As tempting as it might be for the Edmonton Oilers to wait on Mike Babcock and throw the bank at him if he becomes available, if I’m Peter Chiarelli, I’m doing everything in my power to persuade Todd McLellan and Todd Nelson to be my coaching tandem next season.

Given reports the Oilers have not only reached out to McLellan but interviewed him for the head coaching job, Chiarelli is already a step ahead of me on that front, having spent time with him at the World Championships. Word today from TSN’s Darren Dreger is Chiarelli will interview Nelson this weekend for the top job. I wonder if the associate option will be raised.

“Edmonton has always been an interesting spot for many people, I think,” McLellan told the Edmonton Sun. “It’s a team with a rich history and they have some good players there. Now you add in (Connor) McDavid, Bob (Nicholson) taking over and Peter coming in. I really do think there were good people there before. What job descriptions they end up in, I’m not sure. But there will be a very strong team and group of people there.

“For any coach to consider all of that, it has to be a positive. It has to be exciting, not just for myself but for anybody. With all those good players there, it will eventually get going the right way. I think some of the changes and the No. 1 draft pick in Connor McDavid’s year make it enticing.”  

There’s an understatement. McDavid has been called a game-changer, and in more ways than one. Is he enough to prompt McLellan to sign on the dotted line? I think so. Is McDavid enough to convince Nelson, who deserves consideration to be head coach, to put what could be a very good situation ahead of pride and agree to come back as McLellan’s associate? I hope so.



I get it that Babcock will be the biggest fish in the coaching pool if he opts to leave the Detroit Red Wings and sell his services to the highest bidder or the most favorable landing spot. The problem is Babcock hasn’t clarified what his intentions are. Will he stay? Will he go? A lot teams, the Oilers included, would like to know.

What we do know is Babcock will attend the World Championships with Detroit GM Ken Holland. Making that journey together doesn’t strike me as something they’d do just to talk things over. The “I’m outta here” meeting doesn’t go like that. Holland and Babcock have a long history together and Babcock’s family is happily settled in the Detroit area.

My sense is Babcock will stay in Detroit, but that’s just my read without being privy to conversations he’s had with Holland. Simply put, we don’t know, and neither does Chiarelli. That’s why, if I was him, I take the bird in the hand rather than one in the bush. I’d put a contract in front of McLellan and another in front of Nelson this weekend – assuming, of course, Chiarelli already pitched that to McLellan and he’s agreeable to it. It’s not something Chiarelli can force.

Rather than wait for the dominos to fall, I’d take a swing at that knowing there might be a chance Babcock becomes available. Even if that’s the case, it’s not like McLellan is a consolation prize. As for Nelson, who was passed over once already when Craig MacTavish fired Ralph Krueger to bring in Dallas Eakins, he’d obviously have to be on board.

I’d roll those dice right now if I was Chiarelli rather than waiting on Babcock and then having a line-up of teams courting McLellan. It seems to me that being pro-active rather than re-active makes sense in this situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chiarelli is exactly that when he meets with Nelson.



I like the idea of Nelson staying because he clearly pushed the right buttons with a flawed roster after taking over from Eakins as interim coach. Between his time in Edmonton and in OKC of the AHL, Nelson has a connection with many of the players who’ll be part of the next edition of the Oilers.

That’s a valuable tool to have in the transition that takes place when a new head coach comes in. It could be very valuable to McLellan. Eakins didn’t have that benefit, save for assistant coach Kelly Buchberger. I suppose that Keith Acton, brought in my Eakins, could provide that link to a new head coach, but I’m not sure what’ll happen with him or Rocky Thompson.

Of course, a tandem of McLellan as head coach and Nelson as assistant is a moot point if McLellan doesn’t want Nelson or has somebody else in mind for the job, which has to be his call if he takes the job. It also falls apart if Nelson says “no thanks” and chooses to move on.

I see it as an intriguing possibility and one that might best serve the Oilers, rather than waiting around in the hope Babcock becomes available. I wonder if Chiarelli feels the same way. We’ll find out soon enough.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • positivebrontefan

    I think having either McLellan or Babcock as head coach would be great, ideally I’d like to see Babcock, him turning team Canada from what could have been a highly skilled but sloppy run and gun disaster, like the Russians were, into a tight checking but fierce attacking team was a revelation that he could manage a skill team into an all around team. He has the respect of absolutely every player in the NHL. I have yet to hear a sideways word from any player about him.
    He is a class act, and for that reason, I think his trip with Ken Holland to the Worlds is a sign that they will get a deal done. It’ll be big money, but they’ll retain him.
    I agree with being responsible however and interviewing as many candidates as he can. I think Chia Pete already has his man in MacLellan though. Really hope whomever gets it willingly invites Nelson in as his assistant. PP and PK specialist and keep Ramsay in as the Defence coach. These kids gotta have some continuity, yet get a fresh respected voice in the room.

    My first impression of Eakins ripping down all the Oilers traditions, the ping pong table and other reminders of the proud Oiler history was a douche move. I think he immediately lost a lot of respect from the guys for those actions and never really had a plan other than trying to shock them into some weird submission. The guy’s as washed up as Torterella.

  • positivebrontefan

    As far as Nelson is concerned, I feel bad for him, he had his shot and is kind of getting the same screw job as Kreuger got. A great guy, I hope he gets offered the assistant job and takes it.

