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NHL Roundtable: Woodcroft Fired, Jagr Memories

Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft fields questions in a press conference after the Oilers defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in game two of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never a dull moment in the National Hockey League, and this weekend proved that with the firing of the first coach of the season. Jay Woodcroft is out from behind the Edmonton Oilers bench and Kris Knoblauch is in, a legend will have his number retired in Pittsburgh, and more in this week’s NHL roundtable.

Which coach gets fired first – Lane Lambert (New York Islanders) or Jay Woodcroft (Edmonton Oilers)?

[Editor’s note: obviously we asked this one of our roundtable participants before the news of Woodcroft’s ouster. Still, most of our people figured the writing was on the wall for the Edmonton bench boss.]

Even before he got fired, I would have picked Woodcroft. Frankly, general manager Ken Holland should have been let go at the same time. In the East, I think the first coach to fall will be DJ Smith. This has not been the start that the Ottawa Senators wanted, and new owner Michael Andlauer has made it clear he’s not afraid to make a change. — paledragon, The Cannon

Between these two? Woodcroft. Although I’ll throw a surprise name into the rink for first coach fired – Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh. They feel like a team that might need a shake-up to try and get Sidney another Stanley Cup. — Justin G, Raw Charge

I’m not sure Jay Woodcroft will have a job by the time this is published. Edmonton has expectations, and two of the most elite forwards in the entire world – not to mention adding a first pair caliber defenseman in Mattias Ekholm last season. And while everyone wants to blame goaltending – which sure, they have yet to figure out how to evaluate them before signing one – it’s more than that. Teams with that kind of talent shouldn’t be this bad. The Sharks might not be able to contend in the AHL, let alone the NHL, but the Oilers looked lost and that’s 100% on the coach. Woodcroft will be gone by Thanksgiving. — Bryan Bastin, On The Forecheck

I hate Islanders hockey on such an aesthetic level it should be Lambert and Lamiorello together for trying to modernize the style of hockey that nearly killed the game, but the pressure on Long Island is infinitely less than that on Edmonton right now. Islanders might play greasy, butt-crunching, absolutely disgraceful to look at hockey, but the three game losing streak is something built into their style of play; sometimes being the team that tries so hard to do so little means you get burned. They will go on another long winning streak at some point and then they’ll be in a wildcard spot. Edmonton meanwhile, should not be doing this. The Oilers should be neck-and-neck with the Vegas Golden Knights and yet here they are; sitting next to the San Jose Sharks and their fanbase/media environment is a literal toxic sludgepit that is threatening to become an EPA violating nightmare if this keeps up. Players are becoming snippy, media is looking for answers anywhere they can, and Ken Holland’s somehow ironclad job security is being minorly questioned. They probably shouldn’t fire Woodcroft, but given just how out of control things have gotten, it may be the only thing the Oilers have to wake their players up. — Sky, Davy Jones Locker Room

Will the Edmonton Oilers make the playoffs this season? If so, what needs to happen to get them there?

To reach 95 points (which should be enough to make the playoffs in the West), they would need to play at a 104 point pace for the remaining 69 games. That’s definitely a pace the Oilers are capable of, based on their previous two seasons. If they don’t show progress in the next two weeks, however, it’s going to get late early. — paledragon

Yes. They will fire Woodcroft, pry Bruce Boudreau away from the Niagra IceDogs just in time for Connor McDavid to put the team on his back and he will drag them all the way to a first-round loss to the Dallas Stars. — Justin G

They should, but nothing about the way they’ve played so far indicates that they are ready to overcome the Golden Knights, the Canucks, Kings, and at this point, not even Seattle or Calgary. Still, they have a ton of talent, and a change behind the bench might kickstart them back to life just in time to get kicked out of the first round in 5 games. — Bryan Bastin

Literally all it takes is their hyperpowered offense to actually hit the net. That’s all. In DJLR’s previews, I stated that any team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on it can absolutely make the NHL playoffs whenever they feel like it. By the numbers, they should already be like first in the NHL in goalscoring; they have a league leading 57.64% in Expected Goals For-%, which should be good for them to have nearly 3 and a half goals???? But for whatever reason they just can’t finish, as DJLR’s Allyson Ballard noted in a recent preview. They are absolutely still built to be an offense first, high-octane, devil may care team that has to outscore most of it’s flaws, but this should be working as intended. Hell, I’d even argue they’re due for a game where they just blow a gasket and drop 20 on some unsuspecting team. Given just how hard up for goals they are right now, they might need that kind of game in the upcoming weeks, or they could be scratching and clawing their way back into the playoffs for the rest of the season. — Sky

Nikita Zadarov has reportedly asked for a trade, and other reports have Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin as potentially on the trade market. Of those three Calgary Flames defenders, which gets traded and what’s the ideal destination for them?

