Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(FE): Ken Hitchcock

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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? 

    • SailorD81

      You don’t have to like your boss, just respect him. The number of guys having career years has to mean something. It is not Hitch’s fault there is zero depth on the team in front of him. Keep him for another season at least. See what he can do with a full camp and hopefully “fingers crossed” even marginally improved roster.

  • McHitch

    McDavid- Draisaitl- Nuge- Nurse are all having career years.

    I Imagine the core group above will give their endorsement of Hitch to the new GM and he will be back.

    • joilers

      I would bring him back on a 1 year deal before the new GM is in place. That way it gives the team some consistency and wont cost too much if the new GM decides to go in a different direction. Plus I believe the team looks more consistent now under Hitchcock. Lets see where this goes and give it a full season.

  • Gravis82

    The oilers need to first make the playoffs in solid fashion before they start to wonder if perhaps a different coach would put them over the top as a cup winner. If they can’t make the playoffs with hitch, they can’t win a cup with anyone else.

  • slats-west

    My thoughts is:
    – its the GM’s call. He/She should have free reign to keep Hitch or not.
    – I think he has been positive and I think his post-game interviews are great insights into what they are weak in and what they need to do to win (eg. play between the dots, get the defenders turning around on PP) all vivid images for players to focus in on. They still hold onto the puck too long on PP in my mind and that’s because the Dman is not quick enough thinking. Sekera would be better but doesn’t possess the slap shot thus to easy then for PK.
    – I love that Hitch cares as much as Fans care. That sentence he said at the time was absolutely perfect! It summed exactly what we all think in ON and as a fanbase. I hope it touched every player.

  • Goaltender Interference

    I’ve got no issues with hitch staying on next year if the new GM asks him to. If nothing else it would help maintain consistency among a team that sorely lacks it.

    My question is why the hell would Hitch want to stay on? (Even if he’s making mouth noises that he wants to…)

    The follow-up is what coach worth hiring would want to screw up his reputation by signing on under the OBC?

  • GK1980

    Will it honestly matter who the next coach is? This team has gone through how many changes and the result is the same. Dumbfounded.

    We complain about forward scoring but it’s not like the D have lit it up. I had higher hopes for Larson.

  • Kool-Aid Man

    I would agree that Hitchcock has the reputation of getting the best out some of his players but, he also has a repution for eventually losing the room because of his style of coaching.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Easy, it’s up to the next GM. Me, I’d replace him only because he’s not realistically gonna be here for any long term success. Our next coach should be the last change we make for the duration of McD and Drai’s contracts, so no mistakes!

  • neojanus

    This decision is completely up to the new GM.

    I believe that Hitchcock has been a very good coach for this team. A poor roster and two darned good d-men being out derailed this thing more than is often suggested. There are 4 or 5 or 6 players playing the best hockey of their careers and I think Hitchcock has a role in that.

    With a healthy hockey club — and some trades that aren’t completely f’ing asinine — I would be very interested to see what this coach does next year.

    If the Oilers close out the season the way they have been playing lately (minus the odd game of no-show), I think he’s done enough to get the call.

    Saying that, look anyway. That can’t hurt. Don’t commit to anything until you’ve seen what’s available. The best coach available right now is… Todd McLellan, and that didn’t work out perfectly. I don’t know of a coach better suited to the Oilers next year than the one currently running the bench. There was a period of hell, but the Oilers are through that stretch of garbage. Babcock, if available, is tempting… but also mildly insane. I’m not as high on Quenneville as much as others. That Chicago team was loaded with A players at its best.

    More than anything, the Oilers have to sort out Koskinen and see whether he can play in this league. No coach can coach his way out of that mess.

  • Stallions #35

    We didn’t assume it was a one time/one year thing…we were fed that information by the Organization via media… and at the time any change was good change…and now, the argument for keeping him around … career year for a lot of players. The argument to not keep him around, can these young players accept his old school coaching style moving forward or did they already know it wasn’t just a 1 year thing to begin with? No transparency… like always, who knows what is going on with this organization.

  • Billsbills

    I said before they hired him that the Oilers needed the next Ken Hitchcock. It was wildly unpopular and as I say they should keep him on, I am sure it remains to be so.

    Making players uncomfortable when they’re losing is unpopular for the players too. But it should be. Coaches are there to coach, not be someone’s friend and as far as I can see, the “young guys” that matter, are all having career years.

    It’s the rest of the wannabes that are having a tough time and guess what, too bad. You’re irrelevant on most nights and the team won’t miss you.

  • Kevwan

    Hitch lost the locker rooms in Dallas and St. Louis. Calling out Drai may have worked short term but I doubt that negativity will work longer term.

    With as young a line-up as the Oilers will have I’d like them to look at bringing Todd Nelson back or maybe Sheldon Keefe.

  • Oiler Al

    Uncle Hitch is yesterdays news. So is Quinniville.New GM will have his own ideas here, Should be a younger guy ho was an asst, in the NHL.
    I am disappointed that’ Yawney has not improved the defense.Same with Viveiero…no great shakes on the PP.

  • Randaman

    Did Leon actually say anything? I highly doubt it. I say keep Hitch for another year of growth. They’re not close to contending so why not learn the game properly. The new GM will have more time to concentrate on cap issues and building rather than worrying about what coach to hire off the bat.

  • madjam

    Would appear a new GM is more important than any coach at this stage . Hitch and McClellan both failed to get team in playoffs , and both are reasonable coaches . New GM had better be able to get and pick out better talent than Chia was able to do , and able to make better trades along with mastering the cap . .

    • cityofchampions

      yep, agree with this 100%. Get the GM right, and let him make the call on the coach. I would be tempted to give Hitch a full year and see what happens, but if the new GM wants to go in a different strategic direction I’m fine with that too.

  • blobbo

    So the Oilers acquired his contract from Dallas. How does that work? Does it mean Dallas was paying him to stay at home but, when the Oilers took over his contract, he had to go back to work? Makes no sense. Explain please.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    yeah let start another season with a new GM and a new coach. you need some continuity , its too late for the GM. We cant keep starting from square one. Hitch for another year and see what happens.

  • Total Points

    i cannot believe that the Oilers took over Hitchcocks contract from Dallas and has 2 more years to go.

    Nick is not very smart to allow Chai to do this.