After the Edmonton Oilers made shockwaves around the hockey world yesterday by firing Head Coach Jay Woodcroft, Captain (and speculated new General Manager) Connor McDavid took questions from the media after morning skate today.
McDavid’s reactions to the firing were both expected and unexpected at the same time.
Whenever a coach gets fired, you expect the players to performatively shoulder the blame, say it was their fault, etc. etc. etc. While McDavid did echo those sentiments as he has been trained to do, it truly did sound like he had no idea the Oilers were firing Woodcroft.
McDavid’s influence on the organization
It’s hard not to connect the dots. McDavid’s agent was hired as CEO of the Oilers Entertainment Group this summer. His junior hockey buddy and linemate Connor Brown was signed to a contract that will pay him up to $4M this year after missing all but four games in 2022–23 due to injuries. McDavid publicly advocated for the Oilers to sign Evander Kane, which they then did. And now, the Oilers hired his old junior hockey coach to be their head coach, the first NHL head coaching job of Kris Knoblauch’s career for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations and the two best players on the planet.
The connections between McDavid and Lebron James are hard to deny. McDavid denied them anyway.
I woke up to a text like probably a lot of you guys did as well. I know the narrative out there obviously, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.Connor McDavid on Jay Woodcroft’s firing
But, at the same time, McDavid has supported Woodcroft from day one, even calling him a top-three coach back in April.
He never lost the room. I loved playing for Woody, I loved playing for Mans. Two guys that I think are unbelievable coaches and I really think they’ll be in the league very, very soon. Two great coaches.Connor McDavid on Jay Woodcroft’s firing
He clearly loved playing for Woodcroft.
But, did McDavid go a tad too far? It’s implausible that the Oilers, who have clearly been hiring personnel both on and off the ice based on McDavid’s wishes, did not consult McDavid about hiring his old junior coach to run the bench.
I believe him when he says he loved playing for Woodcroft, but I don’t believe for a second that he didn’t know this was coming and he didn’t have a say in who the replacement would be.