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Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

Peter Chiarelli talks Todd McLellan’s firing, hiring Ken Hitchcock

Let’s be honest, how many of us would have ever expected the Oilers to fire Todd McLellan and replace him with Ken Hitchcock? I was driving into work today and my phone absolutely exploded and when I looked at what was going on, I was shocked. If I’m being honest, I’m still trying to process where we’re at and how the Oilers ended up landing on Hitchcock as the solution to what’s going on here. Needless to say, I was very interested to see what Peter Chiarelli had to say about this move… that I personally think Bob Nicholson made.

When asked for a timeline on what made Bob Nicholson him decide that a coaching change was needed, Chiarelli pointed to the recent run of games as the start of the process.

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Pretty tough to watch the flawed team you built get dummied like that, I guess. Sorry, that was rude and I cut you off. Please walk us through your thinking and when it really clicked that now was the time to make a move.

Yeah, I can see how getting pumped by a terrible team would make you think that something was wrong, but the team left for San Jose yesterday morning so when did you tell Todd?

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Oh man. The poor guy had to travel with the team only to get fired in the city that he last worked in. Dude, that is so lame but at least he still has a house there so he can head home to relax. Does he get a lift back with you guys to Edmonton to pick up his stuff? Awkward.

But you just said you more or less made the decision on Sunday night after the Vegas game. Why didn’t you do it yesterday morning before the flight out? Hitch not locked in yet? Probably not locked in yet, huh? Frankly, that’s the only thing that makes sense is that he hadn’t agreed to come aboard yet because if you knew this was happening and still brought Todd with you then that is a greasy move imo.

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Riiiiiight. Anyway, let’s get to the man himself.

On Ken Hitchcock being the man for the job

With 20 games in the books, it makes a lot of sense that the Oilers would want to make a change now rather than let things carry on this way, but I’m still not sure all of the blame should be heaped on Todd McLellan either. He’s not the one that put this roster together, though he certainly did make some odd choices with the cards he was dealt.

While it is true that they worked together in Sochi, I still can’t help but feel like this is a Bob Nicholson move more so than a decision Chiarelli would have made. I mean, the guy retired twice already so it must have taken someone with some major Hitchcock pull to get him back in back in the mix. Gretzky? Nicholson? The tinfoil had theories can go on forever, but what was it about Mr. Hitchcock that makes you feel comfortable with putting him in place?

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If there’s one thing we know about Ken Hitchcock, it’s that he is a guy that demands the attention of his players and that they’re all on board with the game plan. Could that have been an issue here?

That’s a positive, I guess. I mean, time is running out and we need the train to get back on the rails in short order so making improvements is something that needs to happen now. On the other hand, we’re not going to see McDavid trying to play the trap, are we?

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Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe a more defensive style is exactly what this team needs. Maybe Hitchcock will come in and teach these boys the beauty of playing on both sides of the puck, something that has been sorely lacking over the years. Maybe? Anybody? I guess we’ll see.

I really hope so. The guy is now 66-years-old and came out of retirement for this gig so we’re going to have to wait and see what he can do. Right now, I’m just trying to keep an open mind and see how this plays out.

On the new assistant coaches

Obviously, the Oilers hired a bunch of new assistant coaches this summer and people wanted to know what was going to happen with them.

Now that I’m really thinking about it, I’m almost surprised they didn’t just bump Gulutzan up a level but they clearly wanted to bring in someone with more experience that could instantly command respect.

On integrating the youth

One concern I was seeing on Twitter was how an older coach like Hitchcock would be able to handle young players like Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, and I think that’s valid so I was happy to see the question get asked.

When he was in St. Louis, Hitchcock worked well with a young Tarasenko and helped him become the dominant force we know today. Before that, many moons ago in Dallas, Hitchcock also gets credit for helping Mike Modano become a better two-way player so there’s hope here that he can continue that run. That said, I don’t know enough about his record with young players to really be able to comment so we’ll just have to wait and see how he uses the kids and how he helps them along in their development.

THE WRAP…

I’m trying to be positive here so I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m happy the move was made now and not two months in the future, but I still can’t help but feel that both the coach AND GM deserved the axe. At some point, you have to blame the guy that felt building a team with three nails and a bunch of used chewing gum was a good idea, but it’s the NHL way for the GM to get at least one coaching change first. That’s not to say that Todd McLellan doesn’t deserve some of the blame here, he definitely does, but I also believe he took the bullet for a mess that Peter Chiarelli created. That’s life in the streets, though, I guess.

At the end of the day, it’s going to take some time to truly process this move and see what Ken Hitchcock is able to do with the roster. Right now, I don’t really know what to think, it’s going to take some time to process, but I’m going into this thing with an open mind and a hope that Hitchcock will be able to get more out of this roster. Throughout his career, he’s shown the ability to get teams moving in the right direction over the short term, but he’ll have his work cut out for him because this team looks very fragile right now. I guess we’ll see how/if that changes in the Hitchcock era.

What do you guys think?


