Despite a convincing victory Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers are making a coaching move. They are expected to relieve head coach Jay Woodcroft of his duties, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
A Zach Hyman hat trick lifted the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-1 win over the Seattle Kraken Saturday night, though the team still sits second to last in the NHL with a 3-9-1 record.
In a Stanley Cup-or-bust season, the Oilers’ atrociously bad start to the season — highlighted by the team’s dispiriting loss to fellow basement-dwellers, the San Jose Sharks — has cost Woodcroft his job.
Per the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones, this will be the fifth head coaching change of the Connor McDavid/Leon Draisaitl partnership. Of all the coaches to man the bench for McDavid and Draisaitl, Woodcroft has arguably had the most success.
Woodcroft rose from Bakersfield Condors bench boss to the big job in Edmonton, posting a .643 points percentage across 133 games. That’s the highest in Oilers history, above even the .616 mark posted by legendary coach Glen Sather.
Woodcroft took the Oilers to the Western Conference Final in 2022, where they fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. He lost to the eventual champions once again in 2023, dropping a hard-fought battle with the Vegas Golden Knights.
But with their season on life support, the Oilers needed to make changes in order to resurrect their Stanley Cup hopes. With no cap space to make trades, the easiest path to major change in Edmonton was via a coaching change, and the Oilers have now taken that route.
There is no word yet on who will take the reins in the meantime, though assistant coach Glen Gulutzan does have prior head coaching experience.
This is an attractive job due to the presence of the best player in the world on the roster, but there are some issues. After this season, Draisaitl will have just one year remaining on his contract.
If the Oilers fall well short of the playoffs this season, Draisaitl could reasonably question whether he’ll be able to win a Stanley Cup in Edmonton should he commit what is likely to be the rest of his prime years to the franchise.
McDavid has an extra year on his contract, so there will naturally be questions regarding his future as well, though the hire of his former agent Jeff Jackson as the team’s CEO of hockey operations makes it more likely he’ll eventually reach a deal on a contract extension.
Those questions are all for the offseason and beyond, though. The Oilers have a more immediate problem to wrestle with: how are they going to revive their playoff chances in a season where they were viewed by many as a true Stanley Cup contender?
With Woodcroft out, it appears the Oilers believe the first step to answering that question is a coaching change.