Hitchcock on Oilers’ mindset: ‘We’re not going to be easy to play against’

Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists, Connor McDavid collected three assists, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0.

When this game ended, it was supposed to be the Columbus Blue Jackets talking about the standings, and their proximity to a playoff spot. Instead, it was the Edmonton Oilers crowing about being five points out, while the Jackets headed straight to the dressing room’s bathroom counter.

“We’ve got to look in the mirror,” said Boone Jenner, moments after being booed off the ice at home not once but twice on Saturday, as the Jackets got walked by Edmonton, 4-0 at home.

This was, from the Oilers standpoint, as complete a game as any team could possibly play. From the Jackets side, well…

“Not the standard we’re used to here,” said Nick Foligno. “No one feels good in this room right now, but we have a chance to right the ship tomorrow (vs. Winnipeg). We need a lot more energy, a lot more compete to be the team we want to be, and it doesn’t matter who we add or who we have in our lineup.”

This was a Blue Jackets team that made the biggest splash at the deadline, only to have now lost two of three since the deadline, getting bombed at home by Pittsburgh and Edmonton.

The Jackets couldn’t handle Connor McDavid (three assists) and Leon Draisaitl (1-2-3) — who scored his 40th of the season — while Josh Currie scored a goal after Oilers had pinned Columbus in their own zone for a full 1:36. Mikko Koskinen was solid in goal, stopping 30, but territorially the Blue Jackets weren’t close in this one.

Here are a few takeaways:

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Chicken or Egg?

John Tortorella’s team mailed in a poor effort on Saturday, so the head coach did the exact same thing in his 45-second post-game media session.

“We’re moving right by it,” Tortorella warned his questioners, after a long, audible sigh into the podium microphone. “I’m not going to pick it apart, talk about what was good, bad. We’re movin’ right by it. We play tomorrow.”

He gave a similar, shorter answer to one more question then walked. It’s a shtick fans find humourous, but as a journalist, I’ve never understood the example it sets.

Here’s a coach that wants players to dig in, no matter how tough the circumstances are. To get out of their comfort zone, sacrifice, and do things that they might not want to do. Because in his opinion, that is a player’s job. That’s how you get better.

Then, when it comes time for the part of Tortorella’s job description that is uncomfortable and really not much fun, the example he sets is to totally cut corners and take the easy way out himself. He totally mails it in, because…?

It’s hard?

Name another coach who routinely blows off his press responsibilities this way? You can’t — because almost all NHL coaches respect that speaking to the fans comes with the job description. (Which it does.)

Good ol’ Torts — he does the part of his job description that’s easy and comfortable, then runs from the rest of it. Not a great example to set, we would concur.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Hitch Post

Ken Hitchcock knows he’s not coming back to coach the Edmonton Oilers next year, and he can also look down his roster and see its many shortcomings.

But that won’t stop a career coach from trying to teach this team into the playoffs, and with 10 of its remaining 17 games to be played at home, being five points out of the wild-card spot right now put some in Hitchcock’s step post-game.

“We’re in a really good spot — mentally,” Hitchcock told reporters in Columbus. “If we continue to be the kind of team we are now, we’ll be a really hard out. That was the goal: We keep playing at this level, and eventually the hockey Gods help you out. We’ve been at this level for almost a month.”

The Oilers are 4-1-2 in their past seven games, and are staying in the conversation despite a lineup that looks decidedly Bakersfield at times.

“People [expletive] and complain about what we don’t have? Well, all we have is a team. You’ve got to give us that,” the coach said. “You can complain that we’ve got American League this, or whatever. What we have is a damned team. And a good one. We’re not going to be easy to play against for the rest of the year.”

Alex Chiasson finally scored, his first goal in 22 games. He’s all in on a late-season push.

“What is there, 17 games left? We have a chance,” he said. “For us, with everything that’s gone so bad this season, it’s kind of neat where we’re at right now in the standings. Playoff hockey is the best. Let’s embrace this.”

Just call him Jari

Josh Currie re-directed home a lovely pass from Draisaitl for his fourth career point (2-2-4) in his seventh NHL game. As it turns out, that gets you onto a list, tied with Kent Paynter for the 17th-most points in NHL history by a player from Prince Edward Island. Brad Richards owns the NHL record for points from PEI with 932.

“Either you play on the perimeter or you play on the inside,” observed Chiasson. He plays on the inside.”

How many of them, we’ll ask you, come from the stock that Currie comes from? His dad was a Charlottetown cop for 30 years, and his 80-year-old grandfather David still owns and operates Currie’s Shoe Repair, a 106-year-old Charlottetown tradition.

The 26-year-old has pretty good hands, and another year left on a two-year deal next season that pays him $700,000 in the NHL and $160,000 in the minors.

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