Hitchcock criticizes Oilers' effort after loss to Sharks
Edmonton is 1-5-2 in past eight gamesNHL.com @NHLdotcom
Ken Hitchcock is reaching his breaking point as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
After the Oilers were defeated 5-2 by the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place on Saturday, Hitchcock lashed out at the players for an effort level that led to their seventh loss in eight games (1-5-2).
"At this time of year, the coaches can't want it more than the players," Hitchcock said.
The Oilers were outshot 12-5 in the first period and trailed 5-1 in the third before Zack Kassian scored for the final margin of defeat that dropped them to 2-11-0 in their past 13 games at home.
"We didn't even give ourselves a fighting chance," Hitchcock said. "The game was over. When you turn it over that many times and you make casual plays like that, you give yourself no chance. We did it on the first (and) second goal(s), we did it on the fourth goal.
"My job is to figure out why and try to fix it. Since the break it's been three great road games, playing the right way, acting the right way, behaving the right way, and then we get home and it's been poor. It's been poor hockey here. Poor team hockey. For me personally, it's really irritating. It really bothers me. It's on me to fix it."
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Edmonton (24-26-5) had lost six in a row before a 4-1 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Though the Oilers are four points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, the Blues have two games in hand. Four teams are also ahead of the Oilers including the Chicago Blackhawks, who have won six in a row.
"I don't have the answers," Hitchcock said. "But we can't play this way and actually expect to win hockey games, not at this time of year. Quite frankly, not ever. Maybe in an exhibition game. This is, for the players, has to be really unacceptable to play that way with so much at stake. It just can't be acceptable.
"When you put skill ahead of work you get burned, and there's just too much of that going on. We address it all the time, we think we're moving in the right direction and we just stumble badly. It isn't even what the other team is doing to us, we just shoot ourselves in the foot."
It's been a tumultuous season for the Oilers, who are two seasons removed from reaching Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round. Hitchcock replaced Todd McLellan on Nov. 20 and general manager Peter Chiarelli was fired Jan. 22. On the ice, captain Connor McDavid and forward Leon Draisaitl have scored 31 and 32 goals, respectively. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson are the only other players in double digits with 17 goals each.
"At the end, the players have to reach a point to where they're just sick of it," Hitchcock said.