Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing Todd McLellan P3: Trap candidates

Oh Chia, what do you have up your sleeve? You ol’ sailor you.

Monday’s presser with the Oilers head coach made it feel like the job of Todd McLellan may be safe but, as of this posting, it hasn’t been confirmed whether or not he will be back for his third twirl around the sun at the helm.

Peter Chiarelli is apparently speaking to clear up the situation sometime in the next couple days. As we all know, he’s a wildcard in every sense of the word, so who knows what will transpire on the coaching front over the next 24-plus hours. So, let’s speculate!

Many areas 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 the shoulders of Chiarelli and on the players he put in place. Other factors such as the team’s horrendous power play 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—or at least on his personnel decisions.

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Is McLellan on his way out? Hell if I know. He shouldn’t be, probably, but let’s take a look at all guys who would make a horrible choice to replace him anyways. Over the last couple weeks, we took a glance at NHL options available along with the best coaching candidates outside the NHL.

This, on the other hand, is the Stay-Away-From-At-All-Costs Crew. ‘Trap’ candidates, if you will.

May 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on against the Ottawa Senators during the third period in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Alain Vigneault. Though a freshly-axed, big-name coach from big market team will usually make the short-lists of those clubs looking to fill a spot, Vigneault is far from a nice fit in Edmonton. He’s seen streaks of regular-season success throughout his 16-year coaching career with the Habs, Canucks and Rangers, but has been trending downward the last three seasons and has only managed to make the Stanley Cup final twice despite entering the postseason as division champs seven times. Beware of the big-name boobie trap.

Jack Capuano. Working with a similarly-constructed roster for much of his seven seasons behind the New York Islanders bench (swap out Connor McDavid for John Tavares) as the Oilers have today, Capuano was able to lead his group to exactly 24 whole playoff games over three postseason appearances—getting his team out of the first round once. Plus, Garth Snow hired this man at one time so that tells you a lot.

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Adam Oates. The former Capitals assistant and head coach always seems to surface as a possible candidate whenever an HC job opening arises. Those rumblings have quieted the past couple seasons, however, and it’s probably because he’s so good at his other gig—an skills coach and consultant. One of the best in the world at what he does and with a clientele including superstars Mark Sheifele, Steven Stamkos and others, Oates has proven that the individual-skills coaching realm is more his forte.

Dan Bylsma. Sure, he’s got a Jack Adams award to his name, but place my frail great-aunt Marcey behind a bench that boasts the best 1-2 punch at centre of all time and she’ll rake in the accolades, too. A Stanley Cup under his belt? Indeed—after inheriting a Penguins team halfway through the 2009-09 campaign that got unsustainably hot right when he took over (finished the regular season 18-3-4) and rode that wave of sweet, sweet momentum to a championship. His most recent endeavour was taking control of the tire-fire Buffalo Sabres for two seasons and somehow leaving them in worse shape when he left than when he started.

Paul Coffey. He’s obviously a legend and by all accounts a solid individual and team skills coach. Hell, maybe he’d even be a great head coach. Hell, maybe he will be the next guy at the helm in Edmonton. But the Oilers-legends-moving-into-key-management-and-coaching-roles song and dance has been done many a time before and it just hasn’t worked out too well, tbh. Sorry, Paul, you get hosed because everyone that came before you was incompetent. It’s a cruel world.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I have no doubts in my mind this organization is going to do something stupid. It has been ingrained in my head that this organization is going to do something stupid. And yet, we’re always going to suffer for it because this organization can’t get anyone of actual substance. I laughed when that one article stated the Leafs have lapped the oilers. But it’s true. And it is so because Toronto is allowed to have nice things. We’re not. It’s like the hockey world has stated “they had Gretzky, they have 5 cups, and they have McDavid, they don’t need anything more for 100 years”. And I say that, because that’s how it feels. It feels like we’re never going to achieve greatness again, it feels like we’re going to be cursed with mediocrity for generations.

    Thank you hockey gods!

