The List of Possible Head Coaches

Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009 10:41AM

MacTavish

With the season finally over, it seems inevitable that Craig MacTavish will be dismissed or resign from his position as an NHL head coach. The question that most fans have been wondering for the last few weeks is who exactly will replace him.

With that in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a list of 40 or so names who I’ve either seen mentioned in the context of this particular job, or discussed as candidates for NHL coaching jobs in the past. Because it’s such a long list, I’ve boiled every candidate down to a one-sentence summary and ranked him in one of three categories: short list, long list, shouldn’t be seriously considered.

If there are any names that you’d like to see included, let me know and I’ll be happy to add them.

Short List

Scott Arniel - The AHL Coach of the Year has never had a losing season. Guy Carbonneau - Fired Canadiens’ head coach is used to coaching in a pressure cooker. Kevin Constantine - Houston Aeros’ head coach has been successful everywhere – including in the NHL and has a reputation as something of a task master. Peter Laviolette - Has won championships in the AHL and NHL; he’s not a favourite of mine but there’s no doubt that he’s been successful. Jacques Lemaire - Minnesota’s head coach has decided he’s finished with the Wild, but I t remains to be seen if he’s finished with the NHL. Don Lever - Canadiens’ assistant coach has been very successful in the AHL and has spent 15 seasons as an NHL assistant. Paul MacLean - Mike Babcock’s long-time assistant has had NHL success but was also a first-rate minor league head coach for 8 years. Tom Renney - Successful everywhere he’s coached (WHL, Intl., NHL), Tom Renney will land another NHL job and might be a nice change from MacTavish. Brent Sutter - New Jersey’s head coach has been successful everywhere, and is supposedly home sick for Alberta.

Long List

Newell Brown - An assistant coach in Anaheim, Brown has tons of experience as an NHL assistant and was a decent AHL coach. Marc Crawford - Crawford was a very good AHL coach and has a very good career record in the NHL. Randy Cunneyworth - Currently an assistant in Atlanta, Cunneyworth was a decent AHL head coach for many years. Willie Desjardins - Very successful WHL coach has won two championships. Kevin Dineen - Has a very good track record as an AHL head coach. Marc Habscheid - Has been very successful in the WHL. Bob Hartley - Has had success at every level, including championships in the AHL and NHL. Dale Hunter - Has been the driving force behind a very good London Knights squad for years, should get an NHL shot at some point. Dave Farrish - A good AHL coach and phenomenal ECHL coach, Farrish has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach in Anaheim. Greg Gilbert - Has had a mixed track record in the AHL and didn’t see much success in Calgary. Glen Hanlon - Bruce Boudreau’s predecessor in Washington has had a mixed track record in the AHL and had a good season as Jokerit’s head coach this year. Don Hay - An incredibly successful junior coach, Hay has had mixed success in the professional ranks. Charlie Huddy - Huddy’s had previous experience as a head coach (a very nice year in the ECHL) and been an NHL assistant coach for 10 seasons, and has had some success developing defensemen. Dave King - Two-time NHL head coach has had success recently in Europe, and did a good job in both of his previous NHL stops. Kevin Lowe - The Oilers’ President of Hockey Operations probably doesn’t want the job, but had a decent season in Edmonton before being promoted to G.M. Ted Nolan - Has had success on the ice everywhere he’s coached, but has also alienated general managers. Pat Quinn - A very successful career coach with two appearances in the Stanley Cup finals, at 66 Quinn isn’t a long-term solution. Craig Ramsay - The long time assistant coach had one very good regular season in Philadelhpia but lost his job when the team couldn’t get out of the first round. Todd Richards - A very successful AHL head coach, Richards is currently an assistant in San Jose. Larry Robinson - He’s been to the finals twice and has a decent record in the NHL regular season. Denis Savard - Was fired four games into the season despite a decent track record in Chicago. Jim Scheonfeld - A very capable coach in both the NHL and AHL, it seems likely that he's content to serve as an Assistant G.M. in New York.

