DENVER | "No problem!" Jay Woodcroft offered this response in French when asked if he could be asked a question from left field about Jean-Francois Houle.
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In the midst of the Western Conference Finals, the Oilers are looking to limit one-on-one interviews. Even more when the team has just lost the first two games on the ice of the Ball Arena in Denver.
But Woodcroft remained very calm a few hours before taking the plane back to Edmonton. He had a smile on his face when we released him from the news of his series between the Avalanche and the Oilers to describe his relationship with Houle.
Before replacing Dave Tippett behind the Oilers bench on February 10, Woodcroft found himself in the role of head coach of the Bakersfield Condors in the American League. He held that position with the Oilers' farm team from 2018-19 until his promotion to the big league.
In Bakersfield, he rubbed shoulders with Houle for three full seasons.
Today, Woodcroft is fighting for a place in the Stanley Cup final, while Houle also dreams of a presence in the final, but in the American League with the Laval Rocket. The Rocket will face the Springfield Thunderbirds in the Eastern Final on Saturday.
"I'm very happy for J-F Houle," said Woodcroft. He comes from a practically royal family in Montreal with the Houles and his father Réjean!”
“When I chose to become a head coach, I went to Bakersfield in the American League. I met JF in my staff. He worked with me for three years. We have had success together.”
a good head
Houle served as an assistant at Bakersfield from 2015-16 to 2020-21. Woodcroft was also a longtime assistant, having that title from 2008-09 to 2014-15 with the San Jose Sharks and from 2015-16 to 2017-18 with the Oilers. He had followed Todd McLellan to San Jose and Edmonton. Ironically, Woodcroft knocked out McLellan and the Los Angeles Kings in his first playoff experience in the first round.
But back to Houle. The Oilers head coach hailed his run over the years.
“JF has a good hockey mind. He took the steps one at a time, he recalled. He has coached teams in the NCAA, QMJHL, ECHL and American League. He always did a good job, wherever he went.
“In Laval, I know he is successful. He finds himself with another former member of the Oilers organization, Kelly Buchberger. I'm proud of him. I am proud to say that JF has worked for our organization. He got a chance with the Rocket for a head coaching job and he's enjoying it."
"It's good for the Oilers, but it's also good for the outreach of the Bakersfield Condors," he continued. In February, I had the chance to make the jump to the NHL with the Oilers and Dave Manson followed me at the same time. Development is also real for coaches.”
With just one question, Woodcroft will have offered a longer answer than Connor McDavid's six or seven answers after the 4-0 loss in Game 2 against the Avalanche.