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WWYDW: The coaching staff

On Tuesday afternoon, the Calgary Flames announced that they were relieving Glen Gulutzan and his staff of their duties. After a disappointing season in which the Flames missed the playoffs despite going all-in in the off-season with the acquisitions of Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic, management decided the coaching staff deserved to take the fall for the team’s failures.

Gulutzan was at the helm for two seasons. He took over for Bob Hartley who won the Jack Adams Award for leading a terrible, overachieving Flames squad to the playoffs in 2014-15. He missed the following season and was subsequently fired. In Gulutzan’s two seasons, the Flames reached the playoffs once, got swept, and then missed the playoffs. The Flames did have strong underlying numbers, but an injury to Mike Smith late in the season coupled with a lack of scoring depth ultimately resulted in a late-season implosion.

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That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Should the Oilers follow their neighbours from down the road and fire the coaching staff? Would it be everyone, including Todd McLellan, or just some from the staff? Are they really the ones who are at fault for this year’s disaster? Who out there would be a better choice to lead the team?

McLellan has now been the coach of the Oilers for three seasons. The team missed the playoffs in his first year, enjoyed a breakout season in his second, and then regressed and missed the playoffs in his third year. In that third year, the team struggled, among other things, because of disastrously bad special teams. The team ultimately finished the season dead last with a 14.76 per cent power play and 25th with a 76.73 per cent patently kill.

We already know that the team is giving Peter Chiarelli another chance to execute his plan. But we don’t know yet whether or not McLellan and Co. are part of that plan. As of right now, all we know is that the coaching staff is part of the organization’s “forensic audit” and that they’re being assessed.

Personally, I doubt McLellan is fired. The assistant coaches might not be safe and the Oilers might look to bring in an associate coach like Dave Tippett, Darryl Sutter, Alain Vigneault, *cough* Paul Coffey *cough*, or even Gulutzan, but the organization has openly been stating how much it values continuity after having so many head coaches and general managers come and go in the last decade’s game of musical chairs.

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What say you, Nation? Is McLellan going to be back next year? How about the staff? Who would you rather have at the helm?


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  • OilersBro

    The first thing I would do is conduct an internal assessment ask Todd the difficult questions
    Question Todd about his inaction when choosing lineups strategically. He never seemed to take advantage of home ice and would just put his lines out in a formulaic manner. I honestly believe that is why Todd has struggled in playoffs too. In a 7 game series match ups become even more important.
    I would also question Todd about his lineup choices, his hesitation to play nuge with mcdavid, to play 13 more than 98 in a lost cause, and forcing lucic into lines where he won’t succeed.
    If Todd can provide a logical answer, keep him. If he’s overlooking it, overestimating players, or just not prioritizing basic things, fire him into the sun.
    Also I’d straight up fire Woodcroft and do a penalty kill evaluation (did show signs of promise the last 10 games)

  • WhoreableGuy

    While the past season was happening I calculated how many total games Gulutzan won in regulation since he took over as Flames coach. Not including 3 on 3 OT wins or Shootout and it was below 40%. I’m sure it’s even less now with that terrible finish they had.

    It seemed like a lot of their success was based on huge streaks at the right times. I was hoping he stayed on and kept the Flames far from the Playoffs again.

    • WhoreableGuy

      So I went back and found out that even though Gulutzan had a 0.5425 winning percentage the Flames were only able to finish off a team in regulation only 60 times in 164 games. That’s 0.3659. They’ve had a lot of success at 3 on 3 and shootout.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Guly is also too much of a players coach for the Oiler’s youngsters.
        They need a coach that they can trust & respect, not a peer.
        That may work with a more mature player-base, but not here.

    • Hockeysense9393

      But alas the Flames got wise to that fact. Will the Oilers?? Ohh I’m not saying the coach…he has proved for years (on another team) that he is quite competent. How long will it take before they wise up about Chia?? Flames fans hope it takes at least as long as it took to get Lowe out of there.

      Taylor Hall for MVP!!!!!!!!!!

  • ed from edmonton

    I do find it odd that after watching the coaches work for the last 3 years the Oil brass are still thinking things over. Having said that, the Jets didn’t renew Cheveldayov or Maurice until September, their procrastination seems to have worked.

