Photo credit:Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Another Wake Up Call
3 months ago
Todd McLellan. Ken Hitchcock. Dave Tippet. And now, Jay Woodcroft.
The list of coaching casualties in the Connor McDavid era has grown by one as the Oilers relieved Jay Woodcroft of his duties following last night’s 4-1 win over the Seattle Kraken.
This team and their core group are being given yet another head coach after a miserable start to the season, and quite frankly, I don’t get it.
Go back and read those names. They had hard asses and didn’t like them. They straight-up tuned them out. They had a players coach and couldn’t get it done for them. So why was this the right move?
Woodcroft is a damn good coach, and under his watch, the Oilers won three playoff series in two seasons. They had some really good runs and to see this era come to an end is wildly disappointing.
Woodcroft took a chance on himself by going down to Bakersfield and running his own bench after Todd McLellan was fired. He could have gotten an assistant job in the NHL, but he decided to go a different route, and what he gave the Oilers was, in a way, a true homegrown head coach. This should have been a very long-term relationship.
Did he have his flaws? Absolutely.
As the head coach who watched countless players make the jump from the AHL to the NHL during his tenure with the Condors, you’d think that he would have been more open to giving young players more meaningful opportunities as the Oilers’ head coach. That was one thing that always drove me nuts and I know that a lot of the fan base feels the same way.
I also felt like he was too quick to go to the blender and leaned too hard on just going back to playing McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line.
Even with those flaws, I still really like what he did as the head coach of this team. This team always had flawed depth and Woodcroft had to make the most of it. Last season, before Mattias Eklholm got here, he took a below-average blue line and made it serviceable.
He will get another job in the NHL and I believe he will succeed wherever he goes.
The timing of this decision also bugs me. Ken Holland clearly knew that this would happen a few days ago, I think it may have even been before the loss to the San Jose Sharks.
They should have let Woodcroft go earlier in the road trip. They postponed it because letting him go is more convenient when the team is back on home ice. I know there are logistics, I know there is a process, but this just feels lazy.
Now the big question people will ask is why Ken Holland was allowed to make another coaching change?
The veteran general manager is in the final year of his deal, and let’s be honest, this season’s failures are more on him than anyone else who doesn’t wear a pair of skates.
The players have underperformed. That is the main reason for this. They can’t get a big stop, their big guns aren’t bailing them out the way they used to, and the team’s bottom six is littered with players who haven’t been able to produce a drop of offence.
This is on the players more than anyone else but Holland has made more than a few unforced errors.
The Jack Campbell contract is the worst in Oilers history, he’s signed other terrible contracts like the Zack Kassian deal, the team has missed on a few draft picks, and the depth still leaves you wanting more. That’s a lot of mistakes.
That said, you can understand why Woodcroft is paying the price with his job. Changing a GM doesn’t send the same message to the Oilers locker room. It doesn’t serve as a wake-up call, and while I don’t think this group of players deserved another head coach, they needed something to shake this season up and maybe bringing in a new bench boss will do that.
Something has to change. This team needs to turn it around.
I thought Jay Woodcroft deserved a chance to turn this around, the organization felt otherwise, and now we’ll see if the third head coach is the charm for Holland.
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