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BLOG: Hitchcock says consistency, penalty kill need improvement

Coach Ken Hitchcock said losing skids must end sooner and the penalty kill must be improved; liked how the team responded to change

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Coach Ken Hitchcock detailed what areas need to improve for the Oilers when the 2019-20 season rolls around.

Fielding the media in the Oilers Hall of Fame Room at Rogers Place on Sunday, the bench boss was specific in his summation of what needs to change. Hitchcock began by commenting on the team's consistency when facing difficult skids or circumstances.

"I think it's more stopping the bleeding," Hitchcock, who went 26-28-8 with the Oil this campaign, began. "That comes with maturity. It comes with experience. Having a game plan is one thing to stop the bleeding, whether it's during the actual game or to stop it the next game or two games later. It takes maturity to do that and I think the players learned a lot about that this year. I think the players understand that's the key to getting into the playoffs.

"There were a few times this year that we took a bit longer to recover. We weren't able to absorb significant injuries."

Hitchcock later focused on the club's penalty kill, which finished 30th in the National Hockey League with a 74.8 percent rating. Last season, Edmonton was 25th shorthanded with a 76.7 percent conversion rate.

Video: RAW | Hitchcock 04.07.19

"We don't win enough faceoffs," Hitchcock said. "So, we start in our zone too much and we don't get that 200-foot clear that knocks 35 seconds off of every PK. And the second part is when we have the opportunity to clear the puck 200 feet, we're not getting it out. We're getting checked off the puck… We end up way too many times with two minutes in our zone and that has to change."

There were more than just a few adjustments the '18-19 Oilers had to make during the season, including changes to team personnel, a new coach and general manager. 

Hitchcock took over coaching duties on November 20 after Todd McLellan was fired and former general manager Peter Chiarelli was relieved of his duties on January 23. Hitchcock was asked how he felt the squad responded to those changes.

"Very good," he said. "Part of it was that Todd and I speak the same language. There was very little change in terminology and we opted to not change the system. We tweaked it later on based on the opposition in a couple of areas. We both come from the same tree as far as teaching goes and I thought the players adapted really well. 

"You can always tell with the way your best players play. If your best players look confused, dazed and they don't buy-in, then you've got confusion. It was a continuation of good play by the best players and that's a telltale sign."

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