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NHL Executive Claims Oilers Have an Exploitable Playoff Weakness

As the Edmonton Oilers enter the NHL playoffs, they enter as favorites. One NHL executive says that the team has a weakness.

According to an anonymous NHL executive who was quoted in a recent article for The Athletic, the Edmonton Oilers are among the favorites to be Stanley Cup contenders this season. Unfortunately, this same executive suggests the Oilers have a weakness their opponents can exploit. The quote goes on to suggest their team used that weakness to handle the Oilers and if other teams figure it out, it’s a great way to stifle Edmonton’s offensive possession time.

<a rel=Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Oilers” class=”wp-image-67514″/>
Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Oilers

In the article, the quote reads:

The easiest way to shut down the Oilers is preventing McDavid from picking up steam in the neutral zone. The way you prevent McDavid from picking up steam is to mess with the way they do their breakouts and (defensive zone) exits. That starts with their retrievals. Ekholm, good f—ing player, but he can’t make plays on his backhand and Bouchard won’t retrieve the puck (in the corners).

Essentially, he’s suggesting dumping the puck into the defensive zone on Ekholm’s backhand or dumping it in directly on Bouchard because the latter won’t go into the trouble areas to make a play. From there, aggressively pursue those two so they can’t get the puck to McDavid.

Do the Numbers Suggest This Strategy Works?

While it’s not known which team this was and when they played the Oilers, a few analytics supporters took a look at the claim to see if the stats support it. @NHL_Sid responded to questions about Ekholm’s backhand retrievals and Bouchard’s hesitancy to go into the tough areas. He wrote:

I haven’t specifically tracked plays off the backhand, but just from my observations while tracking, I haven’t really noticed an issue with Ekholm in that regard. The only notable weakness in Ekholm’s game I could point out is occasional failed pinches.

@BlueBullet1981 posted a screenshot of some stats collected on puck retrievals, showing that Bouchard and Ekholm don’t appear to be the problem. In fact, not a single Oiler defenseman is below a 50% success rate. Furthermore, when it comes to controlled exits, Bouchard is the most successful blueliner on the team, well above the next closest defenseman at a rate of 16.3 per 60.

The one player who does appear to struggle a bit with retrievals and zone exits is Cody Ceci. Interestingly, the executive didn’t mention Ceci at all.

So, was the NHL executive wrong? Or, did the Oilers he’s targeting with his comments just get better at an area that was problematic at the start of the season?

Next: Trade Acquisitions That Could Shape 2023-24 NHL Playoff Success



  1. Drockz50

    April 19, 2024 at 10:46 pm

    Pfft ????????

  2. kinkaf

    April 20, 2024 at 1:03 am

    The way you handle McDiver is to make sure the officials call him every time he tries his patented “I’ll grab your stick, pull it into my waist, look for the ref, fall to the ice, let go of your stick and put my palms up and try to force the ref into making a hooking call against the other player instead of giving me a holding the stick and a diving call”.

    I’ve been saying it ALL year – as soon as he grabs your stick – let it go and head for the bench.
    Then when McWhiner dives to try and get a penalty call the whole league will see it and the officials will HAVE TO START CALLING IT.

    In the last game between Edmonton and Vancouver, an Edmonton player – copying McDavid’s favourite move – chicken-winged a Vancouver player’s stick, who let go of it immediately. The Edmonton player skated a bit and then let go of the stick while the Vancouver player was looking right at the ref wondering why he wasn’t calling it.
    (Seems there are 2 sets of rules. One for Edmonton and McDavid and one for the rest of the league.)

    You can bet if that had of been McDiver and he’d dropped to the ice, he’d have gotten up all “waaaa – why aren’t you giving a hooking penalty (to the guy who was 20′ away when he fell to the ice, still holding the other guy’s stick).

    His other move – which never gets called either – is to grab a defender’s stick while he’s going behind the net and hold it out away from him as he skates out front so the defender can’t check him.
    Seems McDavid is allowed to hold other player’s sticks whenever he wants because the officials are too scared to call penalties on Bettman’s little boy.

    And we’ve seen how quickly McDavid will lose his cool if he gets called for a penalty that he clearly deserved or when he thinks they should have made a call against the other team because someone skated close to him.

    Won’t take much to put him off his game and have him doing his “waaaa – I didn’t get the call so I’m going to smash my stick so the officials know they screwed up and will look to make a call against the other guys for fear I’ll go crying to the media after the game (again)”.

    • Gordoil

      April 20, 2024 at 10:38 am

      That’s a precious outlook you have there. Would love to see the game through your eyes once. Mind you, I would need to be on whatever you got cooking

    • Karsten

      April 21, 2024 at 7:19 am

      The Leafs have an exploitable weakness too it’s call the first round of the playoffs since they lose nearly every time in the first round

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