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.
Received a DM from a former NHL executive today who told me McLellan has already made his choice and the guy who runs the PK is the sacrificial lamb, so that would be Jim Johnson. We'll have to wait and see. We'll chat about this tonight on #SportsNight on @TSN1260 #Oilers.
— Dean Millard (@DuckMillard) April 13, 2018
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.