    An associate coach is just a coach in waiting who will take over when the going gets rough. Whatever the Oil, I don’t think the associate coach makes sense.

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Not only do we need Woodcroft and the other assistant coaches fired but we need to bring in a priest to perform an exorcism and remove the spiritual stink from the dressing room.

    Bring in a witch-doctor to sacrifice a couple goats just to cover the bases.

    McLellan should be getting shown the door too – but he’ll get another chance because Oilers…

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Yeah, I agree. Regarding that “spiritual stink” you talk about (great description, by the way) it seemed to happen all of a sudden & we couldn’t recover.
      I don’t know if you remember, but HNIC, Cherry said, McLellan made a huge mistake calling out his players publicly. I’m not saying that was a mistake, what I am saying is that was about the time the stink perpetuated.
      I remember over a few games saying on this board that “the coach has lost the room.” I also remember rumors of off ice shenanigans (i’ll never buy into those rumors) that was around the time that the team went south & didn’t recover. I think all of that falls on the Coaches to turn the ship around, in my opinion. Who of the available Coaches have what it takes to be great mentors, role models & psychologists to a hockey team? I think that’s the question, if even to assist McLellan.

  • CMG30

    Something has to change with special teams so can the assistants unless it means bringing in another good ol boy from the glory years.

    I have no problem with Todd staying though because i lay this mess at Chirellis feet.

  • lee

    I would like to see Vigneault brought in to coach the team, look at his track record. whether he would want the job, that’s another story.
    This organization is a mess, I read today that PC had to audit the junior team that the Oilers own. Don’t you think the NHL team should be the priority after the season that was , who comes up with this stuff.

  • JimmyV1965

    Ultimately, we lost this season because of poor goaltending early on. The special teams did suck, but the PK was good at the end of the year and the PP was good last year. I think we can make the playoffs with Tmac. I’m just not sure he can coach a team to the Cup final.

  • RJ

    Here is my theory. Katz loves his money more than the Oilers.

    Based on performance, Chia and McLellan should go, as should the assistants. But if you fired them, Katz would have to pay Chia as former GM and Paul Fenton to be the new GM. Likewise, fire McLellan and you still have to pay him and new coach Tippett.

    That’s why the cap space wasn’t used. If they could cheap their way into the playoff, skinflint Katz makes even more money.

    • Jerri Kurli

      It’s a business and money always plays its part. As far as replacements go, I don’t think there are better replacements out there than Fenton as a GM and Tippett as a bench boss.??

      • RJ

        I realize it is a business.

        I also realize that from a business perspective, an annual powerhouse in Edmonton would give him all the excuse he needs to jack up prices and people will pay to watch McDavid annually compete for a Cup.

  • Oiler Al

    I would have fired Chairelli, but now he stays..McLellan stays! I would demand that he fire his assistants and one of the new hires should be backup if Todd fails by November. There are still issues with the roster!

  • Derian Hatcher

    The game where I was screaming at the tv when I saw Lucic lined up for the face off in overtime is fresh in my mind “ what the hell are you thinking putting Looch out in overtime???” I screamed It was at that very moment I started questioning everything about about Tmac as an NHL coach.

    If memory serves, the Oilers lost in that OT and Lucic was culpable If that was not the case, I apologize to 27.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Let’s hire the Flames guys. It would be doubly sweet to win with them. He did flip his stick into the stands and the team caught fire. I think he at least lit a fire under his team once during the year. More than Todd can say.

  • ScottV

    Firing assistants out from under a head coach is to create a lame duck in the eyes of the players.
    One of several issues I have with McL is what I think is questionable leadership abilities. Making him a lame duck will only magnify his inability to lead effectively.
    Leadership is about influence. By hook or by crook – the ability to influence the player group to buy into and to commit to positive performance in line with the vision, the strategy, the tactics.
    Part of the problems is that the vision, the strategy, the tactics are questionable, but aside from that – McL has difficulty influencing the performance he seeks.
    Why? I dont think he is really all that effective as a leader. I think he tends to piss guys off, without the charisma to keep from losing them. Great leaders can really pressure you but they have a way to keep you going, get you back on track and never quitting in longer run.
    I dont see that with McL. Doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy with that ability. It’s more like we saw in San Jose. The player group gets to the point where they want to run him out of town.

