By Mary Walsh
There is good reason to suppose that Todd McLellan will be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers. At the end of the season, McLellan stated that his immediate focus would be his job as coach of Team Canada at the World Championships, so it is reasonable to assume he won’t announce a decision before that job is done. He did meet with the Oilers during the tournament, and there have been no reports of in person meetings with any other team.
McLellan has had a chance to work with some of the Oilers (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle) this month. He has also been coaching some Flyers (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier) and other players on NHL teams that are looking for new coaches. One could imagine that announcing his choice before the end of the tournament could be a distraction for his players. That would be regrettable, as the team is having a better tournament than they have had in years. Saturday, they defeated the Czech team 2-0 for a spot in the gold medal game Sunday. It was Canada’s first shutout of the Czechs in the world championships since 1958.
Coaching Team Canada has been just the ticket for McLellan. He anticipated a positive experience, and he is having one. He told the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones:
When I went through my departure with the Sharks in San Jose it was emotional and it was empty. To come here, it was like getting refreshed again. With a different coaching staff, different people, a different approach, and a different country has been a really good experience.
As for what comes next, back in Aprils McLellan explained what he is looking for in his next head coaching position:
I would like to coach a great group of hockey players next year. And Connor McDavid, everybody is talking about him and his ability to come and have an impact. I’m assuming that the Oilers will pick him number one. But. one thing that I have learned: you can have the best player and still not have the best team. It’s about team, it’s about a group, it’s about the whole organization, the culture of the organization and Connor is going to be a very exciting player to watch, again I’m assuming in Edmonton, and he’ll have an impact on the league for years and years to come. But it’s often bigger, the bigger story is the group as a whole.
Edmonton may not seem like everyone’s idea of an ideal destination, but McLellan might be the coach to turn that around. The Oilers have a lot of forward talent and they have a new arena in the pipeline. Edmonton is also a little closer to California and McLellan’s family is staying in San Jose for the time being. Being a time zone or two closer to home can make a difference.
Also in Prague this weekend, defenseman Brent Burns was named one of Team Canada’s bext three players of the tournament. Claude Giroux and Mike Smith were the other two. Ben Smith has two goals for Team USA in the tournament. Tomas Hertl has been conspicuously absent from the Czech bench, twice listed in the lineup only to not play. He was listed in the lineup for the games against Latvia on May 2nd and on May 14th against Finland, but saw no ice time in either game. In the bronze medal game Sunday, Hertl was not in the lineup.