Though opinions are pretty split on the amount of responsible the Oilers head coach should take for yet another lost season in Edmonton, it’s clear that Todd McLellan could very well find himself (rightly or wrongly) out of a job in a few short weeks.
Many areas which the team has struggled mightily in this year — lack of secondary scoring, less-than-average goaltending, no firepower on the wings, everything about Milan Lucic — all fall squarely on GM Peter Chiarelli’s shoulders. Other factors such as the team’s 31st and 30th ranked powerplay and penalty kill, a bottom five-ranked team GAA, a hesitancy to pull the trigger on in-game adjustment and questionable defensive schemes all fall on the head coach.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s obvious that McLellan’s days in Edmonton may be coming to an abrupt end. Here’s a look at a few options with NHL pedigrees whom the Oilers brass could (and should) target pending the departure of their current HC.
Dave Tippett – Free Agent
Wayne Gretzky and Bob Nicholson have strong ties to former Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, and it’s realistic to assume that Tippett would be a top frontrunner for the potential opening behind the Oilers bench. The 2010 Jack Adams winner was let go from the Coyotes after the 2016-17 season and spent this campaign without a job for the first time since 2002.
During six seasons in Dallas, Tippet went 271-156-28-37 with a .617 points percentage. He led the Stars to the postseason in fix of his six seasons before being let go and immediately joining the Coyotes organization for the 2009-10 season. In eight campaigns with the Phoenix/Arizona franchise, the 56-year-old led the club to the playoffs three times and posted a 282-257-83 during his time in The Desert.
Darryl Sutter – Free Agent
‘Berta boy Darryl Sutter is likely chilling on a farm somewhere near Viking waiting for his next opportunity, and that could very well come sooner rather than later if McLellan does indeed get the axe. With over 1280 games behind the bench under his belt and two Stanley Cups to his name, the winning experience Sutter brings along with his aptitude for putting young talent in the right spots to succeed could be just what the doctor ordered for a still-inexperienced Oilers roster.
Before really finding his stride behind the LA Kings’ pine, Sutter spent several seasons with the Blackhawks and Sharks before landing with the Calgary Flames — where he posted a 107-73-30 record in three seasons with the Flames and led the club within one game of a Stanley Cup title in 2004. after a five-year hiatus from the NHL, Sutter returned to lead the Kings to four playoff appearances and two Cups while posting a .592 points percentage and a .609 playoff winning percentage in six seasons at the helm.
Lindy Ruff – Rangers Assistant Coach
Though Alain Vigneault’s seat with the Rangers is, by all accounts, starting to get quite toasty, there’s no indication that Lindy Ruff — currently an assistant with the club — is an automatic front-runner to replace AV in The Big Apple. The Oilers should do everything in their power to secure a meeting with Ruff before he inevitably gets scooped up by one of the other 4-5 organizations likely to be replacing coaches at season’s end.
Prior to finding himself as Vigneault’s right-hand man in New York, Ruff was at the helm of the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars for 19 straight seasons. Reaching just shy of 1,500 games as an NHL head coach is nothing to sneeze at, and the 2006 Jack Adams winner posted a 736-554-203 (.561) regular season record while boasting a .550 postseason winning percentage with the Stars and Sabres — leading Buffalo to a Stanley Cup final appearance in 1999.
Parts two and three will look at best options outside the NHL and which trap candidates the Oilers should avoid at all costs.
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