Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of Todd McLellan. When the Oilers hired him I thought it was great to finally have an experienced coach here in Edmonton. When the Oilers marched into the playoffs last year, I praised him and gave him a good chunk of the credit. However, now that things have fallen apart, I’m still not ready to call for his head.
That doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with certain things that Todd McLellan does. I think at times, he throws his lines to the blender too often, particularly with Connor McDavid. I would like to see certain players given longer stretches with the teams best player to allow them to try to develop some chemistry.
At times, I also believe that Todd McLellan favours “his guys” too much. Mark Letestu and Milan Lucic have gone through horrendous stretches this year, yet up until lately they weren’t being taken off of the top powerplay unit. You can also point to the continued playing of guys like Drake Caggiula and Iiro Pakarinen (when he’s been available) while the likes of Anton Slepyshev sat for multiple games and Jujhar Khaira has to fine tooth and nail to get a decent opportunity.
Despite my gripes with some tactics and decisions, I still believe that he’s a very good NHL coach and if the decision was mine I would bring him back for another season behind the bench of the Edmonton Oilers.
With that said, I’m not in the dressing room and I’m far (very far) from an insider. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and honestly, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you don’t either, so we’re in the same boat.
When you look at the number of blowout losses this team has suffered and the number of times where they had a chance to build some momentum during a stretch in their season only to come out of the game flat. Part of me wonders if maybe this coach has lost the room, and I know there are others who feel the same.
I don’t know that for sure, but looking at the lacklustre efforts we’ve repeatedly seen and the abysmal special teams’ units and their inability to improve, I think it’s possible that the players have tuned him out.
Do I like Todd McLellan? Yes, I’ll be upset if he’s let go. But if what I fear is true and he’s indeed lost the room, then things get tricky. That’s not something a coach can usually come back from and the organization (those who have all the info) might need to make a change.
If that move comes, it will not be a good thing for this team because the list of coaches who could bring what McLellan brings is very short. In fact, I think there’s one name on that list and it’s Dave Tippett.
Tippett has had stints with three different NHL teams in different capacities, most recently with the Coyotes franchise where he spent eight seasons. During that time he missed the playoffs five times, lost in the first round twice and the conference finals once.
One of the biggest reasons a lot of fans want McLellan gone is because of his special teams, so I looked into Tippett’s special team’s numbers. What I found wasn’t pretty. In his eight seasons coaching, his penalty kill finished in the bottom third of the league six times, as did his powerplay. Not exactly an upgrade if we’re just going off of history.
My point in all of this is that at this point, there isn’t a free agent coach who’s primed to take over and improve this team. Any outside hire would essentially be an entirely new project that would likely come with a steep learning curve.
For those reasons, I would not let McLellan go if I was in charge, but if he’s lost the room I don’t think the organization has any other choice.