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Kings give McLellan his third head coaching job

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The Los Angeles Kings officially announced former Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan as their new head coach on Tuesday.

This continues a tour of the Pacific Division for McLellan, as he was most recently fired by the Edmonton Oilers.

From 2008-09 through 2014-15, McLellan served as Sharks head coach; he then spent 2015-16 through a portion of 2018-19 behind the bench with the Oilers, before making way for Ken Hitchcock. While the Sharks made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons (the final being the failed year, which in part cost McLellan his job), things didn’t go so swimmingly with Edmonton. While their run to Round 2 in 2016-17 represents the best season the Oilers have enjoyed in years, Edmonton only made the postseason that one time under McLellan, so he bares the mark of “not being able to get it done while having Connor McDavid on his team.”

Of course, McLellan didn’t pick the groceries, he just tried to do the best he could with those ingredients.

Unfortunately, you could also argue that his “cart” is full of expired (or nearly expired) and/or overpriced items, as the Kings sure looked like a slow, broken-down mess at times in 2018-19. McLellan inherited a tremendous Sharks team upon leaving as a Red Wings assistant, and he also came into Edmonton during McDavid’s rookie season, so this is the least promising situation McLellan’s started with. At least on paper.

There were rumblings that the Buffalo Sabres were also after Todd McLellan, including this recent bit from Pierre LeBrun:

Maybe McLellan sees more potential in the Kings (particularly in getting a few more years out of an aging core featuring Anze Kopitar [31] and Drew Doughty [29])? Or maybe this as much a statement about the way the Sabres are running things than what Los Angeles might be doing well?

Whatever the explanation might be, the McLellan era is set to begin for the Kings. How do you feel about the decision to have McLellan sit in the throne?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ken Hitchcock returns to coaching, replaces McLellan in Edmonton

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Ken Hitchcock’s retirement lasted a whole 221 days.

On Tuesday morning, the Edmonton Oilers announced what we’d all been waiting for: that head coach Todd McLellan had been fired. What we didn’t expect to hear was the 66-year-old Edmonton native getting back behind the bench to replace him.

McLellan’s days were numbered in Edmonton. After making the playoffs in 2017, we all expected that that was the beginning of the Oilers taking steps to being a respectable team again. Well, last season they crashed back back down and returned to having an early offseason.

In parts of four seasons in Edmonton, McLellan led the team to a 123-119-24 record. There was only so much Connor McDavid could do.

Saddled with some bad contracts (Milan Lucic, Kris Russell) and a few bad trades later (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle), general manager Peter Chiarelli was unable to build a support system around McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. It’s resulted in a 9-10-1 Oilers team that is heading for another summer of hoping to win yet another lottery.

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now for the Oilers and it’s going to take some serious re-shaping to turn things around. But will Chiarelli be the one in charge of that?

“I’m certainly not absolving myself of any responsibility on the player personnel and this isn’t just an indictment of Todd or the players,” Chiarelli said Tuesday. “This is a collective thing. It’s our job to get to the playoffs. We owe it to our fans and I felt this was the right move for it.”

As for Hitchcock, whose status will be evaluated at the end of the season, he announced in April that he would be retiring after a season back with the Dallas Stars and has been a consultant with the team since. While the NHL’s third-winningest head coach has been able to find success from a number of stops in his career, it’s hard to imagine him pulling a miracle in Alberta and steadying what looks to be a sinking ship.

MORE: How much longer can Oilers go on like this?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

How much longer can Oilers go on like this?

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The Edmonton Oilers are in year four of the Connor McDavid era, and at the risk of becoming a broken record here it looks like they are headed toward yet another wasted season if things do not dramatically turn around.

Soon.

Given that McDavid himself has met every expectation the hockey world could have had for him as a player, they should be on their way to becoming contender in the Western Conference. At the very least, they should be a group that is a consistent playoff team and is just a couple of tweaks away from being a contender. It has been enough time for the front office and coaching staff to assemble the right pieces around the game’s most dominant offensive force, especially given the assets that were already on the roster and in the team’s possession when McDavid was drafted in 2015 (they had a future league MVP on the roster, after all).

They are most definitely not that team, or anything close to being that team.

After dropping back-to-back games over the weekend to the Calgary and Vegas — the latter of which being a particularly ugly 6-2 loss on Sunday night to a disappointing Golden Knights team that has been crushed by injuries — the Oilers are on pace to finish with the exact same record they finished 2017-18 with.

A record that saw them miss the Stanley Cup playoffs by 17 points.

