Oilers Head Coach Jay Woodcroft Gives Fans A Reason to Believe

When Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland signed head coach Jay Woodcroft to a new three-year contract extension on June 21, a collective sigh of relief could be heard around Oilerland.

Related: 5 Things to Know About New Oilers Head Coach Jay Woodcroft

Woodcroft, along with still unsigned assistant coach Dave Manson, helped turn the Oilers’ season around this past February as the team was struggling under former head coach Dave Tippett. Woodcroft displayed a quiet confidence that the Oilers rode all the way to the Western Conference Final where they were eventually defeated by the Colorado Avalanche.

Jay Woodcroft Edmonton Oilers
Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers head coach (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With very little room to move in terms of cap space, Woodcroft could be Holland’s most important signing of the offseason for the Oilers. Fans are still holding out hope that Holland can solidify the goaltending, sign forward Evander Kane and bolster the defense. Considering the Oilers have approximately $7.8 million left in cap space, it may take some smart trades and maybe a couple of magic beans in order for Holland to accomplish what the fans want this offseason.

A Well-Earned New Contract for Woodcroft

At the time of Woodcroft’s promotion in February, Woodcroft was the head coach of the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League (AHL), a position he held since 2018. Before joining the Condors, Woodcroft spent 13 years as an assistant coach in the NHL, with the Oilers and San Jose Sharks under head coach Todd McLellan and with the Detroit Red Wings where Holland was his general manager.

Woodcroft was part of three Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams in Detroit and he received a Stanley Cup ring for the Red Wings’ Cup victory in 2008. He also won a gold medal with Canada serving as an assistant coach to McLellan at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

Woodcroft is the Right Coach at the Right Time for the Oilers

With the Oilers having very little cap space to bring in free agents, the organization needs to rely on prospects to come up from the AHL in order to continue to improve. A tall order for some organizations, but not for Woodcroft and the Oilers. Woodcroft was an excellent teacher and communicator in Bakersfield and helped build the Condors into contenders down on the farm. Woodcroft knows the talent in the Oilers organization as well as anyone, that’s why prospects like defencemen Philip Broberg, Markus Niemelainen, and forward Dylan Holloway will have a legitimate shot to make the Oilers’ squad for the upcoming 2022-23 NHL season.

Dylan Holloway Bakersfield Condors
Dylan Holloway, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

You have to wonder if the Oilers may take a long look at junior phenom Xavier Borgault at their fall training camp. Borgault has been nothing short of sensational in his junior team the Shawinigan Cataractes’ run to the Memorial Cup Final. With clutch goals throughout the playoffs for the Cataractes, players such as Borgault don’t grow on trees. Coming through with such a high-level performance under playoff pressure makes him one of the Oilers’ best prospects. Under Woodcroft’s guidance, you never know what could be possible for Bourgoult.

Woodcroft Brings A Calming Influence to the Oilers

The Oilers’ current roster features close to a dozen players who have played for Woodcroft in Bakersfield. From Stuart Skinner and Evan Bouchard to Ryan McLeod and Kailer Yamamoto, Woodcroft has had a hand in their development and eventual promotion to the Oilers. Having served as an assistant coach to Todd McLellan, the Oilers’ core led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl also know Woodcroft well. That’s part of why he is such a good fit to lead the team. Woodcroft has a certain swagger that can be seen in his body language. He also is an excellent communicator. He seems to be exactly what this team needs to push for a Stanley Cup championship.

Jay Woodcroft Edmonton Oilers
Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There are a lot of “what ifs” for the Oilers heading into the 22-23 NHL season. The team will be hungry after tasting playoff success in 2022, and if Woodcroft can press the right buttons, and Holland brings in the right pieces, the Oilers might have a legitimate chance to compete for the Stanley Cup again next season. The only problem? They have to learn to beat the Colorado Avalanche. For long-time Oilers fans, this is eerily similar to the great teams of the past having to learn to beat the New York Islanders. With Woodcroft and his positive attitude, fans have to believe the Oilers have a chance.

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