Hitchcock vs McLellan, a Blog Most Have Already Written…


Hmmm, I see I managed to get pictures which are both photo bombed by Drake Caggiula.  I prefer Caggiula with Hitch simply so I can call them “Drake and the fat man”.  Used that line talking to one of my buddies the other night and if he’s reading this now he’s thinking “get a new joke Campbell you fucking moron”.  Completely justified.


Can I be honest about something?  I wasn’t at all surprised by that win Tuesday night.  Even at 3-2 going to the 3rd, I felt good about the spot they were in.  They won, and now we go from the sky is falling to starring at a golden chance to take 5 of 6 or maybe even 6 straight. The division is so bad that they’re already back in a tie for 3rd spot (at least by points percentage).  The optimism isn’t all because of the coaching change.  But it’s the coaching change combined with a massive win against the top team in the division and a light schedule on the horizon.  And if you go by my personal power rankings (outdated now of course), the Oilers are now 5-4-1 against what were my top 8 teams at the end of October.  Being fair, three of the five were in OT.  But if you want to be fair to the Oilers, two of those three were comeback wins on the road, and three of the five have been on the road.  You’ll have a tough time convincing me that this team isn’t capable of making the playoffs in this division when they’re above .500 against top competition.


So the more I’ve given this thought, the more I’ve loved this move for the Oilers.  Hey, maybe it’s all just optimism that comes with a new coach?  Easily could be.  And combine that with me being a pretty big Hitchcock fan for a long time now, this will likely be viewed as me going overboard.  But it’s tough to look at his track record and not see how positive his impact could be.  Not for sure, who the hell knows what’ll happen, but I have a tough time seeing how it won’t be at least a decent upgrade.


Do you remember the 2014-15 Penguins?  Of course you don’t.  You remember the 2015-16 Penguins?  Of course you do because they won the Cup.  The 14-15 Penguins were a disaster.  And then in November of 2015 the Penguins looked like a completely fucked franchise.  But people forget this.  Mike Johnston was a disaster of a head coach for them, after they had done nothing but digress after winning the Cup with Dan Bylsma in 09.  Something else with that team that was being said at the time is that the GM (first Shero and then Rutherford) was they weren’t getting Sid the help he needed.  All he had was Malkin, the Kessel trade was horrendous, and Sid had nothing.  Sound familiar Oilers fans?…The effect that change had on the Pens was insane.  Mike Sullivan didn’t do a lot honestly.  Mike Johnston just was a bad fit for that hockey club.  I don’t feel like Todd McLellan, the way he was coaching the team from the psychology to the system to the results was a fit for this Oilers team.  Ken Hitchock just might be the perfect fit for them.


I might just sound like an amateur blogger who is really just a guy spewing garbage who’s opinion deserves nothing more than to be pissed on by people in the media, but I’m right and most of them are very wrong on the fact that Todd McLellan isn’t a great head coach.  Sounds like an AMAZING man, and I feel awful for the guy because I really do believe that he worked his balls off and had nothing but the best intentions imaginable for the Oilers.  He’s just an average coach by NHL standards.  Not by the media’s standards.  No, by their standards he treated them great so he’s an amazing head coach and it’s not his fault.  Because he treated them great.  I get it, but let’s maybe start doing our jobs and get just a LITTLE more objectivity fellas?


Is Peter Chiarelli deserving of his job right now?  I don’t think so.  I’m not a “one or the other” guy on this.  Both coach and GM should have lost their jobs after last season, let alone 20 games into this one.  But Chiarelli going won’t make or break THIS season, I’m not sure how this is lost on the “yeah but Chiarelli…” crowd.  What exactly is your defence for McLellan staying if you simply want to blame Chiarelli?  What is his track record of getting his teams to higher level’s of performance?  And why did most of you believe 12 months ago this roster was capable of contending for a Cup and now is nothing other than 97?  I’m VERY well aware of how much gold Chiarelli traded away and it makes me sick.  I get that.  But is this roster capable of making the playoffs?  Yes, it is.  And last year it not only didn’t make the playoffs, it didn’t COMPETE for the playoffs.  Most observers reasoning for McLellan staying was basically “well, if he had the stacked roster he should have then they would be a playoff team”.  So, he’s a great coach, but because his roster isn’t loaded it’s not his fault.  Right?  Who is the player which surprised and took a massive leap under McLellan?  The only one I can think of who you can maybe make a case for is Nurse, though if you’ve read my stuff you know I’ve been sky high on Nurse from day one.  There wasn’t one player who I personally looked at as a guy McLellan and his staff were elevating/developing.  And TRUST ME on this: I was full board on the McLellan bandwagon once they hired him.  I didn’t know what the big deal was about him previous to the hire, but once they hired him I bought into everything the media told us on how great of a coach he was and for two and a half years I never gave it a thought.  But the fact is that there just isn’t a case for the guy.


