Strug­gling Oil­ers fire McLel­lan

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - JOSH DUBOW, STEPHEN WHYNO AND JOSHUA CLIPPERTON

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ken Hitch­cock, seen in 2016, is tak­ing the reins of a lan­guish­ing Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers squad.

Todd McLel­lan

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