It has been just over a week since Jay Woodcroft made his debut behind the bench for the Edmonton Oilers, after being named the NHL team’s new head coach on Feb. 10 when his predecessor Dave Tippett was fired.
The Oilers won that game, 3-1 over the New York Islanders on Feb. 11, and they’ve since reeled off three more victories as Woodcroft has started his career as an NHL head coach a perfect 4-0. Before the coaching change, Edmonton had won just seven times in 23 games, a slump spanning two months that led to Tippett’s dismissal.
Edmonton is playing like an entirely different team with Woodcroft at the helm, outscoring the opposition by an average of 3.25 goals per game. While it’s not uncommon for a team to find success in the early days of a new head coach before regressing to the mean, this upswing appears sustainable.NHLDerek Ryan is Enjoying a Larger Role with the Oilers
Positive Changes Are Evident on Oilers
There appears to be a 180-degree shift in going from Tippett to Woodcroft, noticeable not just by the numbers in the boxscore but the demeanor of the players. And after Edmonton thumped the Anaheim Ducks 7-3 on Thursday (Feb. 17) for its fourth consecutive win, veteran Oilers forward Derek Ryan pulled no punches during the post-game media availability, as he discussed the many positive differences with the team over these last few games.
“I think we’re just so much more detailed than we were earlier in the year,” said Ryan, who signed with the Oilers as a free agent last summer. “I think everyone’s on the same page, we’ve been working on certain things that we struggled on earlier in the year.”
Ryan never mentioned his former coach by name, but he didn’t have to. There’s only one man who was in charge earlier in the year, and that’s Tippett, and by painting a stark contrast between the present and immediate past, Ryan confirmed what many outside observers suspected. If the Oilers’ recent results didn’t already serve as an indictment of Tippett, Ryan’s comments certainly did.
Woodcroft Giving More Opportunity to More Players
Unlike his predecessor, who was known for throwing lines in a blender and leaning heavily on superstar forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, Woodcroft has kept his forward combinations and defensive pairings consistent and distributed minutes throughout the lineup more evenly.