Look at the track record and it gets worse.  Ron Wilson is a pariah these days.  Wilson took just an ok team (the 98 Caps) to the Stanley Cup final.  He took the Sharks to the Western final in 04.  Going into the 06 playoffs they were most observers favourites to go to the final.  06-08 they couldn’t get past the 2nd round and Wilson was fired.  In steps McLellan to get this loaded Sharks team to the Cup!  Here we go, they’re about to rattle off some Cups!  09, bounced in the 1st round.  Well whatever, just one season of many.  2010 they made it to the Western final!  They took six games to knock off an awful Avalanche team (seriously, one of the worst playoff teams since the league went to 30 teams in 01).  Then they knocked off the Wings in five…who had gone seven games with the Coyotes and had played 63 playoff games over the three previous seasons so it’s safe to say they were just a tad gassed.  But whatever, they were in the West final…and got swept.  2011 though, that’s their year!  Right?!  They beat the Kings…before Darryl Sutter took over and became what they did.  They beat the Wings again…after blowing a 3-0 lead and barely hanging on in game seven at home.  Then against a weaker Canucks team than the Hawks had been, they managed to get a big one win in the West final.  2012, THIS is it for them though right?!  Stumbled down the stretch and got embarrassed in the first round by…Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues.  Hey, in fairness the Blues had hardly any talent at the time and the Sharks only had a few hall of famers.  2013 was ok, though bounced in the 2nd round to the Kings.  2014 they looked like they FINALLY were going to go somewhere, and blew a 3-0 lead in the first round to the Kings.  2015 he missed the playoffs and was fired.  But obviously the Sharks will digress big time once he’s gone…right?…If Ron Wilson had done all that we’d be talking about what a disaster he was for not getting anywhere near over the hump with that talent.  And then the next coach takes them to the final?!  That’s a bad look!  But McLellan skates because everyone loves the guy.  And again, I’m not in anyway looking to bash the person, but I’m trying to look at it objectively when most seem to be refusing to do so.


Now, some will say the Oilers took a big leap forward because of him, but did they?  Cam Talbot was Vezina candidate worthy in 2017, and it was McDavid’s first full season.  Add to that, Lucic was still producing, Eberle while digressing was still a 50 point player, and the team (even though it was a disgusting overpay to get there) was a lot more balanced up front and on the blueline.  I actually believe he might have done a better job in 2016.  2016 he had horrible injury luck and had the team stayed healthy with the West being down, they might have snuck in the playoffs.  But for people to be picking virtually the same roster as this one to go to the final 14 months ago (or at least be a legit contender to get there), and then say today that the roster has nothing other than McDavid…spare me.  FUCKING.  SPARE.  ME.  Todd McLellan…he’s just another coach.  I remember saying this about him when I had tapped on him last year.  He’s not a BAD coach, but he’s no different than 3/4 of the coaches in the league.  He’s no different from a Paul Maurice, a Gerard Gallant, a John Stevens, a Lindy Ruff, a Mike Yeo, a Glen Gulutzan, a Willie Desjardins.  They’re all just guys who don’t have much of an impact on teams.  They mainly live and die with their goaltending, and they’re a dime a dozen.  Can they have momentary impacts like Maurice first did with the Jets or Gallant last season in Vegas?  Yep.  But Gallant for example has had three gigs now.  In Columbus he didn’t have goaltending and his teams did nothing.  In Florida he had great goaltending and they made the playoffs in 2016.  And last year he had incredible goaltending (and frankly the easiest job in the league).  They’re all guys who people seem to really like, and get REALLY overrated.  McLellan was a hot coaching candidate initially because the job he did as Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit.  The last guy who was hired in similar fashion was Jeff Blashill.  Blashill spent time as a Babcock assistant and the head coach in Grand Rapids and all I heard about was how great Jeff Blashill was.  Granted, the Wings roster has gone to complete shit under him, but he seems to be just like all these other guys to me.