    • BigMcD

      He is not getting a screw job at all . It is in his best interest to be an assistant for a couple of years , gain some experience before he jumps into a head coaching role. We need a guy that has been around. A guy that knows the league and the western conference like McLellan does.

  • Anton CP

    They interviewed McLellan first and then Nelson makes me think that having Nelson stay as associated must have mentioned during McLellan interview, considering that they are now interviewing Nelson may also meant McLellan agreed to have Nelson stay put and now just to see if Nelson will agree to being associate or not. So Chiarelli has enough sense to know it is better to get both Todds aboard than waiting for Babcock.

    • Randaman


      This, finally, some common sense.

      In a free market system, if you can improve your team, you do it. No popularity contests apply in the real world.

      My goodness, haven’t we been waiting for this way of thinking forever!! Seems that way.

      The Oilers owe Nelson nothing. In turn, Nelson owes the Oilers nothing.

      Sorry to all you loyalists but this will not be the last change coming. Get ready for someone you like to be traded once Chirelli has time to see what he has.

      That folks is the life of an NHL G.M., coach and player. They are aware of the risks while they chase glory.

      That said, I hope Nelson stays as well

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      That’s a great article. Here’s a quote from it, regarding Bylsma:

      ‘Bylsma has quickly won over the young American team with his energy, especially during practices, where it’s not unusual to see him diving onto the ice to create an obstacle for players entering the offensive zone or throwing a shoulder into the mix here and there.

      “[Bylsma] has a lot of spunk and a lot of energy,” Team USA forward Brock Nelson told “Even in the locker room, you show up in the morning at 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. and he’s bouncing around in gym clothes looking for coffee. I don’t know if he necessarily needed it.”‘

      My order would still be Babcock, then McLellan, but Bylsma really sounds like a players coach. I hope Chia at least interviews him.

  • I tried it at home

    Hall and Eberle are interviewing McLellan in Europe. Will make their decision when they get back, after meeting with Schultz t see if McLellan is their man.

    One issue is McLellans fundementals in backchecking as they would apply to the Oilers.

  • I tried it at home

    Hi Brownlee!..just wanted to say a great post and I was/have been thinking the exact thing…I think nelson would be attracted to this job working with such a great coach..and I know the Babcock lure is there but maybe this is actually a better fit for these oilers as waiting could get sticky?, bassguy

  • Joe Mamma

    Although it’s a nice idea, McLellan is on record that his assistant of 7 years, Jay Woodcroft, comes with him as a package deal. So I’m not sure Nelson fits into that staff, as I just don’t see McLellan pushing his guy down the food chain to hire an associate coach.

    Maybe as an assistant, but I don’t know that that would be all that enticing to Nelson. We’ll see.

  • Paymaster

    My personal opinion is that Todd McLellan lacks the killer instinct needed to push this team as demonstrated by years of lackluster performances in the playoffs by San Jose.

    My top two picks would be Babcock and Bylsma. Mike Babcock because he is a proven winner, and his strategy in the last Olympics was as well executed as anything I have ever seen.

    I like Dan Bylsma because of the work he did with a young talented team and putting them over the top in winning the cup in 2009. Like Babcock he is a winner and coaching McDavid would be pretty similar to having coached Crosby.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    “Should Chiarelli wait to see if Babcock comes to the Oilers, or go hard after McLellan right now?”

    Those are three respected and experienced names being bandied about up there. Somebody friggin pinch me.

  • Babcock has stated who the boss is in his year end presser. I found it intriguing that he would comment that his meeting with her from the night before went poorly.

    Im curious which potential job offer she shot down.

    I think Mike would like to explore new challenges…mama mike….. not so much.

  • TKB2677

    I watched the video of Hall and Eberle singing the praises of McCellan. Those are 2 of the guys that stir the Oilers drink so if he is going to be the coach next season, it sure is nice that 2 of the Oilers best players are getting to work with him early and they both like him and how he coaches.

    If Babcock continues to drag his feet, I wonder how long the Oilers wait to pull the trigger. Based on comments from McCellan, he would like to come to Edmonton. He already is talking about what assistant he will want on the staff. I would hate for the Oilers to sit and wait for Babcock, have Babcock decide he wants to stay with Detroit, then have another team swoop in and take McCellan.

  • TKB2677

    I don’t think I ever heard them say anything good about Eakins. It was a lot of talk about getting used to how he wants to play, etc. Hall at the start of this past season talked about how it was nice to have the same coach back so he knows what to expect. But I don’t think I ever heard either of them say anything about being impressed or like playing for him. From everything I have heard, most of the players hated Eakins. They said lots of positives about Nelson.

  • BlueHairedApe

    I sure hope Nelson stays on as an associate. I think either Babcock or MacLellan are smart enough to realize that having him there is an invaluable resource to this team due to the obvious positive influence he has on the players.

    And if he doesn’t I don’t think under the circumstances that the Oilers are at fault for bringing in a new head coach or that Nelson has been slighted in this instance. (yes, rightfully he should have been hired instead of Eakins and even Kreuger). Nelson earned a huge opportunity on the biggest stage in the world of hockey to show what he can do. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of coaches in the minors that wish they could put that on their resume. He’ll eventually get hired by someone else and I don’t think it will take very long. He’s a class act and I’m sure he’s the type of guy who appreciates the Oilers for giving him the opportunity.