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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Coaching Carousel

I’ve been told the Oilers are expecting to have their coaching decisions finalized within the next two weeks. This means we only have about 14 days to continue to speculate on what Todd McLellan’s staff may look like. Yes, I’m assuming we will see some changes behind the bench but I’d also expect Todd McLellan to be the man in charge when the puck drops on the 2018-19 season.

Let’s start with the easy change for the Oilers. When Ian Herbers joined the Oilers he was given a three-year window to return to the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Those three years are up and it makes sense for all parties involved to have Herbers return to Clare Drake Arena. Serge Lajoie, who just won a National Title with the Bears, has reportedly interviewed with the Saskatoon Blades. Herbers spent a lot of his time with the Oilers doing one on one video sessions with the players. I would have liked to have seen him play a bigger role with the club. If he does return to the Bears I’d be shocked if they don’t win two more National Championships over the next three years.

Up next we look at Jim Johnson. My fellow TSN 1260 Host Dean Millard tweeted this on April 12th.

I had Dean on our Monday Morning Round Table this week and he said that Johnson was originally told that he was going to be the odd man out. Millard went on to explain that he heard Chiarelli had then held some additional meetings with the coaching staff and everything is now up in the air.

Johnson was in charge of the penalty kill for the Oilers. A penalty kill was very good on the road all season but struggled mightily at home for at least the first three quarters of the year. If Johnson’s days are in fact numbered here in Edmonton there may be an obvious replacement. 

The Anaheim Ducks tweeted today that they will not be renewing the contract of assistant coach Trent Yawney. Yawney is a guy who checks off a lot of boxes for the Oilers. He has Head Coaching experience in the NHL, he spent three years as an assistant with McLellan in San Jose and has been in control of a pretty successful penalty kill in Anaheim. So let’s say, just for fun, that Yawney is the replacement for Johnson.

What about Jay Woodcroft? Loyalty and familiarity go a long way in the coaching brotherhood of any professional sports league. I know this won’t go over well with Oilers fans but I have a feeling Woodcroft will remain on McLellan’s staff. If he does remain on the staff it only makes sense to move him into the role that belonged to Herbers for the last three seasons. Woodcroft gives up control of the power-play and changes his focus to one on one work with players he is very familiar with.

So who replaces Woodcroft? I once again decided to take a look at someone who has worked with McLellan in the past. Paul MacLean spent three years as a fellow assistant with McLellan on Mike Babcock’s staff in Detroit. McLellan ended up in San Jose while three years later MacLean took over as the Head Coach of the Ottawa Senators where he won Jack Adam’s Award in the lockout-shortened 2012 season. After his time in Ottawa ended MacLean went to Anaheim where he spent two years as an assistant. The first year he worked with Bruce Boudreau, the second year he worked with Randy Carlyle. The one coach he worked with both years in Anaheim? You guessed it, Trent Yawney. The Oilers did ask for permission to speak to MacLean back in 2015 so this idea may not be that far fetched.

In a league where past experience plays a big role in coaching decisions, I think we’d be crazy to not consider what I’ve laid out in this piece. In case you haven’t been able to follow along I’ve put together this neat little iPhone drawing to explain it to you.

So, as you can easily see, while all four coaches have never worked together at the same time all of them do have connections to McLellan and have worked with each other at some point.

If MacLean and Yawney join the staff the Oilers will be adding two guys with Head Coaching experience. Woodcroft would return to video work; which I believe is where he started with McLellan anyway.

The good news for all of us. MacLean look-alike sightings.

It’s all coming together now.

Recently by Dustin Nielson

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I’m not surprised to hear that the Oilers are now having second thoughts about letting go Johnson or even Woodcroft. It’s a very Oilers thing to do to never actually fire anyone but just move them to other positions. The Old Boys Club lives Dusty!! On the other hand I like the idea of MacLean and Yawned as assistants, it makes sense so the Oilers won’t do it. LOL we shall see.

  • toprightcorner

    I think Yawny would be a great addition. Former player, developed young players Mountour and Manson as they transitioned to the NHL and ANA defense plays quick transition style the Oilers need to play. He is my #1 focus if I was McLellan. I see Yawny in a similar light as Charlie Huddy and firing Huddy was the bigges mistake the Oilers have made on coaches in a long, long time.

    I love Paul McLean, I like that he is a players coach. I would be very open to have him with McLellan behind the bench. I am not sure about his PP success, but that should be considered.

    The other coach I would like is Benoit Allaire who was recently fired by the Rangers. He was Talbots goalie coach and the main reason Talbotwanted to play with the NYR. There is a great relationship and Talbot credits Allaire for the goalie he is today. The Oilers NEED to explore this option if Talbot is interested. It could also help in extension negotiations. Allair would be the replacement for Schwartz.

    If there needs to be one coach stay fromthe current regieme, I am fine with Woodcroft. I have heard that he has a really good relationship with the players, which is important to still have a familiar assistant for the young players to go to. I put him upstairs and work with the 1 on 1 video work. With his PP experience, that could help in the video room.

    The one thing I have been wanting is some fresh blood, as in fresh NHL blood. I would love to have one of assistants be a current, successful junior coach. They have experience with young players and how the coaching style needs to be a bit different for young players today than 5-10 years ago. I think that fresh perspective could really benefit the young players on the team and help the coaches connect with them better.

