The Edmonton Oilers fired coach Todd McLellan on Tuesday and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock with hopes of reviving a team languishing in sixth place in the Pacific Division.
McLellan was in his fourth season behind the Oilers' bench. The team missed the playoffs in two of his previous three seasons despite having superstar Connor McDavid on its roster and the Oilers were just 9-10-1 entering its game Tuesday night at San Jose.
McLellan is the fourth coach to be fired already this season, following John Stevens in Los Angeles, Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Mike Yeo in St. Louis.
The Oilers have lost six of their last seven games and only the Blues and Los Angeles Kings are below them in the Western Conference standings.
"Obviously it is frustrating, there is no other way to say it," McDavid said Sunday after a loss to Vegas. "Especially because we have shown we can be a good team. We had that 8-1-1 stretch where we looked really good and now we have wavered and find ourselves dipping a bit. We just have to get back to that brand of hockey that we know we can play."
The 66-year-old Hitchcock announced his retirement in April after a 22-year coaching career, which included a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He had two stints in Dallas as well as head coaching stops in Philadelphia (2002-2006), Columbus (2006-2010) and St. Louis (2011-2017).
The Edmonton native is the third-winningest coach in NHL history with an overall record of 823-506-88-119 (.603 winning percentage). He has guided teams to eight division titles and twice to the best record in the NHL.
In April, Hitchcock sounded as if he was ready to retire for good as he stepped down from the bench in Dallas.
"I have contemplated this since our last game and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over," Hitchcock said then.
He had returned to Dallas after 14 seasons elsewhere, with the hope of getting Dallas back to the playoffs but a late-season slump kept them out for the second straight year and the eighth time in 10 seasons.
St. Louis made the playoffs in each of Hitchcock's five full seasons, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2016. The Blues abruptly fired Hitchcock in February last year, cutting short what was already going to be his last season in St. Louis.
Hitchcock's playoff record is 86-82, and he also has an extensive background with Team Canada, which he led to a silver medal at the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship. He was an assistant when Canada won Olympic gold in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
In Edmonton, there is plenty of blame to go around for the lackluster start by a top-heavy roster led by McDavid and fellow center Leon Draisaitl. General manager Peter Chiarelli traded winger Taylor Hall to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson in June 2016, and then signed forward Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42 million contract a few days later.
Hall won the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season, while Lucic has two goals in his last 66 games.
Hitchcock becomes the seventh coach for the Oilers since the team fired Craig McTavish at the end of the 2008-09 season, following Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson and McLellan.
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