Oilers GM Ken Holland: 'Gut feel that I needed to make a change'

Gene Principe and Elliotte Friedman discuss the Oilers firing of Dave Tippett, the team's poor performance since the break, the reasons for promoting Jay Woodcroft from the AHL, and the impact the move could have on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

In an address to the media on Thursday, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said he felt he needed to make a coaching change because time is running out for his team to make a charge for the playoffs.

"With 38 games remaining, I needed to make the move," Holland told reporters. "We still control our own fate and we've got to get cracking."

He added that making the change – firing head coach Dave Tippett and associate coach Jim Playfair, replacing them with new head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant Dave Manson from AHL affiliate Bakersfield – came down to a "gut feel that I needed to make a change."

Holland added more than once that he, as the general manager who built the team, is ultimately responsible for the team's output. But inconsistency in a season he described as being "up and down like a toilet seat" forced his hand. The tipping point came after going 2-11-2 in December, which was followed by a 5-0-1 stretch before the All-Star weekend, and an 0-2 start coming back from the break that underlined the team's "wild swings" and inconsistent approach.

Those swings have seen the Oilers slide down the standings since Dec. 1, when they were 16-5-0 and sitting atop the Pacific Division. They have won just seven of their 23 games since, their 23-18-3 record placing them fifth in the division and five points behind the Calgary Flames, who currently reside in the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.

"We've got 38 games to try to make it right, and I decided to make a change to get different results," he said. "I'm hoping and believing what I did today will have a positive impact in us turning the corner."

Woodcroft becomes Edmonton's ninth coach since 2009, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Holland. The GM has said on multiple occasions -- during his introductory media conference, as well as just last month when Evander Kane was introduced -- that he believes in coaching stability.

"I believe in stability, it's just a gut feel," said Holland, who over the course of his long executive career had never fired a coach mid-season prior to Thursday. "I just feel I need to make a change."

Changes in the room might not be part of the equation, however.

"The solution probably has to be in the room at this stage of the game," Holland said. "I think we've got some people who can play better, but you start to win, you get some confidence, you get some swagger. We've lost our swagger."

Woodcroft, 45, was promoted from the Oilers' AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, where he has been head coach since 2018-19. Over three-plus seasons in Bakersfield, Woodcroft registered a record of 105-71-21 highlighted by a Pacific Division championship (no Calder Cup was awarded) last season.

Before joining the Condors, Woodcroft was an assistant coach with the Oilers for three seasons and the San Jose Sharks for seven. He also spent three years as a member of Mike Babcock's Detroit Red Wings coaching staff (2005-08), including their 2008 Stanley Cup championship season.

Under Tippett, 60, the Oilers were 95-62-14 over two-plus seasons. The Oilers made the playoffs in his first two seasons, but were bounced from the first round both times.

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