Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said the tipping point, for him, was Sunday’s game where the Oilers lost 6-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“These are difficult decisions and you’ve heard a lot of GMs speak in this position,” Chiarelli said in San Jose Tuesday morning. “There’s still a lot of runway left in this year and we thought a new voice would be helpful.
“I saw levels of flatness, levels of unresponsiveness. When we saw that we had to react.”
Watch below: Todd McLellan has been fired as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. The team announced Tuesday Ken Hitchcock will take over behind the bench.
McLellan has a 123-119-24 record in three full seasons with the Oilers, plus the 9-10-1 start to this season. He was hired by Peter Chiarelli when Chiarelli took over as Oilers general manager for the 2015-16 season, leading them to the second round of the playoffs in 2016-17.
WATCH BELOW: Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli addresses the media after firing head coach Todd McLellan
The 66-year-old Hitchcock, an Edmonton native, has coached for 21 seasons in the NHL, most recently with the Dallas Stars. He has eight division titles and one Stanley Cup victory, coming in the 1998-99 season with Dallas.
“I had the experience of working with Ken in Sochi, obviously his track record is impeccable,” Chiarelli said. “What I saw was a really high level of input in a short period of time.”
“They weren’t going to make a lateral move, so they got a guy that’s won before that understands Edmonton as well,” Edmonton Oilers colour announcer on 630 CHED Bob Stauffer said.
“Hitch has won before, he knows the Edmonton market, I don’t think it’s a four or five year deal for him but they’ve got to jumpstart this team to get them going here in the playoffs.”
Stauffer said Hitchcock is typically known as a defensive coach and Oilers fans may see some changes on the ice.
“I can see Hitch being a guy that would say, ‘Puljujarvi is playing in the top six, maybe with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins,’ and so maybe he’s only down in the farm for five games.”
Chiarelli confirmed that he and Hitchcock had spoken about Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto specifically. Both players are currently playing for the Bakersfield Condors.
Both Stauffer and play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels were surprised to see the change happen now as they said McLellan was on the team’s plane on Monday.
Michaels figured the team would wait and see what happened on this road trip before making any decisions.
“The Oilers hadn’t helped themselves or their coach by losing six of their last seven. That’s the biggest thing,” Michaels said. “When you’re in a situation where you’ve lost six of seven and you weren’t necessarily atop the league when that slide started, inevitably questions are going to come up, especially off a bad playoff year last year.”
Many fans have been calling for Chiarelli to be fired, and those continued after the news broke that McLellan had been fired. Michaels thinks this move shows the club still trusts its GM.
“I think the fact that a coaching change has been made and a guy with Ken Hitchcock’s resume has been brought in indicates that there’s faith in Chiarelli’s judgement.”
LISTEN BELOW: Bob Stauffer and Jack Michael join the Ryan Jespersen show on 630 CHED after the news that the Edmonton Oilers fired head coach Todd McLellan
Chiarelli said Hitchcock is going to be here for the rest of the season and the club will reassess after that. Even though Hitchcock doesn’t have a full season to make some change happen, Chiarelli is confident the team will improve.
“He knows how to inject system structure, execution in a short period of time,” he said. “He’s well respected, a task manager and he’s got a lot to his profile.”
Chiarelli said McLellan was told of the change on Tuesday morning and was “obviously disappointed.”
Hitchcock will be behind the bench for the Oilers when they play the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Watch below: Analysis of the move to fire McLellan and hire Hitchcock
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.