Woodcroft: ‘I haven’t watched much of the Edmonton Oilers since I was let go’

Edmonton Oilers Jay Woodcroft
Photo credit:Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
4 days ago
It’s been a little over five months since Jay Woodcroft unceremoniously left the Edmonton Oilers franchise, fired after a sluggish start to the season.
And in an appearance on Sportsnet’s Real Kyper and Bourne show Monday, Woodcroft says he hasn’t been keeping many tabs on his old organization. What he has been doing, however, is remaining in hockey circles, spending time with multiple teams in Europe.
“I got some great advice from some mentors around the league that I’ve worked with and some that I didn’t work with, and they said, ‘You’ve been doing this for 20 or so years straight going 100 miles an hour. It’s okay to take a deep breath and spend some quality family time,'” said Woodcroft, who is married and a father of two. “That’s something I really dug into.
“Right around the month of January when the calendar flipped, I was eager to flex some hockey muscles and eager to be around the game a little bit more. I spent the month of February over in Europe and was able to be around two quality organizations in two different countries. I was welcomed in by two different coaching staffs at two different points in their year. I picked up a few things here and there, and I’m certainly going to bring some of it in to my next opportunity wherever and whenever that might be.”
Woodcroft, who is set to join Team Canada at the World Championships as an assistant coach, spent nine years with the Oilers organization, starting off as an assistant coach in 2015-16 under then-head coach Todd McLellan. The pair, who came to Edmonton with experience working together with the Sharks, helped turn the Oilers into a playoff team, breaking through into the 2016-17 post-season, where the Oilers were ultimately eliminated in the second round.
When the 2018-19 season rolled around, Woodcroft was promoted to head coach of the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, Bakersfield Condors. Those Condors had much success over his tenure where he got the club to a 105-71-12-9 record, winning a division title in 2018-19 and the Pacific Divison playoff championship in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season.
The following year, after the Oilers sputtered through December and January eventually firing Dave Tippett in early February, Woodcroft took over as the interim head coach and the team caught fire. They went 26-9-3 down the stretch run of the regular season, making it to the Western Conference Finals, where they were eliminated in four games by the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche.
The interim tag was removed, and Woodcroft was given a three-year contract. The 2022-23 Oilers had an excellent regular season, going 50-23-9. They eliminated the L.A. Kings in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights.
One of the biggest storylines in hockey early this season was the Oilers’ struggles to start the year. Woodcroft tried to bring in some new defensive structure to the club, but it backfired leaving the club looking lost. In the middle of November, after a 3-9-1 start, Woodcroft was let go.
“I haven’t watched much of the Edmonton Oilers since I was let go there in November,” he told Kyper and Bourne. “That was a choice I made.
“I’ve spent more time studying the league and studying trends that are occurring (in) the league. For me, I’ve spent a lot of time during these playoffs watching the Eastern Conference.”
Woodcroft went on to talk about how impressed he’s been with how hard teams are playing in these playoffs and spoke about the physicality of them, adding, “It’s quite evident to me to see how the teams that are going to move on, the reason they are moving on.”
The NHL coaching carousel has spun at a pace that feels unmatched over the last decade. On Monday, Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol became the 17th coach to lose their job since the end of last season, with more than a few teams looking to secure new head coaches.
The Kraken and Sharks are the only teams with vacant positions behind the bench right now, while four teams have interim head coaches in the St. Louis Blues (Drew Bannister), the Ottawa Senators (Jacques Martin), the New Jersey Devils (Travis Green), and the L.A. Kings (Jim Hiller).
Given Woodcroft’s success working with young players and his ability to elevate teams, he should be in high demand when the coaching cycle picks up towards the end of the post-season.
But for now, Woodcroft’s focus is set on helping Canada win another gold medal at the Worlds with him on the staff.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

Check out these posts...