Until this past Monday, Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson was the only head coach in Oklahoma City Barons history. He gave his thoughts on the franchise announcing today that they would cease operations at the end of the season.
“It’s disappointing that things couldn’t work out. The years I’ve been there were outstanding. The people there treat you unbelievable," Nelson began. "My family loved it there and all the players really enjoyed playing there. It’s unfortunate that things didn’t work out, but it’s business.”
Nelson touched on the fact that attendance wasn't quite what they had hoped in Oklahoma City.
“They were doing an extensive job of trying to get people in the seats and it was getting better but it wasn’t as consistent as they wanted it to be.”
He was also asked by the tornadoes, which became a story the past few years, particularly when the Barons had a playoff game postponed in May 2013.
“We had a couple of close calls over the years. It’s pretty odd but just a week or so ago some tornadoes touched down. I’m not pretending to be a cagey veteran with the weather but it had an impact on everybody around there.”
The Oilers have announced that centre Leon Draisaitl will not be going to the World Juniors.
Draisaitl said after morning skate that he was happy with whatever the Oilers decided on the matter.
“Either way would be a good thing for me,” he stated.
The German centre also added that he would be rooting hard for his squad in the tournament.
“Usually the goal for a German team is to stay in the top division and that’s going to be the same this year. I hope they get it done and I’m definitely going to be cheering for them this year.”
The Oilers are on the ice for morning skate in San Jose.
Line combinations are:
“It’s a change," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I’m used to seeing Dallas back there for the past year and a half, it’s a little bit different, but I think as the game went on we got used to it. He’s a vocal guy so that really helped.”
Ference talked about his perception of the collective thoughts of his teammates as the transition occurs.
“I think everyone is trying to put solid games under their belts," Ference remarked. "Not missing their assignments, making sure that we are still concentrating on cleaning up our defensive zone and opportunities against. I think that’s still the focus whether it was last week, this week or whatever week it is. I think that’s always going to be a key for our team is to make sure we are selling our own end.”
Oilers coach Todd Nelson talked about having General Manager Craig MacTavish behind the bench with him as he coached the Oilers.
“It was nice having a guy with that much experience behind the bench with me, being able to consult with each other on different match-ups, line match-ups and strategies. It was a great experience for me.”
Overall, Nelson found a lot of positives as he started to get to know the Oilers a little better throughout the game.
“I saw a lot of positive things tonight. We have to focus on that and move forward. In overtime, they didn’t have a whole lot of quality chances until that last opportunity and I thought we did a good job in overtime just staying on top of the puck. I think we just have to focus on the good things, correct the things we have to get better at and just keep a positive outlook.”
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Purcell
Yakupov - Draisaitl - Eberle
Perron - Arcobello - Pitlick
Gazdic - Hendricks - Pinizzotto
Defence Pairings have changed:
Forward lines the same so Gordon still very much a question mark, D-pairs Ference-Petry, Davidson-Fayne, Hunt-Schultz.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) December 16, 2014
Oilers captain Andrew Ference spoke Monday about the news of the day -- head coach Dallas Eakins being relieved of his duties.
“It’s an awful day, I’m sure, for (MacTavish) to have to do that to a good man,” said Ference. “It’s the human side of the business without a doubt. He’s somebody that I think is an extremely good role model for the guys on this team, getting to know him the last little while.
“He’s a good coach that deserved a better fate here.”
Ference was asked whether he felt that a new voice would help change things and he put the onus on the players to buy into what any coach is trying to implement.
“The responsibility is on us. The Xs and Os can change, you can adjust those and move those around but the general philosophy of how you win at this level, it’s not that different from one successful team to the other. They might approach the game from a systems standpoint differently but from the way they play for each and with each other as a collective group, buying into whatever the coach says and tells you to do is an important thing.
“No matter what it is, the most important thing is buying in and doing what you’re told. I think that if you can do that as an individual and contribute your part to the team you’ll collectively have good success.
“It takes everybody to do it, to be part of the machine.”
Oilers winger Taylor Hall spoke to the media shortly after the team arrived in Glendale, Arizona for Tuesday's game against the Coyotes.
“It’s a tough day for everyone. It makes everyone look in the mirror. Everyone shares responsibility. We wouldn’t be doing this interview right now if we were winning and doing our jobs the best that we could,” Hall began.
“We haven’t been putting wins on the board, that’s fairly obvious. When that happens someone inevitably is going to take the fall and unfortunately that had to be Dallas today.”
The left winger was asked how much things change now that Craig MacTavish -- the team's general manager -- steps behind the bench to start.
“I think everyone is going to be on watch for sure. It’s going to be very interesting to see how well we play. I have a feeling we’re going to come out real hard and everyone is going to be trying to impress the brass.”
Hall talked about feeling like the team let down Coach Eakins.
“I feel a lot of pain for him because I know how much he cared about the group and I know how much we cared about him. We didn’t get it done for him and now with Craig — and eventually Todd — being here. Everyone’s gotta play better. Myself included. I haven’t been nearly as good as I can be.”
Oilers forward and alternate captain Jordan Eberle talked about the team's new interim head coach Todd Nelson and his history with him.
“Todd is a very smart guy. I know he watches all our games in OKC and having him in training camp and having him in the American League for half a season, he knows how to get the most out of players. He’s smart, he’s a very friendly guy off the ice and knows when to get on guys too,” Eberle stated.
“Having a new face and MacT back there will change things a bit but at the end of the day it comes down to us. They can only put the guys out there and we have to perform.”
Eberle echoed Taylor Hall's thoughts that the team feels responsible for Eakins' job loss.
“It’s tough. I think any time you lose your head coach you feel responsible as a team and as a player. It’s obviously not his fault, it’s deeper than that. It goes towards our team and our performance.
“We take a lot of responsibility as individuals in this locker room and we definitely feel like we let him down.”
Eberle was asked whether it was time to break up the core or even if he felt it would be good to move on. He was very quick to say how much loved being an Oiler and playing in Edmonton.
“I love playing in Edmonton. I would never want to leave here. Performance wise, I haven’t played my best and I know everyone in that locker room feels the same way,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve even touched the surface of where we can get to.
“The only thing we can do moving forward is play as hard as we can, and improve.”