Hockey

Jay Woodcroft’s Edmonton Oilers

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On Feb 10, 2022, Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett was fired after a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Rogers place, the night prior. 

Tippett, as well as defensive coach Jim Playfair, were replaced by Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson. Over the course of three games, the new coaching staff found three straight wins, ending with a short back-to-back road trip in California. 

What to Expect Moving Forward

As far as players go, fans can expect to see the improvement of players under Woodcroft’s command, formerly in Bakersfield. Players like Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto have already shown progression as the coaching change was made.

Woodcroft has also been introduced to the Edmonton stars as he used to be an assistant coach under former head coach, Todd McLellan.

The Oilers have a decrease in goals against as of late, where Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner have both shown wins, and Skinner recorded his first career shutout, as well as the team’s first shutout this season against the San Jose Sharks, Monday night.

Players are expected to improve under the new coaching staff, as the club secured the third spot in the Pacific Division. Playoffs seem anticipated for most fans in year seven of Connor McDavid and year eight of Leon Draisaitl.

Woodcroft’s Early Impact

Besides the obvious of the Oilers gathering wins, the players and the media speak very highly of Woodcroft. Warren Foegele spoke of a new feeling inside the locker room and discussed how Woodcroft is always engaged with the players during the game. “With Woody here, there is a huge amount of direction and detail, and it makes a huge difference when everyone knows what we are doing,” Foegele said. He implied that was something that was missing under Tippett.

The three forwards Woodcroft seems to rely on are McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle, to “share the wealth” and increase dangerous depth.

An off-ice attribute of Woodcroft that was noticed by some of the fans and the media is the fact that he prefers to stand instead of sitting in the pre-game and post-game interviews. The gesture shows true passion and demonstrates a high quality of leadership.

A Well Built Third Line

As mentioned previously, the addition of Nugent-Hopkins down the middle solidifies the Oiler’s depth. RNH being grouped with Derek Ryan and Foegele has shown to pay off, as it outbattled its opponents as of late. “The new trio of Warren Foegele, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Derek Ryan produced five points on the California swing” according to Avry Lewis-McDougall.

The third line has consistently been an issue in the past, but as the veteran forward Nugent-Hopkins steps in, it changes the momentum the Oilers were missing.

Defeating The Mentor

As Woodcroft’s third game as Oiler’s bench boss arrived, he would defeat his former mentor, Todd McLellan in Los Angeles in a five to two decision. The game probably meant something special to Woodcroft as he is new to coaching in the National Hockey League.

Yamamoto had the game-winning goal as he put the Oilers on top three to two in the final minutes of the third period. Yamamoto’s goal was followed by two empty-net goals, which resulted in the three-goal deficit in the end. 

Going Forward

As the season progresses, fans will realize the Tippett coaching change was indeed necessary to maximize dominance in Alberta’s capital. Edmonton won their last meeting against the Anaheim Ducks, as they recorded seven goals, and only allowed three. Woodcroft moves to an undefeated record, with four wins in the National Hockey League, and the next team up is Winnipeg, which will both test coaching and the players. This is the Oilers hockey the fans have wanted, and it’s a good time to be a supporter of the franchise.

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