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Rick Zamperin: ‘Tis the season for NHL coaching changes

The Edmonton Oilers have fired head coach Todd McLellan. Global News

The Edmonton Oilers have become the fourth National Hockey League team to make a coaching change this season after handing Todd McLellan his walking papers on Tuesday.

He joins L.A.’s John Stevens, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville and St. Louis’ Mike Yeo on the list of head coaches who are suddenly out of work.

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Funny thing is, there were no head coaching changes during the 2017-18 season, which hadn’t happened since 1966-67 — aka the last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. So, yeah, last year was a weird one.

However, there’s nothing weird about Edmonton’s switcheroo behind the bench, with Ken Hitchcock ending his very brief retirement to coach Connor McDavid and the scuffling Oilers.

Hitchcock is one of the best coaches of all-time, racking up 823 career victories (third all-time behind on Scotty Bowman and Quenneville) with a Stanley Cup title to his credit and numerous accolades with the Canadian Olympic team.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers fire head coach Todd McLellan, hire Ken Hitchcock

Watch below: Some video about the Oilers hiring Ken Hitchcock as their coach.

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Entering their game Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton occupied sixth place in the Pacific Division at 9-10-1, and coming off a season in which many thought they would challenge for the Cup, only to miss the playoffs entirely.

McLellan went 123-119-24 (.508 winning percentage) in his time with the Oilers after sporting a record of 311-163-66 (.637) in his first seven seasons as an NHL head coach in San Jose.

To me, McLellan’s firing is general manager Peter Chiarelli’s last stand in oil country.

If Hitchcock can’t turn the tide in Edmonton and get the Oilers into the playoffs this season, the team will in all likelihood be searching for a new GM and head coach in the offseason.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about new Edmonton Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock

Oilers fans have suffered through some rough years in recent memory and having one of the best players on the planet in McDavid in their lineup and falling well short of expectations is just downright cruel.

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