If the word on the street is to be believed, then Dave Tippet will be new Oilers GM Ken Holland’s first hire after a few dismissals. How are Oilers fans supposed to feel about this potential hire? Is it a misstep for Holland in hiring an old hand who the game may have passed by? Or is it a savvy move that could turn the Oilers’ fortunes around?
Tippett hasn’t coached in the NHL for two seasons, since he parted ways with the Arizona Coyotes after eight seasons there. After spending a year out of the NHL, then was hired last summer as a Senior Advisor with the new Seattle NHL Expansion team, a decision that ultimately left him out of the coaching caravan for 2018-19. But now he’s back in the mix, and appears to be at the top of Holland’s list as the successor to Ken Hitchcock. Now, what can reasonably be expected from a Tippett-led roster in an attempt to turn a hapless team into a playoff competitor?
Let’s take a look at his first season after taking over from Wayne Gretzky as coach of the Coyotes in the summer of 2009.
|Coyotes under Gretzky (2008-09)||Coyotes under Tippett (2009-10)|
|CF% 48.69 (22nd)||CF% 52.04 (7th)|
|SCF% 49.43 (17th)||SCF% 52.62 (5th)|
|SCGF% 48.64 (19th)||SCGF% 52.79 (8th)|
|HDCF% 49.83 (12th)||HDCF% 53.39 (4th)|
|HDGF% 47.22 (24th)||HDGF% 50.64 (13th)|
|HDSV% .804 (27th)||HDSV% .817 (18th)|
|SH% 7.85 (18th)||SH% 7.82 (19th)|
|SV% .923 (11th)||SV% .927 (6th)|
|PDO 1.001||PDO 1.005|
|PP% 14.5 (28th) PK% 76.8 (28th)||PP% 14.6 (28th) PK% 84.5 (6th)|
|GF 205 (26th) GA 249 (7th most)||GF 211 (24th) GA 196|
|Goal Differential -44||Goal Differential +15|
|Western Conference finish 13th (79pts)||Western Conference finish 4th (107pts)|
For those unfamiliar with some of these advanced stats, SC (scoring chance) and HDC (high-danger chance) essentially mean chances that are closer to the net– in and around the crease– or that might come off of a rush or rebound (you can find a comprehensive glossary here).
What these do tell us, though is that the Coyotes saw an improvement in nearly every category, albeit some more meaningful than others, but they seemed to play a better possession game and forcing the puck more often towards the opponent’s net rather than their own.
The advanced numbers are important, because they show that there was substance contributing to improvement in some of the more traditional categories that the Oilers need help in.
The Penalty Kill saw a vast improvement under Tippett which is something the Oilers desperately need after finishing pitifully at 30th (74.8%) last season, and perhaps the most important factor in earning a playoff berth, reducing the goal differential. The Oilers finished with a -42 goal differential, a number that is nowhere near playoff respectability (no playoff team made the 2018-19 playoffs with a negative goal differential; Dallas’ was the lowest at +8).
Though the change in goals for was nearly negligible from Gretzky to Tippett, which does bode well for an Oilers roster already starved for goals and depth scoring, Tippett never inherited two 100-point scorers in 2009-10, so perhaps there’s an opportunity to maximize on an advantage that he’s never had. His highest scoring player (since the ’04-’05 lockout) was Mike Ribeiro with the ’07-’08 Dallas, and highest goal-scorer was Radim Vrbata with 35 goals for the ’11-’12 Coyotes. Perhaps this is a symptom of playing in Tippett’s system, but he’s regularly had eight to ten 10+ goal-scorers on the roster, so although players may not expect to break any career highs, depth scoring can increase with the advantage of building that around two all-world talents in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
But ultimately, it’s that last line in the side-by-side comparisons between Gretzky and Tippett that might be the most telling (and quite frankly, the most important to us Oilers fans). Tippett took a hapless Coyotes team under Gretzky and turned them into a Western Conference contender in one year. This is what we want to see: immediate change. Can Tippett pull the same turnaround with this Oilers roster as he did with the Coyotes’ one in 2009-10? Time will have to tell on that, but what Tippett does seem to possess is an ability to implement a structure that focuses on defensive responsibility, limiting the hemmoraging of goals, and putting the team in a better position to take advantage of tight games.
Maybe Gretzky made more a mess of things than they actually were when Tippett inherited the Coyotes’ roster from him in the summer of 2009 (remember that this was also the era when the team’s ownership was such a mess that the NHL would have to end up running them). But in the end, I think it’s important to keep in mind that Tippett could only be here for the short-term, something he’s proven he can use as ample time to change the fortunes of a drowning team and a fanbase eager for change.
But really, as good as Shane Doan was as a player, Tippett’s never had a Connor McDavid to work with. Few teams can boast such an X-Factor.