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McLellan fired as Oilers coach, replaced by Hitchcock

Edmonton has lost six of seven games, is in sixth place in Pacific Division

by @NHLdotcom

Todd McLellan was fired as coach of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and replaced by Ken Hitchcock.

"I know what is wrong but it's not going to get fixed overnight," Hitchcock said. "I've got to sell them with my best. Players have to buy. I told the players today I can take them to a place personally that they can't get to themselves. But they have to buy into that. It's not going to be comfortable at times, but if we expect to win hockey games, we're not going to do it on talent. We're really going to have to develop an atmosphere where we're 100 percent locked in playing for each other and not with each other."

McLellan is the fourth NHL coach (John Stevens, Los Angeles Kings; Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks; Mike Yeo, St. Louis Blues) fired this season after there were none fired last season.

The Oilers (9-10-1) have lost two straight and six of their past seven games, are 3-7-0 since a 6-3-1 start, and are sixth in the Pacific Division. They've allowed 3.30 goals per game (tied for 24th in the NHL) and are 27th on the penalty kill (74.2 percent).

"Obviously disappointed," captain Connor McDavid said. "Todd was a guy that everyone liked, but ultimately we're a team that's underachieving right now and no one likes where we're at, so the change is necessary.

"It's tough to pinpoint what we need, but we're all to blame here. This obviously isn't on Todd at all. It's on us as players. That's just how the business works sometimes. We've got to wake up here."

Edmonton plays at the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSCA, SNW, NHL.TV). The Oilers lost 6-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights at home Sunday.

"It really came up after the Sunday game," Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "I barely slept on it and started thinking about it in the morning. We traveled, and unfortunately Todd had to come with us. It was not planned ... it would have been nice for me to make that decision earlier. Maybe it was the American Thanksgiving juncture point, maybe it was six out of seven (losses). I felt like it was time.

"We had a real good stretch and I don't think we overachieved, and then I just saw some reversion. This isn't scientific. It's a sense and a feel and you talk to some people, and what I saw, I saw levels of flatness and levels of non-responsiveness, and when that happens, the radar goes up.

"We might look at some moves. I think it is good enough. None of us are going to absolve ourselves of this situation, including the players. I think they can be better."

McLellan, 51, was named Oilers coach May 19, 2015 after seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks (2008-15) and three as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2008. He was 123-119-24 in four seasons and a finalist for the Jack Adams Award (NHL coach of the year) in 2016-17 after the Oilers finished 47-26-9 to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. Edmonton lost to the Anaheim Ducks in seven games in the Western Conference Second Round.

"It's too bad," Oilers center Leon Draisaitl said. "I thought Todd was a great coach and he improved this team a lot. It was made clear this is not on him, this is on us players. He was preaching the right things and trying the best he could do to play the right way. Mostly this is on us as players. For me personally, he was amazing. I love Todd. It's part of the business. It's a new look and gives us hopefully some new energy and a little bit of a push."

A native of Edmonton, Hitchcock, 66, is the third winningest coach in NHL history (823-506-119, 88 ties) in 22 seasons with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues, behind Quenneville (890) and Scotty Bowman (1,244). Hitchcock coached the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999 and won the Jack Adams Award with the Blues in 2011-12.

"I think I can clear the deck," Hitchcock said. "I went through this in St. Louis. We turned it around in eight or nine days. We started to really play for each other. I think I can help this team turn it around."

Hitchcock has won eight division titles and the Presidents' Trophy twice (1997-98, 1998-99 with Dallas). He's 86-82 in 168 postseason games coached and his teams reached the conference final five times and the Stanley Cup Final twice (1999, 2000).

"We don't have time to horse around. ... We have to get going," said Hitchcock, who retired from coaching last season after the Stars went 42-32-8 and failed to qualify for playoffs but remained with the organization. "I want to be able to tell them everything I'm about, good and bad. I want them to be 100 percent prepared for what to expect from me so we don't have to go through the dance. ... I want to be really clear with the players. This is what I expect. This is what you can expect from me. I'm going to be consistent. This is how I'm going to act so there's no surprise."

Chiarelli said, "He can instill something in short order and execute and direct it. He's going to be here for the year and we can evaluate it at the end of the year. I had some good discussions with him the latter part of yesterday. He's very excited and motivated and had our team down as far as player to player and systems. ... There's still a lot of runway left on this year and we felt a new voice would be helpful." staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report

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