McLellan to Coach Oilers, Babcock Decision Soon

By Mary Walsh

As predicted by many, the Edmonton Oilers named Todd McLellan as their new head coach. McLellan and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke in a press conference Tuesday. Of his decision to join the Oilers, McLellan said:

When it came down to it, there’s a number of tremendous opportunities that exist in the National Hockey League right now and there’s a great coaching pool out there. After meeting with Peter and asking him… well, we asked each other some pretty direct questions. I liked the answer and the direction that Peter was taking the conversation and obviously Peter liked my end of it so we took it from there.

A lot of times when you’re a coach and you’re going to join a team, the manager’s been in place for a number of years and he has and idea of the organization. We’re both in it together here brand new. And I think that’s a good thing right now. We get to leave our mark, and we get to formulate an identity without any preconceived notions of individuals or partners on the D or lines anything like that. It’s brand new, everybody gets a fresh start.

With a new general manager and new head coach, the Oilers can look forward to a change of fortune in the coming seasons. In one respect their fortunes have not changed at all, as they are expected to use the first overall draft pick this summer to choose Connor McDavid. McLellan will have a formidable offensive corps to work with, though the team has had some issues on defense.

Another team that has struggled over the past several seasons is the Buffalo Sabres. Reports have them meeting with Mike Babcock to fill their head coach position. Babcock was to talk to the Sharks this week, and the St Louis Blues have also been in play. It is still possible that he will decide to remain with Detroit. Babcock told Pierre LeBrun that he wants to make his decision by Wednesday.

The Sharks have also met with Dan Bylsma, who last served as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Another possibility is Peter DeBoer, who was head coach of the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils. Another name that came up in TSN’s list is Dave Lowry, 2013-14 WHL Coach of the Year. Of his candidacy, he said “it is all rumors.” Read more about that here.

The list of coaching possibilities for the Sharks is no doubt longer than rumors can gauge. In some cases, like Babcock and Bylsma, permission has to be given by the coach’s previous employer to speak to them. In cases where no such permission is needed, it is harder for news to leak out.

It does seem that Wilson may decide on a hire sooner than later. It would be to everyone’s benefit if the new head coach were in place before the draft.

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