EDMONTON, AB - Player buy-in right from the start of the season was the biggest reason the Oilers were able to dominate specials teams in 2019-20, according to Associate Coach Jim Playfair.
Edmonton earned the second-best PK percentage in the NHL this season at 84.4%, and their 29.5% success rate on the PP gave them the second-highest combined special teams percentage in League history.
Playfair, who took the lead on PK coaching, told Bob Stauffer on Tuesday's episode of Oilers Now the players were committed to the shorthanded cause from the get-go.
"It's about the players and their commitment to collectively buy into a system and then develop trust amongst themselves," he said. "And they did that real early... When you have that type of group commitment, it allows you to have a better chance at success."
Video: REWIND 19-20 | Archibald & Sheahan
The Oilers were particularly stingy in shorthanded situations on the road, killing off 88% of their penalties away from Rogers Place.
"We had a consistent group belief that we expected to kill penalties," Playfair said. "It's an important part of your group's confidence to be aggressive and to stay aggressive."
Playfair, who was hired by the Oilers last June, commended Goaltending Coach Dustin Scwartz for getting Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen dialled into the PK system early on as well, leading to immediate cohesion between the puck-stoppers and position players.
Playfair gave veterans Kris Russell and Adam Larsson credit for their PK leadership among the defencemen, while lauding Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, Jujhar Khaira and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for their yeoman's work among the forwards.
He also said he was pleasantly surprised to see how effective 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl was in critical two-man disadvantage situations.
"One thing that did surprise me is I did not realize Leon would be as good as he is in the five-on-three," Playfair said. "You know Nuge has got that mindset, he's got that outstanding awareness of how to defend. But I thought Leon did a real good job growing as a penalty killer, specifically in the five-on-three."