After firing Dallas Eakins as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, GM Craig MacTavish turned his attention to naming a replacement. Beginning almost immediately Todd Nelson will wear the interim head coaching badge with Craig MacTavish helping him making the transition.
MacTavish says that he will be helping coach the team “and eventually hand the duties over to Todd.” As for Oklahoma City, Gerry Fleming will remain in Oklahoma City, and will serve as the head coach of the Barons at least for the remainder of this season. This moves Tony Borgford to a more permanent assistant coach behind the bench.
With no contract signed or any plans scheduled beyond the 14-15 season, the announcement of Todd Nelson as the new Oilers head coach likely catches no one off guard. And while this might feel like an interview period for Todd Nelson, he certainly could find some goodness from the bottom of the well, do some nice things in a half-season run, and leave the Oilers in the dust. Interview or not, he still has a piece in this chess game worth playing.
When Dallas Eakins was hired over a year and a half ago it felt like Todd Nelson had been passed over by the “sexy pick” from Toronto. Eakins was indeed a good AHL coach, but Todd Nelson was a better one. Thus it made the passing on a guy within the system a strange move by every stretch of the imagination.
Nonetheless, here we are, having come full circle, and Nelson gets a chance to motivate a defeated squad. You will recall that he coached Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz during the lockout season. Add Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom, Keith Aulie, Marc Arcobello etc., etc. to the list, and you realize that Nelson is familiar with the faces in the locker room. He has coached thirteen players active on the Edmonton Oilers roster at the time of his promotion. That’s exciting news, and gives him the leg up on Eakins even before he starts.
More thoughts on Nelson to come, stay tuned.