It had been rumoured for a few weeks now, but the announcement came down Tuesday morning that there would be a press conference that afternoon and then Elliotte Friedman confrimed it: Dave Tippett will be the next head coach for the Edmonton Oilers.
Tippett should be a familiar name to hockey fans as he coached both the Stars and Coyotes over the course of a decade and a half. He last coached in the NHL in 2016-17 with Arizona and will look to make his mark on a franchise that is floundering despite the services of the best player in the world.
There are basically two things we need to know about Oilers’ new bench boss.
First, he’s a defensive-oriented coach. Despite some poor results from some of his Arizona teams, Tippett’s reputation has always been one that focuses more on the defensive end than in the offensive zone. That includes things like hard-matching lines when they have the opportunity and spreading out ice time as to not run players ragged.
Now, I find it very hard to believe he’ll balance out the ice time given the composition of this roster – the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers are not the 2016-17 Arizona Coyotes. If Tippett decides to give McDavid 13-14 minutes of five-on-five ice time each game, there’ll be a mutiny. But I do wonder if he tries to rein in McDavid’s TOI, which sat just shy of 23 minutes a game last year. Had McDavid played all 82 games (he played 78), he would have surpassed 1850 in total minutes of ice. Since 2007-08, two players managed that much ice time in one season: Ilya Kovalchuk in 2011-12 and Leon Draisaitl this past year (another guy who could see ice time decrease). Forwards just don’t play that much every game anymore and my assumption is that we will see a TOI decline from both McDavid and Draisaitl next year. I don’t think it’ll be drastic – still comfortably in the 21- or 22-minute range – but less ice time is almost always a concern.
The second thing that needs to be pointed out is that he’s not afraid to play his young players if they show the ability necessary: in 2016-17, he had Jakob Chychrun on the roster as an 18-year old defenceman; in 2015-16, Max Domi played over 16 minutes a night as a rookie; after being recalled in mid-November of 2013, Connor Murphy played 20 minutes a night through his first 20 games as a 20-year old rookie blue liner before playing sporadically the rest of the season. At the least, if guys like Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto show Tippett they can hang in the NHL, I think he gives them a legitimate chance to stick, unlike some coaches who might try to hide them on the fourth line or leave them in the AHL.
Realistically, all Tippett has to do here is help bring along the kids. Guys like Bouchard, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and Bear, along with McDavid and Draisaitl, are the future of this franchise. If those guys largely don’t pan out, then the team is in even more trouble than they are right now. He doesn’t need to wring anything out of guys like Lucic, Kassian, Gagner, or Russell; that ship has sailed. He just needs them to competently fill out their roles while the kids take over the team.
Whether Tippett and his assistants can bring along the young guns will determine his success here. Because if they can become impact players, this team isn’t far from the playoffs, which will be his success. If they can’t become impact players, it’ll just be more of the same.
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