In announcing Todd McLellan as the fourteenth head coach in franchise history, the Edmonton Oilers confirmed what had become the worst-kept secret of the off-season. The moment the native of Melville, Saskatchewan and the San Jose Sharks decided to officially part ways, was the moment Edmonton let their intention be known.
While Peter Chiarelli was the one who unveiled this organization’s latest “catch” to the masses, the duo of Bob Nicholson and Craig MacTavish had actually reached out to McLellan before the former Boston Bruins general manager was even brought on board. Just like his new GM, the fact the Oilers had Connor McDavid fall into their lap likely played a large role in the 47-year-old agreeing to sign on the dotted line but give Nicholson credit for making the most of the situation and using it to his advantage.
Bob Nicholson Strikes Quickly
Organizations a rarely given the opportunity to leverage a first overall pick to the degree this one has and it’s allowed this once storied franchise to essentially restructure their entire operation overnight. Instead of the focus being on the complete and utter disaster that was the previous two seasons and what many felt to be a rebuild headed down the wrong path, this now looks to be a situation moving in the complete opposite direction.
With that said, the combination of Nicholson making the changes he has to the front office team, adding McLellan into the mix and having a generational talent headed this way, has pretty much bought the Oilers another year to find their way. While this team will certainly need to take a step forward in its overall development in 2015-16, the calls for them to return to the post-season for the first time since 2006 will not be nearly as loud.
Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli, Bob Nicholson (and Connor McDavid) isn’t a bad group to dig out from. #Oilers
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) May 19, 2015
Make no mistake, the internal goal within the organization will be for this group to go out and get into the playoffs but it will not be its sole focus. Just listen to the words the new head coach used during Tuesday’s presser.
“We are not going to talk about playoffs here. We are going to talk about foundation. We are going to talk about creating an identity and building towards it. The playoff part of it exists after you accomplish those regular season things and we have work to do there.”
These guys are not dumb. Both Chiarelli and McLellan know they have been blessed with a wealth of talent in coming to this organization when they did, but they are also well aware of the work that needs to be done in order to get this thing turned around. We all know where this group’s biggest shortcomings are, most notably along the blue line and in goal, but even if the Oilers were lucky enough to address those concerns this summer, this is still going to take some time.
McLellan Should Be The Perfect Fit
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who honestly believes bringing in a guy with McLellan’s pedigree was a bad decision but that does not change the fact he will be the fifth head coach Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall have had during their NHL careers. The lack of continuity within the coaching ranks has certainly set this group back, but it does look as though this organization may have finally got it right this time around.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers, more patience will be needed and despite the vast majority of this fan base having had their fill of hearing about the future and what it might hold. That said, something tells me most of them will be alright with a little more suffering because for the first time in what probably feels like an eternity, they finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.