He’s always been behind the bench and in on the action in the NHL, but finally, for Jay Woodcroft, he’s seeing the National League from a head coach perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, Woodcroft has had a lengthy run on the bench with the Oilers, but on Feb. 10, 2022 he claimed a new role as head coach for the Oilers following Dave Tippett’s firing.
Woodcroft broke out into the NHL sphere in 2005 when he acquired a position with the Detroit Red Wings as video coach.
After three years, Woodcroft made some big moves and took an assistant coaching position making his own splash in San Jose.
Woodcroft spent several years in San Jose, and finally in 2015, he made his way to the Oilers coaching under then-head coach Todd McLellan. Many people refer to Woodcroft as the protege of McLellan, who happened to be the head coach of San Jose during Woodcroft’s time with the team, and the two made the comfortable transition to the Oilers squad together.
But in 2017, the Oilers coaching staff got a bit of a shakeup, and Woodcroft was offered his first head coach position with Edmonton’s AHL, or farm team, the Bakersfield Condors.
At last, after the swirling news of Oilers head coach David Tippett being relieved of his duties, it was Woodcroft who came to the rescue capturing a title of his very own, head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Is he finally “the one”?
Change was much needed for the Oilers, and with Woodcroft’s impressive resume, he might be a good fit for this Oilers crew.
He’s seen the NHL from on the bench, and he’s also worked with many players who have been sent down to the Condors waiting for the call to make the Oilers game day roster. Which means he’s already coached a lot of the younger oilers players such as Yamamoto, Puljujarvi (currently out with injury), Mcleod, Skinner, Benson, and others. Thanks to his coaching alongside McLellan, Woodcroft has also worked with some of our Oilers star players like McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, and Nugent-Hopkins.
You could say he’s kind of got the full 360 view of the Oilers roster. In my opinion, Woodcroft may be just what we need to help lead the Oilers to a successful playoff run. Don’t get me wrong, a Stanley Cup Championship winning team doesn’t just happen overnight, and the Oilers have certainly had a roller coaster of a season so far, but with Woodcroft at the wheel, things might be different for this team.
He knows how to work the young guys on the team from his time spent with Bakersfield, and knows their strengths and weaknesses inside and out. With that being said, he can use his knowledge from the AHL to relay in some of his decisions with the Oilers and groupings and pairing of lines.
He also has a lot to prove with this being his first NHL head coaching gig. Although a fairly low-key guy behind the bench, Woodcroft has a big impression to make this season not only in the NHL and with the Oilers, but also fans; what’s the best way to impress fans? Win.
Of course, the Oilers don’t have the strongest goaltending, which has been a recurring issue for the team in the past. This could be another way Woodcroft could really impress fans, either by strengthening our defensive core or working to build stronger confidence with Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, and Stuart Skinner, the guys between the pipes. Regardless, Woodcroft has been really positive during press conferences and interviews, and as we all know positivity goes a long way.
So far so good
Well, Woodcroft’s arrival seems to be a good change for everyone, and it certainly shows on the ice. Since the head coaching change on Feb. 10, the Oilers are 7-3-1 and have moved up to third in the Pacific Division several points behind the first place team the Calgary Flames, under Woodcroft’s belt. The big battle of Alberta on March 7 will be a big one for Woodcroft and a good chance to prove his coaching skills to Oilers fans.
Graphics: Nawaal Basha