It's a dangerous time to be a coach in the NHL. The Oilers' Todd McLellan held out longer than expected -- he was the odds-on favorite to be the first coach fired this season -- but he was ousted on Tuesday after a 9-10-1 start to the season. McLellan is the fourth coach to be fired this season, joining the Kings' Joel Stevens, the Blackhawks' Joel Quenneville and the Blues' Mike Yeo (who was fired on Monday).
The #Oilers have named Edmonton native Ken Hitchcock as their new Head Coach after relieving Todd McLellan of his duties earlier this morning. pic.twitter.com/joNXTLMXol— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 20, 2018
For McLellan, the leash was always short. The team underachieved in 2017 after losing in the second round of the playoffs the previous season, and having arguably the best player in hockey at the moment is both a blessing and a curse. The Oilers have gotten next to no production from anyone not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, and although McDavid is only 21, they'd like to set him up for success sooner rather than later.
McDavid has 28 points -- 12 goals and 16 assists -- but with a hand in just under half of the Oilers' 57 goals, the team wants to get a lot more out of the talent around him.
Ken Hitchcock will take McLellan's seat on the bench. You can't look for a more experienced guy to take the reigns in Edmonton. He has a career record of 823-506-119, and he won the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999. Hitchcock retired from coaching after last season after going 42-32-8 in his second stint with the Stars. He was still a consultant with the Stars, per Pierre LeBrun, but the team gave the Oilers permission to speak with him about the job, which ultimately led to his unretirement.
Hitchcock is currently third all-time in wins, trailing only Quenneville (890 wins) and Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins).
McLellan's record with the Oilers was 123-119-24, and he had the remainder of this year and next year remaining on his contract. The Oilers are hoping that Hitchcock can build something around McDavid and Draisaitl. Hitchcock knows scorers -- the 1998 team had the likes of Mike Modano and Brett Hull -- and nothing would be better for Oilers fans than to see McDavid and Draisaitl develop into a similarly effective duo. In that regard, Hitchcock may be the perfect coach, at least as far as the first line goes. However, it's the depth that really needs grooming in Edmonton.