Hitchcock though, the media can shut up with all the cliches already on the guy looking to downplay his accomplishments.  “He’s fixer.”  “He has a shelf life”.  No, he’s an elite coach.  Is he going to be any teams coach forever?  No.  But does the media realize that probably 95% of coaches don’t last long EITHER?!  “He has a shelf life”.  Oh ok, I’ll take four or five awesome years of Hitch elevating 3/4 of my team without a shelf life then a decade of Paul Maurice doing nothing like he did in Hartford/Carolina.  I like my teams to WIN, I’m weird like that.

What Hitch does is drastically improve teams.  Dallas, 95-96, bottom five team.  Hitch’s first full season was 96-97 and they finished tied for 2nd in the league, three points out of 1st.  97-98 they won the President’s trophy.  98-99 they won it again and that big silver thing they hand out at the end of the playoffs.  2000 they nearly won that big silver thing again.  But we all know the Stars had a sky high payroll so he only deserves so much credit.  On to Philly in 02-03.  Finished one point behind Jersey for tops in the Atlantic, six behind Ottawa for the President’s trophy after looking awful during the 01-02 season for the talent they had.  The next season they went to game seven of the East final and lost to Tampa by a goal.  Game changed pretty dramatically in 05-06 and they fell apart.  A detractor could say A) Philly also had a monster payroll and B) game got more offensive and Hitch couldn’t adjust.  Ok, that’s fine.  Onto Columbus.  Blue Jackets had never made the playoffs, Hitch gets them to the playoffs.  Not only gets them to the playoffs but has Steve Mason as a Vezina candidate.  And again someone would say that he got lucky Mason was so hot.  Ok…St. Louis.  Blues were very similar to the Oilers.  After making it in 09, Blues fell back off in 2010 and 2011.  2012 started off weak too, and after being shit kicked by the Oilers 5-2, Hitch was brought in.  David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and David Perron were the “stars” up front.  Man, let’s hear about how McDavid, Draisaitl and Nuge are so much worse than that trio…Anyway, 43-15-11 the rest of the way.  Goaltending duo?  Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.  Defence?  21 year old Alex Pietrangelo as his number one guy.  22 year old Kevin Shattenkirk as his number two guy.  I like how the media has completely forgotten where the Blues were at when Hitch took over, or how they’ve just slowly digressed since he left.  In Dallas last season, they also had/have a very similar roster to the Oilers.  Seguin is their McDavid, Benn is their Draisaitl, the blueline is more talented but a lot less experienced than the Oilers is (which is saying something), go look at the Stars roster at the start of last season and tell me you though Radek Faksa was anything.  Now he’s looked at as one of the best two way centres in the game.


The one thing a lot of people are leaving out of this though, it’s not just that it looks like an upgrade, it’s that it feels like a much better fit for Chiarelli’s vision.  We’ll call it Chiarelli’s vision, though in the last few days I’ve really wondered how much of it is JUST his doing.  Regardless, think back to Chiarelli’s Boston teams.  Those were teams who resembled Ken Hitchcock teams.  Did they resemble Todd McLellan teams?  They really didn’t.  The Oilers are built like those Bruins teams, and like Hitchcock’s Blues teams.


Ken Hitchcock is an elite head coach, even at 66 years old.  He’s a BIG upgrade for the Oilers and in my opinion, combined with a very weak Pacific division, is going to get them in the playoffs and by April I believe they’ll be looked at much differently.  Initially, I felt uneasy about bringing in Hitch.  But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  Maybe the biggest thing is that he’s a teacher.  He lives to coach and teach and evolve.  This is a guy, despite being 66 who has embraced analytics, he isn’t just simply an old crusty head coach who’ll do things the same as he did in 1999.  Hitch is known for having veteran teams, but you can point to so many guys who played their best hockey under Hitch.  Modano, Lehtinen, Primeau, Nash, Tarasenko, Backes, Seguin, Faksa, and that’s just the forwards.  As a whole the blueline and goaltending gets a LOT better under Hitch’s watch.  Of course the reason for all the improvements is his system and philosophies on the game.  He demands his players defend as a five man unit.  If you’re a forward, you’re not going to be a passenger in your own zone.  And if you are, then you’ll either be scratched, sent down, or be traded.  Simple.