Shouldn’t Be Seriously Considered

Kelly Buchberger - One season as an AHL head coach with a losing record and one season as an NHL assistant coach with a losing record does not inspire confidence. Rob Daum - A good career coach in many leagues, Daum has yet to prove that he can be a consistently successful AHL coach. Kelly Kisio - Calgary’s WHL coach, Kisio’s had teams with good records his entire career, but has never coached in the professional leagues. Mike Kitchen - Career assistant was a failure as the St, Louis Blues’ head coach. Mark Lamb - Former Oilers’ assistant has spent the past six seasons on Dave Tippett’s staff in Dallas, but has never been a head coach. Mark Messier - Hiring an NHL head coach with no coaching experience seems like a bad decision. Bill Moores - Moores has coached all over (including a very successful season in the WHL and time in Japan) and has a wealth of experience as an NHL assistant coach. John Paddock - Paddock has been a good AHL coach for many years, but his teams have imploded in two separate NHL stints. Craig Simpson - Simpson spent three seasons as the man in charge of Edmonton’s special teams, with mixed results – a great penalty kill and a poor powerplay. Matt Thomas - Has had excellent results in the ECHL, sparking a turn around in Stockton, but should probably be tested in the AHL first. John Torchetti - Blackhawks assistant coach has an inconsistent track record. Geoff Ward - The former Roadrunners coach recently jumped to the NHL as one of Claude Julien’s assistants, but has a middling track record in junior and the minors.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Archaeologuy
April 12 2009, 10:51AM
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Kelley Buchberger's Oilers will go 82-0, you watch.

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#2 Rick
April 12 2009, 11:12AM
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Assuming MacT leaves on his own terms as opposed to being fired, it probably opens the door for Huddy to be part of the short list.

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#3 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 11:24AM
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@ Rick:

Maybe it does, but given the names above him it shouldn't.

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#4 Rick
April 12 2009, 11:32AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

In the last few years this organization seems to have strayed from the "it shouldn't" and they do it anyways.

In fairness though, when I wrote that it was with thinking that KLowe would be making the call and that probably wasn't fair.

If for no other reason Huddy is probably off the list because Tambellini won't want the hiring associated with the old boys club.

He HAS to put his stamp on this team and demonstrate that he has the chops to do what HE thinks is needed. Hiring his coach would be a damn fine start.

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#5 Eric
April 12 2009, 11:39AM
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Doesn't anyone think that Coyotes Coach could head to Edmonton?

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#6 shepso
April 12 2009, 11:40AM
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I like the short list, especially the first couple. Arniel, Maclean, Renney and Laviolette would all be serious upgrades. There is speculation of both Tippet and Ruff losing their jobs, either of whom I would take over any of the others. In all honesty, I would consider Pat Quinn on the short list as well. He may only be a short term solution, but the guy is a winner and can coach offense out of smurfs (as the wjhc proves).

I don't usually disagree with your analysis JW, but I cannot believe that Crawford is on your long list and not on the don't touch me with a ten foot pole list. I'm sorry, he is not a good coach. He would be a fine assistant, maybe in charge of PP systems as he does possess a strong offensive mind, but his middle of the road record with a Vancouver team that could and should have been so much better, not to mention how he nearly killed the Kings really makes me believe he is not ready for prime time in a hockey market like ours. Dineen, Glibert, Hay or Constantine might cause me to quit watching hockey altogether, especially Constantine. This team would fail miserably under his reign (likely of terror).

Aside from that, great assessment, very comprehensive. It's going to be an interesting off season. Keep it up JW. Good luck with the other sites now that our beloved Oil won't have anything worth writing about for a while

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#7 Archaeologuy
April 12 2009, 11:41AM
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@ Eric: How does that end the reign of terror that has been the Old Boys Club? And he isnt a good coach.

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#8 SkinnyD
April 12 2009, 11:57AM
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Didn't Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini work together on the Canuck's '94 cup run?

I really like the idea of a hard ass coming in and bringing his own guys (thus eliminating all our assistants - which I would also love to see).

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#9 shepso
April 12 2009, 12:02PM
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Don't know about the '94 cup run, due to my general indifference of Vancouver based success, but they did work together on a couple of Olympic teams if I recall correctly.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 12:03PM
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shepso wrote:

I cannot believe that Crawford is on your long list and not on the don’t touch me with a ten foot pole list.

Listening to him on HNIC, he originally was on my "not to be considered" list, but his record over the years (and not just in the NHL) is impeccable.

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#11 Dan
April 12 2009, 12:13PM
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SkinnyD wrote:

Didn’t Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini work together on the Canuck’s ‘94 cup run? I really like the idea of a hard ass coming in and bringing his own guys (thus eliminating all our assistants - which I would also love to see).

Yeah I'm liking the thought of a Pat Quinn/Rob Daum combination. One guy to work the psychological part and the other to work the chalkboard. We need a coach that can bring professionalism out of players' games. Not enough pride in the Oilers' games this year.

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#12 Jord10
April 12 2009, 12:15PM
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A little off topic, but i seem to have realized that you guys here at the nation have given the oilers 10 less losses than they have. It looks like we are an over .500 club, which unfortunately isn't the case(taking ot losses into account).

