Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Should Jay Woodcroft stay in Bakersfield or join McLellan in LA?

Welcome, my friends, to a long weekend edition of the mailbag where I’ve dragged the writers out of their weekend getaways to share a little bit of wisdom with you about all things Oilers. As we do every week, we’re back with another round of questions and answers to help you get through your day. As always, I need you guys for this feature so email me your questions to baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and pretend to look busy for as long as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Photo by: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

1) Blake asks – What were your first thoughts when you saw that Craig MacTavish was leaving the Oilers to be a head coach in the KHL? Do you think this move was because of Holland, or that MacT really wanted a new challenge?

Jason Gregor:

I had heard last year MacTavish was missing coaching, but I think he knew it was time for a change, just like he did when he stepped down as HC. I think it is a bit of both. He knew it was time to go, but also wanted to get back in coaching.

Robin Brownlee:

MacTavish saw the writing on the wall and made his own call rather than be pushed out. He’s the one who informed Holland he had an opportunity and might pursue it. Not surprised.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I was still half asleep when I read the tweet on my phone so I didn’t really believe that it was real life. I’m happy that the old guard is moving on and Ken Holland is flexing his full autonomy (I refuse to believe that he didn’t nudge MacT out the door) but at the same time, he did some really good for this organization and was no doubt the best coach they’ve had in the last decade plus. He was a lifelong Oiler so it is a little bittersweet to see him go, but his time to step away from the organization was long overdue. Wish him all the best in Russia as I’m sure most Oilers fans do.

Christian Pagnani:

About time. Probably a bit of both. MacTavish was a good coach but he wasn’t good in management and there needs to be changes. It’s encouraging, whether it’s because of the Holland hire or not, that some of these legacy guys are finally leaving.

Chris the Intern:

Absolutely. I’m sure Holland had a conversation with MacT and told him to find a new job this summer. Out of all places to go coach in the world… he chose Russia? It seems like he was forced to make a quick decision because not a lot of guys like to go there for hockey.


I think it was probably a little bit of both. When MacT saw that a new regime was coming in, he probably started looking for options just in case, which, in my opinion, is the smart move to do in any business.

2) Gregg asks – Looking ahead at the NHL Draft, do you think the Oilers should focus on grabbing a winger even if it means trading down or do you believe the best approach is to step up at #8 and taking the best player available regardless of position?

Jason Gregor:

Take the best player. Always. Drafting for position can backfire, because by the time this player will be ready to make an impact in the NHL (two maybe three of four years) the wing position might be fixed via trade or free agency.

Robin Brownlee:

This comes down to the last minutes before the pick. Is there a team that really covets a player still on the board who they can get with the eighth pick? If so, what are they willing to give up? If they can’t make a deal, take the best player available.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’d be really interested in dropping from #8 to the #11-14 range if it means either adding 20-goal scorer or dumping off a contract like Milan Lucic. If a deal like that does happen, I think it would involve a lot of different pieces though so its kind of hard to predict what it would look like. If the Oilers do end up picking at eight, I think you do have to just take the best available player though. Drafting by position usually isn’t a smart strategy.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m not sure trading the pick for a winger is the right move. It has to be a really good player since expansion complicated things more. History shows you have to add something in addition to the pick to get a good player. Can the Oilers afford to give up more assets? I’m a big fan of going with the best player available. Look what Nashville did with Seth Jones or Tampa did with Jonathan Drouin.

Chris the Intern:

I would love to see the Oilers trade the pick. HOWEVER, this is a very deep draft so the smart move would be to not trade it.


Always take the best player available. Always. You may not need the guy now, but there could come a time in the future when the kid is exactly what you need.

3) Jim asks – At the upcoming June draft, the Oilers at 8th will have several highly regarded options from either the USDP or the CHL. Which development route does the best job of preparing prospects for the NHL?

Jason Gregor:

USDP is mainly American players, while CHL has highest % of Canadians. Each league has positive reasons to play there. I can’t say one is clearly better since much of it has to do with the country you live in.