Jimmy Johnson was the same style of coach as Hitchcock when he coached in the NFL.  Now, I know this was 25 years ago, but I’m still going to roll on this.  Anyone will tell you that Johnson is a great guy, yet he pushed his players to their limits.  And he was a psychology major, so he knew how to do it.  Johnson would speak about the self fulfilling prophecy to treat a person as they are and they will remain who they are.  Treat a person as they could be or should be and they will become that person.  I think of that when I think of the comparisons with these two, and though I’ve never heard Hitch say that, I have very little doubt he has the same philosophy.  And to me, it works.  Always has, always will.


So many people miss this, not just with Hitch, but the top end coaches in general is their grasp on psychology.  The media just plays it off as “pushing buttons”.  You can’t “push buttons” if you don’t know how to do it.  Dallas Eakins took this approach and it blew up in his face, he didn’t know how to do it.  Look at how much people around hockey absolutely love Hitch.  People didn’t think of Mike Keenan like that, who was also considered a “task master” or a guy who would “push buttons”.  Nobody talks about Michel Therrien like that, and he’s considered that guy too.  I’ve talked about this with my psychologist.  We were talking last year about how it is simply disastrous when coaches try to play mind games with players just because they think that’s what they need to do as a coach.  You can’t do that shit when you don’t know why you’re doing it, or how to do it.  Hitch does.  Away from the rink the guy is an extremely engaging guy.  He’s a teacher.  You really think he would be adored in hockey circles if he was actually anything like what he is behind the bench or at practice?  He’s not, which to me is a sign that the guy knows exactly how to do it.


And he’s 100%, not just confident in what he’s telling his players and in how he’s pushing his players, but also 100% secure in what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.  That’s the key.  There are A LOT of people in life who have a massive ego but you can see it’s an act and that they’re actually very insecure people.  Hitch doesn’t come across as that guy at all.  He studies the game non stop, he’s open minded to all idea’s on how to improve (another sign of being secure), and sure he’s 66 but I’m going to tell you the game isn’t passing this guy by.  He’ll change as the game and people playing it do.  It’s a lot like Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich, Scotty Bowman, etc.


Ok, so that’s what Hitch is bringing to the table.  But what you want to know is how this could help/hurt the team.  So…let’s do just that.  I got both area’s and players who I believe he’ll either improve, could improve, or will fall off.


First and foremost, the goaltending now should be fine.  Koskinen has already been giving the Oilers the goaltending they’ll need.  Even on nights he doesn’t look great, he’s not getting rattled.  Cam Talbot badly needs some easy nights to get his confidence back up, which is exactly what will happen with Hitch.  Brian Elliott was an afterthought before Hitch got to St. Louis.  By the end of the 2016 season most believed that the Flames got a bargain when they dealt the 35th pick in the 16 draft for Elliott.  Talbot has more talent then Brian Elliott so I’m interested to see how he plays.


Next is the PK, and again this would greatly help Talbot in particular who seems to be really struggling mentally on the PK.  But the PK looked a little better already in San Jose.  The Oilers are currently only at 75.4% which is actually slightly worse than last season.  In St. Louis the PK was elite.  7th, 7th, 2nd, 9th, and 3rd overall.  The season before Hitch arrived they were 18th, 81.7%.  Blues first full season without Hitch was of course last season, and where was their PK?  18th, 79.9%.  Where was the Stars in 2017?  30th, 73.9%.  Last season?  14th, 80.8% (top five apparently before Ben Bishop went down Elliotte Friedman pointed out on the latest 31 Thoughts podcast).  He improves it.


The blueline in general will improve a lot.  Klefbom and Larsson I feel as though will take another step.  Might be a small one, but it’ll still be noticeable.  The big one though I’m watching for is Nurse.  I really believe this is the perfect coach for Nurse.  Not sure if Hitch will tap into his offensive ability, but defensively I see the kid becoming a beast in his own zone.  Under Hitch, Colton Parayko for example sure was looked at as the next stud D-man in the league wasn’t he?  Since?  No progression.  Won’t surprise me actually if the Oilers end up trading for him just as a side note.  They loved him before and if Hitch does too, I could see them pushing hard with the Blues struggling and Parayko not progressing as they’d hoped.  Also I should toss in here, really like the trade for Chris Wideman if he’s going to be their number six/PP1 D-man.  Klefbom isn’t good enough on that top unit.  Lefty, doesn’t move the puck quick, and too stationary back there for my liking.  I could see Wideman really making an impact if given the chance.  Question will be whether or not he can play well enough five on five to stay in the lineup.


Ok I have to speed this up!


