Off the Top of My Head

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
10 months ago
When I read what ESPN’s Emily Kaplan said this week about the possibility the Edmonton Oilers could make a coaching change, I don’t see her doing anything different than what sportswriters do all the time. Kaplan was speculating about what might happen with coach Dave Tippett.
At no point during what Kaplan said on ESPN’s The Point did she suggest she had any new inside information or was breaking news a coaching change involving Tippett and the Oilers was imminent or afoot. In fact, Kaplan went out of her way to do the opposite. 
This wasn’t a “report,” and Kaplan didn’t sell it that way. As you can see in the snippets below, she qualified what she was saying more than once. There is nothing new here, yet some outlets went the clickbait route and framed it as such — an easy hook for those who want Tippett gone. For context, the full interview is here.
“As it comes to Tippett … Ken Holland the GM, it’s important to know in all of his years in Detroit never made an in-season coaching change. I’ve talked to a lot of sources in the league, they don’t know what Ken Holland is going to do, but if he does make a move, January 10th is their next game, they play the Ottawa Senators. If they lose to the Senators, there will be a lot of pressure from fans and that would be the time to do it because they have 10 days before their next game.
To review: Holland has never made an in-season coaching change and sources Kaplan talked to don’t know what, if anything, he is going to do. If Edmonton loses to Ottawa Monday – assuming the game isn’t postponed after COVID hit the Oilers again Saturday – Holland has 10 days before the next game to make a change. Nothing to see here, but if you slap a misleading headline on it, click-click-click. That wasn’t Kaplan’s doing.
Whether you’re writing it or reading it, reality is batting around what could or should happen or what we think might happen is the lifeblood of a lot of websites and media outlets. Tippett talk is top of mind here for obvious reasons. Speculation is fine and it will damn sure hit another level if the game is played and the Oilers fumble the chili against the truly awful Senators.
Just don’t try to turn items like Kaplan’s spit-balling into news. If the Oilers lose Monday, Tippett could be gone. Or not.


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I can’t imagine a scenario in which Holland will fire Tippett during the season. First, as duly noted, Holland has no history of making in-season changes to his coaching staff. There wasn’t much need during most of his time as GM in Detroit, but he did stick with Jeff Blashill during some tough years at the end of his tenure with the Red Wings.
Second, I don’t see the Oilers staying in the ditch once they get everybody healthy and back in the line-up. We can debate how Tippett deploys his talent and how flawed the roster is until we’re blue in the face, but this isn’t a team that’s as bad as it looks right now. Injuries and COVID have played into that. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a factor.
What I can see is Holland and Tippett deciding the off-season is the best time for a change – assuming they come to the conclusion it’s time to make a move at all. As we know, Tippett, who’ll turn 61 in August, needs a new contract. Like a lot of people, I think that Jay Woodcroft is worthy of a look as head coach. Waiting until the off-season to promote Woodcroft would avoid disrupting things down in Bakersfield.
The other worthy internal candidate is Glen Gulutzan. He’s got four seasons and 294 games as a head coach in the NHL on his resume with Dallas and Calgary. Like Woodcroft, he’d be able to hit the ground running and there’s no disruption here if Holland waits until the off-season. Nothing new about this shortlist – a lot of you like these two, with good reason.
As for external candidates in this scenario, we’ll have to see who is available. If Paul Maurice is ready to jump back into things, he’d be right at the top of my list, but at 54 he might be a bit too long in the tooth for those looking for a younger, fresh voice. I’ve always admired his grasp of the game. Maurice is one of those guys you can sit down and talk hockey with for hours.


Dec 21, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) scores a first period goal against the Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
  • In the Things I Didn’t Know category, I looked up @Carey Price’s stats and profile Saturday morning because there’s been some buzz about what the Montreal Canadiens might do with him trade-wise. I noticed he was born on Aug. 16, the same day as my son Sam and me. I’m still not interested in Price with his 35th birthday on the way and four more seasons after this one left on a contract that pays $10.5 million a year, even if the Habs retain half of that.
  • Holland could have and should have seen the potential problems with his goaltending by coming back with Mike Smith and @Mikko Koskinen as the Oilers tandem in the crease this season, according to Sunil Agnihotri. By the numbers, Smith and Koskinen are both performing close to what their recent history suggested they would. A lot of eyeballs saw this coming too.
  • Condolences to family and friends of Connecticut high-schooler Teddy Balkind, a Grade 10 student at St. Luke’s HS, who died Thursday afternoon after his neck was cut by a skate during a game. Having reported on a death like this in 1985 — a BCJHL player named Jeff Butler — as sports editor at the Peace Arch News in White Rock, B.C., I never once imagined I’d hear of such a horrific injury again. Godspeed.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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