Cam Tucker

Todd McLellan
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Scrivens: McLellan is moving Oilers ‘in the right direction’


The Edmonton Oilers may have finished at the bottom of the Western Conference last season, missing out on the playoffs once again and getting another early first-round draft pick.

But former Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, speaking in an interview on a wide range of topics, from U.S. politics to adjusting to life in the KHL, with Igor Erenko of Sport-Express and translated for Postmedia, seems to believe that organization is taking positive steps under veteran head coach Todd McLellan.

Scrivens, who turns 30 years old next month, played 78 games in goal for the Oilers before he was eventually traded to Montreal last December. He posted a .916 save percentage in 21 games for Edmonton in the 2013-14 campaign, but saw that number dip to .890 the following season.

Despite accumulating top draft picks — highly skilled forwards for the most part — the result of losing season after losing season, the Oilers have been unable to make any real progress toward becoming a contender in the West.

“We didn’t have a good enough team, it didn’t have sufficient structure, but that’s been getting better. And the last unsuccessful season notwithstanding, I think that Todd McLellan is moving in the right direction. In any case, I was happy to be a part of Edmonton, to be in my home town,” said Scrivens, who signed last month with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

“A lot of first picks overall helps only when they play for the team, and play well. That, obviously, wasn’t happening in Edmonton. That’s a coach’s job to force the team to be responsible. But management must show support, showing the players that they wouldn’t be picking him apart just so. When the players don’t play well, you can hardly change anything.”

He also praised maligned forward Nail Yakupov for how hard he works, but added Yakupov needs the “right coach” to help him develop his game.

McLellan wrapped up his first season with the Oilers, who posted a 31-43-8 record.

Further to what Scrivens said about structure, or a lack of, McLellan began demanding more of it last preseason after a loss to Vancouver that featured some particularly bad defensive breakdowns. The coach then cautioned everyone that the necessary improvements would take time.

Improvements to the roster were also necessary. The Oilers needed a defenseman. A good defenseman.

This summer, the Oilers and GM Peter Chiarelli decided to act, acquiring blue liner Adam Larsson from New Jersey in exchange for Taylor Hall, a dynamic offensive talent. That’s a hefty price, but one the Oilers coach believed his organization needed to pay.

It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 27:  Ryan Getzlaf #15  is tapped by Jamie McGinn #88 of the Anaheim Ducks after losing to the Nashville Predators 2-1 in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on April 27, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks had a slow start to the 2015-16 regular season, before finally finding stride and claiming first place in the Pacific Division.

But thoughts of a long playoff run, perhaps even a Stanley Cup, were suddenly dashed in the first round, as the Nashville Predators provided an upset with a seven-game series win. Another season ended in disappointment for the Ducks. And that ushered in major change for that franchise, particularly behind the bench.

Bruce Boudreau was fired (and soon hired in Minnesota), while core players were sent a stern message from general manager Bob Murray following the shake-up. Boudreau’s replacement in Anaheim? Randy Carlyle, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007 but had so many struggles in Toronto before he eventually lost his job there.

That wasn’t the only major change.

Faced with a goaltending situation that needed to be resolved, Anaheim traded Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a first-round pick — the 30th overall pick — in this year’s draft and a second-round pick next year.

That move clearly paved the way for John Gibson to take over the true No. 1 goaltending duties in Anaheim going forward.

It then became a priority to bring an experienced back-up goalie into the mix, and so the Ducks acquired Jonathan Bernier from Toronto.

The Anaheim Ducks have been a formidable team in the regular season, but since 2007, they haven’t been able to take that next step toward a championship. With a different coach and Gibson as their No. 1 goalie, can the Ducks change that next season?

Coach and VP of hockey operations? Too much, too soon for Patrick Roy

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Colorado Avalanche day at PHT…

Well, at least Patrick Roy’s tenure with the Colorado Avalanche can never be described as boring.

Given his fiery nature and unorthodox decisions made behind the bench — pulling the goalie for an extra attacker well before the typical or conventional time in the final minute to a minute-and-a-half range, as an example — his sudden resignation as Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month may seem, in a weird way, like an appropriately dramatic end to this latest chapter in his career.

(Remember how his time in Montreal ended??)

The hiring of Roy to the head coach’s position brought back one of the beloved characters and contributors to Avalanche Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. But he was also handed the aforementioned VP title, and the subsequent input in hockey decisions that comes with it, right away.

That title was reportedly critical to getting Roy to agree to become the new coach in Colorado. Despite the fact he was 10 years removed from playing the NHL game at the time of his hiring and had no previous coaching experience in the NHL.

From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN at the time of the hiring:

Because you had better believe Roy never would have agreed to join the club without a guarantee that he will have a say in the makeup of the team. He will have a say in any future trades or signings.

But it was apparent that by the end, there was a disconnect between Roy and general manager Joe Sakic when it came to hockey decisions with the club — including at the 2016 NHL Draft, as per Mike Chambers of the Denver Post — and Roy’s statement when the big news broke confirmed as much.