That is more than baffling; it is completely unacceptable.

They have now lost six out of their past seven games (and seven out of 10), have been outscored by nine goals on the season, and are still as top-heavy and overly reliant on McDavid to carry them as they have been during the first three years of his career. Just about the only reason for optimism here is the fact they do have McDavid, and the rest of their division is so completely mediocre that it has left the door open for them to maybe — emphasis on maybe — steal a playoff spot.

But when you have an MVP caliber player at the top of your roster (and another star-level player in Leon Draisaitl) you should not have to depend on the rest of the teams around you to simply be more inept than you are just to give you a chance to get in the playoffs.

Last year’s disastrous results should have put everyone in a position of power — from general manager Peter Chiarelli, to head coach Todd McLellan — on the hot seat.

You would also have think that with yet another slow start the temperature is only starting to increase. Especially since all of the same problem exist, from terrible special teams play to a stunning lack of depth at pretty much every position.

The biggest issue has, once again, been with the asset management of the roster. It was highlighted once again this past week when Ryan Strome was traded straight up for Ryan Spooner, a shuffling of the deck chairs type of move where both teams hope a fresh start might spark the middling players involved.

Bigger picture, though, is with that trade the Oilers managed to turn a top-line winger in Jordan Eberle — a position where the Oilers have zero quality NHL depth — into a reclamation project in just a little more than one year.  It just continued a disturbing trend of taking high value players and working backwards. As I pointed on the day of the Strome trade, the cupboard wasn’t totally bare back in 2015. It is astonishingly bare today.

You just can not win by moving in the wrong direction, talent-wise, on so many trades.

The result today is a team whose top wingers are either one of their natural centers (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Draisaitl), or the likes of Drake Caggiula, Alex Chiasson, and Tobias Rieder. The latter trio are the top-scoring natural wingers on the tea so far this season.

None of them have more than 10 points entering the week.

None of them have ever topped 40-points in a single NHL season.

So again, the question remains, how much longer can this continue before meaningful changes get made?

And perhaps the more concerning question: What is there to make you believe the Oilers will get it right when they do make changes? Because they have made changes before. Todd McLellan is not the first coach to fail in Edmonton over the past decade-and-a-half. They changed coaches six other times between 2005-06 and McLellan’s hiring in 2015-16.

General managers have come and gone as well, from the end of the Kevin Lowe era in 2008, to Steve Tambellini, to Craig MacTavish, to Chiarelli.

They have had No. 1 picks. They have promising prospects. They have reasons for optimism that maybe this version of the rebuild was going to be the one to return the Oilers to glory.

The results: All the same. That points to an even bigger problem at the top — above even the head coach and general manager — because that has been the one constant in the organization. It also paints a disturbing picture for Oilers fans because it should be obvious that the current organizational structure is not working and that changes probably need to be made. But what faith do you have that the people in charge are going to make the right changes?

If history is any indication, you probably should not have much. It is a devastatingly frustrating cycle.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

McLellan: ‘You won’t hear us talk a lot about playoffs’

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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.”

Related: Report: McDavid to live with Hall this season

Yakupov’s a little too young to take McDavid under his wing

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Compared to rookie sensation Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov is a relative veteran of the NHL. Considering his bumpy path through three seasons, it’s no surprise that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of showing McDavid the ropes.

“I don’t think I’ll be a teacher. I’m too young for that,” Yakupov told the Edmonton Journal. “We’ve got lots of old guys to tell him things.”

Actually, judging by his interesting interview with the EJ, the 21-year-old may feel a little wistful that his substitute teachers won’t return to his side in 2015-16.

Yakupov acknowledged the chemistry he eventually developed with Derek Roy, a UFA sitting on the sidelines this summer.

“Especially a guy like Derek, who has played in the league for 10 years. He’s seen everything in the game. He could help a young kid like me,” Yakupov said. Soon as Derek got the puck, I was trying to get open for a shot.

“He gave me so much support and I was happy to be playing hockey again.”

Let’s highlight that last phrase: “I was happy to be playing hockey again.”

Just spit-balling here, but Roy could probably be had for a cheap price, and you could pair Yakupov with him for a third scoring duo outside Taylor Hall – Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The veteran and his pupil don’t represent the same threat that those other duos pose, yet they could enjoy some success against lesser opponents.

With Yakupov also needing to adjust from one Todd (Nelson) to another (McLellan), you almost get the impression that the Russian winger got the rug taken out from underneath him.

It’s a fascinating situation to watch, as he’s still very much in a sink-or-swim phase.