This in from former NHL referee Tim Peel, now a hockey commentator on the Snipes and Stripes podcast with former Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick, his viral and provocative suggestion that the Edmonton Oilers should fire Jay Woodcroft and hire Joel Quenneville as coach.
1. Peel’s suggestion is, of course, setting hair on fire. It’s gone viral on social media, just as most wild-eyed things do. I’m not going to dig into Quenneville’s case, partly because I think his hiring is a non-starter in Edmonton, but mainly because I’m surprised to see fans and pundits so quickly abandon Jay Woodcroft.
2. We’re going to hear plenty such talk in days to come, plenty of names mentioned as possible replacements for Jay Woodcroft. That talk will only end when Woodcroft gets this team winning again. But I expect that will happen.
3. Woodcroft has done little but win since he arrived in Edmonton. The Oilers ignited under him in the second half of 2021-22, and did so again last year. Am I happy about how the team lost to Las Vegas, mainly due a lack of defensive intensity and iffy goaltending? No. But how about we give Woodcroft more than ten games to shake off a bad start and get this team rolling again, as he demonstrated he can do in the past?
4. Edmonton’s Grade A shot differential is down so far this year but it’s still OK, 14.2 Grade A shot for per game versus 13.1 against. Grade A shots go in about 25 per cent of the time.
Things aren’t quite so cheery when we look at 5-alarm shots, a subset of Grade A shots that go in about 33 per cent of the time. Edmonton has 62 so far, the opposition 69. Edmonton is giving up more of the most dangerous kinds of shots.
5, When it comes to the power, it’s Edmonton 31 for, but they have given up 36 on the PK. Not good, not for a team that relies on special teams superiority.
6. Most alarming is rush chances, where Edmonton has created 22 5-alarm shots at even strength, but given up 30. Even worse, they have scored six goals off the rush at even strength, but given up 18 goals. Ouch!
7. What to make of it? Oilers no longer winning with special teams and getting killed on the rush. The biggest factors?Connor McDavid and Mattias Ekholm, the team’s best forward and best d-man, have been hurt, coming back from injury and not nearly as effective as they both can be. It’s also the case that the team has been impacted by weak systems play and weak decision making at the offensive blueline and neutral zone. Finally, when a big save has been needed, all too often it hasn’t been there.
8. Do I expect things to change under Woodcroft? Why not? They have in the past. This is Woodcroft’s biggest test as Oilers coach, and he’s got less runaway than in the past due to the loss to Vegas which was partly on him, but I would not bet against him. He’s sharp, effective, willing to change, able to adapt. We’ll see how he does with his back against the wall. I’m betting he comes out still standing as Edmonton’s coach.
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