Edmonton Oilers dogged by questions about work ethic and effort

The Edmonton Oilers struggles have been no secret this year, but a 5-0 loss at home earlier this week has fans questioning the team's effort and desire to compete.

'Obviously we're well aware of what's going on around us and outside the locker room'

'We still believe in each other'

5 years ago
Duration 1:17
The Oilers players and coaches react to mounting pressure from fans and media about the team's performance this season.

The Edmonton Oilers struggles have been no secret this year, but a 5-0 loss at home earlier this week has fans questioning the team's effort and desire to compete.

The home-ice loss to Buffalo has pushed some of the team's fan base from feeling frustrated to downright outrage.

What's followed has been a barrage of hurtful tweets and gifs that lit up the Twittersphere something fierce. 

Despite what appeared to be an obvious lack of effort on Tuesday, players like Drake Caggiula equated the game to a bad day at the office.

'I don't question anyone's work effort'

"Use it as fuel, there's nothing else you can really do," said the speedy winger, who has struggled to find last year's form with just six goals and five assists so far this year. 

"The outside world is something that we can't control, whether it's online or in the arena. We've just got to control what we can control and stay positive in here, and have faith in one another in this locker room."

Many of those tweets were aimed directly at the work ethic of individual players, with fans calling out the Oilers for coasting through games in neutral and too easily accepting demoralizing losses. 

"I don't question anyone's work effort in here, I know I have a 100-per-cent belief in everyone in here," said Caggiula, who not too long ago was a healthy scratch as coach Todd McLellan tried to light a fire under his butt. 

"If people want to question our work ethic, I'm sure people go to work every single day in their jobs and they don't have the best day either. It's a long season, 82 games. I can't say anyone in here isn't giving their full effort." 

So, if not effort ... then what?

The Oilers are 26th in league standings, their penalty kill at home (54.2 per cent) is at a historic all-time low, and the playoffs are an astronomical long shot at best.

Connor McDavid said he doesn't blame fans for their anger.

"Obviously we're well aware of what's going on around us and outside the locker room," the Oilers captain said. "Inside, we still believe in each other, believe that we can go in and beat any team on any given night. I don't think that's ever wavered."

Making sure his team is ready to compete every night seems to be one of McLellan's biggest hurdles this season.

At this level, you'd think that would be the least of his worries.

Yet that has been a recurring theme, especially at Rogers Place.

Since New Year's Eve, the Oilers have suffered three 5-0 losses on home ice, to the Winnipeg Jets, the Los Angeles Kings, and most recently the Buffalo Sabres.

"We put our names on the backs of our jerseys, too, and we represent our families," said McLellan.

The coach said his team needs to reclaim some its pride.

"I know when my dad calls me and asks me what the hell's going on and what am I doing, I have to accept that responsibility," he said.

McLellan said his players are hearing it from external motivators as well as internal ones right now. 

And it's certainly not going to get any easier Thursday night against the Calgary Flames.

Though they've lost six in a row to Edmonton, the Flames come into the match-up as one of the league's hottest teams, having collected points in each of their last 10 games.

And they'd love nothing more than to collect two more points, rubbing their provincial rivals noses in it even further.


Min Dhariwal


Min has worked all over the province in nearly 25 years of reporting, covering countless breaking stories for CBC. He's also reported from the Olympics, Stanley Cup Finals and the Grey Cup. Email: min.dhariwal@cbc.ca