Oilers Make Coaching Changes

Oil coaches

We finally have some clarity when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers coaching staff for the upcoming 2018-19 season. Todd McLellan will return for a fourth season as Oilers’ head coach, but he will have an entirely new coaching staff under his guidance when the season begins.

The Oilers, while announcing that McLellan will return, also announced that Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers have been relieved of their duties and will not return next season. Herbers is likely to return to the University of Alberta after a three-year sabbatical with the Oil.

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Jay Woodcroft also will not be returning to Edmonton next season. Instead, Woodcroft will be heading to Bakersfield to become the head coach of the Bakersfield Condors. As a result, the Oilers announced they have fired Gerry Fleming and assistant Tony Borgford.

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What Now?:

This was the first step towards making changes behind the bench this off-season. Now, with Johnson and Herbers leaving the organization and Woodcroft heading to Bakersfield, the Oilers can focus on adding assistants at both levels.

I touched on this Wednesday afternoon here, and I’m sticking by my predictions. Thanks to reading the tea leaves, we were able to figure out the departures from the coaching staff. Now, we will try and do the same with the additions.

Former Anaheim assistant Trent Yawney has gotten a lot of play in regards to coming to Edmonton. TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned it earlier this week during a radio hit in Buffalo, while Elliotte Friedman mentioned it in his 31 Thoughts article this week.

Here’s Friedman’s thoughts on the topic.

19. Depending on what the Oilers want to do, Glen Gulutzan and Trent Yawney make sense for their bench. Gulutzan probably wants to see what’s out there as head coach first. But both know Todd McLellan. The latter assisted McLellan in San Jose for three seasons. This is longer than I thought Edmonton would take, but word is Peter Chiarelli wants McLellan to return.

Yawney was responsible for Anaheim’s defensive group and penalty kill the last three seasons. That was Jim Johnson’s role in Edmonton, and obviously is vacant right now. The Oilers need their PK to improve next season, and they could use a coach with a history of developing young defenders. Yawney checks off both boxes.

I’m not as sold on Glen Gulutzan being as good of a fit as Yawney in Edmonton, but I suspect he lands with the Oilers in the next little while. Gulutzan has a history of connecting with young players, and was an assistant in charge of the powerplay and forwards in Vancouver prior to taking over in Calgary.

He would fill the Woodcroft role, and also would serve as the ‘coach in waiting’ should the team struggle out of the gate.

In terms of the ‘eye in the sky’ role that Herbers once filled, I wouldn’t be shocked if Gulutzan’s assistant in Calgary, Paul Jerrard, fills that role moving forward. Jerrard could land there, or could land in Bakersfield as Woodcroft’s assistant.

Final Thoughts:

Personally, I’d rather have cleaned house behind the bench and that would have included Todd McLellan. That said, I think moving Johnson and Herbers out of the organization was the right move. On top of that, getting Woodcroft off the NHL bench after such a disastrous season on the powerplay and with the forwards taking such massive steps back was necessary.

If the Oilers come out of this with Trent Yawney and Glen Gulutzan on the staff, I think you can make an argument that the group of coaches will have been upgraded. I also think you can make the case that Woodcroft in Bakersfield is an upgrade on Fleming and his staff.

The Oilers didn’t do Fleming any favors in Bakersfield, they rarely gave him prospects and filled the roster with AHL veterans who simply did not produce. The team wasn’t winning and it wasn’t producing NHL’ers. That’s a problem, and change is needed down there.

Woodcroft will provide a new voice, and will be coaching a similiar style to McLellan in Edmonton. Not only that, but I’d imagine there will be a directive to play the kids more at the AHL level this coming season. That means bigger roles for guys like Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson and perhaps Kailer Yamamoto.

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