Oilers News & Rumors: Nurse, Woodcroft, Keith, Puljujarvi

In and Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there are a lot of unhappy campers both inside the organization and among the fan base after the Oilers failed to take Game 5 and lost in overtime. Who is to blame? What happens in Game 6? Meanwhile, the Oilers might have to play Game 6 without the services of Darnell Nurse who has a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety after he delivered a head-butt to Philip Danault.

Darnell Nurse Gets One-Game Suspension

Nurse had a hearing today for head-butting Los Angeles’ Phillip Danault. He was given a one-game suspension.

There was no penalty on the play and the assumption is the officials missed the call, but there was clearly an attempt made by Nurse to deliver the head-butt and it could cost Nurse at least one game. The NHL DoPS called it an intentional play to use the helmet to make contact with the face of an opposing player, but because of no relevant suspension history, it was only a one-game penalty.

There has been a history of suspension for this type of play and few people have seen the replay and excused what Nurse did here. It should come as no surprise that he’ll be out for Game 6. That said, this is problematic for the Oilers as they are on the brink of being eliminated by the Kings who have taken a 3-2 series lead.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.

As expected, some fans have jumped all over the fact that Nurse is set to make $9.25 million per season starting next year and is locked in until 2030 as the team’s top-pairing defenseman. Not only were those fans jumping on Nurse for inconsistent play and being overpaid, but now they’re calling him out for his inability to be a good leader and potentially getting suspended when the team will need him most.

Jay Woodcroft On Hot Seat?

For the first time since he came aboard as head coach of the Oilers, Jay Woodcroft is being questioned for his ability to lead this team. Some are suggesting he may have overthought things a bit tonight to start and during the game and he’s been unable to get the Oilers to come out of the gates strong in their most recent outings.

Jay Woodcroft Edmonton Oilers
Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He changed up the lines heading into Game 5 and it didn’t work. When the Oilers got down, he shuffled things around and it wasn’t until he put Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the ice together that things turned around and the Oilers tied it up. When he started the lines he did in overtime and the Oilers got absolutely dominated, there was a lot of criticism.

He said of the decision to start Brett Kulak, “Just something we thought would help us at the start of overtime. … We were trying to find the right mix, but it didn’t work tonight.” He also has said the pressure is on the Kings to close out the Oilers in Game 6, which is absolutely not true. The pressure is squarely on the Oilers to stay in the series.

Duncan Keith is Taking Heat Too

Duncan Keith is taking some heat as well for letting Adrian Kempe walk around him during the overtime and many believe it’s because of a lack of speed that Keith allowed that overtime goal. He was not good in Game 5 and it might have been one of his worst games as an Oiler.

Related: Oilers’ Kane Delivering Peak Performance Despite Off-Ice Distractions

The big issue that most fans have is that he was out of position during an overtime play that was so critical. He’s supposed to be the experienced veteran on the team and it was a bad look for him to get burned so badly. Interestingly, Oilers fans are suggesting that media members close to the team are trying to protect him and not directly call Keith out. He would probably be the first to admit he made a mistake there and got caught.

Has Puljujarvi Sealed His Fate In This Series?

Some are wondering if the poor play and lack of gamesmanship by Jesse Puljujarvi in this series may have sealed his fate with the Oilers. Something has to give if Edmonton intends to bring back Evander Kane and Kailer Yamamoto has been a workhorse, even if he hasn’t always been perfect. Of the players the Oilers would have to sacrifice, Puljujarvi has made it a bit easier to look his way after failing to be a difference-maker.

The analytics crowd are still pointing to decent underlying numbers and zone pressure, but Puljujarvi has one goal that came in an 8-2 blowout and he’s not done much else to draw positive attention to himself.

This is not to say that Puljujarvi has been the worst Oiler or even the worst version of himself in this series. It’s just an argument that he might not have shown up enough to get consideration over the others players the Oilers will have to make difficult decisions on in the offseason.