For a long time, I’ve said that there are about 40 NHL head coaches and eight of them are unemployed at any given time.
Well, we can add one more name to the list—Kris Knoblauch, who has been named the Oilers head coach, replacing Jay Woodcroft.
Woodcroft no longer head coach
After two consecutive seasons near the top of the Pacific division, Woodcroft coached the Oilers to a 3–9–1 record to start this year. While it’s not fair to say that the problems are mostly coaching, it’s a lot easier to fire the coach than it is to replace an entire underperforming roster. Woodcroft can’t be blamed for everything that’s gone wrong, especially not the save percentages of Skinner and Campbell, but maybe it’s fair to say that he’s lost the room a bit.
Having been hired as an Oilers assistant in 2015, Woodcroft was named head coach of the Bakersfield Condors in 2018, where he led the team to a 105–71–21 record. After that successful stint in Bakersfield, Woodcroft was hired to replace Dave Tippett, earning a 79–41–13 record and two trips to the postseason.
Woodcroft signed a three-year deal in 2022, meaning he’ll be paid through this season and next.
Even though he’s gone, his disdain for certain members of Edmonton’s media will be his legacy.
Now for the new guy…
Who is Kris Knoblauch
Kris Knoblauch has been coaching at the junior and AHL levels for 17 years. He started in Prince Albert, moved to Kootenay, was hired by Erie (where he coached Connor McDavid), was an assistant with the Flyers and has been the head coach of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack since 2019.
Knoblauch comes to the Oilers with a wealth of head coaching experience, though none at the NHL level. He’s been successful everywhere he has stopped, and it seems like now is as good a time as any to start with an NHL club.
Bringing in someone from outside the organization, and someone from outside the regular head coaching pool is a bold move, but one that I think will pay off. There’s no denying that Knoblauch has been successful as a head coach, and while he may not have NHL head coaching experience, he’s spent time in the big league and has worked his way up to the job.
It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s coached both Connors McDavid and Brown, either.
Another new coaching era for Edmonton
Is this coaching change going to be the thing that rights this ship? Only time will tell, but if insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results then at least this one thing isn’t quite the same.
Assistant coach Dave Manson has also been relieved of his duties; he’s being replaced behind the bench by Paul Coffey. So maybe some things are the same, after all.