Robin Brownlee:

Varies by year, but I still go with the CHL because of the schedule and travel. It’s more along the lines of an NHL model.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

People who work in the CHL will always tell you that’s the best route, but I don’t buy it. It really doesn’t matter if you go through the CHL, CJHL (junior A) then NCAA, of the USDP, or if you come from Europe. If you’re good, teams will find you, and if you’re talented/driven, you’ll develop just fine. Scouts with bias’ aren’t scouts I would want in my organization. Take the best player regardless of where they were born or where they’re currently playing.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t have any data or anything to back it up but it feels like the USDP and college route is really producing a lot more players recently. It has to be fairly enticing to get a degree and potentially choose your own team as a free agent.

Chris the Intern:

I think they both have their strengths. I always have a bias for Canadian based development programs, however, the USDP produces a lot of good players. I have a hard time saying that one is better than the other.


Depends how patriotic you are, I guess. Personally, and I’m really only guessing/giving my two cents here, is that both leagues produce some fine prospects and that I don’t know if there’s as big of a difference between the two leagues as one might think. As I said, I really have no idea.

4) Travis asks – Do you think it’s a better idea for Jay Woodcroft to stick with the Bakersfield Condors as the head coach or to join Todd McLellan in LA as an assistant coach?

Jason Gregor:

If he wants to be an NHL head coach I’d stay in Bakersfield. I expect him to stay there. He liked running his own bench and being a head coach

Robin Brownlee:

Depends a bit on who Holland brings in here. If Woodcroft senses he will most likely spend years waiting for a chance to move up, he might look to a familiar friend in McLellan. I suspect he would in that circumstance. Familiarity matters.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Yes, it absolutely is. He’s been an assistant with Todd for over a decade now and if he wants to become an NHL Head Coach one day then he needs to show that he can run his own bench at the AHL level. He had an incredible first season with Bakersfield and while I understand that riding the bus in the AHL isn’t the sexiest lifestyle, it would do a lot more for his coaching career than just going back to being Todd’s right-hand man.

Christian Pagnani:

It depends. If he wants to live the NHL lifestyle then being McLellan’s assistant is a better idea. I’d personally rather stay as a head coach in the AHL and try and make my own path as a head coach in the NHL eventually.

Chris the Intern:

If I’m Woodcroft I would want control of my own team. I’m sure they have an excellent relationship, and it would be nice to get back to the NHL level, however, if Woodcroft sticks this out, it won’t be long before he’s the head coach of his own NHL team soon.


To me, if his goal in life is to be an NHL head coach then I don’t know why he would run back to McLellan in LA. Woodcroft made some major headway with the Condors this year and if that kept up for another year or two, then he could get the call up to the NHL to run his own bench. I know that can happen by being an assistant too, but I’d imagine multiple years as an AHL head coach would look pretty good on the ol’ resume.

5) Darren in Sacramento asks – Both of McDavid’s major injuries have come on very similar kinds of plays. His speed and fearlessness are part of what makes him so dangerous…but they are also what makes him so dangerous. If nothing changes, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to suffer similar injuries- and maybe worse- in the future. Would you like to see him change this aspect of his game in any way or are you content to have him continue to throw caution to the wind because that’s who he is?

Jason Gregor:

He got a huge contract because his speed scares defenders and puts them in bad positions. I would not ask him to change. He picks his spots more. Both were freak injuries in my eyes.

Robin Brownlee:

He doesn’t throw caution to the wind. He plays at high speed. When you have the puck as often as McDavid does and play at the speed he does, there’s always a potential for injury. You don’t take away what makes a player as good as McDavid is to try to prevent an injury. You can’t play scared.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

No. I would never ask Connor McDavid to change the way he plays. End of answer.

Christian Pagnani:

I think McDavid’s done a good job of not significantly altering his game while eliminating more reckless play. You obviously don’t want McDavid to change much but you don’t want McDavid getting hurt. I’m not as worried about McDavid as much as I was with Taylor Hall. Those two injuries were pretty unlucky. I’m not as concerned, but I’d tell McDavid he doesn’t have to try and burn Mark Giordano in game 82, although I don’t think that would go over well.

Chris the Intern:

McDavid put it best in his postseason interview when he said “they pay me 100 million dollars to go hard to the net.” Obviously, I wish McDavid would play safer out there, however for that kind of money, he should absolutely be doing everything he can to get to the net first. Unfortunately, that’s the direction this game is going with the increased speed of play.


I wouldn’t change anything about how Connor plays. The dude is a war machine and the way he got hurt in Calgary was a freak injury. I doubt anything changes going forward.


