Under Pressure: Todd McLellan

1 Comment

With all due respect to Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson — the last three head coaches of the Edmonton Oilers — none of them possess the credentials of Todd McLellan, the new guy.

McLellan got his NHL coaching start in Detroit as an assistant under Mike Babcock. After the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008, he was hired to take over in San Jose. Though he never won it all with the Sharks, he did enjoy a tremendous amount of regular-season success, along with a couple of trips to the conference final.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and an intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, per the Edmonton Sun.

Hence, Chiarelli’s decision to entrust McLellan with Connor McDavid, not to mention all the other young talent the Oilers have amassed the past few years.

“The reason Todd was the top candidate in my mind is his history of taking skill players who learn how to play hard under him,” said Chiarelli.

Note how Chiarelli used the word “learn” there. Because upon being hired, McLellan was asked for a scouting report on his new team. At which point he essentially called the Oilers mentally weak. 

“I think there were games where, if you could get off to a good start and push them out of the game, and get to the mental aspect of them not being in it for the whole night, you thought you had a chance to succeed,” he said.

“That’s something we’ll have to change. There’s going to be games where it’s not going your way, but you’re not out of it. You have to fight through it and you have to keep going.”

Despite all the optimism that’s come with the drafting of a so-called “generational” talent like McDavid, the Oilers still don’t have the roster of a Stanley Cup contender. Simply making the playoffs would be an accomplishment for this group, and even that won’t be necessary in order for there to be progress next season.

The Oilers just have to show signs they’re improving. And then after that, they have to improve some more. Fewer outrageous defensive gaffes, more structure. Fewer times when it appears they’ve packed it in, more sticking to the process (and other assorted clichés).

The results should follow.

“They haven’t had a lot of success as far as wins and losses go, so you have to find other ways to build that mental strength,” said McLellan. “That comes before the games are even played. That comes in practice. That comes in meetings. That comes in being good teammates. So we have some things to work on.”

Related: Vote on whether the Oilers have fixed their goaltending

Poll: Have the Oilers fixed their goaltending?

7 Comments

The Edmonton Oilers went into last season fairly confident that their goaltending would be better.

It was not.

In fact, based on team save percentage, the Oilers had the worst goaltending in the NHL, at .888.

And so a couple of things happened. First, Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as general manager. Second, Chiarelli acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers.

Talbot went 21-9-4 with a .926 save percentage last season — which was very good — but the 28-year-old has started only 53 career NHL games — which is not much to go on.

“I think he’s really come into his own,” Chiarelli said of Talbot, per the Edmonton Journal. “With a goalie like that, there’s a smaller sample size for these guys, so you never know. It’s such an inexact science these goalies. But he’s played really well for two years now. And he really played well in crunch time for the Rangers.”

Talbot will compete with incumbent Ben Scrivens for the net next season. Both goalies are pending unrestricted free agents, so the club isn’t tied to either long term. Another goalie, Anders Nilsson, is in the mix, too.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Talbot knows he has a ‘great opportunity’ in Edmonton

Looking to make the leap: Connor McDavid

12 Comments

Barring some unforeseen circumstance, Connor McDavid will have a prominent spot on the Edmonton Oilers’ opening night roster.

Not since Sidney Crosby has the anticipation been so great for a teenager to make the leap to the NHL.

With scoring in the NHL down, McDavid will be in tough to reach the 102-point mark Crosby notched during his rookie campaign, but McDavid is fully aware of the pressures on his shoulders.

“My expectations for myself exceed any of those that are put on me,” said McDavid following the draft. “It’s something that I can’t really worry about. I’ve just got to make sure I’m playing my game and doing all that because if I meet my expectations the chances are I’ll meet your guys’ as well.”

Following what was likely his final season of junior hockey with the Erie Otters, McDavid was named the OHL and CHL player of the year for his 44-goal, 120-point season.

The 18-year-old then led the OHL in post-season scoring adding 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games.

Despite the accolades, GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll be growing pains with McDavid.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli at the draft. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center understands in order to make the leap smoother a solid offseason in the gym is necessary.

“You’ve got to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger and faster and all that,” said McDavid. “You’re playing against men now. It’s a big jump.”

Fans aren’t the only ones excited to see what the Newmarket, Ontario native can do at the next level. New Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan told NHL.com that McDavid’s landing spot played a role in him taking his job in Edmonton.

“The lottery was something everybody was watching,” McLellan said. “If you were a coach out of work and was considering a position to attain, everybody had an eyeball on where Connor was going to end up.”

Related: McDavid scores five in Oilers scrimmage

It’s Edmonton Oilers day at PHT

8 Comments

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Edmonton Oilers.

For a ninth consecutive season the Edmonton Oilers found themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs began last spring.

Edmonton’s 24-44-14 record was good for 13th in the Western Conference and 28th overall.

As a result of another poor regular season, the Oilers landed in the NHL Draft lottery and for a fourth time in six years won the first overall selection picking Connor McDavid at the June draft.

Jordan Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 24 goals and 63 points in 81 games, but finished well off his career-high of 34 goals set during the 2011-12 season.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continued to see his goal totals rise setting a new career-high with 24 goals and matched his personal-best 56 points.

Injuries limited Taylor Hall to just 53 games. The 23-year-old scored 14 goals and 24 assists. His 38 points were good for third in Oilers scoring.

Justin Schultz was the top scoring defenseman with six goals goals and 31 points to go along with a minus-17 rating in 81 games.

In goal, Ben Scrivens shouldered the load going 15-26-11 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .890 save percentage in 57 appearances.

Off-season recap

The biggest off-season moves for the Oilers came off the ice as Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as the club’s general manager and hired Todd McLellan to take over as head coach from Todd Nelson.

On the ice, Chiarelli addressed some of the club’s biggest issues trading for goaltender Cam Talbot and defenseman Griffin Reinhart.

Edmonton also added depth trading veteran Boyd Gordon to Arizona for Lauri Korpikoski.

Chiarelli dipped into the free agent pool and inked free agent defenseman Andrej Sekera and center Mark Letestu.

Derek Roy’s agent ‘can’t believe nobody in the NHL will sign’ his client

27 Comments

Derek Roy’s agent understands why his client wasn’t re-signed by the Edmonton Oilers, but he “can’t believe” that one of the other 29 NHL teams won’t give the 32-year-old forward a contract.

“When (Oilers GM) Peter Chiarelli looks down the middle, he’s pretty small there with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, (Connor) McDavid’s not that big, Derek’s not that big, especially playing in the West. But I can’t believe nobody in the NHL will sign Derek,” Rob Hooper told the Edmonton Journal.

Roy started last season with Nashville before he was traded to Edmonton in December. In 46 games with the Oilers, he had 11 goals and 11 assists while earning partial credit for Nail Yakupov’s improved production.

“I was waiting for a center for three years,” Yakupov said in March. “It’s the first time I’ve had a really good center and I’m really happy for it.

“It’s easy to play with him. He can move the puck and he’s really smart. All I have to do is try to get open for a shot.”

Though Hooper concedes it’s “been very quiet for Derek,” he believes that some of that lack of interest can be attributed to the “cap issues” facing a number of teams.

Roy’s salary was just $1 million last season.