If Not Todd McLellan, Then Who In Edmonton?


Last night’s 8-3 defeat in St. Louis very well could be the beginning of the end for head coach Todd McLellan. While McLellan isn’t perfect by any means, he’s not the main culprit here, that’s woefully incompetent GM Peter Chiarelli. That said, the head coach almost always bites the bullet first and bottom line is the Oilers desperately need to make some sort of change.

The Oilers are 7-12-2 and sit seven points out of a playoff spot. A team that was supposed to compete for the Stanley Cup this June not only won’t be doing that, but won’t even be making the playoffs. This team is bad, there’s no way around that right now.

Since you can’t trade an entire roster of players sans McDavid, what is a GM to do? He likely should be the one taking the blame, but unfortunately Oiler upper management likely gives him the benefit of the doubt and Chiarelli isn’t going to fire himself. That leaves his head coach, who I now firmly believe is in danger.

Another loss tonight in Detroit, which is the likely outcome in the second half of a back-to-back following last night’s debacle, could be enough to force Peter Chiarelli to pull the trigger.

Why McLellan Could Be On The Hot Seat:

The record this season speaks for itself. The Oilers are 7-12-2 and basically already out of playoff contention. For a team that went to game seven of the second round a year ago and that was supposed to take the next step, that’s beyond unacceptable.

Some of Edmonton’s issues on the ice can be blamed on the coaching staff as well. Bottom line is, the Oilers haven’t been ready to go on a nightly basis all season long. Far too often they coast into games and take a whole period or more to get going. They’ve been arguably the worst team in the first period in the entire league this season. That’s on the coach and his staff.

Edmonton’s system also appears to have changed. It was pointed out numerous times on the NBCSN broadcast last night by Pierre McGuire, the Oil simply look lost. In the defensive zone, the team isn’t marking their man on a consistent basis and appears to be looking around trying to figure out what to do next. They look clueless out there more often that not. That is on the coach and his staff, it reminds me of the Dallas Eakins’ days.

McLellan said it best last night, “That’s indefensible on my behalf.” He’s right, it is, and efforts like last night may just cost him his job in the coming days.

The Possible Replacements:

There isn’t a current NHL head coach on McLellan’s staff. I wouldn’t trust Jay Woodcroft, Ian Herbers or Jim Johnson to take over in the event McLellan was fired. On top of that, I don’t believe AHL head coach Gerry Fleming is capable of running the NHL bench at this time.

Craig MacTavish: No list would be complete without an ex-Oiler on it. MacTavish was largely successful coaching the Oilers in the 2000’s and notoriously got the most out of lesser rosters. It’s possible that MacT could get something out of this group, but he’s been out of coaching for a while and I’m not sure how effective he would be at this point. I feel like the game has passed him by in this regard. That said, don’t rule him out as an interim option for the rest of the season if a change is made.

Darryl Sutter: The former LA bench boss had a lot of success coaching heavy hockey in Los Angeles and this current Edmonton roster would fit his style perfectly. He’s got a decent goalie, a lot of heavy players, and a little skill at the top. I don’t know if he could get them to the playoffs, but I do think he could get more out of this roster. Sutter is an Alberta guy and brother Duane has a role in the team’s front office. To me, he’s the most logical option outside of the organization if a change is made.

Dave Tippett: The former Arizona bench boss knows both Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli well from previous international work and Tippett was connected to Edmonton back around the summer of 2012. Currently unemployed after a shocking split with Arizona late last June, Tippett is an interesting potential candidate. His coaching style perfectly fits this roster, much like Sutter, and he could help Edmonton tighten things up defensively.

Final Thoughts:

I’m not exactly sure what is going to happen next with the Oilers. This club is lost right now and this season is just about dead in the water. Personally, I wouldn’t fire Todd McLellan, but if I were a betting man I’d put my money on it happening. McLellan can only operate with the tools he has, and that falls on the GM, but as is the tradition in sports the GM usually gets to scapegoat his coach.

Is it fair? We all damn well know it isn’t, but that’s the reality of the situation. McLellan shouldn’t lose his job, but I can absolutely see it happening within the next week if the losing doesn’t stop.

If that happens, I believe that Darryl Sutter would be the choice of Oiler management to come in and run the bench for at least the rest of this season. He fits the Chiarelli template and would appease the fanbase in the sense that he is an outside hire.

Now, we wait and see what happens.

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