The Edmonton Oilers have lost games this year to teams that were simply more desperate for the points. A Detroit team that had lost eight straight, or a Los Angeles club that was in the cellar and trying to save its season.
On Monday in Dallas, we saw a little role reversal.
Edmonton had lost a season-high four straight games, and the walls were closing in. The team defending was as bad as the goaltending, and as a result, the Oilers were hemorrhaging goals against. No one other than Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl was scoring, and no one was scoring at even strength. Adam Larsson was still searching for his game.
So what happened in a 2-1 win at Dallas on Monday night? Well, Edmonton simply needed the two points more than Dallas did, that’s what.
The Big Takeaway
We forget, head coach Dave Tippett is only 36 games into his tenure in Edmonton. Watching players on video and interacting with them in a player-coach scenario are vastly different.
So, as we approach the halfway point in the season, these are the things you want to hear the coach say about his players:
“As I get to know that leadership group in the room you become more and more comfortable that they’ve really got a handle on what’s going on in there,” Tippett told reporters in Dallas after the game. “In situations like this, you can give them a little bit of tactics here and there, but for the most part, that group in there is preparing the room. I give them a ton of credit.”
Tippett showed up at the rink prior to the morning skate, and like the veteran coach he is, got a feel for how much coaching was going to be required on the day. And on the other hand, how wide a berth he should give his roster to try to figure out a way to end this losing streak by themselves.
“Our guys were really focused today,” the coach said. “Even at the morning skate you could tell there was a real business-like approach to it. So as a coaching staff we kind of let them do their thing today. We talked a little (strategy), but it was mostly those leaders in that room who said, ‘We’re going to get the job done tonight.’”
The best teams have always worked that way. Those Knute Rockne speeches you see in the movies? It’s not like that in a real dressing room.
The best teams sort out their issues without the coach always knowing what the problems are. They rely on the coaching staff to give them a game plan that can win, and then hold each other accountable for executing that game plan.
“It kinda feels like we’re just playing the game the right way,” Alex Chiasson said of the evening. “Respect our opponent, and play a solid 60 minutes.”
And Another Thing…
Zack Kassian opened the game with an even-strength goal. On a team that does an unhealthy percentage of its damage on the power play, Kassian has 12 goals and 23 points — all at even strength.
He’s an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, and Oilers GM Ken Holland has begun exploratory talks with Kassian’s agent, Rick Curran. If Kassian and the Oilers can agree to a contract that’s not too big a hike on his $1.95-million salary, you might see an extension signed shortly.
If Kassian is looking to almost double his salary, which is far more likely for a player on pace for 25 goals, Holland’s history is that he won’t negotiate mid-season. If there are major negotiations to be done, we’re betting both sides put things off until the season is done, so as not to become a distraction.
Edmonton has now scored a power-play goal in eight straight games, the first time they’ve done that since 1999 … Oscar Larsson was a horse, playing a game-high 30:32. His partner Adam Larsson was a mule, with six of the Oilers 17 hits. The tough Swede is finding his abrasive form on the way back from that broken fibula. When he and Klefbom play at that level, they are a highly effective pairing … Mikko Koskinen has separated himself from Mike Smith statistically, but we may now see him begin to get the extra starts from Tippett. If the Big Finn starts in St. Louis Wednesday, it will be the first time all season one goalie has had three consecutive starts. He was very solid on Monday.
Oilers are in St. Louis to play the Blues on Wednesday.