By CJ Carlson
NHL UPDATE: Edmonton Fires Jay Woodcroft after 3-9-1 Start
Enough is enough down in Edmonton. The Oilers have recently announced that they will be firing their head coach Jay Woodcroft on a night where they actually won a hockey game. Edmonton just beat the Seattle Kraken by a score of 4-1, but it just wasn’t enough to convince upper management that everything should remain the same. Much of that is due to the team starting off with a 3-9-1 record at the time.
There are a lot of people that believe the Oilers are in a Stanley Cup or nothing type of season, especially with the talent that’s currently on the roster. I mean, they have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the best players in the NHL. Yet somehow, they haven’t made it into the Stanley Cup finals.
This is a team that shouldn’t be struggling this much, and the loss to the San Jose Sharks was likely the last straw. To provide some further context to that statement, the Sharks had allowed 20 goals in two games, and still bounced back to beat Edmonton. The Oilers certainly didn’t want to be the team to lose to them.
This is going to be the fifth coaching change for this franchise with both McDavid and Draisaitl together on the roster. Woodcroft had a .643 points percentage over the course of 133 games in his tenure with the organization, the best mark in team history. As we mentioned before though, they just couldn’t take that needed next step.
They lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in 2022 and did so again in 2023. The first to the Colorado Avalanche, and the second to the Vegas Golden Knights. If they win even one of those series, they have a shot at winning a Cup and completely changing the narrative around these players.
A new head coach will be stepping up, that being the former head coach of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack Kris Knoblauch. He does have prior head coaching experience, though it’s yet to be seen what he can do differently to really wake this squad up. Unfortunately, the roster just isn’t built that well outside of their stars.
They don’t have much cap space in order to pull off a few trades, and they are refusing to part ways with either of their stars due to believing that a Stanley Cup is possible. On top of that, Draisaitl has just one year left on his contract, and could easily walk away in the summer if they underperform from expectations once more.
On a more positive note, Edmonton does have another year on the contract for McDavid to attempt to convince him to stick around. Then again, there’s always going to be that doubt that he could leave in the offseason as well when that contract wraps up. Some reports do claim that the franchise hired Jeff Jackson to be the CEO of hockey operations, and Jackson was the former agent of McDavid. That could certainly make negotiations a little easier.
Going back to the new coach, Knoblauch was the head coach of the AHL Wolf Pack. It’s a minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers, and he was hired to that position in 2019. To make things a little sweeter, he coached all three of McDavid’s OHL seasons when he was still a part of the Erie Otters. That Otters team was the first in CHL history to string together four straight 50-win seasons.
They even had a championship in the OHL and got into the Memorial Cup birth. He has previous history with McDavid and could know exactly what this Oilers squad needs to get some more juice early on in the 2023 campaign.
Edmonton definitely doesn’t want to let this season go to waste with so much of their future on the line this season due to the contract situations for their two superstars. We’ll see if their new head coach can make the necessary changes to improve their overall record, or if the coach wasn’t even the problem in the first place. There’s a lot to talk about in Edmonton, and a lot to figure out down the stretch.