The Edmonton Oilers picked up their first win under new head coach Ken Hitchcock last night, just roughly eight hours after general manager Peter Chiarelli relieved Todd McLellan of his coaching duties. It was just the second win in the past eight games for the Oilers and hopefully it’s the begin of a new era for the team under Hitchcock.
News of McLellan’s firing yesterday came as no surprise to fans and analysts around the hockey world, but the hiring of Hitchcock was not expected. After coming out of retirement to coach the Dallas Stars last season, it was thought that Hitchcock, a veteran coach of 22 NHL seasons and the league’s third all-time most winningest coach, was retired for good. But then Chiarelli came calling…
In any case, McLellan is out and Hitchcock is in. Again, no one was really surprised by McLellan’s firing, but the way in which it was handled is surprising to say the least. First off, McLellan was fired on a game day, on the road no less, just hours before puck drop in San Jose. You would think that Chiarelli would have made the move prior to the team’s California road trip to save McLellan the embarrassment of travelling as a “lame duck” coach.
For what it’s worth, Chiarelli looked extremely solemn during his impromptu press conference yesterday and then again later in the evening during an intermission interview with Sportsnet reporter Gene Principe. In fact, according to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, also of Sportsnet, McLellan did NOT take the news well, so it’s possible that Chiarelli was a bit shaken up.
Check it out this quote from Friedman in his latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet:
Peter Chiarelli looked stressed and exhausted when he spoke to Gene Principe during our Oilers/Sharks broadcast Tuesday night. Firing someone isn’t easy, and McLellan didn’t take it quietly. Everyone in the organization knows what’s at stake. The business side underwent a major reconstruction in the past year or so, with many employees (some estimated at least 50) moved out. That takes a toll, and now the hockey department is under the microscope.
I mean… who would go quietly? Especially after taking the fall for all of Chiarelli’s bad decisions? The fact of the matter is that McLellan inherited a team with offensive weapons like Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle, only to see more than half of those players jettisoned off for spare parts. It’s hard to not feel for the guy.
In any case, the beat goes on in Edmonton. Here’s hoping Hitch has what it takes to FINALLY get this team on the right track.