Edmonton Oilers continue to fall down while their new coach continues to fall up

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 5: Connor McDavid
EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 5: Connor McDavid /

The Edmonton Oilers seem intent on looking backwards. Which is a weird thing to do in a league that keeps going forwards.

The Edmonton Oilers fired coach Todd McLellan, and replaced him with Ken Hitchock, now on his third retirement. This is just about perfect for an organization that’s still fascinated by sitting backwards on the train. It must be because it can’t seem to see anything els than what’s been.

Is firing McLellan a sin? No, hardly. He’d taken this team about as far as it’s gonna go. His offensive methods, while not completely neanderthal, are on the basic side. He could never get the Oilers going at full-octane. They clearly need some kind of jump.

But there was only ever so much McLellan was going to do with this dollar store cabbage patch kid of a roster. The problem lies in the general manager’s office, where Peter Chiarelli has been allowed to bash him self in the face with the wrong end of a claw hammer for years and their personnel moves have been whatever substances and fluids have leaked out.

We’ve been over the disaster that is the Milan Lucic signing, a winger who looks more and more like the Beverly Hillbillies vehicle on a sheet of F1 racers that has to go around making angry faces to try and justify his existence. Taylor Hall, maybe the best winger in the game, was moved for a middle-pairing defenseman because Chiarelli needed a scapegoat for all the previous #1 picks that didn’t turn into a winner. Jordan Eberle recently became Ryan Spooner, he of the 46 career goals over the past four seasons. I could keep going, but I’d be worried about what starts oozing out of your orifices.

Chiarelli has built a team to play a game that no longer fits in today’s NHL, and that’s with the best player in the world on his team. You don’t need slow wingers trying to do their Juggernaut impression anymore, because they get outskated every shift. You don’t need d-men who block a lot of shots, a la Kris Russell who Chiarelli has a small shrine to, because it means you don’t have the puck. And you don’t need to run around displaying how ultra-tough you are as the Oilers did in McLellan’s final coup-de-stupid on Saturday night in a loss at Calgary.

And now the Oilers have taken another step back by bringing in Ken Hitchcock, whom the game passed by so long ago even the tumbleweeds point and laugh.

The Oilers aren’t the only NHL team that have a recycled hiring problem. Most of them do. And because these coaches kept getting hired, because no one’s original enough to try something new, other teams must think that there must be something to these coaches that they have to have. It’s a vicious cycle.

Ken Hitchcock has one ring. It came 18 years ago when you were literally allowed to tase and calf-rope any forward that crossed your blue line. He has one other Final appearance, and that was 17 years ago.

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Since the Great Lockout of ’05, Hitchcock teams have won three playoff series. Three. That’s it. The Flyers didn’t manage one, the Jackets didn’t manage one, and the Blues managed three. The Blues actively quit on him, though that’s kind of the Blues thing. He showed up to shore up the Stars last year in a Greta Van Fleet-level of empty nostalgia. That resulted in the Stars all hating him and punting him to the sideline after a season.

Hitchcock teams do become more defensively solid, but they do so at the expense of any offensive creativity or spice whatsoever. We’re sure that makes Connor McDavid click his heels and giggle. Or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Or Leon Draisaitl. Because when you have these three guys, what you really want to do is continually dump the puck in and then launch them into the end boards like you were egging the rich kid’s house.

It doesn’t really matter. This roster is so mangled even Picasso would tug his collar at the site of it. There’s almost no wingers of note, which is why Nugent-Hopkins is playing there. The bottom-six is infested with armadillos. The defense is lacking and slowish. Cam Talbot dies of exhaustion last year.

Even their jerseys are a missed opportunity, as the 80’s blue were positively fantastic and with the orange and darker blue they look look like bad, NFL color rush. You’d think if you were the Oilers you’d try and hold onto anything from the 80s if you could. Other than it being your only accomplishment, of course.

But that won’t stop the Oilers from going backwards. It’s only been there thing for like 30 years now.