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Todd Nelson - Victim Of Circumstance?

If the Oilers didn't win the McDavid sweepstakes, would Todd Nelson be the Oilers coach?

Is Todd Nelson a victim of circumstance?
Is Todd Nelson a victim of circumstance?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 might just be another throwaway season for Oiler fans, but it was certainly one to remember for Todd Nelson.


Nelson had the distinction of coaching in two professional leagues in 2014-15, and looked to be a serious contender for the full-time gig in Edmonton.  Everything changed after the Oilers won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, and thus, the right to draft Connor McDavid.

Once the Oilers won the right to draft McDavid, wheels started spinning.  Kevin Lowe was promptly relieved of his duties, as was Craig MacTavish.  Almost immediately, the Oilers hired former Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan to steer the ship.  There was some talk of Nelson perhaps joining McLellan as an assistant, but that was before Nelson interviewed with Grand Rapids (AHL) and nabbed the position.


After taking the OKC Barons to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as head coach, Todd Nelson had the unenviable position of filling in after the unceremonious departure of Dallas Eakins.  In 2014-15,  the Oilers flopped out to a scintillating 19 points (7-19-5) in 31 games with Eakins at the helm.  Under Todd Nelson, the Oilers finished the the next 51 games with a record of 17-25-9, good for 43 points.  That's not a huge difference, but under Nelson, a few things seemed to go right.  Nail Yakupov started to come on.  The power play clicked.  It wasn't a stark uptick in the standings, and the Oilers quite possibly were regressing to the norm in a good way, but the Oilers *seemed* better with Todd Nelson at the helm.

Over an 82 game season, 43 in 51 translates to 69 or 70 points.  If that's where Edmonton was under Nelson (and that's not good), they were egregiously poor (about 50 points total) under Eakins.

Fast forward to the draft lottery, and McJesus happens.  Everybody is out, new folks roll in.  If the Oilers held their third overall position in the NHL Draft instead of lucking out into the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, it's fair to suggest that he would've gotten a harder look at being named the permanent head coach in Edmonton.  Because the Oilers lucked out, I think Nelson's fate quickly changed.

While I can't say for certain that Nelson would be Edmonton's coach in October, I think we can safely say that he's a victim of bad (or good?) luck.  Maybe Bob Nicholson gets the call without winning the lottery,  but I have a hard time thinking that both Chiarelli and McLellan fall into place if the Oilers won the right to take Mitch Marner.

Whether Todd Nelson finds work at the NHL level again remains to be seen, but it's fair to reason that his chance at becoming the permanent head coach of the Oilers fell precipitously after the draft lottery.