EDMONTON– Connor McDavid said the Edmonton Oilers are ready for any changes new coach Jay Woodcroft wants to implement.
“Very open,” McDavid said Friday before the Oilers face the New York Islanders (9 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNW, MSG+, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). “Obviously something has to change. ‘Woody’ is going to come in and put his touch on the group and put his touch on the team. And as players, that’s what we want. We’re all in the same boat.
“I don’t know why… sometimes I think people forget that we are here to win. We are here and we come every day and we want to win. We haven’t found the formula yet, but that’s it. what we want to do. Whatever the system [Woodcroft] sets up, we are happy to play.”
Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett, who was fired on Thursday. Edmonton (23-18-3) is fifth in the Pacific Division and was upstaged 8-1 in back-to-back losses to the Vegas Golden Knights (4-0) on Tuesday and the Chicago Blackhawks (4-1) on Wednesday.
“We have to change something obviously, and I’m sure Woody will come with new ideas, with his philosophy and with his plan and we’re all in on that,” striker Leon Draisaitl said. “We have our ears open and we are ready to go.”
Defensive tightening will be one of the Oilers’ priorities under Woodcroft. Edmonton finished 12th in the NHL in goals against per game last season (2.75), but fell to 23rd this season (3.32).
“For sure we have to give up less obviously,” McDavid said. “We have to keep the puck out of our net. We also didn’t put the puck in the other team’s net. So we have to find a way to do a bit of both.
The Oilers are 12th in goals per game this season (3.18). Since averaging 3.81 goals in their 16-5-0 start to the season, they have scored 2.61 goals per game with a 7-13-3 record.
One of GM Ken Holland’s assessments when he made the coaching change was that Edmonton needed to improve defensively.
“You have to keep the puck out of your net,” Holland said. “We have to find a way. You can’t win 5-4. We’ve won a lot of games [when we were 16-5-0]we scored five goals to win.”
Draisaitl said playing those high-scoring games was never the Oilers’ intention.
“To begin with, it’s not like we go into games predicting that we’re going to win 5-4,” he said. “That’s not the mindset we have. I think sometimes when the ball rolls a bit we tend to sit back a bit instead of really tightening up and really focusing on the little things. things. But it’s not like we go into games pretending like we’re going to score five goals every game. I don’t understand where that’s coming from, to be honest. But obviously there’s no secret that we need to be better defensively.
Draisaitl (64 points; 33 goals, 31 assists) is tied for first in NHL scoring with the Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau. McDavid (61 points; 23 goals, 38 assists) is tied with the Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri for the third. Draisaitl leads NHL forwards with an average ice time of 22:48 per game, followed by McDavid at 22:33.
McDavid said if a reduction in ice time could help the Oilers win more, he would take it.
“Of course. I’m open to anything to win,” he said.
Draisaitl said Thursday was a tough day for everyone in the Oilers organization. Along with Tippett, associate coach Jim Playfair was also fired.
“These days are always tough,” Draisaitl said. ” It’s difficult. Two great hockey players lost their jobs, right? Essentially, we are the ones playing on the ice and we have to take responsibility for that in part. I think we had good years under both of them. I’ve improved. Obviously, this year, there have been too many ups and downs. But they helped us a lot… so for my part, I really can only thank them both.