When the Edmonton Oilers hired Todd McLellan, there was the immediate question of what kind of staff he was going to put together. As it happens, it’s pretty much exactly the same sort of staff as he had at his last NHL stop.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 25, 2015
Woodcroft, is the world’s most unsurprising hiring. McLellan basically spelled it out for the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones back before he even took the job in Edmonton:
Jay, if I get the opportunity to move on, will be part of my staff. I believe in him that much. I think it’s really important when you find a guy that you can trust and who can keep you organized and prepared and works his butt off. It’s essential. And that’s the plan for me as I move forward.
Woodcroft played the game at the college level and the lower professional ranks. He spent three years in Detroit with McLellan, then followed him to San Jose where they were together for seven seasons. The Sharks’ official website notes that he graduated Summa Cum Laude and with a degree in finance from the University of Alabama-Huntsville before going on to his professional playing career. He is 38 years old.
Johnson’s history with McLellan is considerably shorter; he spent three years on the San Jose bench, joining the team in the 2012-13 season. His overall experience, however, is broader.
Johnson is a retired NHL defenceman; he played 800-odd games in five different NHL cities. He got into coaching pretty much right away after retiring, spending time with the U.S. development program. After a hiatus he got back into coaching a half-decade ago, spending time with the Lightning and Capitals organizations before joining the Sharks. He also found time to do some coaching work in Switzerland during this span.
When he was hired by the Sharks Johnson – who is also a partner in flexxCoach, a resource for youth coaches – highlighted his abilities as a teacher of the game:
My ability to communicate is key. I’m a real teacher of the game and a guy that pays attention to details and how to articulate them to the players. I think that’s so critical in how you do it. I’ve always said that good coaches are teachers first and foremost.
It’s still unclear who the fourth member of the coaching staff will be; I’ve guessed previously that incumbent Rocky Thompson (who has ties to McLellan) will retain that position but to date there’s been no official word on that.
What is clear is that McLellan was in charge of the hiring process, and that he’s happy to get the band back together from his time in San Jose. The Sharks over his tenure were strong on special teams, generally did a good job of controlling possession at five-on-five and brought along young players competently.
For the first time since Craig MacTavish left the Oilers’ coaching job in 2009, it appears that Edmonton should have some guaranteed stability behind the bench.