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JIM MATHESON: Dave Tippett is safe pick to coach Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers announced Dave Tippett as the new head coach of the franchise on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.
The Edmonton Oilers announced Dave Tippett as the new head coach of the franchise on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

Unless Dave Tippett blows his face-to-face interview with the new sheriff in town, Ken Holland, Thursday in Vancouver according to SportsNet’s John Shannon, or his ask on salary and term is through the roof, he’s absolutely the front-runner to be the Edmonton Oilers 15th head coach.

He’s the safe, good pick although to play devil’s advocate while Tippett’s Arizona Coyotes did make the Western Conference final they missed the playoffs five years in a row. And while Tippett is certainly a strong fundamentals coach, the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov and Mike Smith in Arizona also saved them on many nights with the chances they were giving up.

That said, Tippett, always very details oriented, is the most experienced man out there — 1,134 games, a Jack Adams coach of the year award — and the Oilers may well need a veteran hand at the wheel in the veteran-coach Pacific Division.

Holland may feel he has enough on his plate, player-wise, and might not want to hold the hand of a newbie.

Here’s some things to consider about Tippett:

• He has a history of turning average players into good players like, say, ex-Oiler Laurie Korpikoski.

• He will play younger players. Oliver-Ekman Larsson was 20 and playing big minutes in Arizona.

• He’s preaches a sound structural game like Trotz and Cassidy and, hopefully, can cut goals against down.

“Tip comes with a great reputation, obviously, and the one thing that stands out for me is he seems to get the most out of players in the system he wants to have. He taps into individuals and that’s a great sign for a coach. He’s not robotic from a coaching perspective. He tries to make the individual parts better to make the structure better. He squeezes out the best in the role players. Look what he did with Toby Rieder there, Korpikoski, Kyle Chipchura,” said Louie DeBrusk, the long-time NHLer who did colour commentary for the Coyotes for several years when Tippett was Coyotes coach.

“People say the game’s changed, there’s more skill but really? It’s still a structurally-oriented game. Look at the two teams in the Stanley Cup final. The Bruins have some superstars and some young, skilled players like (Charlie) McAvoy and my son (Jake DeBrusk) but I know for a fact those guys wouldn’t play if their details weren’t in line.”

Will Tippett play young players?

“Depends how good they are fundamentally. We talk about details-oriented coaches all the time, and Dave’s that way. But if you look at the guys who’ve had success in this league, the coaches are that way. Barry Trotz. Bruce Cassidy’s mega that way. Craig Berube in St. Louis. If you’re young with good fundamentals you’ll play. If you’re young and a liability, you won’t. He’ll make the young player work to get those fundamentals up. But he played Ekman-Larsson with Coyotes when he was 20,” said DeBrusk.

“Mikkel Boedker was 21 in Arizona. Ekman-Larsson had 13 goals, Boedker had 20 goals.”

Can he coach superstars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

“I guess that’s a question. I don’t think he’s ever had that tool. Not in Arizona and in Dallas he had Mike Modano but when he was in his 30s or whatever. I don’t think Connor is very hard to coach,” said DeBrusk. “The better tools he gets, the better Dave Tippett will coach. He’s not going to stop Connor from making plays.”

OILERS LOOKING AT SWEDISH FREE AGENT

A few months back, then interim GM Keith Gretzky was talking about the Oilers looking at Euro free-agents.

“We don’t need checkers,” said Gretzky, without mentioning Lennart Petrell or Iiro Pakarinen’s name.

Both hard-workers but not good NHL hands. Which brings us to the Oilers pursuit of Swedish free-agent winger Joakim Nygard, who had 21 goals for Farsjestads this season.

Calgary and Oilers are the finalists according to Uffe Bodin, the well-tapped-in Swedish scribe. If the money’s the same, Nygard, who is very fast, has way more chance to play now with Oilers.

RODRIGUE SIGNED

The Oilers have signed their 2018 second-round draft goalie Olivier Rodrigue, whose dad Sylvain is Bakersfield goalie coach, to a three-year entry-level deal. Olivier will be living with his family in California this summer, maybe getting some tutelage from pops. He had a 2.43 average and .902 save percentage in Drummondville this season and will be playing another year of junior.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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