After firing Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said he will transition the coaching job to Todd Nelson, promoted from the American Hockey League. Nelson is a widely respected coach who had success at that level, so he’s earned an opportunity to do what Eakins couldn’t -- make progress in the standings.
One coach who has competed against Nelson called him a strong hockey mind who gets the most out of his players.
“I think he’s really good,” he said of Nelson. “He plays a game where he’s able to create offensive space for his guys better than other people.”
MacTavish passed on hiring a veteran coach, and with that, the opportunity to get a fresh voice from outside the organization to help evaluate the stagnating core. But he didn’t close the door on making a veteran hire after this season.
“[Nelson] will be assessed like any other coach based on the performance and the way he can drive performance,” MacTavish said during Monday’s news conference. “We want to leave the door open and the flexibility of making a decision at the end of the year. That philosophy and strategy is fairly clear in my mind.”
The Winnipeg Jets benefited from bringing in an experienced coach last season when GM Kevin Cheveldayoff faced a similar situation, hiring Paul Maurice. Not only did Maurice provide experience behind the bench, he gave the Jets an outside perspective on their young players to help with personnel changes moving forward.
That’s partly why Nelson’s promotion is frustrating for some Oilers fans. There are good veteran coaches available, and the Oilers won’t be the last team to change coaches this season if history is any indication.