“He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team’s performance. These conditions are not currently met,” said Roy of his role in the statement.

Roy came back to the Avalanche with eight years experience as GM and head coach with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL. He had plenty of regular season success there and won a Memorial Cup. He had regular season success in his first season in Colorado, but the team fell in the playoffs and has since regressed drastically in the Western Conference.

Much like a player moving from junior into the professional game, the transition for a coach to the NHL is a difficult one and may take years, or time spent working on the craft in the minor leagues.

Roy is one of the greatest goalies to ever play hockey. And he may, some day, find himself back behind the bench with another NHL franchise. But, as a coach in the NHL, he’s had one playoff season, propped up by the combination of his team’s great shooting percentage and strong save percentage.

You can certainly argue that the VP title — and responsibilities and any clout that come with it — in addition to his coaching duties without having previously coached a game in the NHL falls under the category of ‘Too Much, Too Soon.’ And you can argue that both sides were to blame for it being this way. It’s added responsibility that could’ve perhaps been bestowed upon Roy at a future point in time — after he established himself as an NHL coach.

Related: Poll: Who should replace Patrick Roy as Avalanche coach?

Burke: Vesey will ‘make a difference’ but college free agent contributions equal a ‘pimple on an elephant’s butt’

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
AP Photo

We’ve stated before in this space that Brian Burke has never been afraid to deliver some interesting, comical one-liners when expressing his opinion.

Asked this week for his take on how teams had been lining up to woo college free agent Jimmy Vesey — Sidney Crosby was part of Pittsburgh’s pitch for the Hobey Baker Award winner, Patrick Kane was part of Chicago’s pitch, and the list of stars from other NHL teams trying to sell Vesey on signing with them doesn’t stop there — Burke offered another doozy.

“If you look at the college free agents, they have made a dramatically insignificant contribution to our league,” Burke, the Flames president of hockey operations, recently told TSN.

Tyler Bozak might be the best one. Of the 100 or 150 that have signed, most have very little impact. I think this player (Vesey) is going to play and make a difference. I think he’s going to be a good player.

“But if you look at that group and the money the league has spent on those players and their contribution, it is a pimple on an elephant’s butt.”

Burke was GM and president of the Toronto Maple Leafs when they signed Bozak as a college free agent following two years with the University of Denver. He has since played in 435 NHL games with 107 goals and 267 points.

Justin Schultz is a former college free agent signing, as is Torey Krug with the Bruins, and Kevin Hayes in New York.

Burke’s remarks came prior to Vesey signing with the New York Rangers.

Prior to Vesey hitting free agency — he was drafted by Nashville but wouldn’t sign there, then had his rights traded to Buffalo as the Sabres tried, unsuccessfully, to get him under contract — the other highly coveted college free agent was North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula following a standout senior year. He eventually signed for two years in Edmonton.


Vesey signing caps an impressive, value-heavy summer for Rangers

‘They don’t expect me to be a savior’ – Vesey on selecting Rangers


D-men like Adam Larsson are ‘hard to come by,’ says Schneider

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Cory Schneider #35 and Adam Larsson #5 of the New Jersey Devils celebrate their 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders during a preseason game at the Barclays Center on September 21, 2013 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.The game is the first professional hockey match to be held in the arena that is slated to be the new home for the Islanders at the start of the 2015-2016 season.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As a goalie, Cory Schneider can provide interesting perspective on his defensemen, including former teammate Adam Larsson.

The New Jersey Devils made the move to upgrade their offensive attack by acquiring Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in an early-summer blockbuster. Larsson, 23 years old and a former first-round pick of the Devils, went the other way to the Oilers, as that team looked to upgrade its blue line — at quite a cost.

Larsson isn’t a flashy, offensive blue liner. He has nine goals and 69 points in 274 career games, and was on the ice for 1.68 goals for per 60 minutes at five-on-five last season, as per

Hall, on the other hand, has come close to hitting the 30-goal plateau in three of his six seasons in the league.

So it’s not a surprise that some believed the Devils immediately emerged from this trade as the winners, while the Oilers were criticized for the deal.

But having the opportunity to play with Larsson in New Jersey, Schneider told that he “appreciated” the young defender, adding that he “committed himself to playing as tough a defense as he could.”

Larsson was on the ice for only 1.35 goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five, but he was also bolstered by a 94.63 save percentage in that same situation. Schneider was also among the top-10 goalies (with 2000 minutes played) in the league in save percentage at even strength last season.

“It’s hard to replicate that, you don’t find players like that very easily. That’s why Edmonton had to give up such a good player to get him, because they’re hard to come by,” Schneider told

“It will definitely create a hole for us, but we’re hoping that there’s some guys here that can fill that void and have a chance to step up.”

Related: Under pressure: Taylor Hall