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  • camdog

    Lowe/Katz promised him a future GM job the day Tambellini was hired, maybe even before he was hired. That’s why when the MSM said Tambellini had all the control I would laugh. Tambellini was quite literally hired to be fire – warm body to bide the time for Mactavish.

  • Abagofpucks

    Mact is a way better coach than an upper management guy good luck in the KHL to him.
    Now as far as Conner goes he just needs to get stronger so he can handle the ruff going in the nhl. Maybe even the odd fight to let the other guys checking him know that he’s not gonna just take it. I’ve seen his frustration with how he’s getting ruffed up and no calls but if you want more room in this game you gotta be able to push back physically.

    • Spydyr

      If Woodcroft stays with the Condors he has a good chance to be the Oilers head coach in two years or so after the team fires whomever they hire this summer.

  • Viperx

    Game #15 of 2019. A partial tear of the PCL will fully tear. You cant play at that level, the way he does, on only a partial intact pcl. No matter how much rehab and strengthening of the muscles around the ligament. Sucks

  • Serious Gord

    1. It was a good first start. Very glad to see the back of him. I don’t think he was pushed out – I think he saw he had no future inside the org. Let’s see what happens next before saying it truly was the beginning of the end of interference by the FOK and FOG.

    2. BPA is old school. If the BPA is a centre trade down to get a spot where the BPA is a winger.

    3. A team with good scouting will not care either way. Nor would it discriminate internationally. EDM doesn’t have great scouting and even worse decision-makers. So they let their regional biases interfere with the process.

    5. He already has changed how much risk he takes. Much as taylor hall has. I would say that when his blood is up he takes more risks than he should.

  • bazmagoo

    1) The opportunity was probably there before the Holland hire, but the writing on the wall was recent.
    2) I’d trade down a few spots to move Lucic, but the draft is where you secure the future. We need a 1st round pick.
    3) Pick the best player available, let them perculate in whatever development program they are in. Which program doesn’t matter.
    4) Best for his career to stay in Bakersfield. Seems like he has a good thing going, and can only get better with experience.
    5) Never tell the best player in the world how to play, it’s his decision to make.

  • Ken Holland

    “I’m really impressed and proud at the development, the growth of Jay,” said Holland. “I saw it when Mike Babcock hired him out of college to be the Detroit video coach. He had a little job, now 12 years later he’s the head coach of our American League team and he did a fabulous job in creating a great culture, a positive feeling.

    “As the head coach Jay had a massive influence on all of that happening. It’s so important to have a good minor-league program with a competitive environment where you put kids in with older players and they learn how to win. The playoffs for Bakersfield were great for that. I watched (Evan) Bouchard and (Tyler) Benson and some of the young defenceman.

    “Jay’s developed from a video coach to an NHL assistant coach to a head coach in the American League. He’s got a ton of experience and he’s a top-notch AHL coach.”

    Is he a top-notch NHL head coach?

    “He might be but at the end of the day he’s only coached one year,” said Holland. “The more experience you can get at whatever job you have in life, the better you’ll be. Whether you’re a player or a coach you have to build a resume so when you walk in … that resume says lots. Jay is in the process of building a very good one.”

  • TKB2677

    I am sure a small part of the reason Mac T quit was because he missed coaching but in saying that, if he missed it so badly, why didn’t he quit years ago. I think the main reason he quit is he’s not stupid. I am sure he was fully up to speed on the negotiations with Holland and knew he would want changes to the hockey staff. Holland would want to bring in some of his own people. The positions he would want to bring in his own people are the positions that Howson, Sutter and Mac T were in. It looks a hell of a lot better on a resume and in your next interview if you “left on your own” vs getting fired from your job. Holland gets hired, says he will make some changes but he wants to take a little time before making any decisions which makes sense. Then barely a week later, Mac T takes a new job. Coincidence? Yeah right.

    So he can use the excuse he wanted a change and wanted to coach again which I believe is partly true but if Holland came to Mac T and said, you are my guy. Not a chance in hell he quits.

    For Woodcroft. It will come down to do you want to be a NHL Head Coach one day or be McLellans boy? A lot of NHL head coaches cut their teeth in the AHL.

  • RJ

    If you google it, different sites will do a re-draft based on what we know now.

    When McDavid was drafted, there was talk of TWO generational players. As it turns out now, some have Marner and Rantanen above Eichel.

    BPA is a crapshoot like everything else. JP was BPA. Yak was BPA.