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Ex-Rangers AHL coach Kris Knoblauch has Oilers on the brink of Stanley Cup

NHL

After coaching in the American Hockey League for nearly five seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the Rangers organization, Kris Knoblauch accepted his first NHL head coaching job in mid-November and walked into an Edmonton Oilers locker room – occupied by some of the NHLs. biggest stars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – that was in disarray.

The Oilers, one of the Stanley Cup favorites to start the season, got off to a disastrous 3-9-1 start that got their coach, Jay Woodcroft, fired.

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch speaks with goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch speaks with goaltender Stuart Skinner. AP

In came Knoblauch, who was passed over twice for the Blueshirts job during his time in Hartford, and Edmonton ultimately finished in second place in the Pacific Division with a 46-18-5 record.

Now Knoblauch and the Oilers are four wins away from climbing hockey’s Mount Everest against the team that eliminated his former employers in the other half of the NHL playoff, the Florida Panthers.

“I saw a team that was very hard on itself, a team that was very frustrated,” Knoblauch said, according to the Canadian Press, before his team eliminated the Stars in the Western Conference finals on Sunday. “Things didn’t go the way they wanted… a team that probably tried too hard. You get so preoccupied and you don’t think clearly.

“If you try to do too much or try to do everything, you end up doing other people’s work, and you don’t do your job very well. Everything is closed.”

Inheriting a club that not only qualified for the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons, including the qualifying round in the 2020 bubble postseason, but also reached the conference finals two years ago certainly helped.

But Oilers general manager Ken Holland credited Knoblauch with saving the 2023-2024 season, according to ESPN.

The Oilers have hired Rangers AHL coach Kris Knoblauch as their new head coach.
Kris Knoblauch briefly served as acting head coach of the Rangers during the 2021-2022 season. AP

Knoblauch led the Wolf Pack to a 119-90-32 record with one point into the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers were certainly happy with his work in the AHL, but the organization would never hand the keys to a first-year coach when he was in win-now mode.

“I’m super happy for him,” Zac Jones told The Post in late December of Knoblauch getting an NHL gig. “I always thought it would happen. I didn’t think when it would come, but I knew he would be a head coach in the NHL at some point. I’m really happy for him and his family.

“I really liked him. I really enjoyed having him as coach for almost three years. It was good. He taught me a lot and put me in a lot of good situations, so I really enjoyed playing for him.”




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