The Oilers Next Head Coach: Names Being Floated

Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009 10:51AM

Todd Richards

I’ve discussed the list of possibilities before, and I’ve repeatedly stated that I think the Oilers next head coach will be one of four people: New Jersey head coach Brent Sutter (in the unlikely event that he’s available), Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel, Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, or Montreal assistant coach Don Lever. Still, that’s just my list, and I’ve certainly overlooked at least one name (more on that below). Let’s take a look at which names the print media is dropping.

Robert Tychowski doesn’t go so far as to list who he thinks will get the job, but based on Tambellini’s press conference he has some ideas:

The list of coaches out there who like tough, offensive-minded teams is long, from Bob Hartley to Pat Quinn to Marc Crawford, but Tambellini says he's in no rush to name MacTavish's successor.

Two of the candidates from that list make it over to the one that Jim Matheson offered up today. He tossed out a few additional names as well:

Perhaps New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter, or San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards. Or Scott Arniel, the AHL coach of the year (Manitoba Moose).

After offering those names, though, Matheson turned back to the two candidates who have the most history with Steve Tambellini: Crawford and Quinn. Quinn’s comments are quite extensive, but Matheson mentions that Quinn may be a candidate for the G.M. job in Minnesota; if he is being seriously considered I doubt he’d jump at the Edmonton job (and for the record, I think the Wild could do much worse than Quinn in that position).

Crawford’s comments are much less equivocal:

"I'm interested in the job," said Crawford, who saw the Oilers an awful lot this season doing colour commentary on late Hockey Night in Canada games. "But I'm not the only guy who knows Steve Tambellini. I'm sure he'll take a strong look at a lot of candidates. Hopefully I get a chance to get in and let him know how I feel. "It's going to be a job that a lot of people covet. I don't have pre- conceived notions. I know the people there will put two and two together. I know Steve will be very thorough," said Crawford.

Matheson mentioned Todd Richards, a man whose name also appears in Dan Barnes excellent column today:

We wait for Tambellini to build a list of coaching candidates, whittle it down and choose a successor. I think he will be youngish, from outside the Oilers' organization, he will favour aggressiveness and offence over defence, have particular acumen for plotting a potent power play and he will have professional head coaching experience though not necessarily at the NHL level. I think San Jose assistant coach Todd Richards will be just such a candidate in due course.

Richards was on my long list the other day; he failed to make the short list simply because he’s only had one season of NHL experience and two seasons as a head coach in the AHL so I thought he might not be seasoned enough to get serious consideration for an NHL job. Still, what he’s done in a short time is impressive, and also working in his favour is the fact that the Oilers organization has some familiarity with him; he was the coach of Wilkes-Barre Scranton in 2006-07, meaning that he had many current Oilers playing for him, including Gilbert, Brodziak, Nilsson and others. By all accounts he was an extremely professional AHL coach, and it may very well be that he’s on the Oilers’ short list.

Finally, Sun Media’s Ken Wiebe focused on Scott Arniel:

While most pundits assume that means either Pat Quinn (who gave Tambellini his first job with the Vancouver Canucks) or Marc Crawford (a former Stanley Cup winner who also coached the Canucks) would be the likely successor, don't rule out Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel to at least get an interview and possibly be a dark-horse candidate.

Arniel quite properly refused to discuss the possibility with Wiebe, as he’s still coaching the Manitoba Moose in the AHL playoffs, but his contract does expire at the end of this season, and he has expressed a desire to coach at the NHL level before. His players (unsurprisingly) sang his praises, with Jason Krog being the most effusive:

"There's a lot of great things that he does. He's great at preparing us, he's good at adjusting and he's good at recognizing guys strengths and weaknesses. And he's a good motivator. He knows when to get on us and when to take it easy on us. All around, he's pretty solid and he's finally getting the recognition that he deserves."

As good as some of the available ex-NHL coaches are (aside from the three mentioned above, Jacques Lemaire and Tom Renney come to mind), I think that Dan Barnes’ take on the profile of the successful candidate is probably accurate: a young coach who favours an up-tempo style and can coach special teams, who will have experience in the NHL and as a head coach, but quite probably not as an NHL head coach.

