Coaching expert Donald S. Cherry diagnosed the Edmonton Oilers in October, three games into their doomed 2017-18 season. This Coach’s Corner segment was broadcast on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 and Cherry is in top form right from the start — “Do they have pool tables out in Red Deer?” — but the relevant bit arrives at 2:07, when Ron MacLean introduces “a little advice for coaches, first on pulling goaltenders.” Run it until the 2:32 mark, then pause and we’ll discuss.
“Here’s Talbot at the end.
He’s so embarrassed
he got pulled he left his mask on the whole time.”
Here’s some background. Coming off a shutout in the Oilers’ season opener, Cam Talbot allowed three goals on seven shots and was yanked by Todd McLellan 32 seconds into the second period. Sounds bad, right? But let’s look at those tallies to determine Talbot’s night.
Draw your own conclusions, and then return to Don Cherry. Pause it again at the 3:30 mark.
“Nothing bugs them more than when you pull them
during (the game)
and then you embarrass them.
They start looking at the bench."
Talbot went on to post a career-high 3.02 goals against average and career-low .908 save percentage this season. Did Todd McLellan’s early hook contribute? Perhaps. At least I would put more stock in that line of reasoning than any of the sleep deprivation malarkey some have bandied about. Either way, two nights later the Oilers welcomed the Winnipeg Jets to town, losing 5-2. Return to the Cherry video and pause it again at the 4:14 mark.
“Now you want me to comment on that?”
“I would love you to comment on that.”
First of all, watch how surprised Cherry is that they’re even going to the McLellan footage. He’s legitimately stunned, and then very reluctant to comment afterward, but he does. Roll it on and pause again at the 5:22 mark.
“They’re gonna play Ottawa, that right side with
Borowiecki and Phaneuf,
it’s gonna be a challenging
night for the superstars in the crosshairs.”
MacLean's words would prove to be prescient. The Oilers lost to the Senators 6-1 that night, and McLellan was reserved in his postgame comments afterward. Three nights later, desperate for a win to halt a three-game skid, the Oilers hosted the Carolina Hurricanes. Here’s how it played out:
What game story would you have written after that one? Here are some facts to fill in the pieces.
-Leon Draisaitl missed the second of four games with an injury
-The Oilers outshot the Hurricanes 51-21
-Laurent Brossoit stopped 16 of 21 shots
-Cam Ward stopped 48 of 51 shots
McLellan chose to focus on some individual efforts in his postgame presser, most notably Oscar Klefbom's performance.
Klefbom had a horrible night and McLellan carved him for it, pinning the loss on a 24-year-old top-pairing defenseman with fewer than 200 regular season games under his belt. Local media folks sharpened their knives during the disastrous first period, took their cues from the head coach in the postgame presser, and launched an all-out attack on the 1-4 Oilers. Here are some of the stories that ran after the 5-3 loss.
Rattled and reeling under a barrage of expectations and hung out to dry by their head coach five games into the season, the young Oilers would go on to miss the playoffs by 17 points. To sum it up, let’s return to coaching expert Don Cherry. Go back and run it again from 4:18 to 4:50.
“I never, ever, ever give the players — I wanted to, in the paper —
but once you do you know that players will say you don’t have their back.”
“How would he fix that? How would Todd…”
“You can’t fix it."