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#13 shepso
April 12 2009, 12:16PM
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@JW...that's fair. I know he has a good track record, and in all honesty he had some excellent observations last night, especially regarding Gagner, but I just have a general loathing towards Crow. I can't explain it or even really justify it, but I feel as though he would not be a good fit for this Oiler team. To me, his record also speaks volumes, but in a different direction. Certainly there's something to be said about the talent he had to work with on the Nordvalanche teams of the mid 1990s. He has never had a team that talented to work with since, and has never duplicated the successes of those teams either. Even his best year with the 'nucks he under-achieved, the Nagano '98 Olympic squad was a disaster, despite the NHL roster, and the Kings were a train wreck of epic proportions. His early success was never duplicated in either of his next coaching jobs. I think his reputation as an elite coach largely rests on the fact that he had Sakic, Forsberg and Roy at their peak. Anybody could've coached that team to a cup in '96. The bottom line is I simply don't believe he's that good of a head coach-assistant or associate I could work with, but I would not grant him tenure any time soon.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 12:19PM
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@ shepso:

Well, he's not on my short list anyway. The nine names there are all qualified, but I'd probably look at Lemaire/Sutter first, and definitely interview Renney, MacLean, Arniel and Lever.

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#15 surshot
April 12 2009, 12:21PM
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I like Dale Hunter. Where does he fit on your list.

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#16 SkinnyD
April 12 2009, 12:26PM
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Jon are you talking about Lemaire strictly from his win/loss record? Didn't you get the memo that we all hate watching the Oil vs Wild games because the Wild play such a boring style of hockey? :)

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#17 shepso
April 12 2009, 12:27PM
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@JW-Agreed on that last post for sure. Any of those guys would be excellent. (Well, maybe not Lemaire...he coaches highly successful yet very boring hockey.) Again, if there's any stock to the rumors of Ruff or Tippet getting axed, those guys should merit serious consideration. I would take Lindy Ruff to coach this team in half a heartbeat!

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#18 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 12:30PM
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surshot wrote:

I like Dale Hunter. Where does he fit on your list.

I like Hunter too. I'm not crazy about bumping junior coaches directly to the NHL though; I think the dynamic is very different.

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#19 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 12:31PM
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@ SkinnyD: @ shepso:

I may be in the minority here, but I'll watch 82 games a year of defensive hockey if it means winning.

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#20 shepso
April 12 2009, 12:35PM
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point taken

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#21 Don Murdochs Hair
April 12 2009, 12:36PM
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JW, How do you feel about Jim Schoenfeld? He was a good coach, ref beatings aside.

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#22 dizzle
April 12 2009, 12:44PM
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At the risk of being scrutinized....

John Paddock had an excellent track record in the minors and a pretty decent NHL record with Ottawa and Winnipeg but was thrown under the bus for Emery being a diva...thoughts?

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#23 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 12:55PM
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@ Don Murdochs Hair:

Added to the long list, because while he's had a good record as a coach he's now in management in New York and probably enjoys the job security.

@ dizzle:

Paddock's record in Winnipeg was none too impressive either, but I've added him.

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#24 Don Murdochs Hair
April 12 2009, 12:59PM
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Maybe Slats will feel sorry for us...... @ Jonathan Willis:

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#25 Darren
April 12 2009, 01:34PM
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This is the Oilers; and therefore I care about one thing only when considering our next coach. We are supposed to be an offensive, exciting up-tempo hockey team and that is what we want here instead of what we have had.

Give us an offensive-minded coach or give us death; 'cause I can't watch another season of this shit - ever again!

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#26 Chris
April 12 2009, 02:04PM
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I really like Carbonneau or Don Lever (The Cleaver). Both should be able to handle the pressure of coaching in Edmonton, both were great players, and both should help revive the Oiler special teams. I said at the start of the season that this edition of the Oilers would live and die by their special teams...(Of course I thought our special teams would be good)

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#27 Jamie
April 12 2009, 02:11PM
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I respect your opinions, Jonathan, but you need to get past Renney. I've watched the Rangers since the lockout and he just has too much in common with MacTavish in my opinion to be a good idea right now.

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#28 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 02:16PM
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@ Jamie:

You say that like it's a bad thing ;)

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#29 SkinnyD
April 12 2009, 02:24PM
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I'd rather us be a balanced, fun team to watch like Chicago than watch the trap for 82 games...just my opinion. :) @ Jonathan Willis:

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#30 #Swiss Oil fan
April 12 2009, 03:38PM
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What about Sean Simpson? He's/was very successful in Switzerland (Zurich Lions) and Germany. He's aiming a NHL job after winning the European's Champions League.

