Last week, Bob McKenzie said on TSN 1040 that the Oilers would be at the top of Mike Babcock’s list of teams to join. Yesterday, Elliott Friedman wrote that the Oilers were focusing on Todd McLellan and that another NHL team told him they felt an Oiler-McLellan deal was very close.
This must seem a bit surreal for Oilers fans. Two of the top free agents coaches are very interested in coming to Edmonton. I assume those claiming free agents don’t want to come here will finally realize that suggestion, which was never 100% accurate, had very little to do with the city of Edmonton and everything to do with the state of the Oilers franchise.
With Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli at the helm, Connor McDavid set to join the franchise in June and Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Oscar Klefbom, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse on the team or in the system the Oilers are no longer considered the least desirable team in the NHL
With Babcock and McLellan both possibilities, who do you think is a better fit?
I’m a firm believer a coach is only as good as his players. A coach won’t make a “D” team a “B” team, but he might be able to turn an “A” team into an “A+” team.
The Oilers have had five different head coaches in the past six seasons, and the best winning% amongst them was Ralph Krueger’s 39.5%. Were the coaches responsible for some of the losses, yes, but none of them had much of an NHL roster to work with. Babcock and McLellan might have been able to get a few more wins out of those teams, but they wouldn’t have been much closer to the playoffs. The team simply was not that good.
What will Babcock or McLellan bring to the Oilers?
Babcock has the better head coaching resume.
He’s won one Stanley Cup, lost two other Cup finals, has made the playoffs 11 of the 12 seasons he’s been a head coach and he’s won two Olympic Gold medals.
Babcock is more demanding than any of the four coaches Hall and Eberle – the two longest serving Oilers- have had during their five-year careers. He is hard on his players, and it would be interesting to see how this group responds to a coach like Babcock.
McLellan has had incredible regular season success. Only Pittsburgh and Chicago have won more games than the Sharks did with McLellan behind the bench over the past seven seasons. His players like playing from him and he’s overseen the development of many good young players in San Jose.
McLellan and Babcock have had very similar records since the Red Wings won the Cup in 2008.
McLellan left the Wings after their Cup win to become the head coach in San Jose. Here are their records over the past seven seasons.
McLellan’s Sharks have won five playoff series in the past seven seasons, while the Red Wings won six under Babcock. The difference being the Red Wings made it to the Cup finals in 2009, while the Sharks only made the conference finals in 2010.
During the past seven seasons Mclellan won 311 regular season games, Babcock won 296 and the Oilers organization won a paltry 194.
Both men would garner instant respect from their players — not that this group disrespected the previous coaches, but these two have won a lot of games and this group of Oiler players are desperate for wins. I’d expect them to hang on every word of Babcock or McLellan.
It is extremely difficult to say which coach would automatically be better.
Babcock’s resume is longer, but over the past seven seasons McLellan has had a bit more success. Both coaches have proven they can teach young players and aren’t afraid to use them in important situations on the ice.
The major aspect that neither will have in Edmonton is veteran superstars to lean on. There is no Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau in Edmonton: Players with extensive playoff and international experience.
Edmonton possesses a lot of potential, but both Babcock and McLellan would be coming to a team that is far less talented and experienced than the teams they inherited in San Jose and Detroit.
Signing either of them would be a smart move for Chiarelli. I don’t see an obvious negative in either one. The difference is that Chiarelli has to find out what is Babcock’s motivation. Is it money? Is it a new challenge? Is it wanting more say in player personnel?
If money is the motivator, and I’m not saying it is, then that would be the only red flag for me.
The one thing that intrigues me about McLellan is that for the past two seasons he’s had to endure a very unsettling situation in San Jose. His GM, Doug Wilson, was doing his best to stir up controversy within the team, but despite all of that we never saw or heard that McLellan lost the respect of his players. The coach has to side with his GM if he wants to keep his job, even if he disagrees with him — which McLellan did in the case of playing Brent Burns on defence — and I think McLellan handled that situation incredibly well.
He has shown he can deal with adversity, and he’ll face some in Edmonton.
I’m certain the first question both coaches asked Chiarelli was, “What do you plan on doing about the defence and goaltending?”
Edmonton has McDavid coming, a top-ten scorer in Hall, a three-time 60-point player in Eberle and some other very promising pieces, but they also have some huge question marks on the blueline and in goal.
It sounds like Chiarelli will land one of McLellan or Babcock, and that will put the Oilers another step closer to respectability.
I wrote last week that I thought it would be McLellan and I’m still leaning that way. Who do you think it will be? Why?
- Did you know? Only one GM has won the Stanley Cup with two different teams. Tommy Gorman won a Stanley Cup as the GM of the Ottawa Senators (1920, 1921 and 1923), the Montreal Maroons (1933), Chicago Blackhawks (1934) and the Montreal Canadiens. (1944 and 1946). Gorman was coach and GM of the Maroons and Blackhawks. History says it will be very difficult for Chiarelli to become the second man to do it, but Glen Sather came very close last year.
- I should also point out that only 10 men have won as GM with one team and then became GM for another. Gorman, Punch Imlach, Milt Schmidt, Bill Torrey, Cliff Fletcher, Glen Sather, Bob Gainey, Jay Feaster, Brian Burke and now Chiarelli.
- Head coaches who have won a Cup for two different teams isn’t much longer than the GM list. Lester Patrick, (Victoria and New York Rangers), Dick Irvin,(Toronto, Montreal) and Scotty Bowman, (Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit).
- If you believe in odds, maybe it is best the Oilers hire McLellan because he has yet to win the Cup.
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