This time it will be different. That is what Oilers fans are hoping as Jay Woodcroft becomes the Edmonton Oilers’ 10th head coach since 2008-09 (14 seasons). I only counted Craig MacTavish once, although he also had a five-game mid-season stint in 2014-15 while transitioning from Dallas Eakins to Todd Nelson.
Maybe Woodcroft becomes a long-standing figure behind the bench, but longevity isn’t a word we’ve used very often when describing an Oilers’ head coach.
For their first 10 seasons, Glen Sather coached every game except 18. He was the head coach in the inaugural 1979-80 season, but then he hired Bryan Watson to be the head coach. That lasted 18 games at the start of the 1980-81 season, before Sather realized it was the wrong decision and he returned to be the GM and head coach.
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Since Sather handed the head coaching reigns to John Muckler at the start of the 1989-90 season, very few coaches have lasted longer than three seasons.
Muckler won a Cup his first year, went to the Conference Finals in his second season, but then left the organization.
Ted Green coached 188 games.
Sather replaced him for the final 60 games in 1993-1994.
George Burnett was hired and fired after 35 games.
Ron Low had a decent run of 341 games.
Kevin Lowe coached one season of 82 games.
Craig MacTavish coached the second most consecutive games in Oilers history at 656. He coached eight seasons.
Pat Quinn 82 games.
Tom Renny 164 games.
Ralph Krueger 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Dallas Eakins, 113 games.
Todd Nelson, 51 games as Interim head coach (MacT was on the bench for five games in 2014-15).
Todd McLellan had 266 games.
Ken Hitchcock had the Interim tag for 62 games.
Dave Tippett lasted 171 games before being fired on Wednesday.
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It has been an endless rotation behind the bench since 2008-09. Blaming the coach is getting old. Bad decisions by management have played a major role in the revolving door behind the bench, and now it is up to Woodcroft, along with new assistant Dave Manson, to see if they can create some stability. It won’t be easy, but I do believe the players will be open to whatever changes Woodcroft wants to implement.
This team has underachieved to this point. They truly believe they are better than their record, and they should be attentive and welcoming of some changes. They haven’t had much success the past two months. Their penalty kill has floundered. The power play has been unable to score regularly. They give up too many quality chances off the rush and in the defensive zone. Players want to win, and a different message, with a few subtle tweaks, could ignite this group.
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But one thing that must improve is their ability to score first. It is past the point of being a small thing. The Oilers have allowed the first goal in 29 of their past 35 games. They’ve been down 1-0 in 83% of their games. It has to change.
Here is a look at the past 35 games. The games they scored first are in red. SF/TF stands for Scores first, Trail First.
In 14 games they allowed the first goal in the first 5:25 of the game. Wow. They need better starts. They also need stay out of the box in the first 10 minutes of the game. Their PK has struggled mightily and often they are allowing a goal on the first penalty kill in the first 10 minutes.
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TEAM
TIME
SITUATION
SF/TF
RESULT
CHI
1:44
PK
TF
L
LVK
9:59
5×5
TF
L
WSH
1:30
5×5
SF
W
OTT
11:32
5×5
TF
OTL
MTL
11:21
5×5
SF
W
NSH
5:07
5×5
TF
SOW
VAN
14:26
5×5
TF
W
CGY
8:29
5×5
TF
W
FLA
25:28
PK
TF
L
OTT
10:35
PK
TF
L
TOR
4:25
5×5
TF
L
NYR
5:25
5×5
TF
L
NYI
16:40
PK
TF
L
NJ
1:38
PK
TF
OTL
STL
4:03
5×5
TF
L
SEA
4:18
5×5
TF
W
CBJ
7:24
PP
SF
W
TOR
19:25
PK
TF
L
CAR
7:17
PK
TF
L
BOS
16:15
SHGA
TF
L
MIN
1:11
PK
TF
L
LAK
2:01
5X5
TF
L
SEA
:49
5X5
TF
L
PIT
6:52
5×5
SF
W
LVK
17:50
5×5
SF
W
ARI
3:45
5X5
TF
W
DAL
10:59
PK
TF
L
CHI
10:16
5×5
SF
W
WPG
53:47
5X5
TF
SOW
WPG
2:09
5X5
TF
L
STL
14:18
PK
TF
W
BUFF
22:16
5X5
TF
L
BOS
4:45
5×5
TF
W
DET
14:03
5X5
TF
L
NYR
1:53
5X5
TF
OTW
We’ve talked a lot about goaltending, and without question it needs to improve. But the skaters also need to be more alert and determined in their own zone to try and protect their goalies. Goals against is a team stat and it needs to improve.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Hyman– McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kane – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – RNH – Ryan
Benson – McLeod – Shore
Nurse – Bouchard
Lagesson – Ceci
Niemelainen – Barrie
Smith
Starting Smith makes the most sense, with such an inexperienced blueline in front of him. They will need timely saves from Smith, while also getting more defensive awareness and competitiveness from the blueline.
The addition of Kane allows RNH to play third line centre, while the rest of the lineup if fairly similar to what we saw much of the season. If Kane wasn’t here and Kassian was healthy we’d likely see RNH on 2LW and Kassian on 3RW. I expect a lot of jump from the forwards tonight looking to make a good impression on their new head coach.
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I suspect we will see Philip Broberg in one of the two games in San Jose or Los Angeles.
Islanders
Lee – Barzal  – Clutterbuck
Johnston – Nelson – Bailey
Parise – Pageau – Wallstrom
Martin – Cizikas – Beauvillier
Pelech – Mayfield
Chara – Dobson
Greene – Pulock
Sorokin
Barry Trotz switched up his entire four lines in Vancouver on Wednesday and it paid off. They scored five goals in the first 16 minutes on route to a 6-3 win. He will stick with the same combinations tonight.
Islanders games have resulted in the second lowest total power play chances per game. The Islanders are 29th in power play opportunities per game at 2.58, and have the third fewest times shorthanded per game, with 2.53. Only San Jose has fewer penalties per game as they get 2.54 PPO/GP and 2.50 TS/GP.
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The Oilers are 24th in PPO/GP at 2.80 and they have the 13th highest TS/GP at 2.93.
If one team gets three power plays that would be high.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Trotz mentioned he expects the Oilers to have an adrenaline surge with their new coach. We’ll see if he is correct. Edmonton should be desperate, but will it lead to more controlled play? I think this will a low event game that goes to OT. Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Many Oilersnation readers spend the afternoon hyping themselves up that this coaching change will work. The battle is real.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Puljujarvi scores his first goal in 15 games.

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