According to Bob McKenzie, the Edmonton Oilers’ coaching gig is Dave Tippett’s to lose. McKenzie reported yesterday that not only is Tippett the leading candidate for the job, but he’s also currently the only candidate.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Would you approve of Ken Holland’s decision to hire the veteran Tippett to be the next Oilers head coach? If not, which direction do you think they should go?
Tippett earned his first NHL head coaching gig in 2002-03 with the Dallas Stars shortly after the end of the Ken Hitchcock era. He coached the Stars for six seasons, reaching the playoffs in the first five but missing them in 2008-09, which ultimately led to his firing.
Immediately after that, Tippett was hired by the Phoenix Coyotes. He would lead a franchise lost in the desert to three of their most successful seasons since relocating from Winnipeg, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2011-12. After that playoff run, though, the team declined, and Tippett’s Coyotes missed the playoffs in five-straight seasons. He was let go just one year after John Chayka took over as Coyotes’ general manager as the two parties didn’t see eye to eye.
In 14 years as a head coach at the NHL level, Tippett has made the playoffs eight times and he’s made it past the first round three times. He won the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year in 2009-10 when his staunch defensive style led the Coyotes to a 50-win season, their best in franchise history in either Winnipeg or Phoenix.
Tippett is known for his old school, defensive-oriented style, which, at a glance, makes his sound a lot like his predecessor in Dallas, Ken Hitchcock. That said, while there are similarities between the styles of the two veteran bench bosses, Tippett is known as much more of a player’s coach than Hitchcock. Part of the reason, it seems, the Oilers ultimately decided not to bring back Hitchcock for another season was because the team didn’t respond to his hard style.
Tippett is definitely a “player’s coach”; he gives ice-time to whoever is having success, no matter what line he plays on. One example is Rob Klinkhammer, who had played a grand total of 16 games in the NHL before coming to the Coyotes’ organization. He started in the AHL, got called up to fill a roster spot lost to injury, scored in his first game, and remained with the big team for the rest of the season. He also keeps criticism of his players in-house, which helps with trust.
The team has switched gears significantly from Gretzky to Tippett, which is most apparent in the Coyotes’ draft selections over the past few years. Under Gretzky, offensively gifted players like Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris, and Viktor Tikhonov made the NHL roster immediately after being drafted, and in retrospect that stunted their development. With Tippett, the Coyotes have taken a much more conservative approach; players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brandon Gormley, and the aforementioned Boedker have received more time in the minor and major-junior leagues to work on their games and develop into solid two-way players.
That sounds like something right out of Ken Holland’s playbook. As we know, Holland loves to let players develop in the minor leagues and never rushes players to the NHL level right out of the gates. In his time in Dallas, we saw Tippett develop a handful of good players, like James Neal, Jussi Jokinen, Loui Eriksson, Matt Niskanen, and Trevor Daley. That wasn’t the case in Arizona, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson is really the only jewel developed during his time in the desert. But is that a Tippett issue or a scouting issue?
The Oilers are in an interesting situation right now. While the organization wants to see success in the short-term, there’s also a major focus on the long-term. The Oilers have a roster right now that might be good enough to make the playoffs if everything goes right, but the largest reason for optimism is a wave of very solid prospects working their way up from AHL Bakersfield.
What say you, Nation? Is Tippett the right guy to lead the Oilers through this semi-rebuild? He’s known as a player’s coach but is he too old school for today’s game?