Ken Hitchcock’s First Move As Oilers Coach Overrides GM’s Decision To Play Puljujarvi In The AHL

Ken Hitchcock has only been behind the Edmonton Oilers bench as head coach for a few days but he's already making sweeping changes, including calling up Jesse Puljujarvi from the AHL despite managements desire to get him more time and build his confidence.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Edmonton Oilers sent forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto down to Bakersfield Condors affiliate team in the AHL. It was there both struggling wingers would get a chance to play significant minutes and build their confidence before being called back up to the NHL where Edmonton is hoping they'll be key contributors in the future. Some fans in Edmonton were shocked it took as long as it did to send both down.

In Puljujarvi's case, he was playing well with four points in four games.

via Sportsnet

Not long after the decision was made to move both to the AHL, head coach Todd McLellan was relieved of his coaching duties in Edmonton. The Oilers had lost six of seven games and dropped below .500, making their way to the bottom-five of the NHL standings. They hired veteran coach Ken Hitchcock to replace him.

Two games into Hitch's tenure as coach, the Oilers are 1-0-1 and he's clearly got some pull within the organization. One phone call to general manager Peter Chiarelli and Puljujarvi was back up with the NHL team. “I wanted responsibility for his development,” Hitchcock said (via Oilers’ Jack Michaels). “I didn’t just want to be watching him play in AHL. I feel this is the type of player we need to win in the Western Conference. I asked (general manager Peter Chiarelli) if he’d bring him up for practice today.”

What This Means

A decision that took 20 games to make was undone in two by the new coach. Chiarelli is clearly on the hot seat in Edmonton and now making quick decisions in an attempt to turn this season around for the Oilers. If Hitchcock believes he can turn Puljujarvi's game around and he wants the Oilers to play a big and heavy style of hockey, Chiarelli seems ready to second-guess his own choices and give the reigns to the new coach.

Puljujarvi's recall is one of a series of changes including the Oilers trading for offensive-defenseman Chris Wideman from the Ottawa Senators and moving Milan Lucic to a line that includes Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian, where the onus is not on scoring goals but leaning on the opposition.

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