As more and more people continue to call for the firing of Head Coach Dave Tippett, it might be time to start looking at possible replacements.
At this point, it feels redundant to reiterate why Dave Tippett should be fired. He’s lost his last 12 games behind the bench and hit a new rock bottom with a loss to the Ottawa Senators last night. But calling for his firing is just complaining if you have no suggestions to make it better, so I wanted to take a look at some of the best possible candidates to take over as the Oilers Head Coach.
5: Glen Gulutzan
This one feels like the easiest solution. Gulutzan is currently an assistant coach for the Oilers where he’s been in charge of the team’s strongest piece, special teams. Over the past two seasons Edmonton has had the league’s best powerplay as well as a top-tier penalty kill, so he’s done a great job in his limited role with the Oilers. He also has past NHL experience, as the Head Coach of the Stars from 2011-13 and the Flames from 2016-18, although he only made the playoff in one of those four seasons. He has however had Head Coaching success at other pro levels with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, where in 2008 he became the first coach in the league’s history to have three consecutive 100 point seasons. Past experience combined with a familiarity with the team makes him a prime candidate for a low-risk midseason takeover.
4: Claude Julien
Julien is one of the more established Head Coaching candidates, and while he may not bring the youth and creativity that a younger coach could, he brings a proven NHL track record that is almost unmatched over the past few decades. As the Head Coach of the Bruins from 2007-17, he led the team to the playoffs in each of his first seven seasons, with two cup appearances, including winning it all in 2011. Most recently he was the Head Coach of the Habs from midway through the 2016-17 season until his firing early last season, despite a 9-5-4 record and making the playoffs in two of his four seasons. Julien is also set to be the Head Coach of the Canadian Men’s Hockey team in the upcoming Olympics, so his performance there, without NHLers, could certainly affect his future prospects. The lack of recent success is slightly concerning, but given his history of success in the NHL, he seems like someone who could help turn around this organization.
3: Spencer Carbery
Carbery is currently in his first year behind an NHL bench, as an Assistant Coach for the Leafs. Prior to this season he had been the Head Coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears since 2018 and led the team to a regular season championship on route to winning the AHL Coach of the year in 2021. He could bring with him the modern coaching style that Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe has used to make Toronto one of the leagues top teams, a system that current Oilers Zach Hyman has praised. Hiring old-school defensive-minded Head Coaches like Dave Tippett has not paid off for the Oilers so far, so doing a full 180 and going with someone who could bring a fresh look to the organization could be just what the doctor ordered.
2: Jay Woodcroft
Woodcroft was an Assistant Coach under Todd McLellan with the Sharks and Oilers from 2008-18 and has since been the Head Coach for the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. It might seem a bit backward to bring in someone from the McLellan coaching tree, considering the Oilers fired him, but Woodcroft has proven that he has the ability to get the most out of player in his time with the Condors. Despite their lack of depth in the NHL, the Oilers have been getting excellent production from their top AHL prospects like Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson, and Ryan McLeod, all of whom have yet to be properly utilized in the NHL. Possibly the most important thing a new coach for the Oilers could do would be to utilize all their young AHL talent, something that Tippett has absolutely refused to do. The Oilers have an abundance of talent in their farm system, and Woodcroft seems like the perfect guy to take advantage of it.
1: Mike Hastings
The current Head Coach of the NCAA’s Minnesota State Mavericks has been one of the hot names in Coaching over the past year or so, and rightfully so. Now in his 10th season behind their bench, Hastings has turned the Mavericks, who previously only had one winning season in the past nine years, into one of the country’s premier programs, even making a Frozen Four appearance this past season. He earned himself a 10-year contract extension in 2017, but I doubt he’d turn down the opportunity to coach in the NHL should the Oilers come knocking. Hastings also led the US World Juniors team to a Silver medal in 2019 and is set to be an Assistant Coach for the US Men’s Hockey team at the Olympics in Beijing. As his NCAA and international success continues, it’s only a matter of time before an NHL team gives him a look, and the Oilers could really use whatever he did to Minnesota State.