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Todd McLellan named coach of Edmonton Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Todd McLellan was introduced Tuesday as Edmonton Oilers coach.

He replaces Todd Nelson, who took over after Dallas Eakins was fired 31 games into the 2014-15 season, and will be Edmonton's seventh coach in eight seasons.

"Todd was at the top of my list for a number of reasons," Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "I thought the fit was right with our personnel. I thought the fit was right with the way I manage, and in this business when you want to get a top coach, you have to act quickly. It's almost like a free agent for players; if you're not in there first, you're probably not going to get that guy. I made it an effort that he was a guy we were going to go after and we were going to go after hard."

McLellan, 47, was 311-163-66 the past seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks. He coached San Jose to six consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff berths before failing to qualify this season. In April, McLellan and the Sharks agreed to part.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli joins NHL Live to discuss the hiring of Todd McLellan as new coach and offseason plans. WATCH NOW ›

"I'm happy here. I didn't need to go to other places," McLellan said. "It wasn't about money or anything like that. It was about opportunity and family for me. I'm comfortable in Edmonton. Family-wise, my wife has family here, I have family here. I'm a Western Canada guy (born in Melville, Saskatchewan). I feel good about being here. After all those years in California, I think I still like the snow a little bit, so that will have to come into play. It felt right; your gut sometimes tells you that you're doing the right thing, and my gut was telling me that."

McLellan, who coached Canada to a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship this month, and Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings were the most sought-after coaches available. Babcock is expected to announce his decision on where he will coach next season on Wednesday; Detroit and the Buffalo Sabres are considered the leading contenders.

The Oilers have not played in the postseason since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes, and Edmonton finished 28th in the NHL this season.

The Oilers won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, giving them the opportunity to select Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, and hired Chiarelli as general manager after he was fired by the Boston Bruins.

Each event played a part in convincing McLellan to come to Edmonton.

"That [draft lottery] was something everybody was watching," McLellan said. "If you were a coach out of work and was considering a position to land in, everybody had an eyeball on where Connor was going to end up, of course. He wasn't the only factor that came into play. There were so many other factors that I had to consider, and I only get to make 50 percent of the decision. The other part was made by the Oilers organization, and the way it turned out, I was really excited about it."

McLellan was coach of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League for six seasons, leading them to division titles in 1996 and 2000. He was general manager in his final four seasons.

McLellan's next coaching job was with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, where he won the 2003 Calder Cup. From there, McLellan was an assistant coach under Babcock with the Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.

"The reason why Todd was the top candidate in my mind, watching his teams over the last number of years, from the San Jose perspective, he's taken a team with a number of young players to a level close to the Cup," Chiarelli said. "I've seen what he's done with those players, and talking about those types of skilled players that learned how to play hard, I think he's done a good job. His level of energy and his level of thinking has really impressed me, and if you look at him behind the bench, he's really active and I think he's a terrific bench manager."

Chiarelli said the Oilers will owe the Sharks draft-pick compensation for hiring McLellan but specifics have not been determined.

McLellan has not had an opportunity to consider his coaching staff with the Oilers because he was in the Czech Republic for the World Championship. He will meet with Nelson and his assistants, and it is expected former Sharks assistant coach Jay Woodcroft will join McLellan in Edmonton.

"The gold-medal experience was phenomenal," McLellan said. "To see a group of players buy into what we were trying to do over there, to put their egos aside. We talked a lot about the whole being better than the parts and being better every day, and that theme has to take place here in Edmonton as well. If that group over there can do that, there is no reason why anybody else can't. It may take a little longer, we may not have all the right pieces, but what we do have, we have to make better here."

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