Probably Zadorov just due to his lack of a no-trade clause. In a shocking move, he gets traded to Edmonton. — Justin G

I think Zadorov goes first, due to the fact he clearly wants out, and he’s the perfect type of player that gets traded for midseason to a contender that thinks getting a “physical” type veteran will put them over the edge. It does seem to scream Toronto at this point. I think Hanafin might go too, depending, and I think he would be the better player for teams over Zadorov. I have no idea who would go after him though. — Bryan Bastin

Any one of these three could be a half-decent improvement for a number of teams! Zadorov’s agent is already on social media working up a storm to try and get him eastward, but frankly he could find a home on a number of bottom pairings in the NHL. If Zadorov’s audition with the Leafs was any indication, they’re trying to work Toronto hard to get him in Blue and White. I don’t know what exactly they give back to Calgary in this phase that isn’t a treasure trove of picks. Otherwise, the one who will get traded for is probably Hanifin, who is the player that both Boston and Calgary thought Dougie Hamilton actually was; a kind of alright offense-first defenseman who’s defensive work is just kind of there. He isn’t a geek, though! A lot of people really seem to believe he’s a transcendent player! As such, the bidding war for him will be great; the Boston Native has apparently received quite a bit of attention from other western teams, but I’m not sure he’s willing to go to anyone other than a contender. Let’s say Noah Hanifin to the Stars. Set those picks on fire, baby. Life’s too short to worry about the future. — Sky

The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to retire Jaromir Jagr’s number later this season. What’s your favorite Jagr memory, on or off the ice?

That time someone attempted to blackmail Jagr, and he didn’t care. — paledragon

I don’t know, maybe the fact he was traded for Kris Beech? While he regularly torched the Bolts in the regular season (83 points in 80 career games) they usually had pretty good success against him in the playoffs, so that was always fun. I remember there was one highlight-reel goal he scored against them that ended up in an EA Sports NHL hockey video game intro movie that I had to watch every time I booted the game up. It used to annoy me every time I saw it, but I don’t know if I would call that my “favorite”. — Justin G

The dude just refused to stop playing hockey – spending time in Czechia playing for Rytiri Kladno since 2018, putting up 31 goals and 78 points in 129 games. Also this: — Bryan Bastin

My favorite Jagr memory is, of course, his favorite player.

Otherwise, one of my favorite stories about Jagr is one from the 90s: during Pierre McGuire’s ill-fated time as a head coach for Hartford, Jagr got caught with an illegal stick curve by McGuire and had to serve a penalty over it before overtime could begin, and he was so mad about it that he resolved right then and there to win the game on his own. So he went ahead and did so and won a 7-6 game.

He considers this his favorite goal of all time just because he got to shut “That smart mouth” McGuire up. We love fun players, but we really love petty fun players. Have fun running Rytíři Kladno, buddy. You earned it. — Sky

Looking back, what did you think of the Frozen Frenzy on ESPN and should this become part of the standard broadcast in future seasons?

I don’t know that we necessarily need all 32 teams playing in the same night, or a Red Zone type wrap-around show, but on nights with a double digit number of games, I approve of staggering the starts so there’s always a game on, and anyone with ESPN+ can bounce around. For ESPN’s actual Frozen Frenzy presentation, there was a bit too much time in-studio for my tastes, rather than hockey action. — paledragon

It was fine. Not sure if it will become standard, but I wouldn’t mind it a couple of times during the season, especially on busy weekend nights. Unfortunately, with the free-flowing nature of hockey it’s hard to duplicate the NFL’s Red Zone. Maybe cut in whenever a team is on a power play? The staggered starts will probably be a hard sell for some teams as we all know that hockey players love their routine. — Justin G

Look, anything that makes 1) start times not at all 7 and 9 pm, 2) makes games actually easy to watch for fans and 3) gives me the ability to watch hockey all day long is good to me. They should do it once a month, IMO. — Bryan Bastin

Honestly? It was cool, and frankly after a disaster of a year of coverage ESPN had last year it’s nice to see they’re trying something new. I also like the staggered starts and all the games being in exactly one place! One thing I do however agree with is that all 32 teams at once is…kind of overwhelming. RedZone, the closest analog product for the NFL, works primarily because of football’s stop-start nature and a cultural cache of being something people watch even if they don’t care about the teams involved. It’s also commercial-free, something that Frozen Frenzy super wasn’t, which if they want to continue this needs to change. I’d also recommend maybe pruning the number of games featured on a Frozen Frenzy night down to maybe a solid eight and really, and I mean like really curate it. But that’s a schedule-maker’s problem, something I feel needs to be made alongside it’s national TV partners so that they aren’t stuck with something like marquee teams playing non-competitive squads. — Sky