Todd McLellan addressed a number of topics in his end-of-the-year media avail this morning.
The Oilers have a lot of areas to improve and McLellan will be in charge of looking for solutions. He spoke today like someone who knows he will be back next season. I expect he will be, but there will be some changes to the Oilers coaching staff.
McLellan will have some say in who stays or goes, but he ultimately won’t have the final say.
“There is a flowchart when it comes to evaluation. There is an owner, President and Manager and they look at the head coach and the assistants. We have to look at everything,” said McLellan.
I expect McLellan to return. Ian Herbers was the fourth coach on the staff, and I’m not sure how much coaching he was able to do. He likely won’t have his contract renewed, and I do wonder how much input he had. Jim Johnson runs the defence and the penalty kill, and I sense he won’t be back. Jay Woodcroft is 50/50 at this point.
McLellan and Woodcroft have worked together since 2005/2006 in Detroit. They were on the same staff for three years in Detroit, then moved to San Jose when McLellan got the head coaching job in 2008, and came to Edmonton three years ago. They have spent 13 years together. They know each other very well, and Woodcroft knows what McLellan needs, but you wonder if it is time for a change. Sometimes a new voice is needed.
Regardless of who is on the staff, I expect McLellan will be here and I asked him what he will be looking to improve on as a coach and a staff.
“Sometimes it is important to have experience. I’ve been in the league a long time and I keep a little notebook with notes going back to 2005. I can open up and see notes from training camp every year and compare what we did well and what we didn’t do well. Did we like the presentation? Did the players get the message? We try and takes bits and pieces from the past. Now, 2005 is too far back, but the last three years I can see what we liked and what we didn’t,” replied McLellan.
He then when into specific areas he will look at.
“Then we look at where we are systematically. Do we need to alter or adjust? We dramatically changed our penalty kill and that’s what the results were from down the stretch. We will look (this summer) at our power play, our five-on-five play, the presentation of our ideas, both on and off the ice. The accountability factor. Our we overaggressive, or under aggressive? Are we going after the right players? Are we rewarding the right players? That is not just our hockey club, every team will do this, but the performance of the team is on my shoulders and I accept responsibility for it.
“The first thing I have to do, before looking at the players, is to look in the mirror and evaluate what I’m seeing, and whether or not I like what I did this season or not and how I need to adjust,” said McLellan.
Good coaches adapt and learn every year. McLellan will not be satisfied with his performance, however, we won’t know how many changes, systematically and personnel-wise, he will make until we see the Oilers in training camp. But you should expect some changes to the coaching staff.
AROUND THE ROOM
It is clear Kris Russell plays better on the left side than on the right. He is much more effective on his forehand than his backhand, but the problem the Oilers have is they have four left shot defenders. Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are the top-two left D right now, and ideally, Peter Chiarelli will find a way to move out one of Andrej Sekera or Russell. Both have a full no-movement clause until next summer, so one of them will have to waive it, or the Oilers will consider a buyout.
The latter is not ideal.
Sekera has three years remaining at $5.5 million. If they bought him out, he’d be a $1.61 million cap hit next season, then a $2.61m cap hit for two years and then back to $1.61 million for the final three seasons. The Oilers would create $3.88m in cap space next season, $2.88 the following two years and have three years of dead cap space at $1.61 million.
Russell has three years remaining at $4 million. His buyout cap hit is different. He’d only be a $611,111 next year, then $1.1 million the following year, and a $3.61 million in the third year. The Oilers could create $3.38 million in cap space next year, then $2.88 million in year two and only $388,889 in year three. The final three years he’d created dead cap space of $1.1 million.
It is fair to question why Peter Chiarelli signed Russell to a four-year deal knowing they already had three left shooting D-men. Russell is a proven NHL defender, but right now the Oilers have too many left D, and their two oldest, who combine for $9.5 million in cap space are the third and fourth best left defenders. Chiarelli created the problem, and I’m curious to see if he can fix it this off-season.
“This year was easier than last season. They weren’t waking up three or four times a night. They were a non-factor in my season,” said Cam Talbot on suggestions being a father led to his struggles. Talbot was quite emphatic about it, and I agree with him. There are many young fathers in the NHL and in the workforce and none would, or should, suggest kids are the reason they struggled, especially when last season his twins were newborns would have been much harder. Anyone who has had kids will tell you the first six months is the most tiring, because they don’t sleep regularly.
Andrej Sekera is hoping to play for Slovakia at the World Championships. He didn’t play very much this year and wants to play some more games. He will need to get the green light from doctors, but his plan, yesterday when we spoke, was he was going to play. The Worlds don’t start for another three weeks.
I also expect the Oilers to make a coaching change in Bakersfield. Gerry Fleming’s contract is up and I sense there will be changes. One coaching name to watch for is Manny Viveiros. He is the current head coach and GM in Swift Current. I could see him moving to the AHL as a head coach, or possibly an assistant in the NHL if he wishes. He will be sought after by many NHL organizations.