Whether you agree with Leon Draisaitl and the way he took aim at reporter Jim Matheson, or you think Draisaitl was out of line, the one thing the forward did was draw some unneeded attention to an already stressful situation surrounding the Edmonton Oilers. A team that badly needs a win and hasn’t gotten one in far too long, the whole, “Why are you so pissy?” thing needs to go away (or at least have the narrative shift) and that starts with an on-ice response.
It was the type of exchange that happens more often in hockey circles than most fans realize. It was also blown out of proportion because reporters aren’t in the dressing rooms with the players these days and every question is being recorded on Zoom and shared for the fans. Still, it was unfortunate, especially because Draisaitl hasn’t been himself when it comes to his offensive production.
Draisaitl on Bit of a Dry Spell
With just five points in his last six games, Leon hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been Leon. A player who was on pace to hit incredible heights this season has cooled right off, especially on the power play where the Oilers have struggled. He has three goals in the team’s last 10 games and no power-play goals over that span. That’s not at all good when the Oilers aren’t getting the goaltending they need.
Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are the straw that stirs the drink in Edmonton. He knows it, the team knows it, the fans know and Matheson knew it when he asked the question about what was the “one thing” that Draisaitl could point to and say ‘this is why we’re losing.’ Instead of blaming himself or blaming others on the team, Draisaitl simply said everything needs to be better. That wasn’t enough for Matheson and that’s when Draisaitl got more frustrated than he already was.
Draisaitl Bears the Weight of the Oilers Success
Right or wrong, Draisaitl and McDavid have to be at their best, more often than not. If they aren’t going, the team isn’t going, and right now, the team isn’t going. Head coach Dave Tippett is searching for solutions, but those solutions often come in the form of two of the best players in the world playing more minutes.
Draisaitl, in particular, needs to help in more ways than one. He’s counted on to penalty kill, he’s counted on to help move a second line, and he’s the glue on the man advantage. The Oilers won’t win games when those things aren’t clicking. Edmonton might be able to get away with two of the three being productive, but not just one — or worse yet, none.
Draisaitl Needs a Breakout Game
After the exchange of words between the player and the media member, the best thing that could happen is Draisaitl explodes for a big game. If he gets multiple points, scores one on the power play and the Oilers end up defeating the Florida Panthers, all will be forgotten almost as quickly as the incident lasted. If he struggles again and the Oilers lose, he’ll be expected to answer more questions, none of which will be fun.
A massive game by a player who has shown he can score four of five points when he gets hot is just what the doctor ordered here. It would be good for the team, good for the player, and good for Matheson, who has taken a huge hit on social media over the past few days. Whether Matheson has a history of asking poorly-worded questions or Draisaitl has a history of being testy and/or showing his frustrations on the ice, what matters is that everyone put this in the past and move on.
Not a single person in this equation wants the Oilers to continue losing. A big game by the guy who kind of snapped would go a long way to ending that underlying feeling that this is going to get worse before it gets better.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”