When Ken Hitchcock was fired to replace Todd McLellan back in November, everybody just sort of assumed it was going to be a one-year thing. Hitchcock would fill the void behind the bench as a veteran presence as the Oilers tried to salvage their season and then he would ride off into the sunset as a hero who finished his career with a bang in his home town.
That isn’t how things are going down. First of all, Hitchcock wasn’t able to lead the Oilers to a playoff spot as the team struggled with poor forward depth and injuries to key defencemen. Beyond that, it turns out Hitchcock has no interest in riding off into the sunset at the end of the season. According to John Shannon, Hitchcock wants to keep coaching the Oilers.
Ken Hitchcock, when pressed, if he wants to coach the Oilers next season :”For the record, I feel if I’m good I can coach until I’m 99.”
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) March 23, 2019
Beyond him simply wanting to stick around, Hitchcock also has two years left on his contract. When the Oilers hired him, they acquired his contract from Dallas Stars, meaning the organization will be paying him for two more seasons regardless of their decision.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (FRIDAY EDITION) question. How should the Oilers handle Hitchcock moving forward? Should he remain behind the bench? Should they find some new role for him in the organization? Could he be a fit for that vacant President of Hockey Operations role? Or should the team cut ties and add him to the list of former staffers on the payroll?
Hitchcock’s tenure in Edmonton has been strange, to say the least. It got off to a very good start as the Oilers earned points in 12 of the first 13 games with him behind the bench. In December, though, the team collapsed without Oscar Klefbom and could never bring themselves back up. While Hitchcock was praised for his ability to teach and to get players to play better defensively at the beginning, word has come out that the young Oilers aren’t responding to his tough, old-school style.
Many players have said playing for Hitchcock is a terrible experience. But many have also praised him for getting the most out of his teams. I mean, there’s a reason he’s one of the most successful coaches of all time, right?
Mark Spector brought up an interesting point earlier in the week when talking about whether or not Hitchcock is the right guy to continue to lead the young Oilers. He mentioned the time that Hitchcock called out the team, saying coaches can’t care more than the players do. According to Spector, that quote was aimed at Leon Draisaitl. Since then, Draisaitl has been playing arguably the best hockey of his career. Draisaitl may hate Hitchcock, but it seems Hitchcock is getting the best out of him. So does it matter?
What say you, Nation? Do you think Hitchcock is the guy to continue coaching this team? Or could he thrive in some other role with the organization?