clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Besides Babcock, who would you want to coach the Oilers?

New, comments

Here's a look at seven high-profile coaches who would be interesting to see on the Oilers bench and John Tortorella

McLellan and the Oilers are openly flirting after his mutual breakup with the San Jose Sharks.
McLellan and the Oilers are openly flirting after his mutual breakup with the San Jose Sharks.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

C’mon Mike Babcock. Just say something. Anything.

It can be cryptic. Like, "You’re not asking the right questions." Wink. Then we can think, "Oh, is that a Rob Ford reference? Maybe he’s thinking Toronto."

Or "Thank you for loving me, but it’s my life. Have a nice day." Then we can say, "Oh! Those are all Bon Jovi songs. Definitely New Jersey."

Or wipe your mouth on Dallas Eakins’ sleeve OR WHATEVER. Just give us something to work with. Because right now everyone’s holding their breath, waiting to see where you’re going to coach next, and it looks like not a lot of big moves are being made until you make yours.

So in the interests of hot air and filling hockey speculation, I thought it would be fun to take a gander at some great hockey coaches and see what they might mean for an Oilers bench.

Here’s…

Seven coaches who could be coaching in Edmonton next year and John Tortorella

Mike Babcock

(All career statistics taken from www.hockey-reference.com)

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
950 527 285 .627 144 82 62 .569

He’s like Canada’s hockey dad and is the clear preferred coach for most teams. The only coach with an Olympic gold medal, a world championship, and a Stanley Cup, he has prior experience with Peter Chiarelli and Bob Nicholson on Team Canada.

Are the Oilers waiting to hear from Babcock before getting back to McLellan?

Todd McLellan

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
540 311 163 .637 62 30 32 .484

Right now Todd McLellan is looking like the most likely candidate for the job.

We know that McLellan and the Oilers have been publicly flirting and McLellan has said what the Oilers are offering is "enticing." He’s also currently coaching Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships where he gets to test drive Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Of course, he’s still listening to what other teams have to offer too.

Back when Dallas Eakins had his prick-gate interview at the end of January with TSN’s Hockey Analytics, Eakins revealed he regarded McLellan’s powerplay as the "gold standard" and something he tried to emulate.

McLellan was assistant coach under Mike Babcock with the Red Wings in 2005. He was in charge of the power play, and wouldn’t you know it, they were first in power play efficiency that year, and third in power play efficiency in 2007-2008 when they won the Stanley Cup.

Claude Julien

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
860 470 278 .612 109 61 47 .560

Peter Chiarelli has given him a job before and they’ve won a cup together. Why not a second time? It’s said the Bruins franchise is looking for changes this year. They already let go of Chiarelli and Julien’s job is also rumoured to be on the shortlist.

If Chiarelli can’t lock down Babcock or McLellan, might Claude Julien be ‘his guy’?

If we were to say Dallas Eakins exercised a heady, complicated style of coaching, then we could say Claude Julien is the opposite. Claude Julien is known for a simple, work-ethic driven style of coaching.

As Julien himself told the Boston Globe, he calls it "the clarity of expectation." Everybody knows their job and everybody is expected to show up to work every day.

He has more playoff wins than any coach in Bruins history. Nevertheless, it’s very likely Boston is looking for a fresh face.

Dan Bylsma

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
401 252 117 .668 78 43 35 .551

Of course now former Penguins GM Ray Shero is starting a new gig with the New Jersey Devils, everyone talks like Dan Bylsma going to New Jersey as well is a done deal. Shero says that’s no so, though. Bylsma doesn’t seem in a huge hurry to come back to the NHL as, according to www.rotoworld.com, is assistant coach of his son’s Under-15 team. (Begging the question, who is head coach?)

The face of serenity under fire - Dan Bylsma has the reputation of something like a chessplayer coach, mixing and matching his lineups to get the most out of Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin. His controversial pairings brought a lot of criticism from fans, but also success with his star players. Most of the time.

Also, Bylsma has experience taking a young superstar to a Stanley Cup. (Or was it the superstar who took Bylsma to a Stanley Cup?) Anyway, that is Edmonton’s story this year.

