Coaching changes begin, Woodcroft to Bakersfield with more to come

According to TSN’s super-insider Bob McKenzie, the Edmonton Oilers coaching shuffle has begun with Jay Woodcroft being the first (second?) to go… well… kinda. 

According to McKenzie, Jay Woodcroft has been reassigned/demoted/promoted (?????) to Bakersfield and will become the new head coach of the Condors, replacing Gerry Fleming for his first ever head coaching gig. For Todd McLellan, this will mark the first time he’s been the head coach of an NHL game without Woodcroft by his side. The pair has been together on the bench since the 2008-09 season in San Jose after spending the three years before that working together in Detroit. Do they know how to exist without each other? They’re almost like the Sedin twins or something. Point being that those two seemed to be attached at the hip and it’s fair to wonder what this whatever-it-is to Bakersfield is all about.

We all knew that there would be moves coming, including many folks speculating that the assistant coaches would change even though Todd would be back, but I can’t help but laugh when I think of another case of the Oilers “firing” a guy by landing him in another job. This organization loves to swing a limp dink when it comes to replacing their people and, to me, that was certainly the case with Woodcroft. How else would you explain it? The Oilers would have been completely justified in letting him go without so much as a cheeky tickle with a feather on the way out, but that’s not what happened. Dude got off easy and he should feel grateful that he didn’t end up like Jim Johnson, who was apparently given his walking papers without landing a new fallback job. Jobs for life, bruh. Once an Oiler, always an Oiler.


Another thing McKenzie said was that this was only part one of the coaching changes so let’s talk about what comes next? With Woodcroft heading to Bakersfield, Johnson getting the boot, and Herbers not likely to return that leaves plenty of space on the bench beside McLellan and his dazzling suits. For the last little while, people have speculated that Trent Yawney would end up with the Oilers based on his history with McLellan and the Ducks not renewing his contract, and also that Calgary’s former head coach, Glen Gulutzan, could end up as another assistant after getting the axe last week. The Woodcroft relocation news certainly adds a few pallets on those bushfires.

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If you buy what McKenzie is selling, we could see some more concrete news coming from the Oilers on this as early as tomorrow, but for now, I’m taking it to the bank that Woodcroft will be moving back to Cali come fall. I’ll also bet that some of these other poorly kept secrets will probably come true as well and that we’ll be hearing about them soon. I don’t know what you guys think but, to me, getting both Yawney and Gulutzan would add a healthy dose of experience to the Oilers bench as well as put a little bit more heat under McLellan’s chair. Both of those guys have been head coaches in the league before (lack of success notwithstanding) and could easily jump in should things go sideways. If the Oilers get off to another bad start then they would already have two guys that could immediately step in as interim head coaches.

I’m not saying that will happen and I hope the Oilers kill all of their enemies but, to me, it would add an interesting angle. Sure, they may both be McLellan guys for now but it’s not like they would turn down the opportunity to be head coaches again if it fell in their laps, right? Then again, at this point, all of this is only speculation and you never know what will happen as we progress through the offseason, but one thing we know for sure is that the next few months will certainly be interesting. Maybe this Jay Woodcroft news is the domino that triggers the next moves, or maybe they wait until the Draft Lottery when they find out they’re picking first overall again. I guess we’ll see.

Source: Bob McKenzie, Verified Twitter Account, 4/26/2018 – 10:09 pm MST

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    10 years an assistant and the overseer of the worst PP in the NHL. This to me is a big reason why the rest of the league thinks we are a joke. Rumours about the ex flames head coach joining the coaching staff and the mystery of the Coffey hiring. I for one think that Todd should have put RNH on McDavids wing a long time ago. good release and more important he is above average in the circle. I never saw Shelpy play with Leon and the failure to drop Lucic to the 4 line for a demotion. These non acts and i could list a ton more is why I think Todd is on a very short leash.

    This a horrible decision…

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    yup, when other teams fire the entire bench staff when incompetent, the Oilers promote. T-Mac….brought back, Woodcroft….*promoted* to head coach in the AHL….Herbers not fired per se but takes his old job at the U of A….only Johnson is given his walking papers! 1 guy ! this reeks of what Kevin Lowe used to do when free loaders Bucky and Steve Smith used to get to keep their assistant coaching jobs when he was GM, but the coaches were continually fired. then he never did actually fire the two, he *encouraged* Smith to take another job and found work in the organisation for Bucky. he also brought back Mac-T and Howson and after they both failed, were given other jobs in the organisation and are still here, not fired ! this franchise really is a joke !!!

