The Edmonton Oilers have had enough, and Ken Holland has finally fired a coach. Dave Tippett is out, according to Darren Dreger of TSN, after another embarrassing loss last night. The Oilers managed 41 shots but fell 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks, allowing early powerplay goals in both the first and third periods. Dreger adds that Jim Playfair has also been fired, while Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson from the Bakersfield Condors will take over as head coach and assistant respectively. In a release that followed, the team confirmed the dismissal of Tippett and Playfair, adding that assistants Glen Gulutzan and Brian Wiseman will remain with the team.
Tippett, 60, was in his third year as head coach of Edmonton and had thus far put up a 95-62-14 record. While that doesn’t look bad overall, the 23-18-3 mark this season just hasn’t been good enough for a team led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The team has struggled to defend, has had a carousel of inconsistency in net, and still doesn’t have the secondary scoring required to contend for the Stanley Cup. While a lot of that is due to poor roster construction, Tippett will pay the price after some of his deployment concerns.
Mike Smith started both ends of a back-to-back over the last two days, despite him just coming back off an injury recently. He lost both, allowing four goals in each, and now has an .890 save percentage on the season. Smith has been connected to Tippett for years, and hasn’t been able to play to the level he showed last season.
Notably, the veteran coach’s contract expired at the end of the season anyway, one that was unlikely to be renewed given the way the Oilers have performed this year.
Woodcroft comes in as a fresh face, having never been a head coach at the NHL level. He has been in charge of the Condors since 2018 and previously served as an assistant with the Oilers and Sharks, but those aren’t the most interesting assignments on his resume. It’s the years he spent with the Detroit Red Wings that stick out here given he’s now being promoted by Holland. Woodcroft was a video coach with the Red Wings right after his playing career came to an end, and comes from that coaching tree that spawned Todd McLellan, who eventually brought him to San Jose and then Edmonton.
This is the first time that Holland has fired a coach in the NHL, something he has been vehemently against in the past. At a press conference earlier this year, he suggested that dismissing Tippett wouldn’t be the answer and that the Oilers couldn’t “keep whipping through coaches” to try and solve the problem. Well, they are now on the seventh coach since the 2012-13 lockout, as Woodcroft will follow Tippett, Ken Hitchcock, McLellan, Todd Nelson, Dallas Eakins, and Ralph Krueger trying to get the best out of a frustrating lineup.