Three times Dave Tippett has taken over as head coach of a professional hockey team.
Three times those teams have improved right away under Tippett and kept trending well for a few years.
Sounds good? It’s exactly what the Edmonton Oilers need to happen right now.
Of course, the Oilers trended up in the second year of Todd McLellan’s time as head coach, but that trend didn’t last with the team dropping in McLellan’s third and fourth seasons, so much so that McLellan was axed 20 games into his fourth campaign.
As for Tippett, the Cult’s Kurt Leavins reports that Tippett and the Oilers have a done deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that at this moment Tippett and the Oilers haven’t finalized an agreement, but he would not be surprised if it gets done.
Tippett is a veteran coach and a successful one. Most importantly, he is a coach who made every one of his teams better right after he took charge. Those teams all scored more goals and gave up fewer goals. They appeared to be more effective in all aspects of the game.
Tippett’s first job came with the IHL’s Houston Areos in 1995-96 when he took over from coach Terry Ruskowski half through the year.
In 42 games under Ruskowski, the Areos had 12 wins and 27 points in the standings. In 40 games under Tippett, they had 17 wins and 39 points.
The following year, a team that had scored 262 goals and let in 328 in 1995-96 improved to 247 goals for and 228 goals against in 1996-97.
The Dallas years
Next stop for Tippett — after three years in Los Angeles as an asst. coach — was the Dallas Stars, where Tippett took over from Ken Hitchcock and Rick Wilson in 2002-03.
In 2001-02, Hitchcock and Wilson had coached the Stars to 90 points in 82 games, with 215 goals for and 213 goals against. In Tippett’s first year, the Stars shot up to 111 points, with 245 goals for and 169 goals against.
Tipped coached there six years in total, doing well with a team led by aging stars Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Darryl Sydor, Marty Turco and Sergei Zubov. The team dropped off only in his sixth and final season there, with Modano and Zubov at age 38, Sydor, 36, Lehtinen, 35, and Turco, 33. All good things must pass.
Dallas remained outside the playoffs until 2013-14.
The Phoenix years
Tippett, however, got a new start in Phoenix. The year before he arrived, the final season of Wayne Gretzky’s four years as head coach, Arizona got 79 points in 82 games, with 208 goals for and 252 goals against.
In Tippet’s first year, 2009-10, Phoenix had 107 points, with 225 goals for and just 202 against, a remarkable turn-around after six mediocre seasons in a row, four of them with Gretzky as head coach. In the next two seasons, Phoenix got 99 and 97 points under Tippett, making the playoffs in all three seasons of his tenure.
But for the next five seasons, the struggling and unstable Phoenix franchise made the playoffs not once under Tippett. In a few of those years, they were one of the worst teams in the NHL.
What went wrong? Top vets like Ray Whitney, Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucoin, Shane Doan, Eric Belanger, Daymond Langkow, Derek Morris and Michal Rozsival all got older and either were less effective or retired or left. At the same time, there was little new, young talent flowing onto the roster, save for the arrival of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal. Simple as that, really. You lose eight or nine good vets and replace them with only three or four good younger players, you’ve got trouble.
As for the Oilers, this is a roster full of players in their prime years as NHLers, including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse.
It’s time to start winning.
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