    I think it is always important to have 1 assistant with a fresh eyes that isn’t stuck in an old NHL pattern.

    • Bills Bills

      Yes I have to ask how the goalie coach has been escaping criticism. Dustin Schwartz clearly was not able to help Talbot out of his funk and Montoya was less than adequate as a back up. Strong positional coaches could really help this team. Especially on defence.

    • nbandito

      I really hope this line of thought has some merit with management. Schwartz, who i’m sure is a good goalie coach, just hasn’t had a good run with the Oilers. If Allaire is willing, I’d be really happy with having him come on to help Talbot get back to form.

  • Hemmercules

    I wouldn’t be the lest bit surprised if they just brought back most of the crew and gave them another year. Sounds like a couple guys will be different so hopefully that brings the special teams back to respectable levels. They could be a wild card team if the special teams improve even a little.

    A friend of mine tricked me the other day saying they hired Daryl Sutter as head coach. Oddly enough, I felt nothing. I didn’t even care. Its finally happened, they have been bad for so long I no longer give two sh*ts about what the organization does with management or otherwise. I hope they have a competitive team next season but I have a feeling I will have no problem checking out if they are eliminated in November again.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^^^kind of the way I feel these days about the Oilers. They’ve lost for so long now I don’t know how much I even care anymore? We make this move or that move, this signing or that trade and the result is the same….they lose!

      • Hemmercules

        This was a really tough season. My expectations were at an all time high and I was kicking myself in November for being so stupid to think they finally turned a corner to contender status. Have to keep those expectations nice and low from now on.

        It will be interesting to see if the new bench boss in Calgary makes a difference? Im almost jealous but I cant say if Peters is much better than McL?

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Woodcrofts gotta go. Period. If he’s still part of the coaching staff in September then I will shake my fist very mightily. Oh – there will be some serious fist-shaking…

    I don’t like the sound of McLellan hiring any more of ‘his boys’ but I will think I could tolerate MacLean’s moustache… Thought he actually did pretty well with Ottawa.

  • Bills Bills

    I would be on board with that. Woodcroft can go though. The PP has been brutal.

    Some coaches with history of developing players would be nice. I haven’t seen that here in a very long time.

  • crabman

    I was ready to see the whole coaching staff fired in January. If that isn’t the plan, as it sounds at least McLellan will be back, I can get on board with the scenario laid out in this article. New coaches for the special teams and both experienced head coaches who could step in as interim head coach if the wheels fall off again.

  • C U Next Tuesday

    Lets be serious. Firing the PK and Video coach won’t change anything. They are doubling down next year. I know what happens to me when I double down. I lose more.

  • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

    I think Yawney would be a great addition to the coaching staff, but I think the Oilers should consider bringing Rocky Thompson back as well. Gregor wrote about him in his piece last week, and by all accounts he is a guy with a lot of new ideas about how to play offense and create chances, something this team desperately needs. He’s from Whitecourt, raised there, so hopefully the Oilers would be able to pry him away from his AHL head coaching position with Vegas’ farm team in Chicago based on the allure of coming home. I think Yawney bringing new ideas defensively, and Thompson getting creative offensively would really help this team out. Plus, I really have no time for McLellan after this past year and his absolutely terrible player deployment, so I think Thompson would be a great guy to have as a potential mid or early season replacement if things don’t start well and McLellan gets canned.

  • Oilman99

    Management continues to act like dithering old women. Get off the pot and do what has to be done. Yawny and McLean would be ideal additions to help this team, they will not be available very long, GET IT DONE!!

    • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

      He’s an assistant in Philly right now, I don’t think he would leave unless McLellan actually gets fired and the Oilers offered him the head coach position. That would be a great hire though

    • Clayton

      NO WAY. Connor is not the issue, he has progressed well and despite the incompetence around him has continued to perform. He doesn’t need his junior coach. There is already some scuttle in the dressing room that Connor gets special treatment…adding his junior coach to the mix would make that voice even louder.

    • I seriously doubt he liked McDavid that much that he’d be willing to move his family from Pennsylvania to Alberta and sacrifice his job security for the exact same job and pay to work for a boss who he doesn’t know and an organization that he has no ties to.

  • I think MacLean would be an excellent addition. Todd needs a former head coach “Senator” for that sober second thought. Oh, I dunno, perhaps on decisions like:

    1. Line-up (minimize the blender) — Nuge could have been on the top line sooner
    2. When to call a time out
    3. Which line to match up against opponents
    4. Who should be deployed in which zone

    Because a lot of decisions Todd made this past season were mind-boggling.

  • dabears318

    woodcroft is engaged (married?) to mclellan’s sister (sister in law?)… can’t remember specific details but he’s not going anywhere. they are stuck at the hip (mclellan + woodcroft).

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Christ, even the AI coach in NHL18 can get it right. Here are his lines for my BAP.

    L.Draisitl-C.McDavid-T.Rattie
    M.Lucic-M.Cammelari-A.Crosby
    Z.Kassian-RNH-J.Puljujarvi
    R.Strome-J.Khaira-A.Slepyshev

    O.Klefbom-A.Larsson
    A.Sekera-D.Nurse
    K.Russel-M.Benning

    C.Talbot
    A.Montoya