Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish addressed his decision to make a change at head coach this morning. In doing so, MacTavish said the blame for the team’s lack of wins does not stop only at the head coaching position.
“There’s blood all over my hands in this as well because I put the lineup together and the roster,” MacTavish said. “I’m not here to absolve myself of accountability in the situation that we’re in, nor am I here to solely blame Dallas (Eakins) for the job that he did because in my mind he did a lot of really good things for our group. This group had a long way to go, I think he brought them a significant distance as the bulk and core of this group matures and gets their game to a level of maturity that would allow us to have more success than we’ve had now. It’s just the compounding of the losses that led me to this decision.”
MacTavish says the internal review of the organization will continue past this staff change. Every aspect of the organization is still under evaluation including his own position, the general manager said.
With the Oilers entering the week 30th in the league standings with 19 points, the organization decided to make a change at head coach. The Oilers announced that they have relieved Dallas Eakins of his duties and General Manager Craig MacTavish will take over temporarily before handing the reins to Interim Coach Todd Nelson.
The decision to make the change was strictly based on team performance and the lack of wins, according to MacTavish.
“I really feel the same way now as I did when I hired him,” MacTavish said. “He’s an excellent coach. I was happy with a lot of things. I had no real good reason to do this, outside of performance and that’s really the bottom line that we’re all judged by — the performance level of the hockey club and certainly the record. I would point to those things solely as the reason for this change.”
The Oilers, 7-19-5, have lost four-straight games and the growing number of losses sparked the decision.
“It’s just the compounding of the losses and the losses have an emotional toll on everybody in the organization, at least they should and in particular the coaching staff,” MacTavish said. “I think that the fact that we weren’t able to get any traction at all after that just led me to believe that the timing was right for a coaching change now.”
MacTavish also says that this decision to make the change was his, after careful consultation with senior management.
“I have complete autonomy with the hockey club. Obviously, there have been internal discussions between Bob (Nicholson) and myself, but the decision was solely mine. I made the decision based on what I thought was appropriate for the team.”
After the transition, Nelson will coach the team on an interim basis until the end of the season.
As General Manager Craig MacTavish assumes coaching responsibilities on a short-term basis, he will focus on very straightforward messaging with the players. MacTavish and Interim Coach Todd Nelson will continue to hammer home the message that the Oilers need a strong work ethic and accountability in order to be successful.
“For me, as a coach, the core principles have always been execution, competitiveness and hard work,” MacTavish said. “I mentioned those three core pillars of performance 10 days ago. It’s not going to be a complicated message from Todd or I about what the execution is for this group. We’ve got to attend to those three core principles, and they’ve really been the foundation of the great teams here that we’ve had here, certainly not in recent history but in past history. There’s always been a level of accountability, hard work and competitiveness that we really want to see improved.”
MacTavish coached the Oilers from 2000-2009.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish announced today that he has relieved Dallas Eakins of his head coaching duties and would be taking over behind the bench on a short-term basis. Todd Nelson will be joining the staff and the team will eventually transition to him as he becomes the Oilers interim head coach.
“(Nelson) will join me as I transition the team and the responsibilities of the team over to Todd,” MacTavish said. “I know the personnel well, so I want to help Todd with that transition. I want to be clear in my messaging to the players. I want to get in and get into the trenches. I think I have a very good idea and understanding of what the dynamic is there, but I want to get my hands on it for a short period of time and then I will transition it back over to Todd. Todd will remain as interim coach for the remainder of the year.”
Nelson had three 40-win seasons to start his career in Oklahoma City. He’s made the playoffs in each of his four seasons with the Barons, heading into this year. In 2012 and 2013, he led the Barons to the Western Conference Final. Nelson has the Barons off to an impressive start this season, with a 15-6-2-2 record. They had won eight-straight games at one point and were unbeaten in regulation in 10 straight.
“He’s done a terrific job with our minor league team in the American Hockey League,” MacTavish said. “He’s deserving of this opportunity, I want to help him transition this group and… give myself a chance to get my hands on it.”
MacTavish did not give a timeline for the transition process.
“I will leave at a reasonable time, when I think Todd is completely familiar with the group and with the players,” he said.
Gerry Fleming will take over as head coach in Oklahoma City. There are no other changes to the staffs as of now. MacTavish said the team has made no decisions on coaching staff for next season, but Nelson will have the rest of this year to be evaluated.
The Oilers need to get more pucks to the net, especially on the power play. They also want more slap shots to head towards the net than wristers.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke about hat and the Oilers need for players like Justin Schultz to become that shot presence from the blueline.
“Justin’s first thought is get the puck to the net and we’re all for that. But we have asked him to start teeing it up because he can shoot it,” Eakins said.
