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Fast. Aggressive. Hockey. 

That’s what Oilers fan could look forward to in the 2018-19 season. Or at least that’s what we were told. I know, I know, it’s only one game I totally agree with you. I’m not upset at all that we lost Game 1 of an 82 game season but I am concerned HOW we lost. You see, in the offseason we were led to believe the Oilers would dramatically change their approach. We believed that Coach McLellan took “a long look in the mirror” and that the necessary adjustments would be made. Gone were all the assistants, instead replaced with a new group that was going to tap into this roster’s strengths. The Powerplay and Penalty Kill units were going to be completely overhauled and run by the new coaches. The defence was going to focus on eliminating time and space while being more aggressive. We were going to attack teams in the offensive zone in “waves”. We were told to prepare for “The Flood“.

Well, after watching Game 1 (a couple of times over) one thing was clear – little has changed since last year. Breaking down the film we saw a lot of what we saw last season. Edmonton got outworked badly, let in the 1st shot of the game (again), struggled in transition, were awful in their own zone, struggled on the Powerplay (minus the 1st one), got beat to loose pucks, had terrible puck support, and went 17 minutes without a shot. Overall, it was a poor effort that ended in a disappointing result – a 5-2 loss. 

So what about this new attacking style of dumping and chasing in waves? How would that work against a fast team that excels at puck support and transition defence? Take a look:

As you can see, this “new” system that McLellan has instilled certainly faltered in the opener. Perhaps, it is just a poor systematic approach against such a quick team. That begs the question then why weren’t more in-game adjustments made? Defensively, the philosophy of eliminating time and space was almost completely non-existent as the Devils players were allowed to enter the zone uncontested & dominated possession all game. Puck support was a huge issue as the Oilers forwards were either too slow coming back to help the defence or didn’t bother to come back at all. This aggressive forecheck in waves we were promised was practically negated completely. Line chemistry was an issue especially on that 2nd scoring line where Draisaitl and Lucic had zero shots 5 on 5 the entire game playing with Yamamoto. The gameplan was poorly drawn up and the execution level was just as bad. Lousy overall performance but again it was just one game……right?

Guess Todd doesn’t feel the same way as Evan Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak are benched for Drake Caggiula and Jason Garrison. Jesse Puljujarvi remains in the bottom 6 potentially on the 4th line despite a terrific pre-season where we saw him get ZERO opportunity in the Top 6. Sorry Jesse, Todd has his “circle of trust” and you’re either in it or you’re not. Just ask Anton Slepyshev or Nail Yakupov all about that. 

Not to worry though. I’m sure the new assistant coaches will help him figure it out shortly. How’s the new assistant Manny Vivieros working out so far by the way?

So let me get this straight….. “It’s only one game” right?

  • Rookie Evan Bouchard who showed some rookie jitters but held his own for the most part is benched after 1 game.
  • 14 yr veteran & RH shot Center & penalty killer Kyle Brodziak is benched after one average game for the non penalty killing winger in Drake Caggiula.
  • Jesse Puljujarvi who lit it up preseason and who we were told “loves to play with Strome” is taken OFF Strome’s line one game in but not due to a bump up in the lineup. He is demoted. After one game. Sure, that’ll help his confidence. 
  • Manny Viveiros, who was specifically brought in to help ignite a stagnant Powerplay that was the WORST IN THE LEAGUE last year is NOT in charge of the PP as McLellan decides to run it himself and with 5 left-handed shots. SMH. 

I admit, I was one of the people who was calling for McLellan to be fired after last season. I also promised he would get a clean slate this season and I would give him the benefit of the doubt. I still believe this is a very talented team but I have real doubts about TMac as coach that I just can’t shake. For one, he is ridiculously stubborn in his ways. If you don’t believe me, read this article about his time in San Jose and pay attention to how many times the word “stubborn” is used. Now we hear he is not even using Vivieros who was brought in to run the PP? Todd has also been notoriously slow at making adjustments throughout his career. I’m curious to see what systemic changes he makes on the ice or if we just see more of the same with similar results.

Regardless, we already knew this was going to be a bumpy first 10 games or so in the schedule. The question is, can they survive in the month of October and will McLellan be around to see it? I’m not sure but I can’t wait to see what happens in Game 2. 

 

Please check out our Podcast 

“Late Night with the OilKnight”

if you haven’t already where we go into further detail regarding the Oilers and the coaching staff.

 

 

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