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      It feels like no matter who is behind the bench, whoever is in the GM’s officer, and whoever is on the ice, this team will never do anything ever again. I’m getting sick and tired of being the guy who cheers for the team who can’t do anything right. Last year, it felt SO good to finally cheer for a successful team. I could actually validate ANY negative comment that came my way. This year, I couldn’t. I could only shake my head when it went from good to bad and laugh my butt off when it went from bad to worse. And yet, I’ll still cheer for this team

      🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  • cmandev77

    It is time to get rid of the coaching staff as well as the GM. Todd has made too many mistakes during this year for me to have confidence in him next year. There will be other coaches fired before the end of the playoffs I am sure. We wait until the playoffs are over before we get a new coach. Chiarelli on the other hand needs to be gone before the draft. I am terrified as an Oilers fan to have him trade off any more assets or to try and pull off that “big” trade that will fix the team. I would give Todd another chance before I gave Chiarelli another year at the helm of this club. There has to be an assistant GM somewhere chomping at the bits to get an NHL club and show us what he can do. Nothing can be worse than Chia…even Garth Snow has fleeced him numerous times.

  • WeirdG

    Bylsma is trash. He won a Cup a million years ago, and hasn’t done anything since. Five more year with the Pens after winning, and couldn’t come close to the Cups finals again. The second the Pens got rid of him, they win back to back Cups. He rode the coat tails of that one Cup win for way too long.

  • Coach Rick

    Oilers need a brain transplant! The owner has decided he need a ticket increase! An insult to our intelligence.
    However lets talk Todd. Good coach bad coach who knows. What we do know is he is a stubborn SOB. He at the very least has to retool the entire assistant coach situation. If he and Peter think the status quo is ok they should both be fired.
    Its not working the Oilers were not only bad this year, they were also predictable.
    So come on Peter get in front of the fans, tell them why the increased already high ticket prices are worth it for this upcoming season. lie to us if you have to, but please please give us something!

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    Oiler fans need to learn the whole “Grass is not always greener” mantra. I like the core, I still like the coach, and am not not delusional enough to put all the failures of the season on the GM. If Oiler fans want to help this team change the loosing mentality then maybe a little self reflection is needed. I don’t find in my personal life and career that people get highly motivated by being constantly crapped on by the people that are supposed be supporting them. This young team had success 2 years ago, then faltered this year, would it not be acceptable to allow the players/coaches/management the opportunity to correct mistakes, learn from failures? How does starting over again help? Was the constant turnover not apart of the issue in the DOD?

    • camdog

      Tough to get green grass when all I’ve seen since 2006 is a patch of dandelions. I think Keith Gretzky might get this team there, regardless of the other weeds thriving in the organisation.

  • lee

    The NHL is getting faster and younger and because of this you need a new breed of coach. TM(Oilers) and Hitch in Dallas were both brought in because of their reputations, those reputations were built in a different era. Neither coach is going to the playoffs, the management in Vegas picked a coach who can get the best out of his player, he uses what he has instead of trying to force a square peg in a round hole like TM did most of the season. It’s possible TM can change although giving Lucic all those premo minutes even though the player was clearly out of his element, makes me wonder.
    Having a coach who makes so many poor decisions is like having a goalie who lets in a lot of soft goals, unfortunately for the Oilers they had both.
    If the Oiler’s don’t make the playoffs next season there is no way McDavid’s agent will want his best client playing for this team. McDavid is all about winning he did not become who he is to be saddled with a brutally run organization.
    Yes he is signed, that means nothing, another season like this one and moving the coach will be the least of the Oiler’s problems.

  • Dave2

    This article was not a very serious search for a replacement. Regardless, no way they fire Todd and they will just likely move Woodcroft to another spot in the organization.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Not every Old Boys Club player was incompetent, Charlie Huddy comes to mind but yes guys like Lowe, MacT as a GM not a coach, Simpson, Steve Smith, Buchberger all were! I’d not be against hiring Coffey as an assistant though, just not as head coach. He’s not experienced enough.

  • camdog

    I do find it interesting how the organisation was starting down the path of cultural problem with the Oilers, until the fans figured out that the culture of they team is dictated by the GM and coach.

