NHL: Edmonton Oilers coach, Ken Hitchcock, found out how thin the team is


The deeper Ken Hitchcock entered his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, the more he realized why he was their seventh coach in the last 10 years.

There are more holes in this list than solid positions.

After you pass four attackers who really produce goals and assists – Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Alex Chiasson – everyone is quite a lot of passengers when committing a violation.

Jujhar Khaira is ranked fifth among the attackers with 13 points in 36 matches. Next is Drake Caggiula with 10 points. We are approaching the mid-season mark and nine of their 14 forward players have three goals or less.

"I'm trying to get more people involved," said Hitchcock, after a night in which Connor McDavid had three assists on goals from Chiasson, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, but the Oilers lost for the fourth time in five matches.

"Instead of relying on the same two or three people every night all the time to do everything, I try to get more people connected. We don't get enough supporting players. "

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) fought the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period NHL action at Rogers Place, Edmonton Saturday 22 December 2018. Tampa Bay won 6-3. David Bloom / Postmedia

So he shuffles and mixes and matches and tries to find a combination that will work on a team that, despite having the best players in the world, is still, amazingly, sitting 23rd in the league on goals per match.

But no one else came for him.

Even the Identity Lines, which were not even asked to score (even though there were enough tacit understandings when the three of them were put together) had lost momentum.

"We made it a little when we put the Brodziak line together," said Hitchcock. "But they have struggled, they have not been as good as before."

So he had to drive McDavid harder than he should, knowing that this speed would eventually overtake him, or put the hopes of this team on the shoulders of nine people who had joined to turn 253 men's matches into 16 goals.

"We have to find out who is helping and who is hurting us to rise to another level," said Hitchcock. "We can't keep doing it the same way over and over because it won't work. We rely on people who are quite heavy.

"Other people must take advantage of opportunities. We have to get more (from other people). That is why I did what I did, trying to involve more participants to get more people to help because, unless it changes, it looks like we don't have enough support for the big push ahead. "

Milan Lucic (27) from the Edmonton Oilers against Danick Martel (62) at the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period NHL action at Rogers Place, Edmonton Saturday 22 December 2018. Tampa Bay won 6-3. David Bloom / Postmedia

That's how Todd McLellan, Todd Nelson, Dallas Eakins, Ralph Krueger, Tom Renney and Pat Quinn see it: Some bright stars get a little help from the front.

"We have to find people who can give that support to us because we will end up with smoke if we don't do it," said Hitchcock. "You see it happening in the back."

Ah yes, the back end, which is as thin as the front.

The blue line has worked quite well this year, but it's like the final stage in the Jenga game, very balanced and ready to collapse as soon as someone erases the wrong part.

That part was Oscar Klefbom, whose absence was reinforced by Kris Russell's disappearance.

With two of their top four defenses missing, everyone else was appointed to a position they were unprepared to handle and the result was in numbers: 1-3-1 with 20 goals against in five matches since they were both outside.

"Everybody gets injured, we can't have what we have," said Hitchcock. "We were in a position where we had enough in the back to pass, but we were hit hard and now we pay the price for that.

"We play people too high and it looks. This greatly affects us. Some teams can buy it, some teams can absorb it. "

Edmonton Oilers' Adam Larsson (6) during the second NHL action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Rogers Place, Edmonton Saturday 22 December 2018. Tampa Bay won 6-3. David Bloom / Postmedia

This team can't. And Klefbom won't be back anytime soon, so any strategy that involves just waiting five weeks for its return is rather risky.

And any presumption that this team might be able to outperform its weaknesses in defense has been examined in the previous paragraph.

So it looks like a very complicated balance right now, and God forbid everything to happen to one of the four attackers who actually produced.

"When the match (Tampa Bay) takes place, we are a little exposed to what line we are wearing right now," said Hitchcock, who had much to think about during the Christmas holidays. "We have to find a way to pass it for a while."

E-mail: [email protected]

In twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski

Oil Spill Podcast: Win partially, lose some – Mine in mid-season, Part 1

Part 1 of seeing a return to the Edmonton Oilers season so far – a kind of mid-season report when the NHL team approached the halfway mark of the 2018-19 schedule.

Jim Matheson, Derek Van Diest and Craig Ellingson talked about three subjects that were burning around Oilers, including:

– The appearance of Mikko Koskinen became the initial goalkeeper.

– Change of training on November 20, which made Ken Hitchcock replace Todd McLellan as head coach.

– the story of ongoing Milan Lucic, who has struggled to score goals this season and last.

Subscribe to podcasts via iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud. You can also listen through the players below.


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