The first coaching change of the 2023-24 NHL season involves the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Edmonton Oilers today announced that head coach Jay Woodcroft has been relieved of his duties. His replacement? None other than Kris Knoblauch, who served as an assistant coach with the Flyers for two seasons.
Knoblauch most notably coached the Erie Otters from 2012-2017. With Erie, he had the privilege of coaching players like Connor McDavid, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Connor Brown, and Anthony Cirelli. Now, he’ll reunite with McDavid and Brown in Edmonton.
The 45-year-old joined the Philadelphia Flyers in 2017, and remained with them until 2019. Serving under Dave Hakstol, Knoblauch and the Flyers made the playoffs in their first season together, and Claude Giroux scored 100 points for the first and only time in his career. Sean Couturier also had his first season above 39 points, scoring 31 goals, 45 assists, and 76 points while finishing as runner-up for the Selke Trophy.
Couturier scored 76 points again in the following season, but has yet to reach those heights again since Knoblauch parted ways with the Flyers.
Since leaving the Flyers, Knoblauch has been coaching the New York Rangers’ minor league affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Now that he’s back behind an NHL bench, the esteemed coach finds himself in a similar, precarious position.
Knoblauch’s final season with the Flyers was befouled by injuries and goaltending problems. Eight different goalies started a game for Philadelphia that year, and 38 different players appeared in at least one game.
With the way things have gone for the Oilers, the former Wolf Pack bench boss has his work cut out for him. Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell have statistically been two of the NHL’s worst goalies, and the latter was already put on waivers.
McDavid hasn’t been the same since his injury early in the season. Brown and Mattias Janmark are both out at the moment, and if Brown plays one more game, he earns $3.225 million in signing bonuses. The catch is that Brown, returning from a torn ACL, has no goals or assists in nine games, and has a plus-minus rating of minus-five.
Knoblauch is going to have a lot of work to do with this Oilers team, but hopefully his last season with the Flyers taught him a thing or two.