What had already been feeling like rock bottom for the Edmonton Oilers got even worse on Wednesday night. Not only did they drop their fifth straight, but they were forced to play without their captain in Connor McDavid and could be without him for even longer as he has been placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.
After Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers have just two wins in their last 13 games, a stretch no one has seen coming after their hot start to the 2021-22 campaign. Of course, there were signs things may cool down given how much they were relying on Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and a red hot power play, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t view them as a playoff team.
Through 34 games now, however, the playoffs are starting to feel less and less likely by the day. While they do still hold down the final wild-card position in the Western Conference, they have just one more point than the Winnipeg Jets who have two games in hand. It is extremely disappointing for a team many thought had a shot at a Stanley Cup this season, and as a result, many fans are calling for a coaching change.
From my standpoint, I believe Dave Tippett is a very good head coach. I personally think general manager Ken Holland deserves the blame for what has happened, as he failed to address many needs for the Oilers this offseason. However, a coaching change may provide a spark for this team to turn things around and get back to performing like a playoff-caliber team. If Holland does indeed choose to move on from Tippett, here are some options he could, and likely would consider bringing as a replacement.
After being regarded as the best head coach in the game during his time with the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock became highly criticized during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and since being fired has had several stories come out about his very questionable motivational tactics.
Due to stories that came out about Babcock after being fired by the Leafs, most Oilers fans have no interest in seeing him as their team’s new coach. However, the rumors are out there, mainly due to his connection with Holland. The two spent many years together in Detroit and helped the team win a Stanley Cup in 2008.
While he may not be the right fit for this team, there is no denying Babcock’s success in his career. Not only has he missed the playoffs just twice in 15 seasons, but he is just one of eight coaches to have 700+ career wins. If Tippett is to be relieved of his duties, you can guarantee Holland will at the very least consider bringing in Babcock as the replacement.
Though he is currently working as an analyst for TNT, Rick Tocchet is looking to get back into the league as a head coach and was in the running this offseason to become just that for the Seattle Kraken. As we now know, they instead went with Dave Hakstol, and as a result, Tocchet is still on the market.
Tocchet, who played in over 1100 NHL games, was the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes from 2017-2021. He was also the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for parts of two seasons from 2008-2010 and has had roles as an assistant with the Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Though his coaching background isn’t as lengthy as some others available, he commands a ton of respect from the fearless style he played with. While his time with the Coyotes didn’t work out as anyone had hoped, he was put in a tough spot with a roster that lacked top-end talent. Joining a team with elite players in McDavid and Draisaitl would be a thrill for the 57-year-old, and many in the Oilers locker room would feel the same way about having him as their coach.
Despite starting the 2020-21 season with a 9-5-4 record as the head coach for the Montreal Canadiens, head coach Claude Julien was fired in what was his fifth season with the team. Prior to joining the Habs, Julien spent plenty of time as the head coach of the Boston Bruins and was a part of their 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team.
While some think that Julien is outdated for today’s game, underlying numbers show that he actually ran a well-balanced offensive structure while in Montreal. The issue there was that he was without a true number one center, often having to rely on players like Max Domi and Phillip Danault to try and live up to that role. It goes without saying that wouldn’t be an issue with the Oilers given the star power of McDavid and Draisaitl down the middle.
Over the years, many have criticized the defensive play of the Oilers, and believe that in the past two seasons McDavid and Draisaitl have hidden some of their major issues in their own end. While the blueline may be lacking in overall talent, Julien has been known for being a fantastic defensive-minded coach over his lengthy career, which could be very beneficial for this squad. There are certainly worse options available than the former Jack Adams Award winner.
The final option, and one that many Oilers fans on social media have been discussing, is an in-house option in Jay Woodcroft. For those who are unaware, Woodcroft is currently the head coach for the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate in the Bakersfield Condors, a position he has held since the 2018-19 season.
By all accounts, he has done a solid job with some of the Oilers’ top prospects in players like Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, and others. Prior to his tenure with the Condors, he spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Oilers, meaning players like McDavid and Draisaitl already have relationships with him.
While some may be hesitant in hiring a person with no head coaching experience at the NHL level, it is important to remember every experienced coach had to start somewhere. Sometimes, getting newer and younger blood into the game can be beneficial, especially when dealing with today’s athletes.