The Edmonton Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, but new coach Todd McLellan is asking fans of the northern Alberta franchise to remain patient with the hockey club.
McLellan, who took over from Todd Nelson behind the Oilers’ bench, is part of a complete front office overhaul in Edmonton, which also includes GM Peter Chiarelli taking over from Craig MacTavish.
“It’s hard for us to go to our great fans here in Edmonton and across the country and ask them to be patient again because it’s been a while,” McLellan recently told Sportsnet’s Gene Principe. “With that being said, we also have to establish a foundation as a new group, a new set of coaches (and) new players coming in – a foundation that will allow us to be successful, not only for as much as we can right now, but also months down the road and years down the road.”
Edmonton finished last season with a 24-44-14 record good for 13th in the Western Conference and 28th overall. The Oilers surrendered a league-high 276 goals and were 26th overall in goals for (193).
Despite upgrades throughout the lineup, McLellan remains focused on the big picture.
“You won’t hear us talk a lot about playoffs (this season),” the 47-year-old said. “I know there will be a lot of conversations and questions asked of me and the players, but my answer is always going to be we’ve got to formulate the foundation and get doing things right before we can take that big step.”
Part of that foundation could include a new captain. Veteran defenseman Andrew Ference has worn the ‘C’ for the past two seasons, but the 36-year-old has had conversations with McLellan about his future as the club’s captain.
“I brought it up … I like things out in the open,” Ference told the Edmonton Journal in August per NHL.com. “I don’t like walking on eggshells or awkward moments, player to coach, player to GM. This isn’t a vanity project. We should want everybody pulling on the same rope for the Oilers.”
Ference scored three goals and 14 points while registering a minus-17 rating and averaging 18:53 a night in ice time in 70 games last season.
“I sat and talked to Andrew about that situation,” said McLellan “I felt that my relationship with him at that time was really strong, and you have to have that as a coach-captain situation.”