Eakins says the Oilers don’t have that feared heavy shot from the point like the Predators have in Shea Weber, so it falls on the rest of the players just to shoot it.
“Do we have a guy that’s got a huge gun like some teams have a d-man back there that everybody in the league knows… it’s coming? We really don’t really have a guy like that,” Eakins said. “That being said, I’m not sure who can’t shoot the puck with these sticks. Everybody can gun it, you just have to be committed to, ‘I’m shooting the puck here and that’s it.’”
“If you have a chance to shoot it, I’d much rather you tickle the rafters with your stick and gun it than just wrist it through.”
The Oilers recalled 23-year-old Tyler Pitlick because he was playing well in Oklahoma City and deserved another look in the NHL. So far, the young winger hasn’t looked out of place, playing with more skilled players like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“He’s bringing us some physical play,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He can certainly skate and get in on the forecheck. We’re hoping that his touches on the puck get a little cleaner. He’ll certainly go to the net and we feel that’s how he can compliment Nuge and Hallsy, by doing that. There are going to be times where we pop up another forward there on that line as well, depending on if there is a timeout coming or something like that. Pitter has come in, he’s worked hard. He’s had some chances before, maybe they were a little bit premature but he seems a little more ready for this one.”
Pitlick has played five games for the Oilers this season, and has 19 hits.
The Edmonton Oilers have transferred forward Jesse Joensuu to Bern of the Swiss Elite League.
Joensuu, 27, played in 20 games this season for the Oilers. He recorded two goals, two assists and 14 penalty minutes.
The Oilers were happy with their 2-1 win over the Sharks on Sunday night. The win snapped a mentally exhausting 11-game losing streak. It also gave the Oilers their first victory over a Western Conference team this season.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” David Perron said. “It’s nice playing that way, like we did in Winnipeg mostly and same here. It’s nice to get the result. It shows everyone in the room that when you do the right stuff on the ice for the most part of the 60 minutes you’ll get rewarded after.”
Now comes the real challenge. The Oilers look to continue their better play moving forward. Now with their first win in quite some time and points in four of their last five games, the team seems to be finding a formula.
“At the end of the day, I thought we executed pretty well,” Ben Scrivens said. “That’s got to be our expectation now of how we have to play. Minimize the mistakes. We made a couple, but they weren’t as often and as egregious as they’ve been in the past. I thought early in the season we probably deserved a better fate in a couple of games. I thought we were playing well early on. In the last little while, we got away from that. This last game against Winnipeg and the one tonight are two good ones we can build off of. It’s one or two games. It doesn’t mean a lot if we’re not going to stick to it. That’s got to be our challenge now— to make sure we go with that type of effort and execution going forward.”
Eight of their 11-straight losses were decided by one goal and Sunday night’s win was by one score as well. The Oilers will get back to work with an emphasis on finding more offence to help keep the wins coming.
“We go through that streak and I think eight of those were one-goal games. There’s a tipping point there,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We won by a goal and we played a responsible game, but that’s how we have to play every night. We have to play with that responsibility and we’re still looking for more offence. We’ve got to find some more offence and some more finish. Does it allow you to enjoy your night and part of your day tomorrow? Absolutely, but we’re not going to have a parade over this. We’re going to get right back to business and go play this same team, which is an extremely hard team to play. They’re well coached, they’re organized and they’ve got such a veteran core there that they’re hard to beat.”
The Oilers American Hockey League affiliate won their single-season franchise record eighth consecutive game on Saturday night. The Oklahoma City Barons took down Milwaukee by a score of 5-3 to stretch their unbeaten streak to 10 straight games (9-0-0-1).
Oklahoma City has 32 standing points, good for third in the Western Conference and first in the West Division.
The Oilers have lost 11 straight games, eight of those being by just one goal. Four have been decided in overtime. The team is right there, they just haven’t been able to finish off games.
Oilers winger Luke Gazdic says that’s why the team has been working on upping their battle level.
“I think our battle level, our compete level needs to come up for sure,” Gazdic said. “All these games, out of the 11 that we’ve lost, eight of them have been one-goal games and four have been in overtime. That’s something you can’t really practice. That’s just got to be a compete level and a battle level that we have to switch on. We’ll be looking to get after that for sure.”
It’s been a mental struggle, but the Oilers believe that if they can refine little things in their game and up the compete, they can turn some of those one-goal games into two points.
“I think it’s been tough mentally in this stretch here. It’s just things we have to work on and finding a way to win here. We’ve been close, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss, whether you lose by five or you lose by one. We’re still finding a way to lose games but we have to find a way to turn that around and find a way to win it. That’s what we’ve got to do.”