide their future. Their on-ice performance will show who wants to improve and who wants to leave.
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