At the time of this writing Dave Tippett has not been hired by the Edmonton Oilers. According to multiple reports throughout the last couple of days though, his hiring with the club seems to be imminent. The Oilers’ biggest problem right now is preventing goals against. With Tippett’s focus on defense, he would be a perfect match for the team.
As already mentioned, Tippett is seen as a defensive-minded coach, so there is some concern among Oilers fans that he may hinder the development of young skilled players on a team that is overflowing with them. Young prospects who are near NHL-ready status such as Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Evan Bouchard, Joel Persson, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear may see much of their development occur with a coaching staff that is led by Tippett.
It’s very important that these young players find their footing and hold on to their spots if they crack the NHL roster sooner rather than later, and it’s also important for Tippett to ensure that these kids are given a fair chance to succeed and get the most out of them right away. While there is concern young prospects may be hindered offensively by Tippett, I have very little concern in his ability to continue to get the most out of players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Throughout his career as head coach of the Dallas Stars (2002-2009) and Arizona Coyotes (2009-2017), Tippett’s star players produced at a high level without much, if any, regression in production. What intrigues me about having him at the helm of the Oilers will be his attention to detail on defense, team structure and getting the most out of the bottom-six in a lineup that desperately needs to find some depth scoring to take some of the weight off of McDavid and Draisaitl.
The attention to team defense is an absolute must for the Oilers to succeed and make a run at the playoffs. In the past two seasons, the team ranks 26th in five-on-five goals against, and are even worse (27th) when taking into consideration all situations.
When it comes to offense at five-on-five, the Oilers rank 20th in that same span. The offense at five-on-five is not optimal, but it’s clear that they need to start focusing on giving up less goals first, and then worry about scoring goals later. For a team that has McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins up front, I am not concerned about them being able to continue scoring while the rest of the team focuses on their attention to detail in the neutral zone and defensive zone.
This isn’t to say that the Oilers’ big three should not be buying into team defense. I’m only suggesting that with their combination of speed and skill, it’s possible that they can produce offense at their career levels by forcing turnovers and making quick transitions from defense to offense rather than trying to wait for the defensemen to find them in open ice or dump and chase and cycle down-low and work the puck to the front of the net for scoring opportunities.
Tippett’s Past Is His Strength for the Oilers
Tippett’s teams used to give the young and skilled Oilers fits when they played each other. From 2009-2017, the Oilers went a combined 10-18-8 against his Coyotes, averaging just 2.3 goals per game and 3.2 goals against. Every time I would look at the schedule and see the Coyotes as the next opponent, I would shudder and debate not even watching the game. They were boring and played such an irritating style that got under my skin as a fan.
Now imagine it the other way around. Fans of other teams seeing Tippett’s Oilers next on the schedule, knowing they are not only up against the two-headed monster in McDavid and Draisaitl, but also against a team that will be hard to play against and frustrate the players on the ice. It’s this exact reason why I think he would be a perfect match for the Oilers.
Having arguably the best player in the world with a supporting cast playing a system designed to frustrate opponents and cause turnovers in the neutral zone is a dream come true for me. I want other teams and fans to be agitated when going up against the Oilers. I want them to look at the schedule and debate internally whether it’s worth watching the game or not. I want this team to finally make their opponents get on their plane and leave the city of Edmonton as fast as possible once the final buzzer sounds.
With Tippett at the helm, this is a dream that has a realistic chance of becoming reality. Time will tell whether he is a good fit for the Oilers, but as it stands right now, I’d say he is a perfect match.