  • Rufio Barcoli

    Cult of Hockey/media/”insiders” are pretty butt hurt about Toddy being canned.
    I expect a lot more bias behindsight articles in the near future, articles making excuses and laying blame on Chia.

  • Serious Gord

    So this probably is the second big decision that many are saying Chia did not make – the other being the trade for Reinhart.

    1. I think Chia made this one – but not the reinhart move

    2. That noted Hitch has a long history with the oilers organization so I could very well be wrong.

    3. And that noted I think it very unlikely that the top of the decision tree stopped at Nicholson. If Nicholson told chia to fire Tmc he did it with, at the very least, the approval of Mr. Katz. And i think it far more likely that Katz told Nicholson to do it.

  • D'oh-ilers

    Unless the Oilers pull off a miracle down the stretch, I think the writing is on the wall for Chiarelli and he’ll be gone in the spring, replaced by Keith Gretzky.

  • Wow! Like others, I’m shocked and surprised. Probably need a little time to let this sink in, but my first thought is positive. Todd didn’t look like a winning coach on Sunday and a fresh new voice can’t hurt. Hitch is a proven winner, so good move Oilers.
    Oilers go from Todd’s country club retreat to Hitch’s Army bootcamp. Get ready Oilers, Hitch is gonna put down the hammer.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      You bet, and after about 20 games or so, the players will finally have some pride to swagger around…. They aren’t as bad as everyone tells them.

  • Oiler Al

    Todd’s first hint was when Hitch showed up at airport for the flight to San Jose!His 2nd hint was when there wasn’t a room reservation for McLellan at the hotel.”Todd lets go for a coffee”.
    Seriously ,a bit surprised it was Hitchcock,but when you think about it it had to be someone not working. Don’t expect a current coach in any capacity at present to take on a temporary gig.Curious to see what else can be done with this roster, by a different coach.
    Well, at least Yeo can have a golfing partner.

  • OnDaWagon

    Did anyone check the “Best Before” date, on that old Hitch?
    I think he’s just doing them a favor, and filling in until the season’s end. And he;s connected to Bobby Audit, with Canada hockey.

    They;re just doing their best to cause some stress on an old retired senior citizen. I don’t wish this on you Kenny (:

  • ziyan94

    Even if this season is a write-off, the players will need to significantly improve their 2-way game if they want to eventually become Cup champions one day. Hitchcock will help with this.

  • The Immortal

    While its obvious that TM didn’t build this roster, he certainly didn’t get the most out of it either.

    We’ve all seen the favorites make mistakes over and over and not miss a shift whilst others would be banished to the press box for similar mistakes. In fact Iiro P made basically those comments and i suspect Slepy would share his opinions. Not sure we’d be better off with them in the roster but favoritism and entitlement are certainly factors in TM’s demise imo

  • ed from edmonton

    The timing of this move speaks volumes about the pressure on PC to make the play offs to keep his job, or maybe someone just told him to do it. The traditional way to do this would be fire the guy after the SJ loss and give the new guy a couple of days and a couple of easier teams to start off with.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Will he be able to teach Benning how to be aware of where the puck is in his own end, be aware of where man is, where he is and where the net is, so that he isn’t aimlessly falling over while someone basically bounces a puck off him into the net because he’s absolutely clueless?

  • Oilers21

    I think this move is designed 100% to address the lack of effort that this team shows more often than not. I rolled my eyes at the thought of Hitch’s 1995 defensive-style coaching behind the bench, but I don’t think anyone expects any radical or innovative ideas. I think the theory at least is that Hitch will provide some accountability and the mentality that if you don’t play hard you can sit your ass down. If you look up and down the roster this team isn’t far below what you would expect results-wise; it’s the lack of effort and the general unreadiness to play hard that’s unacceptable and I think Hitch is here solely to address that

    • StHenriOilBomb

      I remember a Brownlee article talking to Hitchcock from when Perron was traded for Paajarvi. It stuck with me. Listen to how Hitchcock talks about getting Players to “play through people”:

      “I know what you’re saying Robin and the question is are we going to get him to play through people, and the answer is yes. We’re going to get him to play through people. I know what you’re saying; there is a difference between playing to people and playing through people. In St. Louis we had the same challenge with three or four other forwards; Jayden Schwartz was the same was, he used to just play to people. T.J. Oshie was the same way, we were able to make those guys and get them to adjust, Valdimir Sobotka, the same thing, we were able to show them the difference, explain to them how to do it and then put mechanisms in place and sometimes the bear in the woods had to come out. But we got ‘er done and they learned how to do it properly”

      Ignoring that he didn’t really get all he expected out of Paajarvi, the concept seems like something this team could really use.

      https://oilersnation.com/2013/07/29/hitchcock-well-get-paajarvi-to-play-through-people/

    • Homer

      If the OBC is still calling the shots this team is screwed no matter what. Gretzky is not a competent team manager anymore then MacT or Klowe, until we ditch these faded stars get used to more of the DoD 2.0

  • Heschultzhescores

    Maybe firing him the way they did was not an accident. There could have been a serious fallout given the way the team was performing. Maybe even the team wanted him gone…or they could just be a bad team. We’ll soon find out.