It was on this day in Edmonton Oilers history that former General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, made the decision to replace head coach Todd McLellan with NHL legend Ken Hitchcock for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) November 20, 2020
On November 20th, 2018, the Edmonton Oilers made a coaching change, replacing Todd McLellan with Ken Hitchcock. At the time of McLellan’s firing, the Oilers were spinning their wheels and sitting in 26th place overall with a mediocre record of 9-10-1. If you remember, the team started that season decently enough but were quickly hampered by struggling players, lacklustre goaltending, poor organizational depth, and a 3-7 slide prompted Chiarelli to make a change. Personally, I remember thinking at the time that it was Peter Chiarelli and not Todd McLellan that should have gotten the axe for the team’s struggles, the GM had been drowning for months at that point, but that’s not the way the cookie crumbles in the National Hockey League, is it?
In his three+ seasons with the Oilers (266 games), Todd McLellan left with a record of 123-119-24 and a win% of .502 which was the best the franchise had seen since Craig MacTavish. McLellan was also the first coach to get the Oilers back into the playoffs and end their decade-long drought, an achievement that carved out some space for coach Todd in the hearts of many Nation citizens. While certainly not perfect by any means, perhaps the biggest gift that McLellan gave us on his way out was his refusal to play Evan Bouchard and burn a year of his ELC, something Peter Chiarelli was reported to have wanted, which means that the former 10th overall pick will be exempt at the upcoming expansion draft. At the time, Chiarelli was clearly trying to save his job and while the firing of McLellan certainly felt forced based on the roster he was given, it just ended up being another strange step in what was another lost and bizarre season around here.
Hitchcock finished the 2018-19 season with a 26-28-8 record and remained on with the team for another year as an advisor, but was replaced behind the bench by Dave Tippett who will be entering his second season as head coach whenever the 2021 season gets going.