vendredi 17 avril 2015

It won’t be a mistake if the Edmonton Oilers eventually hire Todd Nelson as full-time head coach

source :


But the prudent thing to do is for the Oilers to explore all options

A lot of good things happened with the Edmonton Oilers after Todd Nelson took over as head coach 36 games in the 2014-15 season.

The squad’s best players, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Oscar Klefbom, all played significantly better two-way hockey under Nelson than they had under former coach Dallas Eakins.

Two players who were going nowhere fast under Eakins, Nail Yakupov and Anton Lander, demonstrated much better play under Nelson, so much so that both can be counted on to at least adequately fill in roster spots on one of the Oil’s top three lines next season.

The team also won more, with a 45% winning percentage under Nelson, as opposed to the 30% record they had under Eakins.

If Nelson were to be handed the full-time head coaching job right now, it would also be a signal that the Oilers really are keen on development and they trust the work that’s been done by Nelson at Oklahoma City in the AHL. It would provide some continuity to the players, as many of them played for one, two or three years for Nelson in Oklahoma.

Nelson’s Oilers kept on playing OK hockey right up until the end, even as the team had lost its best defenceman, Jeff Petry, kicking off an alarming chain reaction that saw all other Oilers d-men start to struggle as they were forced to play higher up in the line-up against tougher competition.
So, it would seem, Nelson has a lot to recommend for him when it comes to becoming head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

Indeed, there are only two things that should give Oilers GM Craig MacTavish some pause.

1. The Oilers haven’t had a coach with a proven track record of success at the NHL level in some time, but a few such coaches will likely be on the market this summer.

2. As much as some players improved and the team won more under Nelson, the Oilers still struggled against tough competition from the Western Conference. In 25 games against Western teams, Nelson’s teams averaged just 12.8 scoring chances for and gave up 16.6 scoring chances against, a negative 3.8 differential.

That -3.8 represents an improvement over the horrendous -4.7 differential scoring chances differential that Eakins’ Oilers had in 2013-14 against the West, but the team improved to -2.5 under Eakins vs. the West earlier this season.

Overall, the Oil’s -2.6 scoring chances per game differential under Nelson was unimpressive, though, again, it’s important to factor in the loss of Petry in late February, which was the key line-up difference between the first and last parts of the season.

Bottom lines: Nelson has been a pro coach for more than a decade now. He’s paid his dues as a head coach for three seasons in the UHL and five seasons in the AHL. He’s had good success as a pro head coach. In some ways, he’s just what you want to see from someone coming up from the minors, someone who isn’t just ripe, but is over-ripe for the NHL.

It won’t be a mistake to give him the head coaching job, but if there are other more qualified NHL candidates, coaches with proven playoff success over a number of NHL campaigns, they would still be superior hires for the Oilers.