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November 10, 2023, 7:55 PM ET [17 Comments]
Sean Maloughney
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Welcome to the new rock bottom...until the next rock bottom.

Looking around social media, the reaction of Oilers fans after losing 3-2 to the 32nd place San Jose Sharks was one of numbness. It just felt like that was the moment that totally broke the fanbase and the team itself.

There was a moment on the first goal against where Leon Draisaitl was just coasting around the ice, not engaged, not attacking the puck and just watching the play go by. It was a microcosm of what we have seen from this roster all season.

The goaltending has been brutal, the defense has been anything but defensive and no one can score and that includes Draisaitl and McDavid. There is something that is festering within this entire roster, something we likely will not know about until 15 years from now when someone decides to write a book.

Jay Woodcroft may not be the coach a week from today. As of now it appears that he will still be behind the bench when the team faces the Kraken on Saturday but after that it is anyone's guess.

Jay Woodcroft is an excellent coach. There are things I disagree that he does but find me a coach in the NHL that someone doesn't have at least some issues with. Prior to the start of this season, Woodcroft had a 76-32 record, the highest winning percentage of any NHL coach in Oilers history. For people blaming "the system" he is utilizing, ask any NHL player and they will tell you it takes maybe a couple weeks maximum to figure out a new system.

It isn't the system that is causing Draisaitl to stop sskating, or Nurse or Bouchard to completely give up on their man, or to lose puck battles, or for the goalie to get scored on on chances they should absolutely save. Firing Woodcroft and getting a new coach might give the team a brief bump, but it isn't going to fix the key issue with this team.

Buy-in.

It's an issue that has plagued this team for years. A full commitment to winning and conducting oneself with that purpose every time they step onto the ice.

There are far too many passengers on this roster with far too many of them under the belief that McDavid and Draisaitl will pull them out of it. Sam Gagner and Evander Kane might be the only two players I have seen this season that seem ready to step on the ice and try and make something happen.

People talk about team toughness and that teams need enforcers or physical players to set the tone. It is why Toronto went out and got Ryan Reeves. They seemed to think Reeves would set the tone for the roster and his presence would make Toronto hard to play against. That isn't how it works.

Being tough to play against isn't about massive hits or even throwing 4+ checks a game. Being tough to play against is competing for every inch of ice, getting into a players personal space when they are trying to skate into your zone, it is standing up together as a team when someone is pushing a player after the whistle blows. Being physical is a part of that, especially in a long playoff series when you want your opponent nursing extra bruises but it is far more about forcing a team to be out of breath and gassed because they have to try and beat your work ethic.

Right now that is something that is completely lacking from this roster and something a new coach or a goalie trade isn't going to fix. These players on this roster need to decide if that is what they want and if it is worth it to them to play that way. The coach and the leadership core of the team can help to influence it but it is up to each individual player to decide if they want to do that.

Until that happens this team isn't going to win anything and will likely end up losing two of the best players in the game because of a failure to recognize this.
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