Hockey fans, after finishing their work-day on Monday, were in for a bit of a disappointment when they flicked on the tube at home. However, even if there were no games on Monday, there were still hockey headlines in the May 11th, 2015 edition of the Edmonton Journal. Here’s a look at a topic addressed by Jim Matheson in Monday’s Journal.
Matheson, writing on page B1, wrote an article about Todd Nelson and his situation in Edmonton. Under the headline “Oilers leave Nelson twisting in the wind” Matheson depicts the current Oilers coach as having an uncertain future (ie. “Nelson is in a state of limbo”). As Matheson sees it, the current Oilers coach “probably knows in his heart of hearts that the Oilers are going to replace him,” an opinion that I agree with.
The article, written in the broader context of events that have unfolded in Edmonton over the course of the 2014/15 season, sees Nelson as a bit of a victim.
Nelson, after taking over from the ineffective Dallas Eakins part way through the regular season, navigated the Edmonton Oilers out of the NHL’s basement. In fairness, that should count for something as far as assessing his coaching skills goes. Nelson, if you judge him by a coach’s bottom line, appears to be worthy of continued employment as a head coach, an opinion Matheson appears to agree with:
“Nelson deserves better after he turned the Oilers around in his brief time behind the bench. He’s a bright guy, but has been an NHL head coach for only four months or so.”
For those that don’t know there have been a lot of changes in Edmonton in the last month, changes that make the Oilers a commodity worthy of leadership from a more proven behind-the-bench boss.
In particular the Oilers won the 2015 NHL draft lottery and that promises to land them hotshot Connor McDavid in late June. McDavid, touted as a player comparable to Wayne Gretzky, is someone that a struggling franchise should be able to rebuild around – maybe even quickly.
Herein lies the source of the perceived unfairness: Nelson did a good job, his team improved under his guidance, and yet he’s probably getting the boot due to the bouncing of the balls.
In my view, even if Nelson may get a raw deal in Edmonton it’s nothing to be sorry for him for. He got a chance to prove himself and, even if he’s still underqualified to handpick his job, he should still land an opportunity elsewhere (maybe even somewhere nicer than the Canadian prairies).
The Oilers are no longer a franchise that will merely put a team on the ice with Johnny-on-the-spot as the coach. Rather they are team who will be under the weight of expectation. It’s fair to say that Nelson might be capable of leading the Oilers to a strong season however it’s also fair to say that he can’t outcompete Mike Babcock or even Todd McLellan and that’s the issue at hand.