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.

  • TKB2677

    Am I the only one who would rather have Nelson than mclellan as head coach? The guys put in his time and deserves it!!! The only coach I wanna see Nelson replaced by is Babcock. Mclellan can pound sand!

    • The Soup Fascist

      You may not be the only one, but your group’s meetings can be held in a phone booth.

      I think most people like Nelson and admire the job he did. I just think with the opportunity that has presented itself you need to grab the brass ring. If they go with McLellan, Nelson is getting screwed. No question. Good guy that deserves a break.

      If he does not end up with an NHL job here or elsewhere I hope he is offered an associate coach role and paid well. He has been very loyal to this organization.

  • TKB2677

    hire mclellan
    trade for vlasic
    buyout obvious plugs
    buy nelson a one way flight to bakersfield
    trade for justin williams
    offer petry another pathetic bridge deal for laughs
    tell shultz to skate at west edmonton mall instead of rexall
    wish dubnyk goodluck and sorry for everything
    decide what suit to wear to draft
    pray mcdavid doesnt roll eyes when drafted
    hit the lake
    remind shultz that he cant play defence
    call mom
    see what belovs up to these days
    help kids get school supplies
    ask about nikitans diet (if hes not bought out see #3)
    remind shultz that he cant play defence
    see you at training camp lowe
    mac t get yourself to russia to check up on that greabeshkov kid
    remind shultz he cant play defence
    october here we come
    signed peter chiarelly

  • OtOil

    Waiting for Babcock and O’Conner it seems. I would guess if they got Babcock, they’d also likely get O’Conner. It would be a great start to an already stellar summer.

  • TKB2677

    I’m not sold on McLellan. What has he managed to do in San Jose that’s so great? All that talent and he still missed the playoffs this year. And even when they made the playoffs they were always a paper tiger. I mean the fact that they’re calling St.Louis the new San Jose when it comes to playoffs isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. He’s an upgrade over Nelson based on experience but I’d still rather Babcock. But at least he’s not a rookie coach I guess.

  • Eakins had the benefit of Todd Nelson. He chose not to exercise it. Just like he proudly boasted to not having watched one second of video of the Oilers. Just like he had no clue how good Anton Lander was. Just as he had no clue how Krueger’s power play was one of the best in the league for two straight seasons.

    Eakins knew it all. He didn’t need to do anything, except comb his air, and keep his suits splatter free.

  • TKB2677

    Bringing in McLellan and keeping Nelson as his associate coach seems like a win-win for the organization, but what happens to the dynamic in the room? With Nelson knowing a bunch of the players well, does his presence undermine McLellan during a losing streak if players decide coaching and systems are the problem?

    • TKB2677

      I think from what we’ve seen from Nellie it’s unlikely he would let things go that way. Having said that I think it’s highly unlikely that MacLellan or Babcock would retain Nelson. But then again Chiarelli kept MacT so crazier(more stupid) things have happened thats for sure.

    • CMG30


      If you have interest in coaching McDavid and the dollars are OK, waiting is not a good strategy.

      Sure, you might get a few more bucks as someone else’s consolation prize (not guaranteed) but you run the risk of choice destinations like Edmonton hiring… Babcock!

      McLellan is a perfect fit in Edmonton. When managing your own career you want to go where you’re going to have the best chance of success as that breeds continuing employment and higher pay. Even if you’re able to squeeze a few more bucks out of someone else, if that team is not a great fit for your talent you jeopardizes your future earning potential.

  • 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.

  • Oilcounty88

    I can understand people thinking that edmonton is a much more desirable place to coach now that McDavid is being added to the roster. However, that doesn’t make Edmonton the top of anybody’s list. If McLellan is willing/able to take the job then we should hire him. Wipe the entire assistant coach roster and let him decide who he wants because you hire a coach for their expertise.

    I’ve been in enough locker rooms and been apart of enough teams to know that you need one consistent voice sending the message for the team. If they hire McLellan and then keep Nelson as an assistant it could be bad for the locker room. I’d much rather see a fresh start with McLellan bringing in his guys that he’s had success in the past with to go into next season with.

    Just my two cents..

  • OtOil

    I don’t see any case where Todd goes before Babcock. One he’s coaching the worlds, after which I’m sure he’ll consider interviewing for other teams, and two I’m sure the price just like any free agent sky rockets once the biggest one is taken.

    • 916oiler

      Yes these are the Todds I know I know …

      Well, there’re former Oilers:
      Todd Marchant
      Todd Elik
      Todd Harvey
      Todd Strueby
      Todd Reirden
      Kevin Todd

      And maybe the jersey designer Todd MacFarlane?

      the Oilers-Todds I know I know …

  • The Soup Fascist

    Is it just me or would a bottle of “Just for Men” go a long way in making these guys look like twins?

    That would be fun. “Hi I’m Bucky. This is my brother Todd and this is my other brother Todd”.

  • 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