Oilers coach Dave Tippett zeros in on why Edmonton lost to Winnipeg Jets

Article content

This in from The Athletic’s Hockey Show podcast, host Pierre Lebrun asking Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett about playoff style hockey and the difficulty of getting a more skilled team like the Oilers to adapt: “Winnipeg played more of a skill game during the year but the last two weeks of the year they changed their whole game to play a solid, solid defending style, and they have an excellent goaltender and the goaltender makes a difference.

“Montreal and Winnipeg, both those teams played the same in the both series where you play just tight, tight defence, you rely on your goaltender, which is one of the strengths of your team and you find enough goals to win, and it frustrates a skill team. They feel like they should be doing better, scoring more and, in the end, in that Montreal game, Carey Price is excellent in Game Seven and Montreal finds a way to win.”

Co-host Scott Burnside asked what lessons the Oilers had learned: “There’s certainly things, the poise under pressure, the thinking part of it, thinking you have to score when in actual fact you have to stay with the game, stay within the game, and stay with what the game is giving you. And there’s all factors that like that. There’s discipline. I’m sure Josh Archibald is going to, he’ll remember that penalty he took in Game Three a long time.


Story continues below

Article content

“We have a saying that: ‘Every play counts.’ And we lost three games in overtime and you could narrow that down to a single play that was the catalyst to lose those games. Those were plays that we didn’t execute as well as should have and they cost us games… It’s a mindset of how you have to play in the playoffs and it’s different than in a regular season games.”

My take

1. There is a narrative to Tippett’s analysis here, essentially that the skilled Oilers got frustrated by Winnipeg’s tight checking and lacked the poise under pressure to execute some crucial plays.

2. Does Tippett’s explanation resonate with you? Does it make sense? It does to me. This isn’t to let Tippett off the hook for any mistakes he arguably made (failing to call a timeout in Game 3, going to the McDavid/Draisaitl power line too early in the series, shortening the bench too much in overtime, including Ethan Bear’s strangely short shift and ill-timed line change that was part of the Sequence of Pain on Winnipeg’s series-winning goal) or that GM Ken Holland arguably made (failing to improve the team at the deadline). But we also saw some obvious growing pains from the Oilers in the series, moments that looked like panic, including a series of costly turnovers and defensive slip-ups. Poise under pressure, the lack thereof, was indeed an issue. The Oilers lost composure in telling moments in Games Three and Four. The more disciplined Jets made them pay dearly.

3. The good thing? Poise can be taught. Players can be drilled on defensive technique and proper game management until they are second nature, until the players do the right things without thinking. This will help them in moments of acute stress and fatigue. None of this is rocket science, it’s basic coaching in every team sport. Tippett strikes me as a solid even extraordinary teacher, so this is an area where Edmonton will improve in years to come.


Story continues below

Article content

4. It’s interesting what Tippett had to say about the expectation of skilled players scoring goals and the frustration that can set in when they are throttled by solid defence and playoff (read: see no evil) refereeing. There was some obvious signs of frustration in the Oilers as the series went along. Could it be that out of such frustration will come an even more intense desire to figure out what it takes to succeed in the playoffs and to bring it in 2021-22? I suspect that’s the case. Fingers crossed.

5. I’m bullish about this Oilers team. I have been for the last two seasons. It’s a young team that will get better as older teams get worse, and it’s soon to get a huge infusion of young talent — Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Dylan Holloway, Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Raphael Lavoie, Dmitri Samorukov, Stuart Skinner and others — that will help Edmonton address it’s obvious, critical and ongoing issues with a lack of support for Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse. But the lessons of bitter defeat will also go some way in shaping the Oilers so that when crunch time comes next time, they’ll be more ready to bring their best game, no matter the circumstance.

Staples on politics

COVID pandemic is fizzling in Alberta, along with internal UCP revolt

Former United Conservative Party MLA Drew Barnes in Edmonton on February 27, 2019.
Former United Conservative Party MLA Drew Barnes in Edmonton on February 27, 2019. Photo by Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

At the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: NHL teams will be interested in Zack Kassian. Should Oilers move him? 

McCURDY: RNH’s thorny contract situation

STAPLES: Ottawa insiders like Nuge as a fit with the Sens

LEAVINS: Iffy odds on RNH staying with Oilers — 9 Things


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles