NHL

'Good communicator' Dave Tippett hired to coach rebuilding Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers, with explosive forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, have opted for a head coach known as a defence-first kind of guy, but also a man with a winning record in the NHL and ability to get the most out of his players.

Ex-Coyotes, Stars bench boss brings winning record, structure to Edmonton

At his introductory news conference Tuesday, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett discussed communication with his players. “You have a relationship with your players that you care about them, not just as players, but as people, and you build a team atmosphere accordingly." (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The Edmonton Oilers, with explosive forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, have opted for a head coach known as a defence-first kind of guy, but also a man with a winning record in the NHL and ability to get the most out of his players.

Recently hired general manager Ken Holland named former Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett as the 16th bench boss in Oilers history on Tuesday.

"I come to a team that has lots of upside," Tippett told reporters at a 28-minute news conference. "Everybody talks about [captain Connor] McDavid and [fellow forward Leon] Draisaitl. There's more pieces here [than them]. There's good players to build on.

"Ken and I … are very much in alignment with the pace of play we want to play at, how hard we have to compete, allowing players to maximize their talents. That's a coach's responsibility."

A 57-year-old native of Moosomin, Sask., Tippett left his senior adviser's role with the Seattle expansion franchise to sign a reported three-year deal with the Oilers, who have missed the playoffs 12 of the past 13 seasons.

WATCH | Tippett on McDavid and Draisaitl:

Dave Tippett answers questions from the media after being introduced as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. 1:36

He said he has not reached outside the organization for potential staff members and noted it's only fair to first speak with current Edmonton assistant coaches Glen Gulutzen, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros.

In June 2017, Tippett and the Coyotes agreed to part ways after eight up-and-down seasons during which the team went 282-257-83 and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 Western Conference final.

While Tippett's Coyotes missed the post-season in each of his final five seasons, they operated under a rock-bottom budget and several owners, and reportedly could have a new majority owner before the start of next season.

When you're in the National Hockey League there's always choppy waters and certainly having someone behind the bench that's been through it before, it's a positive.— Oilers GM Ken Holland on Dave Tippett, the team's new and experienced head coach

Tippett said some of the teams he had in the desert were higher on character and work ethic than talent.

"We worked together well, and we found ways to win a lot of good hockey games" he said. "You've got to find ways to win. There's days when maybe you're tired or your top players are hurt. I always tell the players there's never an excuse for not winning."

Holland, who began the coaching search three weeks ago with 15-17 candidates, said Tippett was always his leading candidate.

"I'm big on experience," Holland said. "When you're in the National Hockey League there's always choppy waters and certainly having someone behind the bench that's been through it before, it's a positive.

Dave's teams play with structure, he holds his players accountable and he's a good communicator. I look forward in working with Dave to build the Oilers into an elite team."

2010 NHL coach of the year

The Buffalo Sabres, who recently hired ex-Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger, are said to have interviewed Tippett for the job.

The NHL's coach of the year in 2010, Tippett has a career 553-413-28-120 mark over 1,114 regular-season games and 14 seasons with Arizona and Dallas along with a 33-41 playoff record.

The detail-oriented Tippett takes over from Ken Hitchcock, who guided Edmonton to a 35-38-9 mark after taking over from the fired Todd McLellan last November. An initial 8-2-1 surge under Hitchcock was followed by weeks of poor play, with the Oilers going 18-26-7 the rest of the way to finish 11 points out of playoff position.

Upon his hiring three weeks ago, Oilers general manager Ken Holland said it was time to build a relationship with a new head coach and added the "key building blocks" were in place in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)
When Ken Holland arrived in Edmonton three weeks ago as the new GM, he said it was time to build a relationship with a new head coach and that hiring Hitchcock's successor was his top priority.

"The key building blocks are here," Holland, the architect of three Stanley Cup titles with the Detroit Red Wings, told reporters. "I have to go out and support that core, find a coach, provide stability and build a program that our fan base is excited about."

WATCH | 'Analytics is a great tool':

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett says he uses analytics as tool all of the time and has been using them since 1995. 2:13

Oilers captain McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were the only forwards on the team to reach the 40-point mark this past season.

"I know Connor from working with him at a World Cup but don't know Draisaitl personally," said Tippett. "I've watched a lot of video of them together and apart. I like seeing them together. It seems they feed off each other.

"That being said, I want to see by the time we get to training camp [in September] how the rest of the lineup looks."

There will be no shortage of challenges for Tippett, whose teams are structurally sound, as Edmonton ranked 20th in the 31-team NHL the past two seasons in offence at five-on-five and 26th in five-on-five goals against.

The success of special teams is also critical, especially in the post-season. A power play led by McDavid ranked ninth with a 21.2 per cent success rate during the 2018-19 campaign, while the penalty-kill was 30th at 74.8 per cent.

Edmonton a 'great place, good franchise'

Tippett prides himself on communication and building relationships while also holding his players accountable to winning and the logo on their jersey.

"One thing players will tell you about me is I'm very honest," he said. "If a player is not playing well, I'll tell him he's not playing well. If he's playing well, I'll tell him he's playing well. It goes beyond communication to a relationship. 

"You have a relationship with your players that you care about them, not just as players, but as people. You build a team atmosphere accordingly and the communication is the easy part of it."

For Tippett, who has never coached in Canada, he described his new job as "a unique opportunity" to join a first-class Oilers organization with a passionate fan base.

"With Ken providing stability, that was a big check mark for me," he said. "In the hockey world, [Edmonton] is still looked upon as a great place and good franchise. That's the feedback I got and it was a great opportunity."

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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