Leon Draisaitl I believe will thrive.  I’m surprised Hitch wants to keep him on McDavid’s wing, but it’s what he had in Dallas with Seguin and Benn.  Draisaitl’s big problem is he lacks consistency.  I believe they’ll butt heads much like Hull and Tarasenko did to name a few, but we’re going to see Draisaitl’s best.


Jujhar Khaira might play the best hockey of his career. First, a lot of observers including myself believe Khaira is better in the middle because it forces him to move his feet.  Hitch has thrived with players of his skill set (Faksa, Shore, Backes to name a few), and I strongly believe we’re going to see him become a pretty valuable player.


Then you have the wildcard types where I’m not sure which way it could go.  In terms of players, those would be Lucic and Caggiula.


With Looch, he doesn’t strike me as a mentally tough guy.  I could be very wrong about that, but it’s just how he comes off.  So I believe Hitch will either get the most out of him, or get absolutely nothing (which isn’t far off what Looch is giving the team now, though I do believe the effort has been there most nights).  Time will tell.  I know this: the system is better suited for Looch.  Don’t mistake “slower pace” with “slower team”.  And a slower pace with more puck support all over the ice should help Lucic.


Caggiula is interesting.  On one hand, he’s a bit of a pest, plays hard, has talent.  But he’s a disaster in his own zone.  He strikes me as a kid who is willing to learn, so I believe he could thrive, and again above pushing buttons and heavy hockey, Hitch is known for being a teacher.  If Caggiula wants to learn and wants to buy in, we could see a big improvement.  But he’s BAD in his own zone at the moment, so it might take some time.


But I have another wildcard for you that Hitch could improve with this squad, and it’s the offence.  WHAT?!?!?!?!  Yep.  I’m not calling my shot on it, but the thing I saw with McLellan was attempting to play a style that was just horrendous for creating offence.  I’m not really sure what it was attempting to do, as the main goal was for the forwards to always look to the blueline option.  Problem with that is the Oilers blueline had no threats offensively and so you’d often get a bad shot on goal.  To top it off, often there would be no traffic.  It was pretty obvious to me that while McLellan didn’t have a deep team up front, he wasn’t allowing the players to play with ANY offensive creativity.  When I think of Hitch’s teams, while offensive creativity doesn’t come to mind, manufacturing goals is something his teams will do.  They cycle it to death, and often get the puck to the slot whether it be a D-man pinching in or someone rotating off the cycle once the opportunity is there.  That means the Oilers will likely be getting the pucks to their best offensive players more often and in better shooting positions.  The PP may also get better, though in Hitch’s last two stops (St. Louis and Dallas) it was in the bottom 12 both years.  It’s at 20.3% right now, but what might be a big improvement for it is the Chris Wideman acquisition made yesterday.  Remains to be seen if they’ll use him as more than a number seven guy, to me he should be a lock for their number six every night and send Gravel back down (since he no longer has to clear waivers).  If Wideman does get in regularly, he better be on top PP unit in place of Klefbom.  He moves the puck quicker than Klefbom, more mobility, and he’s a righty shot.  He’s just a much better fit for it.


Another big one I have yet to hit on is Nuge, but I don’t see Nuge improving much just because he plays the way Hitch loves already.  Maybe the system suits his game better too?  But I wouldn’t look for much improvement.  If anything, I could see his offensive stats droping a little, but he grows even more defensively and maybe he’s the new David Backes or Radek Faksa AKA Selke candidate?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not betting on it.  Just throwing it out there as something to watch for.


Of course when it comes to 97, we know what he’s going to do.  No, his offensive game isn’t going to take this big hit.  No doubt that his defensive game could improve some, but his offensive game won’t suffer.  The latest guy to play under Hitch who was similar to McDavid was Seguin.  His numbers went UP last season.  Jamie Benn’s numbers also went UP last season.  97 will be just fine.


Two guys I have no issue saying they’re done are Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie.  Both kids play nothing the way the new coach wishes.  The latter of course already had many chances to play for him in St. Louis and never could break through.  The former I was really high on the Oilers getting, but I can’t see him fitting in knowing how soft he plays.  You have to either have a well rounded game, or have the ability to have a well rounded game.  Both of those guys are undersized, not overly fast, a little soft, and not good away from the puck.


Ok.  FINALLY I’ve come to the big key to all of this.  The player who I see improving the most.  The player who McLellan badly failed with.  The player who I believe is going to thrive playing for Hitch.  It’s Jesse Puljujarvi.


