Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Carousel

The first big job on Ken Holland’s to-do list as POHO and GM of the Edmonton Oilers is to find himself a new head coach in what’s been a boneyard for those who stand behind the bench for a living over the past decade. We’re led to believe Dave Tippett is the best bet to get the job, with Todd Nelson also at or near the top of Holland’s list.

That’s fine and good. I’d be happy with either Tippet or Nelson for different reasons, and I’ll be taking a look at both in coming days, but to borrow from Jason Gregor, it’s going to take a lot more than one more hire to change the fortunes of a team that’s been upside down and on fire in the ditch for what seems like forever.

Unless the hockey ops department of this organization is revamped the right way, and that’s something that won’t happen during one off-season, nothing is going to change. Hiring an experienced GM like Holland is a start. Bringing in the right coach, be it Tippett or Nelson for an encore or somebody else, is another step, but I think we can agree there’s more work to do.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Be it bad decisions by those previously in Holland’s position, namely Peter Chiarelli and Steve Tambellini, or pro and amateur scouting staffs that have taken turns getting it wrong at different times over the last decade, there’s been plenty of blame to go around. If every aspect of hockey ops isn’t in sync, Holland’s hire of the next guy on the coaching carousel won’t, on its own, turn things around. In the last 10 seasons, the Oilers have had seven head coaches, many of them with impressive resumes. Seven.

I’m not absolving any of the men who’ve stood behind the bench with the Oilers of blame in contributing to the ongoing failure of the team – save for making the second round of playoffs in 2016-17 – but the list of those who have failed since Craig MacTavish and the team parted ways after the 2008-09 season is so diverse in terms of age and experience, I can’t believe they all forgot how to run a bench when they took the job here.


KEN HITCHCOCK. Third in NHL career wins with 849, a Stanley Cup winner in 1999 with Dallas and a Jack Adams Award winner in 2011-12, Hitchcock took over from Todd McLellan and went 26-28-8 for a .484 points percentage. His career mark is .599. He’s under contract here for two more years, position TBD.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

TODD MCLELLAN. Hired by Chiarelli without so much as an interview, McLellan had 311 wins in seven seasons with San Jose (he was 311-133-66 for .637) before going 123-119-24 (.508) after arriving here. Having signed a five-year deal with Los Angeles in April, his career mark is .594.

TODD NELSON. Nelson took over from Dallas Eakins midway through the 2014-15 season after a brief transition with MacTavish behind the bench, going 17-25-9 (.422) as the Oilers finished the season 24-44-14. Nelson went on to win a Calder Cup with Grand Rapids and is now an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars.

DALLAS EAKINS. Was touted as a whiz kid by many media types in the Toronto area after a stint as an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs and some success with the AHL Marlies, but failed miserably here, going 36-63-14 (.381) in parts of two seasons. Has done well with San Diego in the AHL and could land in Anaheim.

RALPH KRUEGER. Unceremoniously dumped by MacTavish via Skype in favor of Eakins, Krueger built his name with the national team in Switzerland before coming to Edmonton. Krueger led the Oilers to a record of 19-22-7 (.469) in 2012-13 before MacTavish sacked him. After time as president of the Southampton Football Club, Krueger is being looked at by the Buffalo Sabres.

TOM RENNEY. Promoted from associate coach under Pat Quinn to head coach for 2010-11, Renney led the Oilers to a record of 57-85-22 (.415) over two seasons. His career mark in 592 games with the New York Rangers, Vancouver and Edmonton is .504. He’s the CEO of Hockey Canada now.

PAT QUINN. Quinn’s final season in a career that spanned 20 years as an NHL coach was with the Oilers. Well past his best-before date when he took the job, Quinn went 27-47-8 (.378) here, a far cry from his career mark of .556. He was moved aside to the position of senior advisor. Quinn passed away in November 2014.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Suffice to say, Holland has to do a lot more than hire Tippett or Nelson or whoever to turn things around here. He has to rebuild a roster that’s been flawed at different positions for years. He can’t bleed talent in trades the way Chiarelli did – he won’t. He has to build on the recent success the amateur scouting staff has shown under Keith Gretzky. Holland cut his NHL teeth scouting, so that’s right in his wheelhouse.  He needs to get his pro scouting straight.

Do all of the above over a reasonable timeline – your guess is as good as mine as to what, exactly, that is – and fans will at long last have something to actually cheer about. Get it wrong in any of the other areas of hockey ops and it won’t matter much who Holland unveils as the next coach. History has shown us that much in no uncertain terms.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • RJ

    Said this in another thread, but the tenure of most people in Oilers management would make sense if the Oil were a model franchise. I would expect the speed at which management personnel are let go will be directly proportional to if and when KH is able to find his own guys.

    If KH was able to get Hakan Andersson from the Wings, as an example, you could expect the Oil to make the change. But they’re not going to fire their current European scout just because fans want to make a change.

  • An interview on Oilers now, Holland said after all his info collecting and discussions with scouts he will be making decisions by end of May/start of June. I guess we wait and see what he has learned. You know he will want to bring in a few people. Very interested to see who is shown the door.

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    I think it’s funny how I remember being excited when we hired all of these coaches, and know that I read this list I get PTSD from the disastrous time that was the 2008-2017 Oilers.

