When the coaching vacancy opened up in Edmonton, paired with a few comments by Mike Babcock about the youth in Tampa Bay, it appeared that the Detroit Red Wings bench boss, who is now a free agent coach, was set to move to the Oilers to coach young guns. Not so fast, though.
According to a report from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, it's Babcock's protege, Todd McLellan, who will instead be patrolling the Oilers bench next season. Though Friedman said there's no done deal yet, he added it would take quite the breakdown between now and McLellan officially signing a contract for the former San Jose Sharks coach not to be behind the Edmonton bench next season.
McLellan, who was an assistant under Babcock in Detroit for three seasons before moving on to become the coach in San Jose in 2008-09, was one of the more sought after coaches in the current crop of free agents. Though he was never able to get over the hump and take the Sharks to a Stanley Cup final, McLellan coached San Jose to a 311-163-66 record in 540 games.
In his first three seasons as coach of the Sharks, McLellan led the club to Pacific Division titles. In the first season, the club failed to make it out of the first round, being upset by the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1. The next season, San Jose was able to make it to the conference final before being swept by the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. They climbed back to the Western final in 2010-11, but lost in five games to the Vancouver Canucks. Since that time, the Sharks only made it out of the first round once, but never again reached the third round.
Though he wasn't officially fired by the Sharks, McLellan and San Jose management came to an agreement to "mutually part ways" before the coach headed to the Czech Republic to coach the Canadian squad at the World Championship.
McLellan left San Jose as the winningest coach in Sharks history, with more than 100 more victories than Ron Wilson, the second best coach in franchise history.
In Edmonton, McLellan, who coached the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski in San Jose, will get the opportunity to work with incredibly talented young players such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and, once the June draft is complete, Connor McDavid. With a stable of young, supremely talented forwards, there's no telling what good coaching may be able to do for the club. Even with all that talent, the Oilers have struggled mightily over the past several seasons.
Bringing in McLellan also adds to a new, restructured front office in Edmonton, one that includes GM Peter Chiarelli, the former Boston Bruins GM, who was brought in to run the Oilers less than 10 days after his firing in Beantown.
If there is any official announcement about McLellan as Oilers coach, it will likely take until after the World Championship. If Canada plays for gold, that means McLellan won't be announced as the coach until at least May 18.