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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 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 10:58AM
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FROM TSN’s BOB MacKENZIE VIA TEAM 1260’s MORE ON SPORTS: Here’s 2 names to throw in the hat for the Oilers head coaching job that haven’t been mentioned a lot:

RYAN McGILL Local product has worked his way up through the coaching ranks since his playing career ended. After serving as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Ice for a season and a half, McGill spent the next 4 1/2 seasons as the head coach with the Ice organization after moving to Kootenay. McGill’s assistant there was Cory Clouston who is now coaching in Ottawa. Many thought McGill would get a shot before Clouston, so his time may be coming sooner than later. McGill also served as the head coach for the Rangers affiliate in Hartford for 3 seasons and is currently in his 3rd season as head coach with the Flames affiliate. Probably a long shot, but a name to keep an eye on nontheless.

BRENT PETERSEN I brought up Petersen’s name yesterday for the Minnesota gig and this morning, MacKenzie said he may receive real consideration for the Oilers because when Tambellini was still in Vancouver and they were conducting their last head coaching search (that Alain Vigneault won), Petersen was a finalist right down to the wire. Apparently Tambellini thinks highly of him, and his name has popped up a few times over the past few years with other openings.

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#2 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:01AM
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I also believe that Marc Habschied & Perry Pearn should recieve consideration, although I'm currently kind of riding the Scott Arniel bandwagon.

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#3 Sandra
April 17 2009, 11:03AM
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I hope it's not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn't know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don't need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country.

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#4 Mother Pucker Hockey
April 17 2009, 11:06AM
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Sandra wrote:

I hope it’s not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn’t know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don’t need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country.

I agree that Crawford is the last one that I'd want here. Think that squeaky voiced sonic the hedgehog look alike will be able to deal with the kids? Come on...

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#5 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2009, 11:07AM
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Jon: I mentioned this in the comments section of DeepThoughts VIIII and I'll repeat it here. Don't overlook Boston assistant Geoff Ward. He has history with the Oilers and is very highly thought of in the organization.

As this unfolds I'd be surprised if he isn't on the short list with Todd Richards.

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#6 Mr DeBakey
April 17 2009, 11:09AM
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As I mentioned at Lowetide, this line from Barnes' column:

"I think he will be youngish, from outside the Oilers’ organization, he will favour aggressiveness and offence over defence...."

Made me think of Kevin Dineen A guy who's scoring peaked at 40 goals in a season, and had over 2200 minutes in penalties in his career.

One good thing about Lever or Dineen is that we wouldn't have to listen to, or read, the line about the defensive specialist who can't coach offensive talent anymore.

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#7 Archaeologuy
April 17 2009, 11:10AM
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Mother Pucker Hockey wrote:

Sandra wrote: I hope it’s not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn’t know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don’t need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country. I agree that Crawford is the last one that I’d want here. Think that squeaky voiced sonic the hedgehog look alike will be able to deal with the kids? Come on…

What? You mean 83's name isnt Alex?

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#8 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:12AM
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@ Robin Brownlee: I'm calling Geoff Ward right now Robin. EVERYONE continues to forget such an obvious consideration EXCEPT YOU! You worked closely with him the year of the lockout, did you not? Any insight on him? Would you say your pulling for him/do you think he's a good fit?

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#9 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 11:13AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Sorry Robin, I always forget that you are a print media guy ;)

I'm leery of Geoff Ward because of his W-L record at the professional level, but that doesn't begin to tell the whole story and he did have that run to the AHL Finals with Hamilton.

Still, I'm sure you've got a much better feel for this than I do so I'll keep him in mind.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 11:14AM
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@ RossCreek:

The only reason I keep excluding Brent Petersen is because of his health issues; I don't know that an NHL team will want to roll the dice on those. Otherwise, I think he'd already be a head coach somewhere.

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#11 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2009, 11:16AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Sorry Robin, I always forget that you are a print media guy

Apparently, that's up to debate.

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#12 humantorch
April 17 2009, 11:20AM
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If it's Crawford, I'm going to strangle a baby.

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#13 Sandra
April 17 2009, 11:20AM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Hey Robin, Stauffer confirmed the rumour on Tencers show last night. Good Work!!!!!

