Big Win From Oilers Coaching Changes Might Be Hiring Of Dave Manson

When the Edmonton Oilers made the move to release Dave Tippett and Jim Playfair of their jobs this past week, there were a few immediate reactions among the media and the fan base. First, some people called it a welcome change because the Oilers’ recent struggles couldn’t continue. Second, a number of people felt bad for Tippett because he’d done an admirable job as coach for close to three full seasons. Third, some were concerned the change might not make a huge difference because new coach Jay Woodcroft was working with the same roster that Tippett (a defense-first type of coach) couldn’t get to play sound, well-rounded hockey.

Overlooked in all of this might be the addition of Dave Manson. Manson was responsible for the grooming of defensemen in Bakersfield at the AHL level and despite the Oilers’ troubles, it’s hard to argue that blueliners coming up through the system haven’t been well prepared. The Oilers’ biggest area of weakness is their defensive coverage and of late, their penalty kill. Manson’s arrival could pay huge dividends.

Manson Has Been Grooming the Oilers Future D-Men

Whether it’s Markus Niemalainen, Philip Broberg, William Lagesson, or a host of other young defensemen who have gotten a cup of coffee in the NHL over the past couple of seasons, Manson has been in the background, but also the man responsible for these defensemen being as NHL-ready as possible. He’s done an admirable job.

There’s a reason fans are looking at the future prospects in the system on defense and hoping the Oilers don’t trade any of those players for rentals or short-term upgrades. These players could turn out to be more important than anything Edmonton could acquire at this year’s deadline.

Manson Is Proven and Versatile

Oilers’ play-by-play voice Jack Michaels describes Manson as the type of coach who can work with all kinds of defensemen. He said during a recent Sportnet “In the Panel” segment, “You talk about touching all aspects of what a defenseman’s career could or should be, I think Dave Manson pretty much hit all the bases when he was a player.” Manson had to reinvent himself a number of times throughout his NHL career and as a coach, he’ll have the experience to work with all kinds of styles.

Evan Bouchard. Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Michaels added that Manson’s experience as a power-play quarterback, a tough guy, a stay-at-home defenseman and an All-Star will mean a world of good for players like Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard, Niemalainen, Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie and others, many of whom play completely different styles.

Not Afraid To Go 11-7

Woodcroft is known for thinking outside the box when it comes to deploying his roster, but that’s likely only possible because he’s got the support of Manson who isn’t afraid to spread out the minutes and has the ability to get the most out of a d-corps that many believe is lacking the talent to go a long way in the playoffs.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Win Over Islanders in Coach Woodcroft’s Debut

In their first game as Oilers coaches, Woodcroft and Manson went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. It was likely in response to the fact that Duncan Keith was out, but that these two immediately knew they needed to spread out the minutes and lower the burden on someone like Bouchard is important. Manson is confident in his ability to decide what needs to be done with a struggling blue line that was leaking chances against and he made an immediate change — a change that wasn’t perfect but showed dramatic improvements.

While 11-7 might not be the play once Keith returns, the ability to pivot and have the confidence to do so game one shouldn’t be understated.

Manson Was Being Eyeballed by NHL Clubs

Kurt Leavins wrote in his 9 Things article Sunday that Manson was likely on the radar of a couple of NHL clubs. He’s a coach that teams are looking at. He writes:

“Given how many young D-man have graduated the Condors and into the NHL (and how different each player has been from one another), I wouldn’t be surprised if Manson was on the radar of other NHL squads who are looking to upgrade. If Manson doesn’t get this opportunity I think it’s likely he is scooped up by another organization.”

source – ‘Can the Edmonton Oilers turn it around by squeezing even more out of their Big Three: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 02/13/2022

Spending more than a decade in the Western Hockey League, Manson isn’t being thrown an opportunity here in Edmonton, he’s earned it. Like Woodcroft, Manson paid his dues and found his way into the NHL as a coach based on hard work and results. That’s exactly what the Oilers blue line needs a little bit more of these days.