Oilers’ Tippett Preseason Focus Includes Special Teams and Bottom-6

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett had a chance to sit down and answer a lot of what he and his coaching staff are still looking for heading into the preseason game vs. the Vancouver Canucks. He thinks there is still a lot to learn about the team going forward. The top-6 looks set, but he still needs to see particular things from certain players and what more they can bring in games.

Late Preseason Competition in Oilers’ Bottom-6

The fourth line going into the game tonight will see Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod, and Colton Sceviour line up together. Tippett goes into exactly what he wants to see from them in the game. It would be very beneficial if any of these players could get a snippet of what their coach is looking for from them. He had this to say:

“They just got to be solid, bring energy … you got to have an impact on the game, not just kill the clock. Whether that’s create some chances, penalty kill, or create momentum for us…”

– Dave Tippett

He talks about the ice time that these bottom-6 players are going to receive. He says they won’t be playing 20 minutes a night, but will it be eight, 10, 12? That depends on the energy they bring to every shift. If they aren’t giving it all they got, the Oilers have more than enough top talent that can easily double-shift or stay out there for minutes at a time; we’ve seen it many times before.

Colton Sceviour Pittsburgh Penguins
Colton Sceviour, Edmonton Oilers, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Staying with the focus on the bottom line, there is only one player that signed a professional tryout (PTO) that is still competing for a spot on the team, that being Sceviour.

“Sceviour is one of the guys we have to make a decision on. Solid player up and down (the ice).”

Dave Tippett

He is someone who fits right into that group that Tippett mentions in needing to make a positive impact and bringing that to the table. He, along with his linemates in tonight’s game, will get a very good look, as this should be the role they will play if they make the Oilers’ roster.

“I look at Benson and McLeod, they should be full of energy tonight. Go out and play with a ton of energy and try to create something, make something happen in the game. That’s what we’re looking at that bottom-6 to do.”

Dave Tippett

For each of these players on the fourth line today, this could be their last look this preseason, as there is only one more game before the regular season starts. They need to do exactly what Tippett has laid out for them to do and prove they can provide the much-needed energy to the bottom-6 on any given night.

Closer Look at Oilers’ Special Teams

Tippett expresses that he wants to get a good look at the special teams, particularly the penalty kill, since the No. 1 power-play unit should be similar to last season’s. They brought in a number of new options that he thinks they can try out on the penalty kill, including Zach Hyman, Derek Ryan, and possibly Warren Foegele.

Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers
Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Tippett speaks to the importance of needing to see more of the penalty kill in a game because practice is just so different. The Oilers’ top power-play unit out there facing up against the penalty kill in practice is very good.

“You get a look at guys, but you’re not in shooting lanes and doing things like that that are real barometers of how they’re going to play out in a game.”

Dave Tippett

Indeed, you can get all the practice in the world, but some things just aren’t worth putting your body on the line for in practice. This is what Tippett means because the players on the Oilers’ power play practicing with them don’t want to hurt their teammates when they are more looking to go over fundamentals and positioning. Of course, some guys are still fighting for roster spots, but you also can’t do that if you’re injured. While on the other hand, positions are safe for some of the penalty killers, so the point being they aren’t going to go all out to get in front of shots and protect the net.

Related: Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 Season Preview Section

Tippett says he would like to see some guys get more action on the penalty kill in the game tonight.

“The way our team is set up, the power play, that No. 1 group gets a big chunk of it (power play time), so there’s a lot of people looking for some special teams stuff. Penalty kill stuff, it all depends on what you have in the top part of your lineup.”

Dave Tippett

Though the top guys on the Oilers can kill penalties or get ice time at the end of kills to create momentum heading right back into 5-on-5, the main penalty killing units have to be set. That’s a main focus as Tippett looks to give some players more time shorthanded if the opportunity arises to see what he has in terms of bodies and partners at forward.

“We’ve tried Benson and McLeod penalty killing, Sceviour is a penalty killer. Ryan is a penalty killer down there. We’ve tried Foegele out, and he’ll get a little more tonight.”

Dave Tippett

So it looks like the coaching staff has lots to figure out in the final two games. Keep an eye out for which players get time on the penalty kill tonight, and if Tippett leaves someone out from the names mentioned, look for them in the final preseason game.

In regards to Hyman, Tippett doesn’t necessarily see his and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the No. 1 penalty-killing unit due to ever-changing circumstances in games. But Hyman has done great work in the past with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The coach says that he would like to play those two together, but wouldn’t put a number on it. Nugent-Hopkins has been a long-time penalty killer that the Oilers turn to, and he’s been a reliable one. So even though there isn’t a number labeled on the units, it’s right to assume they are the go-to penalty-killing unit if they’re rested.

There is much to look at from a coaching perspective heading into the final stretch of training camp in Edmonton. Tough decisions lay ahead, and management is looking to get it right and help the Oilers’ chances in doing some damage in 2021-22.

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