Oilers’ Questionable Coaching Decisions Were Costly Against the Avalanche

Now that the dust has settled, I can acknowledge that head coach Jay Woodcroft turned the Edmonton Oilers’ season around when he took over the bench on February 11th. The Oilers were out of a playoff spot when he took over and the team went 26-9-3 the rest of the regular season and he led them to the Western Conference Finals. He was great and would be one of the team’s biggest off-season signings.

He passed his rival bench bosses in the first two rounds of the postseason against the Los Angeles Kings and the Calgary Flames. One was his former mentor Todd McLellan and the other was recent Jack Adams Award winner Darryl Sutter. Whether it was winning two straight elimination games in the first series against the Kings or winning four straight games against the Flames, Woodcroft would adapt to any given situation, either using specific players at the right time or using his Changed system with 11 forwards and seven defenders or regroup his team and rebound after a loss.

That said, for most of the decisions he made during the playoffs, I said, “This is brilliant.” However, when it came time to face the Colorado Avalanche, some puzzling coaching decisions were made. They weren’t the difference between winning and losing the series, but they did contribute to Edmonton’s elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Why weren’t the nurse’s minutes reduced when he was fighting an injury?

After Game 2 against the Avalanche, Woodcroft was asked in the postgame interview for his assessment of the game by Darnell Nurse, and he responded by saying, “He’s giving everything he’s got.” There were rumors that the soon-to-be 9.25- The Oilers’ million-dollar AAV defenseman was struggling with an injury and after they were ousted last Monday, Nurse himself confirmed he was suffering from a torn hip flexor.

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