"I try to bring that atmosphere where everybody's accountable, but they're not accountable to me or management, they're accountable to winning and the crest on their jersey," Dave Tippett said
EDMONTON, AB - Three weeks ago, from the moment of being named Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Ken Holland preached his new organization's need for consistency and stability.
The process of setting the Oilers on a new course began with the search for a new head coach that would echo those words in the dressing room. Just 21 days on from his hiring, Holland officially announced Dave Tippett as the club's 16th head coach in franchise history and the new leader behind the bench for the Oilers on Tuesday.
"This was a unique opportunity. It's a first-class organization," Tippett said Tuesday morning to the media from the Oilers Hall of Fame Room.
"You have passionate fans and I think there's a tonne of upside in this group here. With Ken coming along to give it stability, that was a big checkmark for me. There were just a lot of things that came together. In the hockey world, this is still looked upon as a great place; this is still looked upon as a very, very good franchise. That's the feedback I got, and when Ken reached out I looked at it hard and it was a great opportunity."
Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and Vice Chair Bob Nicholson handed the reigns on May 7 to Holland, who began his search for a bench boss with the assistance of a former Oilers coach in Ken Hitchcock mere hours after accepting his new responsibilities.
"I started the search three weeks ago, the day I was named general manager of the Edmonton Oilers," Holland said. "The first thing that I did was reach out to Ken. He's been a coach in the National Hockey League for a long, long time and I asked Ken to assist me in going through the process in naming the next head coach of the Oilers. I want to thank Ken for being involved and helping out in this process."
At the beginning, the list was extensive and included a wide range of candidates with varying levels of experience.
"I put together a list of 15 to 17 candidates," Holland said. "There were three or four who'd never coached before, but most of them had history and experience in being an NHL coach. Then over the last three weeks, Ken and I worked the phones a lot. We talked to a lot of managers, Ken talked to a lot of coaches and assistant coaches trying to work our way through a list."
One name continued to stand out for Holland - a name with 1,114 NHL games as a head coach, 553 wins, a Jack Adams Award in 2009-10 with the Arizona Coyotes, and 11 seasons as a player scattered across Hartford, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
"Dave was always the leading candidate in my mind going through the process, but I wanted to make sure as we worked our way towards a decision that I felt comfortable that we were hiring the best man possible. I feel very good about that today," Holland added.
Holland met with Tippett for close to five hours a few days after his own appointment in San Diego as the Bakersfield Condors contested the AHL Pacific Division Final before meeting again last week extensively in Western Canada.
"I'm big on experience. Dave has coached in the National Hockey League for over 1,000 games behind the bench. When you're in the National Hockey League there's always some choppy waters, and certainly having somebody behind the bench who's been through it before is a positive."
Tippett, 57, has seen plenty of consistency as an NHL head coach with the Dallas Stars for six seasons and the Arizona Coyotes for eight before serving in a senior advisor role for Seattle's expansion efforts that are set to come to fruition in 2021.
"I talked to a lot of people," Tippett said. "It's been an interesting couple of years for me because I took a year off to try and catch my breath. Then the Seattle thing came up which was very intriguing and interesting, but there were a couple of opportunities where the timing wasn't right for me to jump."
Accountability, and playing his part behind the bench in helping create a cohesive top-down environment in the Oilers organization, becomes the new task for the Moosomin, Saskatchewan product.
"I'm big on stability. I'm big on relationships and communication," Tippett said. "The coach should be setting the plan in place in the dressing room for the players, but ultimately there's a bigger goal for the coaches, trainers, and management - it's a team that's trying to win and you're trying to win together. I try to bring that atmosphere where everybody's accountable, but they're not accountable to me or management, they're accountable to winning and the crest on their jersey."
Tippett's ability as a strong communicator stretches beyond giving out orders behind the bench to a greater willingness to develop a connection with his players in order to develop a winning culture and get the best out his lineup every night.
"No matter who you have on your team, you try to maximize the individual talents of each of those players. That's the coach's responsibility," Tippett said. "Whether you have a top superstar, a role player, or a backup goalie, you have to maximize every individual and that's what I always feel like I try to bring to my teams.
"You've got to find ways to win. There's days when you're tired, days when top players are hurt, and I always felt there's never an excuse for not winning. If you're not winning, give yourself the best chance of winning that you can, and that's what I've always believed in."
When you're two years separated from the bench like Tippett has been, the excitement of flipping the switch back into coaching mode is one that has him appreciating the little details that come with preparing a new club for a new campaign.
"I don't think it will really hit me until I get behind that bench for the first time," Tippett said. "I'm looking forward to planning a training camp and all those things that I've done for so long. I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm excited to work with Ken. He's one of the top guys out there, and I know because I did a lot of research on those guys this year. I'm excited to work with him and obviously excited to work with a young group of players."