  • What-a-Mike

    Hey BM…. while I know coaching takes a rightful plunge/takes blame for bad things happening on the ice, the way your writing this blog about Woodcroft up is your saying that its “only” the coaches fault and not the players or Peter Chiarelli fault for this mess of a season. First I blame Chiarelli for the team roster he stayed with and therefore forced the coaches to deal with what they had. Second, I blame a lot of players for this bad year like Lucic, Talbot, Sekera (injury incl), Maroon, Kasssian (effort), Klefbom (injury incl), Cags, Pakirinen, Slepyshev, PJ (learning curve/effort), Brossoitt, Benning, etc. Then I include blaming the coaches for sticking with sh#t when changing should have happened. However, Woodcroft and Johnson helped the team make the playoffs the year before with including the PP and PK. Yes, firing should be the norm right now, but however, I would give Woodcroft a chance to teach the system better down in Bakersfield than anything Fleming has done in three years, especially with Fleming not only not having prospects advancing or being ready, but playing AHK level only vets ahead of them. Three years of nothing/no playoffs from Fleming regime and that’s even more wrong than a bad year season from McL and Woody. Woodcroft is good with the players/prospects, knows the entire system and whats required to have kids reacy for recall and I don’t mind this move (for at least one year) to see what happenes between the farm team and Oilers. This year will have more new good to outstanding prospects in the line up in Bakersfield plus one year players/prospects than in say more than five years, so let this one slide for a season and work on/worry of more of who is gonna coach with McLellan. I already said that Woodcroft going down to the farm is better than Fleming staying, and have put in opinions for liking the adding of Yawney with either Gulutzan/MacLean, and/or one of Thompson/Nelson. The most important worry is what Chairelli is gonna do this summer and then I want to say the players look in the mirror (with exception to McDavid and Nuge, Nurse. Draisaitl went basically sideways this year/did not fail or succeed.

  • I’ll probably get eaten alive but I don’t mind this. I feel like there was alot disfunction with Flemming as HC in Bakersfield. He gave AHL vets heavy minutes while burying prospects and you could feel the lack of communication between McLellan and Flemming. It should help alot in terms of development having a close relationship between the farm and big club. Flemming really was only there because Nelson made him the interim before he left to take Eakins’ spot and nobody cared enough to find another coach. Maybe Woodcroft is a better AHL HC then special teams guy maybe he’s not but as long as he give the prospects playing time then I could care less if they win a Calder Cup or sink to the bottom of the league.

  • Yawney will be a huge get. Seeing the pricks that he helped make Manson and Montour into makes me wonder what he could do with Nurse. Isn’t he also a decent special teams guy? I would’ve loved to see Rocky Thompson join too but he had a pretty successful 1st year in the AHL and along with his success in Windsor I don’t see him making the jump for anything less then a HC job.

      • Spydyr

        Yeah, it is not like developing young players in the AHL is important or anything. Lets save a few bucks instead of hiring the best person available for the job.

        Not surprising as this comes from an organization that thought it was fine to save some money by not having a minor league team.

  • Opi

    The hapless Oiler organization seems to be the solitary team in the league not to realize that management/employee decisions are best made based on results or in the Oil’s case, lack of results.

    Drop 25 points to the previous season … no problem … finish with 78 points … no problem … if & when “changes” are deemed necessary because even Oil Nation can see through the nepotism & other managerial dysfunction they simply move people around … like swapping deck chairs on the Titanic, that …

    The most alarming thing for the odd intelligent Oil fan out there is that the vast majority of Oil Nation condone or otherwise turn a blind eye to this type of inane management …year after year … I guess that’s called acceptance of a prolonged losing culture …

  • Coach Rick

    Flemming da! Johnston da! Woodcroft da!
    Not hard to make those decisions……So Peter lets see what you’ve got….make some solid decisions and bring in so quality people.

    I’m tired of half assed decisions with this team. Step up and earn your pay.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    At this point, I just don’t care anymore. If Tawney is as good as everyone claims he is, it’s a good pickup. But until this organization starts at the VERY top, we can expect more decades of darkness with minimal playoff appearances

  • Hemmercules

    This org is pure comedy. I ain’t even mad about their decisions anymore, it’s just comical at this point. I hope they make Mact an assistant coach now just to add to this farce of a situation. Maybe get Coffee and Mess back there too. Why fire someone when you can just give them a different job! What’s Tambo up to these days? Assistant GM is calling his name or is Lowe secretly already doing that job?

    Next up is win the lottery. Then put that pick on the first line until he gets too overwhelmed, let him sit around for a bit and send him down after he eats up the first year of his entry level.

  • olesvenson

    I’m not sure the coaching staff holds as much blame for the overall effort this year as some suggest. Hard to congratulate these guys on a second round playoff appearance and then miss the playoffs being all the coaches faults. I see this move as one that strengthens McLellan’s role in coaching. His right hand man is now in Bakersfield which should enhance the communication and development there. Fleming was always the odd man out on the coaching staff and so this is really a very logical step on the part of the McLellan. Does make me wonder what role Chiralli had in this. Perhaps none?

