The underachieving Edmonton Oilers fired coach Todd McLellan on Tuesday and will replace him with Ken Hitchcock.
It was the fourth NHL head coach firing of the season and the second within the past 12 hours, with the St. Louis Blues having dismissed coach Mike Yeo late Monday night. Last season, there were no head-coaching firings during the regular season, a first since Original Six expansion.
Through the quarter mark of the season, the Oilers are 9-10-1 and in sixth place in the Pacific Division. At .475, they have the sixth-lowest point percentage in the league.
"Obviously we're in a rough patch here," general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "We're leading into American Thanksgiving. It's a bit of a template for making the playoffs. I felt I was seeing some things that I had seen last year after not seeing them for quite a fair bit this year, and these recurring themes, I wanted to nip them in the bud."
McLellan had been behind the bench in Edmonton since the 2015-16 season after spending seven seasons as the San Jose Sharks' coach.
The Oilers had a terrific 2016-17 campaign and expectations were high that their Stanley Cup window was near with generational center Connor McDavid not yet having reached his prime. But Edmonton missed the playoffs the next season, stumbling to a 36-40-6 record (78 points) that put it sixth in the Pacific Division -- despite the fact that McDavid led the league with 108 points.
"It's tough to pinpoint what we need, but we're all to blame here," McDavid said. "This obviously isn't on Todd at all. It's on us as players. That's just how the business works sometimes. We got to wake up here."
Hitchcock, 66, has the third-most wins in NHL history with 823, trailing Joel Quenneville (890), who was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season, and Scotty Bowman (1,244). Hitchcock has spent 22 seasons as a head coach with Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis. Hitchcock, who had two stints at the helm in Dallas, stepped away from his job with the Stars at the conclusion of last season despite having signed a multiyear contract one year earlier.
"I have contemplated this since our last game, and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over," Hitchcock said at the time.
On Tuesday, Hitchcock was looking to the future.
"It's not going to change overnight, but we can start taking some steps," Hitchcock said. "I told the players today I can take them to a place personally that they can't get to themselves, but they've got to buy into that, and it's not going to be comfortable at times."
In his first stint with Dallas, Hitchcock won the Stanley Cup in 1999. He won the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach in 2011-12 with the Blues, whom he led to the playoffs five times in six years.
Hitchcock, an Edmonton native, was serving as a consultant for the Stars before the Oilers hired him.
The Oilers had some success at the start of the season, going 8-4-1 in their first 13 games, but have faltered of late. In their past seven games, they are 1-6 and have been outscored 29-17.