Hearing Chiarelli’s comments in the aftermath of all this, it became clear to me that Puljujarvi’s handling played a large part in the decision to make the change.  Chiarelli sounded as though he made sure that Hitch is going to work with the 20 year old Fin and give him a real chance to play.  Is he his Tarasenko?  You would scoff at that, and I’m by no means expecting THAT.  But let me ask you this: Who was the better player at 20 years old?  Puljujarvi is.  What has Tarasenko done since Hitchcock left, which was supposed to be a change that would see his game take right off?  Word is that Doug Armstrong might be ready to deal him.


Puljujarvi dominated in his quick AHL stint.  Dominated.  Whether he pops on this call-up (which as of writing this he has yet to be recalled but according to Stauffer it’ll be coming soon), I don’t know.  But Hitch is an analytics guy, and I have little doubt he’s going to see Puljujarvi’s goal share with McDavid and give him a legit chance in that spot.

So, McLellan was refusing to give the guy at the top of that list a chance?  He gave the guy 2nd on that list two months of a dog shit performance on the top PP unit in 16-17 before he finally caved and took him off it, but the guy who produces best with McDavid gets jerked around all season and eventually they have to demote him due to the coach not playing him?  This one has serious potential to be a massive black eye on McLellan moving forward.  He hated Puljujarvi, at least this season he sure did.  Apologists want to talk about how McLellan had nothing to work with, yet maybe his fourth and fifth most skilled players entering the season looked like nothing playing for him.  Hitch is going to work with Puljujarvi, because Hitch will see the potential to be the type of player he adores.  And it wasn’t just Puljujarvi and Yamamoto who have struggled offensively under McLellan.  Taylor Hall had a brutal 2nd half of the 15-16 season, Eberle digressed in his 2nd season under him, Lucic has fallen off a cliff, and I’m not saying these are on McLellan but it’s very noteworthy.  Probably on the players, but that is a pretty big list of talented guys.  Hell, even think of a kid like Caggiula.  You can see the offensive ability in his game, and yet offensively he’s never taken a step.


So Puljujarvi is the key.  Because if Hitch starts to tap into that potential then it completely changes the dynamic of the team.  All of a sudden you have the winger for 97, and you can deploy 29 and 93 accordingly.  Or maybe he loads up the top line even more?  Currently constructed, this Oilers team in my mind is as good as the Stars were last year.  Three stars up front, an ok but not great blueline, and real good TALENT between the pipes.  And while they didn’t make the playoffs in the end, tougher division and the Ben Bishop injury really killed them late in the season.  This Oilers team compared to the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues is head and shoulders above them in talent.  The Blues maybe had a bit more depth at the time, but nowhere near the skilled guys or the talent between the pipes.  If Puljujarvi gets rolling, it’s going to make one hell of a difference.


Do not get ANY of this twisted.  It doesn’t absolve anyone of anything.  Chiarelli has still been a bad GM, the OBC still BADLY need to go, I’m not singing their praises just because one possible season saving change was made.  But credit where credit is due, this has potential to be a hell of a good move!  The fit for the players, the fit with the assistants, the fit for the organization, the fit for the city, it’s an all around terrific fit.  And while I slag on how McLellan gets pretty badly overrated by people, it’s not as though he’s the only coach who is just ok.  The league is littered with them.  So there was no point in firing him to hand it over to Gulutzan on an interim basis.  Maybe you get a jolt for 10-15 games, but it’ll probably back to status quo after.  Hitch is an elite coach.


I’m probably making this sound better than it is or will be.  Best case scenario with all of these things.  I get it.  I really don’t feel that everything is going to work out amazingly as I likely just made it sound.  All I’m saying is I see SOME improvement coming for most, and basically we’ll see the team we saw over the first 11 games more consistently.  It’s his type of team (which was another thing I heard multiple media members say it wasn’t…sure…).  Hitch needs to coach up some guys without a doubt, but he’s the guy to do it.  I see them getting back to bullying teams with heavy hockey much like they did in 16-17, much improved defensive play, and rarely getting out coached.  Combine that with a very weak Pacific division, and I feel pretty damn comfortable predicting…barring injuries…the Oilers will get in the top three in the division.  Not an accomplishment to be all that proud of in McDavid’s 4th season, and doesn’t absolve anyone for any of the shit that’s gone on.  But it’s a great move that will likely save their season, so at least it’s a start.

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