  • C U Next Tuesday

    Lets relax a bit. After last year people were worried that JW was going to get poached for an NHL head coaching position. Remember? Selling low on talented people never works out. So let’s put the pitchforks down.

  • Kr55

    Would file this under good and not so bad. Good in that we finally see the McLellan/Woodcroft treehouse club broken up. McLellan can actually have a change to evolve as a coach now with some new perspective on his wings. If the rumors are true that GG and Yawney are coming in, even better. Some may not be that impressed with GG, understandably, but at least he had a different and more modern perspective on the game from old school McLellan. Yawney on the other hand, that’s huge for the org. This guy has been overseeing one of the more prolific defensemen factories in the NHL the last half decade or so with the Anaheim org. The NHL is moving in the direction where you need good D, and you need your D moving that puck up ASAP. This guys knows what that is all about.

    The “not so bad” part is in relation to the AHL team. Flemming was not great. Woodcroft was not that impressive lately in the NHL, but he at least has good attention to detail and can follow orders. If the NHL club wants the AHL team playing a certain style, he can do it. If the NHL club wants certain guys getting more ice time and opportunity, I’d bet he will be fine to swallow his pride and do it. Issue with a guy like Flemming is they have been waiting a decade+ to hit another level, they are desperate for wins, and will do what it takes to get them. Woodcroft I think will be more of a company man for McLellan and the Oilers in the AHL and put development ahead of personal gain. At least for a while.

  • CMG30

    How top heavy is this organization? Groupthink leads to poor decision making then offers cover for individuals when things inevitably fail. Come on oilers, one guy per position and give him the freedom to make the moves he thinks are best. If it’s not Working then have the balls to move on. And no, I’m not just talking about coaching staff…

  • Bills Bills

    Stop with the negative narrative. This looks like a double down. They have discussed having uniformity at all levels to help with development and preparation for players coming up to the NHL. What better way to do that then to have Woodcroft in the A coaching the farm team? TMac is a good coach and they will turn this team around. Having Woodcroft in the A is a great move.

      • Bills Bills

        Seriously what does that have to do with anything? When your pk is number 1 on the road and yet so historically bad at home that it drops you to near last in the league, that becomes something mental on the players side. I am sure JW didn’t have two ways of doing things for home and away. That is 100% on the players not the coach. The PP has been more concerning for me. There has been lack of a point shot and the but the deployment has been lacking.

        • RJ

          You do realize that the assistant coach who was responsible for the PK was let go, and the assistant who managed the PP is now a HC in Bakersfield?

          The problem with the PP is on the coaches. Lucic fell off a cliff? Keep him out there. Letestu struggles? Keep him out there. Caggiula shows no productivity 5×5? He needs PP time.

          Beyond that, Drai showed a lot of success in the bumper spot? Move him to the point!

          Lastly, things aren’t going well? Keep doing it the same way!

          Those are all on coaches

  • Spydyr

    This screams of one fraction of the Oilers wanting Woodcroft gone and another including McLellan wanting to keep him. So instead of making a decision to let Woodcroft go a compromise was reached.

    My take on this is if the Oilers stumble early yet again McLellan will be gone sooner rather then later.

    • oilerjed

      This screams just what it is. The Oilers had a terrible year for lots of bad reasons and most were not coaching. The NHL being what it is, coaches take the brunt of a poor season by the players and GM. If the Oilers feel that Woodcroft is a good coach ( career seems to support this) and don’t want to completely throw him out with the bathwater to appease an angry and bitter fanbase, this is a good move. One bad season doesn’t ruin a career.

      • Rubbish, L formation penalty kill, Lucic occupying 1st line and #1 powerplay time, not trying RNH with McDavid for THREE years. Sticking with Talbot even when he was soiling the sheets. Not using the Lucic, Drai and Shlep together even though they killed it in the playoffs last year. Coaching top to bottom , just like the whole organization, stunk out the joint yet again. All just cause for outright PERMANENT termination.

        • oilerjed

          Meh. Im not sure I agree with all of your complaints given what the coaches had available to them. If three of the worst Oilers had even average seasons we probably aren’t talking about which coach to fire. That tells me that it isn’t as big a deal as many are making it out to be.

  • dabears318

    I commented in another thread that jay woodcroft ‘s wife (fiance?) is related to mclellan. Given the circumstances, I think this is a solid move, as I like Mclellan. Having a guy running our farm team that he is very familiar / close with isn’t a bad thing.

    Can’t wait for the new season to start and for Oilers to get back on track so everyone can stfu with the negativity. Take a break from the computer and enjoy the sun maybe.

  • Karl Canada

    Just bring in a coach that has the “guts” to bag skate overpriced millionaires after putting in lacklustre efforts. Hockey is about skating, beating other teams to the puck, and paying the price. It’s not about standing around in “position” and playing chess.