Struggling Oilers fire McLellan
SAN JOSE, CALIF. — The Edmonton Oilers fired coach Todd McLellan on Tuesday and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock with hopes of reviving a team languishing in sixth place in the National Hockey League’s Pacific Division.
McLellan was in his fourth season behind the Oilers’ bench. The team missed the playoffs in two of his previous three seasons despite having superstar Connor McDavid on its roster, and the Oilers were just 9-10-1 entering their game Tuesday night at San Jose.
“It’s tough to pinpoint what we need, but we’re all to blame here,” McDavid said following the morning skate. “This obviously isn’t on Todd at all. It’s on us as players. That’s just how the business works sometimes. We got to wake up here.”
McLellan is the fourth coach to be fired already this season, following John Stevens in Los Angeles, Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Mike Yeo in St. Louis.
The Oilers have lost six of their last seven games and only the Blues and Kings are below them in the Western Conference standings.
“I felt it was time to make a change,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “Obviously we’re in a rough patch here. We’re leading into American Thanksgiving. It’s a bit of a template for making the playoffs. I felt I was seeing some things that I had seen last year after not seeing them for quite a fair bit this year, and these recurring themes, I wanted to nip them in the bud.”
The 66-year-old Hitchcock announced his retirement in April after a 22-year coaching career, which included a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He had two stints in Dallas as well as head coaching stops in Philadelphia (2002-06), Columbus (’06-10) and St. Louis (’11-17).
The Edmonton native has the third-most wins in NHL history with an overall record of 823-50688-119 (.603 winning percentage), behind only Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins) and Quenneville (890). He has guided teams to eight division titles and twice to the best record in the NHL. He captured the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach in 201112 with St. Louis.
“It’s definitely going to be tough,” said forward Kyle Brodziak, who played for Hitchcock in St. Louis. “It’s always an adjustment. Guys will have to get used to different styles. Hitch is a hard coach, He’s going to be tough on guys and demand a lot. We have to be ready to produce”
St. Louis made the playoffs in each of Hitchcock’s five full seasons, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2016. The Blues abruptly fired Hitchcock in February last year, cutting short what was already going to be his last season in St. Louis.
He returned to Dallas after 14 seasons elsewhere, with the hope of getting the Stars back to the playoffs but a late-season slump kept them out for the second straight year and the eighth time in 10 seasons.
Ken Hitchcock, seen in 2016, is taking the reins of a languishing Edmonton Oilers squad.