  • madjam

    Todd moved to assistant.Gm with W. Gretzky as main Gm . Chia and Howson reassigned or fired outright . Green may also be on the outs while retaining younger Gretzky .

    • cmandev77

      I miss Ralph! I really liked him and thought the players did too. He is known as a great communicator, motivator and positive person. I hated the way this team let him go. I think this team could have done well under Krueger.

  • TKB2677

    I am not in favor of making a coaching change just for the sake of change. If there is a clear cut upgrade, then absolutely but if the guys listed above are right now the best out there, I don’t see any of them being an upgrade. If Quenville came available, then that is an upgrade be he’s not.

    I do see McLellan’s assistants being changed out.I know McLellan liked his assistants and thinks they are good but I don’t see how he can go into next season especially given how lousy the special teams were with the same guys. Who seriously is going to think going into next season with the exact same coaching staff is a good idea?

    I could see a high end coach being made as an assistant though.

  • GreasyOilChef

    “Plus, Garth Snow hired this man at one time so that tells you a lot.”

    Which means Chia will do anything to get him. I bet he’s offering Snow a 3rd rounder despite Capuano not being under contract…fleeced again! Haha
    I wouldn’t mind seeing McLellan return with new assistants and a few stipulations like Nuge 1LW, Draisaitl 2C, and hope a faster more confident Lucic returns to play with Draisaitl and Pool Party.

  • TKB2677

    The one think I worry about with McLellan is if there is a disconnect between the GM and the coach. The roster that Chia put together definitely had some holes in it but at the same time, I do not think the coach used some of the players his GM gave him the way the GM intended. If there was a disconnect, that needs to get fixed for McLellan to stay.

    The reason I think there was a disconnect is because:
    – Chia signed Leon to big money. In the presser after the signing, he specifically said he paid more because he saw Leon as a center. McLellan started Leon on the wing with McDavid and played Leon on the wing a fair bit. If they were on the same page, Leon would have started at center game 1.
    – The Eberle for Strome trade rightly or wrongly was made. Part of the reason it was made was for cap space. BUT in his presser, Chia talked about Strome’s ability to play multiple positions, having a good shot and potentially playing with McDavid. In the preseason, Strome played a couple of games with McDavid, had some success, granted it was preseason but when the season started and as the season went on, Strome got what, 1 game on McDavid’s wing? If they were on the same page, Strome would have started on McDavid’s wing and would have got a legit shot. He never did.
    – Chia took bets on guys like Slep and Puljujarvi to take a step. Slep getting hurt in the offseason didn’t help things but I don’t think Slep EVER had the confidence of his coach. I don’t think he necessarily deserved more playing time but it was pretty clear Slep had ZERO margin for error. Same goes for Puljujarvi. I think the GM wanted him on the team no matter what. I am not convinced the coach saw it the same way. I think if McLellan had a say, Puljujarvi would have spent most of the season in minors. I am not saying it would have been wrong for Puljujarvi to see more time in the minors but I don’t think the GM and coach were on the same page.
    – I don’t think Chia cap wise thought Nuge being on the 3rd line at 6 mill was a good idea. No team can afford that YET, McLellan tried that for a long time with this mythical “3 scoring lines” idea which doesn’t exist.

    So like I said, I don’t think the GM made a good enough roster this season but at the same time, if the coach doesn’t play the guys the GM provides him in the spots he intended, how do we know what they had? I think McLellan should have at least TRIED to play all the players in the spots the GM intended.

  • TartanArmy

    Not too long ago (last season) these guys where praised as potential gm and coach of the year, now everything has gone south. I find it hard to believe they can degress so much in such a short time. I think they should both be given some more time to right the ship and make the necessary changes only if things don’t improve during the next campaign.

