What's going on with head coaches getting fired after an impressive victory? Texas A&M fired football coach Jimbo Fisher on Sunday despite the Aggies demolishing Mississippi State on Saturday. The NHL's Edmonton Oilers, arguably the biggest disappointments of the season, had one of their best efforts of the year Saturday with a victory at Seattle but fired head coach Jay Woodcroft on Sunday as well. Kris Knoblauch will make his NHL coaching debut with Edmonton a -160 home favorite on the SportsLine consensus vs. the New York Islanders.
Edmonton nearly won the Pacific Division last year and reached the Western Conference semifinals, losing in six games to eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas. At least a similar amount of success was expected this season for the Oilers, but they are 3-9-1 with just seven points, ahead of only the tanking San Jose Sharks.\
If Woodcroft was going to be canned, many expected it to be after a thoroughly embarrassing 3-2 loss at the Sharks on Thursday. That may very well have been the final straw, but perhaps the front office wanted to wait until Sunday and after the team's three-game road trip concluded. Woodcroft took over for Dave Tippett in February 2022 and led the Oilers to a 79-41-13 regular-season record, the fifth-best coaching record in the NHL over that time. Woodcroft will get another job in no time.
This also may have been done specifically with superstar Connor McDavid in mind. The three-time Hart Trophy winner was the heavy favorite entering the season to win a fourth but has a scant 10 points, a 73-point pace that would be the lowest of his career other than his injury-shortened rookie campaign in 2015-16. McDavid, who had a career-high 153 points last season, recently told the media recently his confidence is "not very high"
This summer, the franchise hired McDavid's longtime agent, Jeff Jackson, as its CEO of hockey operations. Knoblauch was McDavid's minor-league for three years with the OHL's Erie Otters. You can see where this is going with the team catering to its franchise player. Knoblauch most recently worked as the coach of the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack for the past five seasons.
McDavid and star teammate Leon Draisaitl are +105 co-favorites as anytime goal scorers tonight. McDavid has only found the net twice, with his last tally coming on Oct. 17. Draisaitl only has five goals. Expect a much more offensively flowing system under Knoblauch, but it won't matter much if the Oilers don't get better goaltending. They rank third-from-last in GAA at 3.92 per game and last in combined save percentage (.864).
"Right now, I want Connor and everyone just to take a breath, relax, play hockey and find some joy in it and play the way they can," Knoblauch said. "Because right now, I just think there's too much pressure on them and they're feeling it."
New York enters on a four-game skid with all-world goalie Ilya Sorokin, the preseason betting favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, really in a funk. The Russian has allowed at least four goals in five of his past six outings. Last season, he would go weeks without allowing four.
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