Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid came to the defense of former head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson after they were dismissed Sunday.
Woodcroft was replaced by Kris Knoblauch, best known for coaching McDavid in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters. The Oilers superstar pivot pushed back against the notion that Woodcroft had been tuned out by his players.
“Not at all," McDavid told reporters Monday. "He never lost the room, I didn't think."
"Our play hasn't been good enough. I'm first on the list there. Our play needs to be better, it's the reason two good guys lost their job."
Widely viewed as a leading contender for the Stanley Cup, Edmonton has stumbled out of the gate to a 3-9-1 record, with pressure mounting on McDavid, along with fellow superstar Leon Draisaitl to deliver the franchise’s first title since 1990.
McDavid also rejected the notion that he forced Woodcroft out in favor of Knoblauch.
“I woke up to a text, like probably a lot of you guys did as well," McDavid said. "I know the narrative out there obviously, but it couldn't be farther from the truth."
McDavid is coming off one of the best regular season campaigns in NHL history, where he recorded 64 goals and 153 points in 82 games. This season, it hasn’t been remotely the same as McDavid has registered two goals and 10 points in 11 games — not bad numbers in a vacuum, but nowhere close to his tour-de-force performance in 2022-23.
Despite rejecting the idea that he hand-picked Woodcroft, McDavid provided the Oilers’ new coach with a vote of confidence.
"It's been a really long time," McDavid said. "Obviously I thought he was great in junior, I don't know what he's been up to other than he's been coaching obviously in the NHL as an assistant, and in the American league. He's a young voice, which is great. I think it resonates with a lot of guys in this room, you know he's someone that I look forward to working with."