If there’s one thing the Edmonton Oilers have provided Connor McDavid with so far, it’s a lesson in adversity at the big stage.
The Oilers have opened the season with four straight losses, including a 4-2 defeat to the St. Louis Blues in their home opener on Thursday. It’s left Oilers coach Todd McLellan worried that McDavid might be taking this all too personally.
“I don’t know how much pressure he’s feeling. I think I do. But I don’t know how much he carries. I think he feels there’s a large chunk of our 0-4 record probably falls on his shoulders,” McLellan said, per the Edmonton Sun.
“I did pull him aside in Dallas and talk to him about the shared pieces of pressure in terms of wins and losses. When it goes good he’s only going to have a little bit of it. When it goes bad he’s only going to have a little bit of it.”
Edmonton winning the draft lottery certainly breathed a new sense of optimism into the franchise and thus far the 2015-16 campaign has proven to be more of the same. Still, it would be premature to pass judgment on McDavid or, for that matter, the 2015-16 Oilers.
At least now his NHL debut and first home opener are behind him.
“I’m just looking forward to getting down to a more normal routine now,” McDavid said.
Edmonton will go back on the road to battle Calgary on Saturday.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
NHL bench bosses have adapted to the new coach’s challenge system. (Canadian Press)
Drew Doughty offered high praise to his recent defensive partner, 24-year-old Brayden McNabb. (LA Kings Insider)
Pete DeBoer doesn’t have any regret about the decisions he made during his time with the New Jersey Devils. (The Record)
Max Pacioretty sat down for a lengthy interview with Pierre LeBrun. Among other things, Pacioretty is a big supporter of expanding the league. (ESPN)
Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol talked about what Jonathan Toews was like back when they were both with the University of North Dakota. (CSN Chicago)
Evgeny Medvedev is adjusting to life in North America. (Sports Illustrated)
Who will be the first coach to go this season?
Online sportsbook Bovada have issued their odds for who will be fired first and two prominent coaches are at the top of the list:
Boston’s Claude Julien — 3/2
Los Angeles’ Darryl Sutter — 2/1
Columbus’ Todd Richards — 5/1
Pittsburgh’s Mike Johnston — 11/2
Dallas’ Lindy Ruff — 6/1
Carolina’s Bill Peters — 7/1
Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau — 11/1
Three of the last five Stanley Cup championships have been won by Los Angeles and Boston under Sutter and Julien’s care respectively, but neither squad was able to make the playoffs last season. Which begs the question: How long does it take before past success gets outweighed by more recent issues?
Julien has been a popular target in discussions about potential coaching changes for months now. It got to the point where president Cam Neely felt it necessary to defend the bench boss by say it’s “unfair to Claude” to assume he’s on the hot seat. That hasn’t ended the speculation though, especially in light of Boston’s 1-3-0 record.
Los Angeles’ success under Sutter is even more pronounced, but the Kings are coming off of a disappointing campaign and have opened 2015-16 by being out scored 12-2 in three contests. It could be argued that the Kings’ slow start is even more disheartening than the Bruins’, given that Boston’s woes can at least be partially explained by the injuries to defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (back) and, during the first two games, Zdeno Chara (upper body).
The other coaches on this list are off to rough starts too, with the notable exception of Ruff, whose Stars are 2-1-0.
Related: Blue Jackets still searching for their identity
Chicago has gained another defensive option and it’s a familiar face.
The Blackhawks announced that Kyle Cumiskey has agreed to a one-year contract.
The financial terms weren’t disclosed, but its a one-way, $575K deal, according to ESPN’s Scott Powers. He had a two-way contract last season, although it was out of the ordinary as he still drew an annual salary of $400K in the minors.
Even with his new deal, he might get sent to the minors. His contract is small enough that the cap hit would be completely buried by demoting him, although he would need to clear through waivers first. On top of that, he’s still a few weeks away from playing due to an injury.
The 28-year-old defenseman spent most of 2014-15 playing for AHL Rockford, but he did end up playing in nine playoff contests with Chicago, including the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson can be counted on to be the Chicago’s top-three blueliners and Trevor Daley should maintain a regular role as well. If Cumiskey did stay with the Blackhawks, he would be competing with David Rundblad, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Viktor Svedberg for one of the final two spots.
Update: Cumiskey has been waived, per Bob McKenzie.
Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout claimed prior to Wednesday’s game that the contest would be treated “as the most important game of the season” and is a “must-win.”
That makes Columbus’ 7-3 loss to Ottawa last night to drop to 0-4-0 this season all the more disturbing.
“There’s a lot of things that go on when you’ve given up … we’ve given up 20 goals,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “Trust is definitely one of those things. That goes throughout the team. I’m talking trust in executing the system, and knowing each person needs to do.”
Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno feels the team has lost its identity. In the meantime, the way Columbus allowed the game to slip away after holding a 3-2 lead was “disgusting.”
Richards said the team is trying to find that identity, but right now “I don’t think we have any idea what we need to be.”
It all has to be extremely disheartening for the organization, which had written off last season’s failure due to the sheer volume of man games lost. Now the Blue Jackets are relatively healthy and have added Brandon Saad to boot and yet they’ve been a complete mess.
While there might not actually be must-win games in October, Friday’s contest against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs is an important one, especially because it will be followed up by three tough contests against Chicago, the Islanders, and Minnesota.
Related: Bobrovsky admits he has ‘zero confidence right now’