Oilers need to stock organization with possible NHL head coaching candidates
This in from Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet, some speculative chit chat with Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now on former Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan maybe, possibly becoming an asst. coach on the Oilers: “I am wondering, by the way Bob, if Gulutzan ends up on Edmonton’s bench as an asst. coach. You know, him and McLellan, they’re both Saskatchewan guys, they were both in Humboldt together right after this season.”
This is the second time in recent days we’ve heard this discussed by an NHL insider. Here’s the first time, from the Journal’s Jim Matheson:
- Friedman is concerned about how his various sound bites of NHL gossip, rumour and fact are presented on various blogs — and rightly so. This is his work, he’s a professional and his credibility is on the line with whatever he says. I say all this having once misinterpreted something Friedman said about Travis Hamonic trade talk and reporting it incorrectly, a mistake I regret. Friedman is a hard-working insider with Sportsnet, a network in business with the NHL, and he’s worked his way to get access to NHL news that others lack. What he talks about and speculates about is newsworthy. He’s also a credible source, so that also increases the weight of his point of view. Little wonder then that fans and bloggers jump all over everything he says. It’s a compliment to his work and to his credibility.
- Even as Twitter is now burning up with Gulutzan-to-Oilers talk based on Friedman’s Oilers Now reference, Friedman is definitely saying this under the “speculation” category. He did not say this was going to happen. Far from it. He’s just chit chatting and giving his opinion, not reporting a rumour. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting opinion to chew over.
- The last time the Oilers had qualified potential NHL coaches on the bench was 2009-10 when Pat Quinn hired Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger as his assistants. Both men had extensive experience as head coaches, with Renney being a former NHL coach and Krueger a long-time and successful head coach in Europe. Quinn was near the end of his NHL shelf life, but when Renney took over from him in 2010-12, the team improved. Renney should have been brought back, not let go after the 2011-12 season. He and Krueger seemed to have an excellent mix of both teaching and motivational skills. Krueger, too, did a strong job in 2012-13 and should not have been let go. I wonder how the Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Jordan Eberle/Justin Schultz Core of Four era might have turned out if Krueger had remained in charge, as he seems to have a knack for building offensive confidence and getting the most of what a player can give.
- You can’t have enough strong coaches and it would be excellent for the Oilers to have a coach or two who was capable of leading an NHL team as an asst. coach on the team. So why not Gulutzan? His stock in low in Calgary, but that’s how it is after a disappointing year. He has been entrusted with being head coach of two NHL teams, Dallas and Calgary. He’s been a coach at the pro level for 15 years, reports HockeyDB. He’s been an NHL asst. in Vancouver for three years. He clearly is qualified to be McLellan’s assistant coach.
- Gulutzan has made the playoffs just three out of four years as a head coach at the NHL level. That’s not a great record, though it’s worth noting his teams have always been competitive, either at or over fake .500. In 2016-17 his Flames team had a winning record, 45 and 37, the same as his 2011-12 Dallas team, 42 and 40. This past year they were 37 wins and 45 losses. McLellan’s Oilers had 36 wins and 46 losses, and that’s with the advantage of having Connor McDavid on the roster.
- The Oilers need to make major changes on their coaching staff. That might include replacing Todd McLellan himself, though the media chatter out there seems to be that McLellan will return. This is perhaps surprising given how dreadful the results on the Oilers were this year. If McLellan returns, Edmonton needs to have identified one or two strong candidates who can be brought in next fall if the Oilers don’t show marked improvement by the end of November. In this way, the job of McLellan’s second-in-command has more import this year than it might have had in other years.
- The best move for the Oilers is to bring in two coaches, both at the NHL asstistant and AHL head coaching level, who are real contenders to become head coaches at the NHL level, something that the organization has lacked in recent years. If Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli really do have a plan, that should be at the top of the “Things to do” list. Some folks might think this would undermine McLellan, but the fact is he’s got to show results, and there’s no sense in pretending that’s not the case, and there’s no sense in not being ready if he is unable to get this team back on the right track.
- Update: Robin Brownlee of Oilers Nation also had this same speculation in a recent post: “I’m wondering if there’s a conversation to be had between McLellan and Gulutzan. I won’t be the least bit surprised if that’s a call that gets made.”