Looking at how a simple coaching change at the helm has provided the much-needed spark, for the Edmonton Oilers to turn their season around.
Back on Nov. 12, with the Edmonton Oilers struggling mightily out of the gate for the 2023-24 NHL season, they did what seemed to be inevitable by firing former head coach Jay Woodcroft. He had actually done a fine job with the Oilers prior to the dismissal. as he helped carry the team to an impressive 79-41-13 winning record after taking over from Dave Tippett back in Feb. 2022. In addition, Woodcroft was able to guide the Oilers to the conference finals that same season, their first appearance since 2005-06, when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals.
However, after being knocked out in the second round in last season’s playoffs to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Oilers had gotten off to a miserable start this season by going 3-9-1 in their first 13 games. Many players were underachieving and nothing appeared to be clicking, no matter what game plan was utilized. As a result, the coaching change was imminent.
But sometimes, just a simple change is all that is needed to provide the much-needed jolt to a team to get them back on track. For the Oilers, that is exactly what has happened to their recently revitalized team play. Before the hiring of Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers had only seven points in the standings and ranked second last in the entire league. In addition, they had averaged only 2.7 goals a game, while giving up 3.9 goals per game, resulting in a -16 goal differential.
However, after Nov. 12 and the beginning of Knoblauch’s tenure, it has been a completely different Oilers team, as they have clawed their way back up the standings with a stellar 10-4-0 record in their past 14 games. This accomplishment was fuelled by a momentum-building eight-game winning streak that lasted from the end of November to almost mid-December, before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning this past Thursday. They have also outscored the opposition 61-41 and averaged 4.4 goals per game in the process.
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More importantly, the team’s key stars have gotten out of their funk from the start of the season and have been more like their dominant selves once again, wreaking havoc on the opposition. In the last 14 games, captain Connor McDavid has nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points, only being held pointless once. Meanwhile, Leon Draisaitl has solidly put up seven goals and 11 assists over the same time frame.
Goalie Stuart Skinner has been red-hot, going 9-3-0 with close to a 2.50 GAA and a .903 save percentage. In addition, the Oilers have improved their power play success rate to close to 29 percent and have raised their penalty kill success rate to 80 percent for the season, with practically everything firing on all cylinders.
Hopefully, this will end up as something similar to what happened to the St. Louis Blues back during the 2018-19 NHL season. The Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo in mid-November of 2018 and even found themselves at the bottom of the entire league at one point.
However, after Craig Berube took over the coaching duties, added to the emergence of goalie sensation Jordan Binnington, the Blues went on an incredible bounce-back run to capture their first-ever Stanley Cup championship. For the Oilers and everyone in Oilers Nation, that would be the best fairytale ending after their otherwise horrendous start to the season.