5 Things to Know About New Oilers Head Coach Jay Woodcroft

On Thursday, Jay Woodcroft was named head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Woodcroft replaces Dave Tippett, who was fired after two and a half seasons behind the bench. Since 2018-19, Woodcroft has served as head coach of the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate. He becomes the 17th head coach in franchise history; they’ve changed coaches nine times in the last 13 years.

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Woodcroft takes over an Oilers team that is sitting outside of the playoff picture with 38 games remaining on the schedule. Edmonton is in desperate need of a turnaround with just seven wins in 23 games over the last 10 weeks and a 0-2-0 record while being outscored a combined 8-1 on home ice since returning from the All-Star break. He’s 45, hails from Toronto, and can speak a bit of Russian. Here are five other things to know about the newest boss behind the Oilers’ bench.

The Woodcroft Coaching Dynasty

The Woodcroft boys – Craig, Todd, and Jay – are running things at the international, collegiate, and professional ranks of hockey. Jay’s oldest brother Craig, who was drafted 134th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988 but never played an NHL game, is the head coach of the Belarus men’s national team. Four years ago, he was an assistant coach on the Canadian Olympic team that won bronze at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Middle brother Todd is in his second year as head coach of the men’s hockey team at the University of Vermont, following four seasons as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Before getting into coaching, Todd scouted for a few NHL clubs and was the primary European scout for the Los Angeles Kings when they won the Stanley Cup in 2012.

Beyond supporting his brother, Jay has extra incentive to keep tabs on Todd’s team: Edmonton’s third-round pick in the 2021 Draft, Luca Munzenberger, is a freshman defenceman at Vermont.

The Smartest Guy in the Oilers’ Room

Woodcroft’s IQ extends well beyond defensive systems and power-play formations. He graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he played for the men’s hockey team from 1996 to 2000. In his senior season, he was the inaugural recipient of the College Hockey America (CHA) Student-Athlete of the Year award, which recognized the top academic player in the conference as voted by coaches.

Woodcroft was a pretty decent player at UAH, too. When he graduated, the 6-foot-1 forward ranked top 10 in program history with 123 career points. He also holds the team record for most short-handed goals in a season, with five in 1998-99.

A Long Way From Starting in the Film Room

After wrapping up his college career, Woodcroft spent a few years bouncing around North America’s minor pro leagues. He spent the 2004-05 season in Germany before turning an eye towards coaching. Woodcroft’s first job in the NHL was on head coach Mike Babcock’s staff as a video coach for the Detroit Red Wings, from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

In fact, Todd had served as an assistant coach under Babcock on Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the 2005 Men’s World Hockey Championship and connected his younger brother with the Detroit bench boss. Babcock hired Jay, and the rest is history.  

Todd McLellan Sharks
Jay Woodcroft (standing, left) was an assistant coach on Todd McLellan’s staff in San Jose. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

After three seasons with the Wings – including a Stanley Cup championship in 2008 – Woodcroft moved on to become an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks under former Detroit assistant Todd McLellan. He stayed attached to McLellan’s, moving on from San Jose to Edmonton when McLellan was named Oilers head coach in 2015.

A Witness to the Oilers’ Biggest Wins

Woodcroft has experienced as many Oilers playoff series wins as Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or any Edmonton veteran: one, when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in the first round in 2017. Woodcroft was an assistant to McLellan on an upstart Oilers team led by 21-year-old captain McDavid. The Oilers advanced to the second round, where they pushed the Anaheim Ducks to seven games before bowing out.

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That is still the team’s only postseason series victory since the Oilers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Coincidentally, Woodcroft also experienced part of that playoff run; he was in his first playoffs with the Red Wings when Detroit was shockingly upset in the first round by Edmonton.

Woodcroft Has Got Rings

In addition to the 2008 Stanley Cup victory with Detroit, Woodcroft has been on the coaching of staff of three Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams: Detroit in 2005-06 and 2007-08, and San Jose in 2008-09. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 World Championship as an assistant coach to McLellan. His first postseason championship as a head coach came last season when the Condors captured the John D. Chick Trophy. Oil Country would love to see him continue his winning ways in Edmonton. That starts Friday (Feb. 11) when the Oilers host the New York Islanders at Rogers Place for Woodcroft’s debut behind the bench.

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