  • ScottV

    Of the two – go Tippet. The situation calls for a proven veteran coach who can establish a solid foundation that keeps the puck out of the wrong net. Stop the bleeding. Keep themselves in every game and have the likes of McD and Drai tip the balance for more wins than losses. Build from there. Has Tippett written all over it.

  • Ratt McNuge

    It’s never really been about the coach with the exception of maybe Dallas Eakins. The Oilers have always had huge holes in their lineups from having no good centres and only wingers to the complete opposite problem today. Holland needs to bring his guy in, but he MUST supply the poor guy with a workable roster.

  • Druds

    I think we should hire the first woman HeadCoach…think of all the great karma we would get from the politically correct media. They would lavish us with praise and being that we usually suck under any coach there would be no downside to this. The fact that the league is trying to become more european in play…ie: no fighting, no hitting …no anything. It will be awesome and Bettman will ensure we get into the playoffs so as to promote the woman angle…No LOSE situation.

    • Torgerson

      Doesn’t the Old Boys’ Club nickname remind you that the failures of this club begin and end with those possessing testicles? It couldn’t hurt to hire a female executive once in a while. They at least do their homework.

  • Oiler Al

    I know you guys need ads to pay the bills, but do they have to be in the body of the commentaries?A bit bush league and aggressive. PS This is the onlt site it happens on… for me anyway!!~!

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      I prefer wins…besides there is boring trap hockey then there is boring trap hockey and McDavid. He will not be required to change much but the rest of the lines need to stop bleeding goals against.

  • Dark Knight Returns

    Why do you guys like Nelson?

    Serious question: I don’t see anything in his record that tells me he is a winning coach. DURing his time here, he lost more than he won.

    • hagar

      Conditioned loyolists.
      I dont have anything against Nelson one bit, but the fans want to rehatch any chance they can. Good loyal fan base no joke. It lends us to more chances than ever should be given, and also second chances with genuine hope it will work out.

      Nobody really had a problem with Nelson, so he feels good to bring back because he was an average feeling, during horrible feelings.

      • Kevwan

        Nelson has had better recent success than Tippett. During his time in Edmonton the team was consistently competitive despite a worse roster than they have know. In particular Nelson was able to bring out the best in young players – Yak even looked like a competent NHLer under him.

        As a 50 something guy myself I understand the difficulty in relating to today’s 20 something crowd. Todd is 9 years younger than Dave and has shown an ability to manage this age group. Tippett has not.

    • hagar

      Conditioned loyolists.
      I dont have anything against Nelson one bit, but the fans want to rehatch any chance they can. Good loyal fan base no joke. It lends us to more chances than ever should be given, and also second chances with genuine hope it will work out.

      Nobody really had a problem with Nelson, so he feels good to bring back because he was an average feeling, during horrible feelings.

    • crabman

      Nelson has a reputation as being a good communicator, a motivator and a players coach. As a communicator he is a more new age coach who explains not just what he wants but why he wants it. Players who have played for him liked playing for him and buy into what he is selling.
      He did a good job in Oklahoma with the team he was given and won a Calder cup with Grand Rapids. Every AHL team he was head coach of for the full season made the playoffs. He has done everything he could in the AHL and will get an opportunity as an NHL head coach at some point. I think he would be a good option for an Oilers but I don’t think he will be the guy. Holland and the Oilers are going to be under enormous pressure to make the playoffs this year and I doubt they go to an inexperienced NHL head coach.

  • OilCan2

    The coach will not make an impact until next fall. This summer will be the story for the draft (trades for picks?) and pro deals: RFA, UFA, trade. He is watching the Condors closely and if they move to the next round it could make camp interesting.

  • goodtobelucky97

    What about Kirk Muller as head coach?
    I understand he has one year left on his contract as assistant coach in Montreal. Maybe ask the Canadians for permission to chat with him?

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I don’t know, I’m not big on Tippett. Nothing about his recent coaching record screams success…
    It seems to me that he’d be better on the competition, like leave him in Seattle.
    Can anyone fill me in on why he’d be good to coach the Oilers?

    • IRONman

      Nelson. Has good relations with GM. He is young players coach. He help Yak on a horrible team with injuries in 2014-2015. But we got McDavid cause of him. He is a solid coach. Nelson 4 da win

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Tippett, Nelson – honestly, there are probably six or eight people who could do a decent job coaching this team. I’m sure we’ll all find fault with whomever Holland chooses, but he’ll find someone decent.

    To me, it’s the pro scouts. Holland has to replace them. All of them. They’ve been the Achilles Heel of this organization for far too long. The Oilers lost far too many trades and whiffed on far too many free agents and that falls on the pro scouting department. If Holland has full autonomy – and I believe he does – he’ll remove and replace the pro scouting department at the earliest opportunity. Coaches are only as good as the players that the GM can provide … but the GM can only be as good as the intel he gets from the scouts.

  • jamboy

    I think Dan Bylsma would be a great fit here! Has he been picked up by anyone yet? He’s won cups coaching a team with two star centres, a couple of good defence man, and a bunch of lower paid players filling in the blanks! He’s also kind of new school so might be able to connect better with younger players. Tippets too old school! I’d almost rather watch my team lose 8-7 than win 1-0. Almost.