TSN’s Darren Dreger has confirmed this morning that the Edmonton Oilers will not be bringing interim head coach Ken Hitchcock back this season. The news comes about an hour before Ken Holland is slated to be named the tenth General Manager in club history.
Hitchcock was hired in November to replace Todd McLellan after a slow start to the season. Although Hitch had the Oilers in a playoff spot at the Christmas break, Edmonton fell apart shortly after and never made their way over the cut-line again.
As Dreger mentions, it is very likely that Hitchcock stays on as an adviser to Holland and his new staff. CEO Bob Nicholson mentioned that Hitchcock’s contract to coach was to run until the end of the 2018-19 season, while there was a multi-year advising deal that would take effect this summer.
It’s not a surprise that Hitchcock is out as coach, considering a new GM is coming in and the Hitchcock Oilers showed signs of actually regressing in many key areas. Their possession metrics got worse, and I thought the veteran coach mishandled the roster down the stretch in a few key areas.
Candidates to take over the job are not known at this time, but one can expect names to start coming out soon. The coaching process will be one of the first major moves of Holland’s tenure.
I’d label former Oilers AHL coach and interim boss Todd Nelson as a strong candidate. Currently an assistant with the Dallas Stars, Nelson is familiar with the organization and with Holland. Nelson served as the head coach for AHL Grand Rapids in the Detroit organization after leaving Edmonton.
Veteran bench bosses Dave Tippett and Dan Bylsma have both been connected to Edmonton in recent days, while Toronto assistant DJ Smith’s name had popped up not long ago.
More to come as it happens, but the next major search in Edmonton starts now. Who will Ken Holland peg as his first bench boss in Edmonton?