EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The Edmonton Oilers hired NHL veteran Dave Tippett as their next head coach Tuesday, the first big move for new general manager Ken Holland.
Tippett, who had been working as a senior adviser to Seattle’s new NHL team since June 2018, becomes the Oilers’ ninth coach in the past 11 years. He is tasked with helping a team that has missed the playoffs 12 of the past 13 seasons and reached the postseason just once during the four-year career of star Connor McDavid.
Holland, the longtime former Detroit Red Wings GM, announced earlier this month that interim coach Ken Hitchcock would not be back.
Tippett, with more than a thousand NHL games as a head coach in Dallas and Arizona, noted he has a construction background but suggested the Oilers are not in need of a teardown.
“I come to a team here that obviously has good pieces (and) lots of upside,” he said. “Everybody talks about McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. There’s more pieces here than McDavid and Draisaitl. There’s good players here to build on.”
Tippett is known for instituting strong systems that helped turn around teams and he addressed concerns such a move here might strangle the creativity of Draisaitl and McDavid, who both finished in the top four in points this year across the league.
“As far as (begin pigeonholed as) the defensive coach, I laugh at that all the time,” he said. “I look at myself as a coach that tries to find a way to win with the people that I have.”
After McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the Oilers’ offense is moribund. Defensemen Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom also need help, especially since Tippett said he views blue liners as pivotal to the offensive game and the forecheck. Some have questioned the $4.5 million per year for goaltender Mikko Koskinen, too.
The Oilers fired general manager Peter Chiareilli in January and has also parted ways with Duane Sutter, the vice president of player personnel, while front office executive Craig MacTavish, from the team’s glory years, left to coach in Russia.
Tippett coached the Coyotes for eight seasons, opening his tenure with consecutive first-round appearances followed by a trip to the Western Conference final. He was named NHL coach of the year after his first season, but the Coyotes missed the playoffs his final five seasons and he left after the 2016-17 season.
Tippett became an NHL head coach in 2002 with Dallas, guiding the Stars for six seasons. He missed the playoffs in his final year in Dallas in 2008-09, one year after taking the Stars to the conference final to complete a run of five straight years in the postseason.
The 57-year-old Tippett played 721 games in the NHL, notching 93 goals and 169 assists with the Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle, wished Tippett after his work in establishing the NHL’s 32nd franchise, which will begin play in the 2021-22 season.
“As one of our first hires, Dave Tippett has been instrumental in forming the blueprint for our hockey operations in Seattle,” Leiweke said. “Coaching is his passion, and this is a great opportunity for Dave to return to the bench. Dave will always be a great friend to our organization.”
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