Tulsa Oilers General Manager Taylor Hall announced on Wednesday that former Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray has been named head coach and director of hockey operations.
The Toronto native coached the Aces the past six years. Murray replaces Jason Christie, who coached the Oilers the past two seasons. Christie was announced as the coach of the new Jacksonville IceMen on Tuesday.
Murray led the Aces to three consecutive Brabham Cups and to the best regular-season record in the ECHL from 2011-14. Alaska won the Kelly Cup in 2013-14.
Murray has a career record of 231-150-50.
“This is a huge day for the Oilers,” Hall said. “We have been playing hockey here for a very long time and this will be our 10th year at the BOK Center and fourth year in the ECHL. The commitment to winning is extremely huge for us. We have missed the playoffs the last couple of seasons.”
Alaska ceased operations in April, and Murray was one of several candidates who reached out when word got out that Christie had left the Oilers.
“We had a lot of great candidates apply, but when it all shook down, it was a pretty easy decision to make,” Hall said. “We were looking for a proven winner that would take us to that next level and the timing was perfect.
“He has played in the NHL, was a coach in the American Hockey League, worked with numerous teams with NHL affiliations and has won an ECHL championship recently. At the end of the day, he was the candidate that stood out.”
Murray got his first look at the BOK Center and the city of Tulsa when the Aces played the Oilers on Dec. 14. The Aces won that game 3-2.
Murray could not be in Tulsa for the Oilers news conference Tuesday, but he appeared via video linkup. He said he thinks Tulsa fans will like his team’s style of play.
“My teams play a high-tempo, energetic, physical, disciplined game, and we can bring that to Tulsa with a winning atmosphere and winning mentality,” Murray said.
With the hiring of Murray, the Oilers will have potential access to many of the players in the Aces system.
“He gives us a wild card with access to so many players that no body else would,” Hall said.
And Hall said Murray’s style of play is what Oilers fans expect to see.
“He mentioned that he likes to play a high-tempo physical game an in Tulsa we are use to that physical brand of hockey,” Hall said. “The top teams I see in the ECHL are the physical teams. The Colorado Eagles (2017 Kelly Cup Champions) are one of the most physical teams in our league.”
With Christie gone, the Oilers’ affiliation with the NHL Winnipeg Jets will not be renewed. That opens the door to more opportunities.
“Winnipeg is definitely out,” Taylor said. “We had a year-to-year agreement that was renewable, and it worked out that it was not going to be anymore. The possibilities are out there, but you want it to be the right fit.
“Normally you only have four or five players (from an affiliation agreement) at any given time. But it takes 20 players for a team. Normally you have to recruit a good base of ECHL players and young guys from college that are not on a NHL or AHL contract or roster. You recruit those kind of guys and look over the various affiliation offers.”
The Vancouver Canucks, who previously worked with Murray at Alaska, are a possibility.
“It will be (Murray’s) call at the end of the day,” Hall said. “An affiliation or parts of it are in the cards.”