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#31 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 03:41PM
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@ #Swiss Oil fan:

I hadn't considered Simpson. He's done a nice job internationally but it's tough to imagine that an NHL team will be willing to hand the reigns over to him without any North American coaching experience.

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#32 #Swiss Oil fan
April 12 2009, 04:01PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

You're right Jonathan. As a Canadian coach working successfully in Europe, it's quite difficult to enter the NHL-coaching circle. All you need is having a good network so I am looking forward to what kind of network Tambellini is albe to count on...If MacT is really going to resign I would suggest that the whole coaching staff should quit...house cleaning and a fresh start would be the right thing. Btw: It's even possible the other way: Dave Chambers and Pierre Page, both old NHL coaches, have recently been working in Switzerland but only with medicority...so who knows we maybe see MacT in Europe but I'm sure he's going to find another challenge in the NHL.

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#33 EMAC
April 12 2009, 04:13PM
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Hunter has already said he's not leaving London. Although he would a nice fit. He's coached Gags and Schremp, and unlike MacT, would definitely give Schremp the chance he deserves.

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#34 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 04:16PM
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EMAC wrote:

Although he would a nice fit. He’s coached Gags and Schremp, and unlike MacT, would definitely give Schremp the chance he deserves.

A chance to finish second-worst on his AHL team in +/- (-26)? Or a chance to score 7 goals in an entire NHL season?

No worries, Schremp's already gotten those chances. Besides, as I recall Hunter sat Schremp unceremoniously on more than one occasion - including in the playoffs.

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#35 alphah
April 12 2009, 06:03PM
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I guess Gretzky is too well needed in Phoenix to consider parting with the org........ but doesn't that seem almost too perfect? Gretzky is a God here, his word would be golden.. He has had a lot of experience at this point too and I'm sure hes about ready to come into his own. I know everyone hates the idea of keeping any boys or any busses around but the concept is almost romantic.

Gretzky, MacT, Huddy and Buchberger/Moores/Daum/Messier for coaching staff next year.. ha.

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#36 EMAC
April 12 2009, 06:04PM
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True his +/- was horrible and he had a bad year, but Springfield was garbage. Chorney was a -29 and is supposed to be a shutdown d-man. And having watched him excel in junior it's hard to believe he didn't get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout. And there is no doubt he would have been better on the first line than Liam Reddox. It just seems that, like Penner and Nilson, MacT lost his patience and threw him under the bus. Maybe I just have a man crush on Schremp, like MacT does on Reddox, haha. Nonetheless, I just wish we could have seen what him and Hemmer could have done together. After all, he is a first round draft pick.

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#37 Darren
April 12 2009, 06:32PM
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This is the Oilers!

Give us an offense-minded coach or give us death - 'cause I can't watch another season of this crap!

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#38 firemactandkloweallready
April 12 2009, 06:59PM
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Anyone who has not played for the Oilers or involved in the organization is good enough for me,If they replace Mac T with Buchberger,Huddy or Moores we will be in worse shape than we are know.Their time and Mac T's has experied it is time they all pack it in.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 07:03PM
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EMAC wrote:

Chorney was a -29 and is supposed to be a shutdown d-man.

I'm not sure where you're getting that from. Chorney's a puck-moving defenseman; the biggest concern with him is his defensive game.

And having watched him excel in junior it’s hard to believe he didn’t get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout. And there is no doubt he would have been better on the first line than Liam Reddox.

He didn't even chalk up big points on his AHL powerplay, and I think there are enough shootout specialist already here.

As for the comparison with Reddox, when Schremp can play tough opponents in the AHL, maybe there will be a comparison.

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#40 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 07:03PM
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@ Darren:

Did you have someone in mind?

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#41 MikeP
April 12 2009, 07:09PM
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EMAC wrote:

And having watched him excel in junior it’s hard to believe he didn’t get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout.

The list of excellent junior players who never quite found what it takes to succeed in the pros is pretty long. I want Schremp to succeed, but just where would he have fit in on the roster this year?

I wouldn't mind seeing Renney or Lever get a shot, if MacT really is on the way out. That said, I'm not holding my breath.

If it turns out to be Crawford, no way I'm listening to the post-game press conference. He drives my wife insane too.

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#42 Harlie
April 12 2009, 07:35PM
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Eric wrote:

Doesn’t anyone think that Coyotes Coach could head to Edmonton?

NO.