Bylsma said he wants to be on a team with "stability" though. The Oilers are not that yet.

Paul MacLean

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
239 114 90 .550 17 8 9 .471

The former Senators coach also worked alongside Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan in Detroit in 2007-08 when they all won a Stanley Cup together.

He comes from the camp as the top candidates for the Oilers job, and he likes to run a fast north-south skating game, which the Oilers have the material for. Why wouldn’t they have a chat with MacLean?

He is also a prickly pear, as they say, and is no stranger to cheapshots against his opponents … and his own players. Tyrant coaches may have less of a place in the NHL these days.

Ken Hitchcock

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
1322 708 429 .606 148 76 72 .514

"I think we are in 95 percent agreement with how the game is played," Ken Hitchcock said about Mike Babcock, according to redwings.nhl.com. "There’s one change defensively that we did than what they did, and then offensively it’s pretty close to the similar philosophy."

Ken Hitchcock and Mike Babcock are said to be friends and run fairly identical games. Babcock wanted Hitchcock on his Team Canada crew and they’ve spent a lot of time together debating hockey philosophy and picking each other’s brains. They both bring up the power play and penalty killing as key components of their game plan. Also, according to nhl.com, Hitchcock says he has learned a thing or two about building a family atmosphere where everyone does their part.

He is insistent on a conservative style of play, which reportedly led to problems with then Blues forward David Perron. You have to think it’d be a hard sell on guys like Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov too.

Hitchcock’s St. Blues have once again underperformed in the playoffs for the thrid year in a row and it’s said Blues upper management is said to be getting impatient.
What’s more, Hitchcock is from Edmonton. As a young man, over the ten years he coached the Sherwood Park AAA Midget Chain Gang he left with a staggering record of 575 wins and 69 losses. Maybe a homecoming is in order.

Todd Nelson

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
51 17 25 .422 n/a

Well this doesn’t seem very likely at this point. However Todd Nelson has certainly earned the admiration of fans and the players. He lightened the mood, brought camaraderie, and even surprise wins when the Oilers were flailing in their darkest days.

Granted, by the end of the season half the Oilers team was made up of Nelson’s Oklahoma City Barons team. But those players couldn’t have asked for a better coach to introduce them to the big time.

Keeping Nelson in an associate coach position would certainly make a lot of fans happy. Or maybe he’s just collateral damage in the Connor McDavid revolution.

John Tortorella

Regular season GP W L PTS% Playoff GP W L W-L%
936 446 375 .538 89 43 46 .483

I don’t actually think John Tortorella will ever be coach of the Oilers. And, really, it remains to be seen if he ever coaches in the NHL ever again. But you think I’m going to write an article about coaches and not bring him up?

He’s one of the most infamous coaches ever. He’s in-your-face, he’s an antagonist, he treats his players like cannon fodder. Losing players to blocked shots? He practically invented it.

He’s cringe worthy, and makes your skin crawl. And I think he likes it that way.

It may have happened in the past, but he’s certainly the only coach I’ve ever seen try to storm into an opposing teams dressing room, as he did during the great Flames brouhaha of January, 2014.

Think of what he’d do to the Oilers - Nuge diving in front of slapshots. Matt Hendricks’ penalty minutes double. Cripes, he’d probably leave bite marks in Justin Shultz.

And, oh, just imagine him putting the "battle" back in the Battle of Alberta with regular rematches against Flames coach Bob Hartley.

His ego is so big, NASA is exploring if it contains water. He’s vicious as a Doberman to his players and seeks no one’s admiration. It’s hard to tell if he’s media savvy or oblivious. He petulant to the media, but uses them as a weapon against both his opponents and his own players.

It’s said he hated being in Vancouver. Reportedly, he never bought a house there and they had to construct a makeshift bedroom in the Canucks offices in the hopes he would, you know, show up more. So if he hated being in Vancouver, there’s no way Edmonton is even something he’s ever even googled.

He completely soiled the bed during his negligent tenure in Vancouver. I for one think we’ve seen the last of John Tortorella. But part of me - the part that loves insane television - hopes we haven’t.