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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: The next coach

The Ken Hitchcock era in Edmonton has been a strange one. The Oilers brought in the future Hall of Fame coach in November after Todd McLellan got fired to inject some new life in the blood of an underachieving club.

Things got off to a good start under new leadership. Hitchcock had the Oilers playing a tight, defensively responsible system and it looked like the team was playing well enough to squeak into the playoffs. But the wheels have come off over the past few weeks.

Hitchcock has been critical of the team’s effort, suggesting the Oilers only work as hard as they can after they’re embarrassed, creating a terrible cycle of frequently becoming complacent. Then, just recently, Hitchcock blasted the team for a lack of passion, saying “at this time of year, the coaches can’t want it more than the players.”

Elliotte Freidman suggested in his most recent 31 Thoughts post that Hitchcock may resign before the end of the season. Jason Gregor has wondered if the Oilers might fire Hitchcock as the players simply aren’t responding to his message. Now there’s this. For the second time in the last week, Hitchcock is watching practice from the stands.

I think it’s fair to say that the Hitchcock era isn’t going to continue beyond this season. There was hope Hitchcock, the master motivator, could put enough of a fire in this squad that the Oilers managed to sneak into the playoffs. That hasn’t happened. The team simply hasn’t responded to Hitchcock’s tough, old-school approach.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Who coaches the Oilers next season? Do they go with an internal option like Glen Gulutzan or Jay Woodcroft? Or do they go outside the organization? Is it best to get a new voice? Or bring in another McLellan or Hitchcock type with experience?

Bakersfield Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft.

There are a few internal options the Oilers could look at for their coaching search. The obvious one is Glen Gulutzan, who has actual head coaching experience in the NHL. That said, neither Gulutzan’s Dallas Stars or Calgary Flames were overly successful. I think the Flames having a breakout year immediately after he was fired might be a little damning. Then there are rookies Jay Woodcroft and Manny Viveiros. Woodcroft has done wonders coaching the AHL Condors this season and Viveiros is known to be a new-age type coach with an excellent eye for systems and special teams. I don’t want to mess with success in Edmonton’s farm system, but I would put Woodcroft at the top of my list in terms of internal options.

The best options likely come from outside the organization. One of the most sought-after free agents on the open market this summer (even considering players) will be Joel Quenneville. Coach Q, a future Hall of Famer like Hitchcock, was fired by the Blackhawks early in the season and he’s enjoyed his paid vacation this year. Many teams will be lining up to get Coach Q behind their bench. He’ll have many opportunities to pick exactly what’s right for him and I’m not sure this mess in Edmonton is what he’ll want.

Another name that has been thrown in the hat is Kris Knoblauch. Knoblauch, who was Connor McDavid’s head coach when he played for the Erie Otters, was hired as an assistant coach of the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago. The connection to McDavid, of course, is key, but Knoblauch could be the new-age coach who communicates well with young players that the Oilers need.

What say you, Nation? Who do you want behind the bench next season? 

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  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    No to Woodcroft – he is doing an amazing job with the prospects and that is critical for the org.
    No to GG – he is Dallas Eakins 2.0
    Yes to Yawney, Knoblauch or Quenneville (longshot).

  • RexHolez

    I say do a lottery from named in the Edmonton phone book and give it to the winner. With the terrible management of this team it doesn’t matter who the coach is

  • Leaky37

    I was very sceptical of the hiring in the first place and with his blender style of line making I have totally give up on him being able to accomplish very much. “I know what’s wrong and can fix it fast” we can’t even manage more than half a dozen proper breakouts in a game, terrible PK and only slightly better PP. These are coaching responsibilities, give me a break.

    • BobbyCanuck

      The Oilers went, what was it? 9-2-1 or something like that when he first got here, that tells me that the players are capable of playing a winning system, but for whatever reason the players are not interested in winning, absolutely a cultural problem in the Oiler org, from top (OBC) to bottom (players)

  • Heschultzhescores

    Wohlwend, he’s used to coaching teams with little talent to become competitive beyond their abilities. I also don’t see him being intimidated by anyone, not even the OBC.

  • DannyGallivan

    It is not about the coach. The last two were good ones and here we are. It is the players. They are human. It is difficult to get motivated when you can’t win. Other than 5 or 6 of them, this is an AHL team – that whole group would get waived through the league.

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    The hockey smart part of me wants to say that we should look for an external option with NHL experience, like Quinnville. But the Oiler fan in me is saying “wait hold up, we have had lots of great coaches over the past few years excluding Eakins, and yet the Oilers still cant seem to be good.” I think its safe to say that this mess is not fixable by a new coach. The roster is not good enough to be a competitive NHL hockey club, and that mess was made by Pete Chiarelli. It doesn’t matter who our coach is until this roster is fixed by a competent, or even semi-competent GM.

  • fumanchu1968

    After so many seasons of depending on losing for #1 picks, the culture of winning that was part of the fabric of your franchise has disappeared, and that is probably a very difficult challenge to over come. That being said, I’m sure hitting rock bottom will bring in a new era and I, as a Flames fan, fear the time when McJesus has a competent team built around him. When that happens the Cups will come.

    I am not a hater. I wish to see both our teams killing each other in the playoffs, just like back in the 80’s. Those were years full of a passion as a fan that are hard to describe to those who were not around to witness.