The Edmonton Oilers announced on Sunday that they have fired head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson. Here’s what you need to know:
Edmonton is 3-9-1 this season, tied for the second-worst record in the NHL. The Oilers have lost eight of their last 10 games. Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch will replace Woodcroft in Edmonton. Steve Smith will take over as interim coach in Hartford following Knoblauch’s departure. Woodcroft took over for Dave Tippett in February 2022 and led the Oilers to a 79-41-13 record. It is the fifth-best coaching record in the NHL during that time. Oilers star Connor McDavid is just 10 points off his 73-point streak this season, which would be the lowest output of his career outside of an injury-shortened 2015-16 rookie campaign. He told the media this week that his confidence is “not very high”.
The #Oilers announced today that head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson have resigned.
Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Chris Knoblach will remain in the head coaching role with the Oilers and will be joined by assistant coach Paul Coffey.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 12, 2023
Why did Edmonton make this move?
Changes in the Woodcroft systems in neutral and protected zones are not enough or fast enough. The Oilers were pouring in scoring chances and their goaltenders were struggling to stop them. The hope is that those adjustments will pay off in the long run and make the Oilers a better defensive team when it matters — in the playoffs. Instead, the Oilers dug themselves into a hole too deep to lose.
No one has ever seen this begin. Systematic changes are due. A big reason for Woodcroft’s departure as coach is that he has the worst team in the league in save percentage and the second worst team in five-on-five shooting percentage. It’s hard to win like that. – Daniel Nugent-Bowman, Oilers beat writer
What Knoblauch brings to the Oilers
Knoblauch coached McDavid with the OHL’s Erie Otters for three years and is considered an up-and-coming name in NHL circles. He will be the fifth coach in Edmonton’s McDavid era to lead the Oilers, following Woodcroft, Tippett, Ken Hitchcock and Todd McClellan.
Knoblach most recently served as the head coach of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, spending parts of five seasons there, and before that spent a two-year run as an assistant on Dave Hakstol’s staff with the Philadelphia Flyers. His resume includes a highly successful coaching career in junior hockey, winning an OHL title with Erie in 2017 and a WHL title with Kootenay in 2011. In the year with the University of Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton. – Chris Johnston, senior NHL writer
Will GM Ken Holland stay with the Oilers?
Ken Holland remains general manager. Sunday’s moves basically mean he has that title in name only. Knoblauch was seen as a star in the coaching ranks when he was McDavid’s bench boss in juniors with Erie of the OHL, but he was never a serious candidate for an NHL coaching job. Paul Coffey has never stood behind the bench in a hockey game and shows no interest in doing so. He will be the eyes and ears of owner Daryl Katz.
It’s hard to imagine Holland making these moves if he had both hands on the wheel. These decisions have Hockey Operations CEO Jeff Jackson’s fingerprints all over them. Sunday marks a clear transfer of power as Hollande completes the final months of his contract. – Nugent-Bowman
What are they saying?
McDavid said he woke up to a text message with news of Woodcroft’s shooting, adding, “I know the narrative is out there, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Asked for his reaction, McDavid said he was “surprised” and “didn’t see it coming.” Also, Woodcroft said, “He never lost his class.”
“I loved playing for Woody. I loved playing for Manse. Two guys who I think are incredible coaches. I think they will enter the league very soon.
Oilers center Leon Draisaitl echoed the sentiment: “He was a great coach. He will have much success wherever he goes. There’s no way he’s losing anyone here. Obviously, as players, we are the ones on the ice. We are as prepared as any team in the league for any given night. Obviously, it’s on us to get better.”
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(Photo: Sergey Belsky / USA Today)