There are many ways one could describe Edmonton Oilers new head coach Dave Tippett. Among them, fans can now include informative as an adjective.
Tippett took some time to chat with Oilers Now radio host and color commentator for the Edmonton Oilers Bob Stauffer. For over 20 minutes the two discussed Tippett’s thoughts on the franchise, the season to come and the approach he’d be taking in certain areas. Tippett didn’t share everything, but he shared enough that fans should be excited about what the new coach has planned.
Looking at Pairs
When asked about how he’ll try and deploy his lines and the strength the team has in certain areas, Tippett didn’t shy away from tipping his hand a bit. “Right now you’re looking at [Connor] McDavid and [Leon] Draisaitl, I think you look at [James] Neal and [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins and then you know it goes down from there,” Tippett explained.
But it wasn’t just trying to find the right pairs on offense that had Tippett’s focus. The coach said he was examining where pairs on the penalty kill might exist and explained, “Until you get on the ice, see what’s going up and down, who complements each other, it’s hard to put them in stone.”
In speaking specifically about McDavid and Draisaitl, Tippett said some of those two playing with each other depends on what else you have in your lineup. That said, McDavid and Draisaitl have proven they work well together. Calling them a “dynamic duo”, he said they also like to play with each other and that’s important too.
Tippett to Give Neal Opportunities
When asked by Stauffer about the history Tippett has with Neal and how much he’s anxious to work with the Oilers new left-winger, Tippett had high hopes for what Neal could provide the Oilers.
“He’s excited to come to Edmonton, he’s excited for the opportunity to put that last year behind him, so that’s a good first step.”
From there, Tippett said he told Neal he’ll be offering lots of opportunity in training camp and exhibition and we’ll see how the rest of the roster shapes itself, seeing where the best spot for him will be. Initially, it sounds like he’s penciled in to play alongside Nugent-Hopkins. “We’ve got to play him with some good players,” Tippett said.
Tippett Isn’t Worried About Toughness
Tippett was asked about the intangibles Milan Lucic brought to the team and if not having that intangible inside the organization would be an issue. He responded by saying he wasn’t at all worried about getting pushed around.
With players like Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira and Darnell Nurse on the team, he didn’t think team toughness would be an issue and that the Oilers wouldn’t be intimidated.
Russell to Play Left Side Defense
Not ready to reveal his defense pairings, Tippett said he has thought about where he’ll place defensemen. Tippett won’t rule out the chances that young guys like Evan Bouchard or Ethan Bear will be ready and push for roles in the top six.
Where Tippett was more forthcoming, he explained that knowing Kris Russell can play both sides of the ice and that he’s often played his off-side while part of the Oilers organization, Tippett would rather see Russell on the left side where he likes him better.
Oilers Third-Line Center Search
“I think we’re going to look at some different people,” said Tippett when asked if the third-line center spot was wide open for the taking. He believes Gaetan Haas would make a case for consideration, he said Khaira would get a look there and that Khaira wanted to try to take the next step in his development as a player.
It sounded throughout the interview as though Tippett had some time for Khaira and that he’s going to call upon him often.
Sam Gagner Is Not Getting a Look at Center
One player who won’t be getting a look at the third-line center position is Sam Gagner. Tippett has a history with Gagner from his time in Arizona and said of Gagner’s specific skill set, “I like him better on the wing and I know him a little better than the other guys just because I had him in Arizona before.”
Calling Gagner a good complimentary player who was smart and had good skill, he would be a guy that might jump around the lineup a bit until the Oilers found the right fit for him.
Penalty Killing Players Key to Oilers Goals Against
Tippett said the signing of players like Markus Granlund and Josh Archibald will be huge for Edmonton for a number of reasons. First, they provide speed, smarts, and penalty-killing ability. The reason that’s important is that Tippett wants McDavid and Draisaitl to play less time down a man.
He said both of the new Oilers acquisitions would be key on the penalty kill and said, “from a coaching standpoint, they are players you can put on the ice in a lot of different situations and know they are going to get the job done.”
Adding Brian Wiseman to the Coaching Staff
The biggest thing about Wiseman is how good he is with dealing with skilled players. A former player for Tippett, Wiseman is big on skill development and translating skill into the game.
Tippett said he’ll get a big role in working with the young players and the skill of the team. He called Wiseman a great fit in their coaching group and with this team.
Phenomenal Competition in Bottom Six
Tippett said one of the things he was most excited about was just how much competition there was going to be in the bottom six of the Oilers lineup. He started to rattle off names of players who were going to come in and compete for spots on the roster that weren’t guaranteed.
Saying some young players might come in and push others out, that makes everyone better and, as a result, makes the team better.
Oilers to Split Netminder Duties
Tippett was glad to see the Edmonton Oilers had two potential No. 1 goaltenders signed to the team. Saying he knows Mike Smith was a bit older, he said Smith was an incredible athlete and said, “I think we have an unbelievable situation where you’re going to have both guys that are capable of winning a game at any time, both of them will always be fresh..”
Tippett said he noticed Mikko Koskinen looked tired down the stretch and he’s glad the Oilers have the ability to ensure that whenever each goaltender gets in, they’ve been well-rested.
In the 20-minute interview, it became clear that Tippett had ideas and expectations for the Oilers. He’s got a gameplan that may not make Edmonton a playoff team but certainly gives them a chance to win each night.
The rest will be up to GM Ken Holland. If Holland can add one or two more pieces to Tippett’s group, the Oilers could be in good shape.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”