    • Hemmercules

      Hockey is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of job. The instant the team faltered this year it was immediately “last year was an anomaly and everyone played over their heads”. Well, this year is just as much of an anomaly if you ask me. Good teams missed the playoffs this year, it happens. It just gets so blown up in Oilersnation because we have been lacking for so long. I’m still not a big Chia fan due to his strange moves and even Todd has some issues but this current roster is better than they have shown this year. Change those assistant coaches, try to add a player or two. If things go this bad again then its obviously axe time for both the coaches and GM. As much as it seems Chia and McL have their issues I think they get one more year to flip this around, this team has had too much of a carousel of coaches and GMs to flip them again after making a decent run last year.

  • tbone

    OK Oilers fans, here’s the facts…..losers! The culture of hockey in Edm is and has been one of losing since the Gretzky/Messier/Smith eras. Since that era Edm seems to have had one of the top 5 picks in the draft every year and yet you continue to lose. Losing breeds losing.
    How do we fix this? In todays salary cap NHL we have seen the game trend to youth and speed and DEPTH. The depth has to come from the development system but mostly from AHL Bakersfield as this is where you begin to develop the Winning culture. Bakersfield and Edmonton have to be in sync with each other. As many of your top prospects as possible have to go thru Bakersfield. The coaching development of these prospects has to match what is needed in Edm. Most of all Bakersfield has to win and create players with a winning attitude.
    So how do we start?
    Fire Chia, he’s a loser. He hasn’t really drafted poorly but he has not developed the prospects to be winners (JP) when they arrive in Edm. His trades have been disasters. He has traded top talent (TH, JE) for what…mid level NHL players (Larsson, Strome) form LOSING environments. And now he may be trying to trade RNH. His FA signings (ML) have put you in Cap Hell for a lot of years to come. Keeping this guy just means more of the same because he just is not in tune with todays NHL. Hire a winner, someone from a winning organization (Tor has 2 AGM’s and only 1 will get Lou’s job). Hunter would be my choise. He’s been a winner as a player, he’s part owner /gm for London Knights in the OHL(a winning org.), he’s AGM with Tor and one of the main reasons Tor has the depth of talent they have. He wants to be a GM in the NHL. This guy’s a winner.
    Only the new GM has the right to keep or fire McLellan and his staff. It’s pretty safe to say though that he will want his man in place.
    Your new GM has to identify your current core players and surround them with competent or above average NHL players. Anyone younger than 22/3 gets sent to Bakersfield to develop and learn to win. They do not come back to Edm until they can fit/play at a high NHL level. Developing these players in the NHL is not an option.
    FA signings are for now off the books. What’s the point of wasting tons of cap space if you are not a consistent playoff team. No movement or no trade clauses must not be given out to anyone (if this is possible). The GM has to be able to move players at the trade deadline for prospects, draft picks, or someone who can help put the team at a contender level (not simply a playoff level).
    This type of development/team building/championship level could take time but with the right GM and the talent that already exists in Edm it shouldn’t take any more than 2 yrs to be a consistent playoff team and 4 years to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
    Hire a winner Edmonton and you’ll become winners again and we (the rest of Canada) can start to hate you again.

  • cmandev77

    After that press conference I think the whole coaching staff is gone. Chiarelli blamed a lot of this season on them. Chiarelli also seems to be on the hot seat from the sounds of things.

  • BendingCorners

    If it was up to me I’d keep Chia and TMac for at least one more year. Continuity matters, and the current roster is much better than this year’s results. Every coach does things that drive the fan base nuts, and every manager makes (or fails to make) a few moves that in hindsight would have been avoided. This past season was derailed by injuries, bad luck, a couple young players not being fully ready and a couple other players (including Talbot) having sub-par years.

  • Dirtbag Daddy

    They should skid everyone below the rank of owner in the management ranks and replace with competent managers and start from scratch. Positions should be earned and not gifted. If it takes a promised position to sign a player, then the player is not worth signing. The Las Vegas team started from scratch and look where they are. Perhaps Edmonton should do the same.

  • toprightcorner

    Oilers should buy Oates company and have his staff work only for their NHL and AHL teams as well as visit drafted prospects regularly. Buy the company for $3 mill and pay Oates $500k a year. That is far more money than he will ever see and a very low cost investment for the Oilers who have the money but not the cap space.