What Will the New Year Bring the Oilers?

It’s been a while since I was left that emotionally frustrated by the Oilers but last night’s game versus the Winnipeg Jets had me near irate and I try my best not to let the team’s results control my emotions because it’s only entertainment, right?

I mean if we’re being honest, that was the first game in quite a while where Todd’s boys laid an egg. December was going oh so well until this latest skid and while I pride myself on being optimistic in the face of the ever-lingering pessimism that clouds this fanbase, I feel like I might be writing more draft dedicated articles soon.


There’s been a faction of the Oilers “supporters” that have been calling for McLellan’s head since the end of October and with every subsequent loss the Oilers are handed, I can relate with their angst. The usual response online is something to the effect of, “Haven’t the Oilers hired and fired enough coaches in the last ten years?”

The answer to that question is yes.

If we go back 10 years from today, the Oilers have had 7 separate head coaches.

  • Craig MacTavish
  • Pat Quinn
  • Tom Renney
  • Ralph Krueger
  • Dallas Eakins
  • Todd Nelson
  • Todd McLellan

From 1998 to 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks also had 7 different head coaches before finally settling on Joel Quenneville.

  • Dirk Graham
  • Lorne Molleken
  • Bob Pulford
  • Alpo Suhonen
  • Brian Sutter
  • Trent Yawney
  • Denis Savard

As a fan, you should be thankful, the Real Madrid football team went through 9 managers from 2003 to 2009. And that’s one of the most successful football (soccer) teams in history who’ve had some of the best players in the history of the beautiful game.

There’s a real possibility that the playing personnel and it’s coaches aren’t compatible. Maybe Todd McLellan and his staff are more appropriate for a team that isn’t driven by players so young. When he took over in San Jose, he had Thornton and Marleau right in their primes and a defense led by Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, an all-star goalie in Evgeni Nabakov, and the Sharks even added old cagey vets like Claude Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick to boot.

He does not have that in Edmonton at the moment.

The GM has basically two moves left to save his ass and that’s to make another trade in hopes that’ll jump start the team or to fire the coach and his staff but if he does fire the coach, his neck will be on the chopping block next. Usually, that’s the last card to be played before a GM is dismissed.

Now with that being said, the Oilers’ league-mandated week off is coming up and if a coaching change is going to be made in-season, that’s more likely when it’ll be. A pricey one might I add given that McLellan is one of the top paid coaches in the league.

My last thought on the coaches is that if they don’t have the answers to the special teams problems, something they’ve stated publicly, then who does? It is their job to come up with the solutions to the team’s problems and to inform the players, who then take that information and apply it on the ice. If the players aren’t doing that, then the coaches need to react appropriately. If the coaches reactions aren’t being taken seriously, then the GM has to take action be it by making a trade or by letting a coach go. If the GM is unwilling to do that, then… I think you get the point.

Are the players concerned enough about being traded to improve their play though? Are the coaches concerned enough about being fired to make wholesale changes?


I’ve been taking a look at some of the goals scored vs. the Oilers PK in the last couple of weeks or so and I can’t find a constant error in their formation or tactics being used. What I do find are little brainfarts like over-committing, getting hung up on a teammate, dropping a stick, bad bounces, or not reading the ice properly that are costing the Oilers.

I was curious about the tactic the Oilers have been using on the kill, so I looked into it a bit more.

The Oilers, utilize something called the “Czech Press” on the PK. This tactic a more aggressive version of the “Triangle +1” or a “Wedge +1” and is described as thus:

The general concept of the Triangle +1 is that three penalty killers form a triangle shape down low, protecting the slot and net. The fourth penalty killer is the “plus-one,” focused on getting in shooting lanes, angling the play in certain directions, or pressuring the puck carrier. The key to understanding the Triangle +1 is knowing that the player functioning as the “plus-one” can shift mid-play, depending upon the location of the puck. If the play quickly transitions from left to right, the high forward can sag back into the triangle while the lower forward takes over the “plus-one” role.

Wedge +1

The same concepts of the Triangle +1 apply, but in the Czech Press, the “plus-one” forward is very aggressive. He actively attacks the high man at the blueline (usually a defenseman), and in the event of a pass to a forward on the half boards, he “presses” down on the new puck carrier to cut off space and time.(Source)

Czech Press

Here’s an example of what the Czech Press should look like if deployed properly,

According to the source from above, the Czech Press has it’s advantages and disadvantages,

The Czech Press, on the other hand, looks to actively force opposing power plays into mistakes. The result is more turnovers, but also more opportunities for dangerous chances, due to the chaotic play of the “plus-one” forward. Rapid puck movement has the aggressive forward constantly chasing, and can turn the formation into a “Triangle Plus-Nothing,” with three penalty killers in the slot just waiting to be eaten alive. (Source)

I think one of the things, apart from the possibilities discussed above, we’re witnessing this year with the Oilers is that teams are turning the extra man who chases the puck into the “nothing”. My understanding is that this formation when passive is used to combat the point shot and cross-seam passes. A team that doesn’t have the speed to use the Czech Press shouldn’t be using it in my opinion but maybe it’s more than that. One could argue it’s intelligence on the ice too because you can’t simply run around with your head cut off on the PK. The penalty kill is all about managing 2-on-1 scenarios, right?

