Oilers Fire McLellan, Hire Hitchcock as New Coach
The Edmonton Oilers fired head coach Todd McLellan, replacing him with Ken Hitchcock.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the eighth time in 10 years, the Oilers make a coaching change. McLellan joins Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, and Todd Nelson on the growing list of bench bosses who, for the most part, paid for the sins of management over the years.
McLellan had his critics and their evaluations weren’t without merit. Still, he coached the Oilers in 2017 to their first 100-point season in 30 years, which also ended a decade-long playoff drought.
McLellan didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Rather, he paid the price for a starting goalie (Cam Talbot) who failed to regain his stellar 2016-17 form, for a defense that never really recovered from Andrej Sekera’s lengthy injury-related absences, for a lack of checking-line depth and right-wing scoring, for a once-intimidating power forward (Milan Lucic) whose best seasons are now behind him, and for a series of bad trades by general manager Peter Chiarelli that did more harm than good.
So now it’s Hitchcock’s turn to try and succeed where so many have failed. He ranks fifth all-time in NHL games coached. In 20 years with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues, Hitchcock has a record of 823-506-88-119. He guided the Stars to a Stanley Cup in 1999 and won the Jack Adams Award with the Blues in 2012.
Hitchcock has an impressive resume but there’s no certainty he can overcome the Oilers’ roster weaknesses and get them back on track this season. His hiring has the whiff of desperation from a general manager trying to keep his job. If Hitchcock fails, Chiarelli will be next out the door.