  • Coach Rick

    Come on Oilers

    Get your act together. If you are keeping Todd, then get the firing of all assistants done! This season was a disaster, we all know that. We need a fresh approach. So get it done, we have our season ticket price increase, we just lived through another total loss season. so get it done before the good coaches are spoken for. Come on guys….ever heard of the term proactive???

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    1, Ask Conner is he wants a new coach or not.
    2, If Conner still wants TMac, keep him.
    3, Give him the autonomy to choose his staff, even if he makes not coaching changes. Respect and trust.
    4, Make everyone aware of the very short leash. Evaluate every 10 game, if the Oil are not playing to potential, burn the mother down! There will be good coaches available during the season to fill in.

  • If McLellan returns, the assistants surely cannot. That said, I think a seasoned Associate Coach is warranted because it seems stubborn McLellan badly needs someone to give him wise council on pre and in-game decisions such as:

    – Line combinations and special teams units
    – Line to opponent matchups
    – When to pull the goalie
    – When to call a time out
    – When to bench a player

  • bwar

    At minimum the coaching support staff needs to be gutted. Anyone who even thought about special teams last year needs to be removed immediately. You can’t have McDavid, Draisaitl & Nuge then not be able to produce with the man advantage.

  • toprightcorner

    To me, the biggest difference is that Gulutzan visually lost the room. He is 100% a players coach and when he starts throwing sticks in practice, you know he has lost the players. Nobody knows if McLellan lost the players, that may not mean he deserves to keep his job, but he didn’t show signs that he lost the players.

    Gulutzan also had arguably one of the 2 best defenses in the NHL.

  • toprightcorner

    What I would do with coaching staff if I were Chiarelli

    1) Tell McLellan that you think a change in assistants is in order for the ilers to turn it around an match their potential, especially with the terrible special teams, and see what his reaction is.
    – If McLallan disagrees and believes he has the right staff and is stubborn about it, then he is showing that as a coach, his loyalty to his friends is stronger than the loyalty to the team and therefore cannot separate the two and should be fired.

    – If he is open to making changes that includes at least 1 of Johnson or Woodcroft, then that is something to work towards.

    2) If one of Woodcroft or Johnson stays, look at hiring an associate coach, someone with experience as an NHL coach or an existing assistant coach who has outgrown his position but one who has had great success on special teams and is a players coach

    3) The first assistant hire for PP and the forwards should be an up and comer from Junior or college who has had success with highly elite talent in the past, coached fast paces, high scoring teams and has had success building relationships with his younger players

    4) The second assistant hire for PK and defense should be someone who really understands analytics and has a lot of experience with defense. A past dman that never played with the Oilers (unless his name is Charle Huddy) a current AHL head coach that has developed quality NHL dmen in the past and is also a players coach

    5) I believe one coach should be from Junior, as they better understand how to connect with the younger generation as they are react very differently than players 10 or more years ago.

    6) Do not let Coffey join the team in any coaching capacity

    7) If Talbot wants his old NYR goalie coach, Benoit Allaire, then do what it takes to hire him. He is the reason Talbot wanted to go to the Rangers.

  • Bills Bills

    If they truly believe in TMac then they need to believe that he can make the right choice about his coaching staff. If they decide to bring in an associate coach that is not directly hired by Todd himself, it send the message that the management has lost faith in their coach. If Todd believes he needs to surround himself with better assistants, then he should be given carte blanche.

    • Bills Bills

      Of course having said that, if they are not top 8 in the conference 20 games in or they start like last year, he’s done like dinner and Darryl Sutter will have to hire someone to work the farm. If he’s not already in Calgary.

  • JBeck

    Allow the coaches to scratch healthy players more often, there was a post 3 weeks ago, finding as winger for Leon Draisaitl. To me that screams that 33% of that line can’t play with anyone else. But when you have a player like Draisaitl, he is expected on the ice.

    Get a coach that can make unsystematic decisions on the ice. Line changes were terrible, just because there is an opportunity to change the lines doesn’t mean you have to. Often there was a single player on a break out due to a change, which lead to a turnover because players hadn’t made it into the play yet. How can you get anything going if you are always four players behind??