The Oilers are failing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl


What a waste.

That is the only way to describe the totality of the 2020-21 Oilers season after it ended with an emphatic thud on Monday night in a 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Jets.

The loss completed a four-game sweep, including three consecutive overtime losses, that sends the Oilers home early — again — without coming anywhere close to a championship.

It was a waste in the sense that it wasted a historic offensive season from the likely league MVP, Connor McDavid, in which he scored 105 points in 56 regular-season games.

It also wasted another prime year of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as they both, once again, finished as two of the NHL’s top offensive players and dragged an otherwise lousy team along as far as they could.

Most organizations will go their entire existence without ever having two players this good. It takes an extraordinary amount of luck, good fortune, and good timing to not only get two of them, but to get two of them at the exact same time, at roughly the exact same age, at the exact same point in their careers. On the rare occasion you do get that, you should be competing for the Stanley Cup every season.

Not just barely making the playoffs. Not just being close to the playoffs. You should be a major contender. Winning it should not necessarily be the expectation every year, but you should at least give yourself a reason to be in the discussion.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

The Oilers, now six years into the McDavid-Draisaitl era, are not even close to that discussion.

In total, they have won eight playoff games during that time, and that is if you want to be generous and include the one Qualifying Round victory from a year ago against the 23rd-ranked Blackhawks. If you do not include that one game, they have seven playoff wins. And that is a damning indictment on the entire organization from top to bottom, ranging from the former GM Peter Chiarelli to the current GM Ken Holland. They are wasting this gift from the hockey gods that they have been given.

Whenever a team loses in the playoffs, and this is especially true when it is an embarrassing playoff loss, there is always a rush to point the finger at the superstars. With big money and big stats comes big expectations. If the team fails, they get the blame. Or they get told how they have to change. For years when the Capitals lost in the playoffs it was always Alex Ovechkin that had to change his game. When the Lightning kept falling just short it was Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos that would take the heat. When Toronto goes out early, it’s the young core that does not know how to win.

Now, McDavid and Draisaitl are going to get that microscope placed on them with every aspect of their game being critiqued. Be better defensively. Make your teammates better. Change the way you play so it is a winning style.

It is all a waste of time.

First, consider this. This is the supporting cast for McDavid and Draisaitl that was on the ice in Game 4 on Monday.

Seems bad!

The struggle with team building in hockey is that the best players have the smallest impact in the game among the major sports. It is not like basketball where one or two superstars can play 90% of the game and change everything. In football, a great quarterback makes you a contender as soon as they join the team.


But here? The best players only play, at most, a third of the game. That means for the overwhelming majority of the game you need to rely on your supporting cast. And not to be overly dramatic here, but the Oilers supporting cast, for lack of a better word, stinks.

They are getting less support from their teammates than any other top player in the league.

Let’s look at this table here as an example. This shows the top-15 scorers in the NHL from this regular season. On the left, you have what the teams did with them on the ice during 5-on-5 play in terms of goals for, goals against, and shot attempt differential.

On the right, you have what those teams did when the top scorer was not on the ice.

Look at how dominant the Oilers were with those two on the ice. Then look at how bad they were without them. Look at the drop. Then look at the support the other players on this list received.

The only other players whose teams were outscored without them on the ice were Brad Marchand (minus-6), Patrick Kane (minus-25), David Perron (minus-10), and Artemi Panarin (minus-1).

Even with Marchand, that number dramatically improved after the trade deadline (because Boston actually tried to get better).

As for the others? Chicago missed the playoffs by a mile. The also Blues got swept in the First Round (while playing the NHL’s best team and not actually having Perron for any of the games). The Rangers also missed the playoffs.

The very fact that the Oilers even made the playoffs is a testament to how far McDavid and Draisaitl carried them because when they are on the bench this is a lottery team. A bad lottery team.

But Adam, you are probably thinking, this is the regular season here. The playoffs are different, and maybe McDavid and Draisaitl needed to do more. Fight through it. Go to the tough areas. Be better!

Maybe. But the Oilers still outscored the Jets with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice. It was only 3-2 on aggregate, but it was still in the Oilers’ favor. As was the territorial advantage (significantly so).

In the 90 minutes of all situations hockey (5-on-5, power play, penalty kill) where one of those two was on the ice the Oilers scored four goals.

In the 202 minutes without them the Oilers scored … four goals. And were outscored 9-4, including 7-3 during 5-on-5 play. When neither McDavid or Draisaitl played they were outscored by four goals at even-strength, in a series where they lost three one-goal games in overtime.

Yeah, maybe you could expect two superstars to have more than three total goals in four games.

But maybe for once, just once, this season or at any point over the past six seasons, somebody else on the roster could make a play, or score a goal, or make an impact on the rare occasion that those two guys got stopped. Maybe the goalie could make a save. Maybe they could avoid taking the stupid penalty that swings a game. At some point every Cup winning team needs that from their supporting cast.

The Oilers never get it. Because they do not have anybody else capable of doing it and every piece of objective evidence we have at our disposal illustrates it. For that to be the case six years into this, after all of the high first-round picks, is a complete and total failure across the board.

The Oilers have the two most dynamic offensive players in the world in the prime of their careers. And the team is still years from contending.

Total waste.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

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The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.


Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.


The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”


Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”


Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”


The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.