News and notes on the Oilers: Woodcroft out, Knoblauch in

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Jay Woodcroft of the Edmonton Oilers looks on in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on October 24, 2023 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Oilers 7-4. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
ST PAUL, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Jay Woodcroft of the Edmonton Oilers looks on in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on October 24, 2023 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Oilers 7-4. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
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Edmonton Oilers Sam Gagner
Nov 2, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner (89) celebrates a goal with teammates during the third period against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Sam Gagner, the hero of yesteryear who took the long way back up

You gotta love the fight in Sam Gagner even at 34, he just never quits, ever. He came up to the Oilers on a PTO and with lingering effects from last season’s injury could only practice with the team, but this was enough for the club to sign him to an AHL contract.

This was largely due to financial reasons, as the Oilers were up against the cap and couldn’t afford the NHL contract for him. Then Gagner went and pumped out five points (one goal and four assists) in three games with the Condors and with the Oilers struggling, they had no choice but to upgrade that to a two-way pact. They then put Adam Erne on waivers – who, let’s face it, was rather invisible on the ice anyway – to be sent down to Bakersfield and up came Gagner, and he’s stayed ever since.

He then scored two goals in a losing effort in his third Oilers debut and got some time in the top six. He’s back down to the third line after not following that up with anything else, but you have to love the incremental steps he’s taken to get back to the top.

And the rest…..

Broberg has also since been sent back down to Bakersfield as the Oilers needed cap space and he is still on a two-way contract for this season and seemed to be struggling more than most.

Connor Brown and Mattias Janmark got injured and since the Oilers were already playing two men short, at that point they got the NHL’s green light to use some emergency recalls, with Hamblin for the second time and Lavoie for the first time. Both are currently playing on the fourth line and expected to go back down to Bakersfield by next week, as Brown and Janmark are both nearing a return to health.

Brown has played nine games this season, so his $3.25 million bonus for 10 games played will kick in with his next start.

Former Oiler news

Zack Kassian was not offered a contract by Anaheim after the regular season when his PTO was done, so he has officially retired. Kassian retires with 913 PIMs, the ninth most in the NHL during his career which spanned from 2011-2022.

I can’t find current information on what Kassian’s net worth is now but with career earnings of just over $13.5 million, it’s safe to say he should be fine assuming he hasn’t sunk it into a self-destructive habit of some sort.

We’ll see what’s next for him after this.

Next. One win for the Oilers means nothing. dark

PDO report

Although this doesn’t let the players off the hook, if you scroll down a little on the Edmonton Journal article previously linked, you can see that the Oilers are currently suffering through their worst PDO in five seasons, so this is certainly contributing to the lousy start. Every time they have a PDO under the mean they have a losing record, which to me is no surprise.

From the sounds of Knoblauch’s press conference, he has no intention of changing the Oilers’ team D structure from the zone that Woodcroft instilled prior to his firing. It sounds like he’s going to help the team tweak it and put less emphasis on attacking – which the Oilers love to do right now (and who can blame them with the firepower they have at their disposal?) – and more emphasis on defending to create the odd man rushes and more chances that the successful teams practice these days.

Let’s hope this is something that will improve the Oiler’s PDO and bring them back to a winning record.