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#43 Soup
April 12 2009, 07:48PM
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@ SkinnyD: Can't agree more. As someone watching from a few kilometers away, it was clear that over the last few years (hereforth shall be refered to the MacT years or the Dark Ages), the team departed from traditional 'Oilers Hockey.' The kind of hockey that is end to end with as many wild F*%K ups as amazing highlight reel goals. Last year when all the king's men fell to injury, MacT had no choice but to go to firewagon hockey because that's all he could do with the horses he had. This year - back to the systems based crap designed on a 'prevent defence' strategy. Ask yourself - which was more fun to watch?

I actually think that the MacT system did more to screw up the games of Penner, Nilson, Horcoff, Moreau, Staois et al than the collective work ethic/bad contracts/baby fat yadayadayada did. In the few games these guys were allowed to skate freely, not only was it exciting, but they were in the games to the bitter end (e.g. Sharks last week). More important, the players looked like they even enjoyed the game.

The message from Hemsky of a couple of weeks ago should be speaking volumes. Not so as to place Hemsky in the 'oh gawd, don't piss him off' column, but more along of 'hmmmm - seems to fit with what we've been seeing on the ice' category. Tight and stifling and boring!

Should there actually be the wide-scale changes that everyone is forecasting, it would be great for the team to decide what style of play they want before they choose the coach. Renney will bring nothing more than the same. Lemaire? Let's hope not. Even when you win you have to be able to look yourself in the face. My knowledge of the wide world of coaching candidates is pretty thin, but if I were involved I'd be looking for some that:

- likes a free flowing game - likes talented players over 'tries hard and doesn't screw up (too much)players (sorry Reddox, Peterson, and everyone else that ever wanted to wear #14) - believes that teams that are first to the puck win more than those that wait for the puck to come to them - and believes that Oilers Hockey is a style worth playing, even if it means the occassional crap the bed night is in your future

BRING BACK OILERS HOCKEY. LET MY Oilers GO!

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#44 albundy
April 12 2009, 08:37PM
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The next coach once MacT gets a promotion would be and should be Kevin Lowe. It would appear that Kevin signed most of these players so lets see what he can do with them. Any real man that signed these players should take control of the direct result and get behind the bench. Then, either no success or success after MacT and keep most of the same players as we can't move much due to salary cap and bad contracts. If Kevin is successful then we know he is a great man, if he fails, bye bye KLOWE

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#45 Mr P
April 12 2009, 09:20PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ SkinnyD: @ shepso: I may be in the minority here, but I’ll watch 82 games a year of defensive hockey if it means winning.

I like to watch winning hockey as well. However, I cannot handle strickly defence first waiting for the other team to make a mistake hockey. I go watch a about 5-7 live games a year and I cannot stand a boring game. Expansion teams are gone now. I prefer a high intensity forecheck. I am not saying firewagon hockey. Just puck possetion and forechecking.

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#46 Jasmine
April 12 2009, 09:41PM
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This isn't just Lowe's fault. MacT's more at fault. MacT has a final say on who he wants as players. He was part of the OS to both Vanek and Penner. He wanted Penner and now he throws him under the bus. MacT almost resigned unless he got more input on who he wants as players. I wonder if MacT is upset at Lowe because he didn't sign him Reasoner.

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#47 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 09:58PM
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@ Jasmine:

If MacT really has that much say, why didn't Reasoner get resigned?

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#48 esa tikkanen
April 12 2009, 11:37PM
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Did anybody read the article in the Calgary Sun last week saying the Flames would go after Brent Sutter if they lose in the first round? makes sense that he would go there first as his brother is the GM and it is just as close to Red Deer as Edmonton is. That being said, he would be my first pick. How about Brian Sutter? Looks like the Bentley Generals are going for the Allan cup again...

How long is Hitchcock locked in for in Columbus? I think he would really kick this team in the ass and have a system that has proven to win more than once.

Anyone give any thought to the idea of Sather coming back to be GM? I think he was pushed out by the group of 47 and Katz could get him back here if he tried...

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#49 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 09:56AM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

Anyone give any thought to the idea of Sather coming back to be GM?

Yeah, maybe he could bring in Wade Redden and Chris Drury and Scott Gomez for outrageous sums of money....

Wait, we don't want that?

Carry on then.

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#50 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 11:19AM
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Here's my list in no particular order:

Scott Arniel Peter Laviolette Don Lever Paul MacLean Marc Crawford Randy Cunneyworth Willie Desjardins Kevin Dineen Marc Habscheid Dale Hunter Don Hay Pat Quinn Perry Pearn

Tom Renney - IS TOO MUCH LIKE MACT

Brent Sutter - WILL BE IN CALGARY IF ANYWHERE

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