NASHVILLE – We will not lie. The relationship between Edmonton Oilers's chief coach Ken Hitchcock and starred Leon Drisaittle is "heavy love."
There were nights when the coach was not sure if the player would ever get there. And in the morning when the player probably can not stand to see the coach enter the room.
Like the 5: 2 loss in San Jose, this post after Hitchcock said: "At this time of the year, coaches can not want it more than players?"
We will now tell you: he was talking to everyone, but he really was talking to Draisaitl.
In the first period of this defeat, Draisaitl allowed Evander Kane to reach him in the blue line without any hint of a challenge, and noted unattended. And then it gets worse. Later during the match, he turned the puck into the neutral zone before lazily heading for the bench for change, while the sharks rushed with ice for a goal. For those in the game, this moment has told the story of a player who has left his teammates in a terrible place. He made a mistake, then stood on the bench, leaving the mess for the next one on the boards.
For a coach with 1000 games like Hitchcock, this game was like a cockroach: If you see it once, it means there are another 100 other plays that want to go out.
For a man from Edmonton like Hitchcock, who has been watching from a distance, since this franchise has been shaking for about a decade, the last drop. All these good players all these years and never win.
This is the reason.
He took him over the edge.
"Coaches can not want it more than the players," he said after this game, a comment that echoed in the league.
His players were sour. His bosses warned him not to pour more negativity on a brand that had already been a fire. Our Nick Kypeos reported that the Oilers were supposed to replace him.
So, what did Hitchcock do? He showed his players the film. He showed Draisaitl the movie.
Sportsnet NOW gives you access to over 500 NHL games this season with no current including Hockey Night in Canada, Rogers Hometown Hockey, Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey, the entire 2019 Stanley Cup match and more.
On Monday night in Nashville, after Draisaitl was the best ice-maker with a certain margin, putting both Oilers's goals in a 3: 2 loss, Hitchcock sounded like a coach who was justifiable.
"Coaches drive players to places where they can not get along, and the war that continues until they reach this place is difficult," he said. "You must be able to train through conflict and players must be able to play through conflict. And there was some conflict to get to that level. But we are here now.
"Whether it's too late (to play the playoffs) or whatever, we're here now and we're competing like hell," he said. "My hope is, we continue along this path. Because that's the way you can be competitive for years. If this is the way they will compete and support each other, you can be proud of what you put on the ice every night. "
The Oilers finished three of four games without Captain Connor McDavid. This lineup, as badly constructed, had two losses in penalties and a victory without McDavid.
"It was a good test for the man right there," said Linemat, Alex Keason, and nodded at Draisayt's stall. "When they play together, they are super dangerous. But Leon is able to take his own line – he has proved that in the last six to eight weeks. Tonight he was a horse. Absolute horse. Unbelievable. "
Draisaitl scored goals 37 and 38. There are 20 matches left and 50 can win, with the first winning so much in the Maulars season since Wayne Gretkeys (62) and Jari Kury (54) in 1986-87.
He had a short goal and his 15th goal in the season.
"My job is to make offense, I'm paid for," he said. "I want to be a full-fledged player and I'm proud to do the little things right and protect, stand up, kill with punishment, whatever."
Said Chiasson: "He thinks the game. He sees things. He is smart. He can skate. He is alert.
"He has everything to be a superstar.
The four-player Oilers team who spent more time in NHL than NHL gave the Predators a good performance on Monday, hours after the interim GM, Keith Gretkeys decided to keep the band together hoping they could build positive chemistry.
In the hope that Draisaitl and every teammate he had rushed into on Monday night would start playing such a game he wins. Not just the one who seems flashy, as is the case here too long.
Hitchcock sees it. You can say when you look at him talking about it.
Look for this game from the day it arrived. It is almost too late, we will give you that. But here it is, it works and now its best players pick up all the others on the right path.
"(Draisaitl) took his game to another level. He embraced the details to be a really good player. He bought what the coaches want, "Hitchcock said. "He's in the right position, his distance to the ice is right now – he does not wait to hit home runs.
"He's a hell of a hockey player.