Some players that are having good years on the PK according to some parameters set by Jon Willis (20 min TOI, GA/60, league avg=7 GA/60) on Twitter last night are:

Jujhar Khaira (36.1 TOI, 4.99 GA/60) – I believe that he’d be just as good as Pouliot on the PK if given the chance. He’s got good hands, a big body, AND he doesn’t take too many penalties.

Connor McDavid (47.9 TOI, 5.01 GA/60) – Of course he’s one of the best. He’s got the speed and agility to be used properly in the Czech Press PLUS he’s the smartest player in the game.

Brandon Davidson (33.3 TOI, 3.6 GA/60) – Matt Benning could use a night or two in the press box. He’s still young but he’s really hitting the sophomore slump this year and Davidson’s #s don’t lie here. Add to that Davy’s got a bit more experience and size on Benning.

Eric Gryba (29.43 TOI, 6.12 GA/60) – There’s not much to say about Grybs. He’s ineffective 5×5 and now he’s in the minors.

Other players that are hovering just over the league average GA/60 are Mark Letestu (8.79), Oscar Klefbom (8.98), and Iiro Pakarinen (8.85).

But the rest of the team are in double-digits. Drake Caggiula’s GA/60 on the PK is 17.81… Which is mad because he’s so fast and aggressive, right? You’d think that he’d fit right into this PK tactic. The worst dman is Matt Benning with 15.8 GA/60 on the PK…

If the Oilers don’t have the players who can effectively work within the penalty killing system, why use it? It reminds me of Dallas Eakins’ “swarm”. The coaches are trying to force it down the players’ throats and from what I’ve gathered, it doesn’t sound like the players are having anything of it anymore.

I think if you’ve noticed, that nearly every team that the Oilers get a PP versus uses the passive “triangle +1” because the Oilers are happy to pass it around the perimeter at their own pace. If the Oilers could move it around a lot quicker maybe by bringing the players on the wall a little higher to support the dman, they could open things up a bit better.

Another way to create scoring chances is… GO TO THE BLUE PAINT! Jesse Puljujarvi has scored but one from in the home plate if I recall correctly. I mean, I’m not a coach by trade but if the other team is parking the bus in front of the goalie, why not add some more chaos and throw three of your guys in front too and leave a 2-on-1 scenario for the remaining players. Then simply get the puck on the net for the players to battle over. I think an added bonus to those goal-mouth scrambles might be causing the other team to take more penalties due to the desperation of clearing the puck from so close to the net.


I suppose we’re going to have to start talking about it sooner or later… At this point, the Oilers are sitting pretty at 6th overall. Whether you’re the type to follow the draft or not, I’m sure you’ve heard who is going 1st overall, the Swedish Bobby Orr, Rasmus Dahlin. After Dahlin is a right-wing sniper who plays for Barrie in the OHL named Andrei Svechnikov.

Dahlin and Svechnikov will be going 1 and 2 at the draft, I have no doubt in my mind about that. But it’s from 3rd overall to 6th overall that it could get interesting. Right now I believe it’s a battle between a magical Czech forward named Filip Zadina and another Swedish Karlsson clone named Adam Boqvist for no.3. Matthew Tkachuk’s little brother Brady should go 5th and then the 2nd best skater in the draft, Quinn Hughes, a dman playing NCAA in Michigan should round it out.

We don’t know where the lottery balls will land come draft time but I’m not a huge fan of selecting a defender in the top 6 not named Rasmus Dahlin.

If the Oilers draft…

  • 1st – Rasmus Dahlin (LD) – Swedish Orr
  • 2nd – Andrei Svechnikov (RW) – Tarasenko V2
  • 3rd – Filip Zadina (LW) – Very Barzal-like with his puck handling and shooting
  • 4th – Brady Tkachuk (LW) – Better than his brother
  • 5th – Adam Boqvist (RD) – Dazzling defender
  • 6th – Oliver Wahlstrom (RW) – Shoots the lights out

Should the Oilers lose out in the lottery and be forced to move down, I think trading down to gather assets would be a good plan as the cluster from 7th overall to about 14th or 15th look to be a safe area for the Oilers to trade down to and still get a good player.

But if you’re wondering what some of those players look like, look no further than our 2018 November Top Ten Rankings over at the Beer League Heroes Youtube Channel!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!