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#14 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:24AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: You may be right, but I found the tidbit Bobby Mac gave about Petersen being a finalist for the Canucks job while Tambellini interesting. My feeling is that the new coach will either: a) have ties to Tambellini in some regard and/or b) have connections to the Oilers organization and/or c) have ties to the Edmonton/Alberta area

As far as "experienced" coaches, Pat Quinn is most likely (IMO), likely with an up-and-coming young coach serving under him. If thats the case, it would likely eliminate a lot (or all) current assistant coaches being speculated about though, as it would be a sideways move most organizations likely wouldn't allow. Scott Arniel, Marc Habschied, Willie Desjardins & Ryan McGill might be more likely in that case as Quinn's associate. Also, should we expect Rick Ley as an assistant if Quinn were to get the job?

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#15 Dennis
April 17 2009, 11:28AM
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Operating on the premise that most names of interest get leaked before the interviewing process begins, I can't see Lever being a guy who's name should be in the mix.

I know Gainey brought him up to the big club to do a bit of scouting for them down the stretch but considering he hasn't been mentioned by Edm MSM types or by bloggers like Brownlee:D, I don't think he's a candidate right now.

I'd like to see him thrown in the mix because there's been lots of good things said about the guy and he was a big fan of Pouliot during his rookie pro season in '06 at Ham.

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#16 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2009, 11:28AM
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@ Sandra: What rumour? I start so many I lose track . . .

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#17 Jon K
April 17 2009, 11:29AM
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I think that another coach who is a possibility, albeit somewhat remote, is current Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. While his candidacy is not being discussed for obvious reasons, I think that rumblings out of Buffalo are that his termination is being considered right now as a result of Buffalo's inconsistency the last two seasons.

For what it's worth I think it would be a poor decision on Buffalo's part. It's not Ruff's fault that the team saddled itself to the inconsistent, injury prone career of starting goalie Miller.

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#18 Gord
April 17 2009, 11:30AM
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IS there any chance of getting Dale Hunter out of London? I think he would be an excellent fit with the group of guys we have hear and would definitely know how the style that Tambo is talking about.

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#19 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:31AM
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If you (as the Edmonton Oilers SPECIFICALLY) could pick ANY coach currently employed by a playoff team, regardless of how “possible” or “likely” it was, who would it be? Let’s exclude Brent Sutter’s name from that list too, as his name has already come up enough. Mike Babcock? Claude Julien? Randy Carlyle? Joel Quenneville?

I’d take Ken Hitchcock (and I think there is a good chance that the Oil would too).

Lets see what "the internet" has to say about that. (Anyone else notice CBC's been checking what "the internet" has to say lately (with Jeff Marek & Scott morrisson)? Is that a schtick, a catchphrase, or do they just sound plain silly? Kinda make it sound like this internet thing might stick around for a while.)

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#20 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:40AM
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Jon K wrote:

I think that another coach who is a possibility, albeit somewhat remote, is current Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff.

Lindy Ruff is precisely one of those guys I was getting at with the "c) have ties to the Edmonton/Alberta area" quote above. Would be a good candidate IF he were to become available.

Gord wrote:

IS there any chance of getting Dale Hunter out of London? I think he would be an excellent fit with the group of guys we have hear and would definitely know how the style that Tambo is talking about.

Another decent candidate, but I haven't heard his name come up much in the infamous "MSM".

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#21 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 11:40AM
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Gord wrote:

IS there any chance of getting Dale Hunter out of London?

It would be worth it just so that when he cut Rob Schremp in training camp, people could say "Well, he even benched Schremp in the OHL! He's biased!"

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#22 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 11:41AM
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RossCreek wrote:

Another decent candidate, but I haven’t heard his name come up much in the infamous “MSM”.

Dean Millard mentioned him today.

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#23 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 11:42AM
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**THE SPELLING OF CERTAIN COACHES NAMES GETTING "MODERATED" IS STARTING TO BECOME ANNOYING**

If you (as the Edmonton Oilers SPECIFICALLY) could pick ANY coach currently employed by a playoff team, regardless of how “possible” or “likely” it was, who would it be? Let’s exclude Brent Sutter’s name from that list too, as his name has already come up enough. Mike Babcokc? Claude Julien? Randy Carlyle? Joel Quenneville?

I’d take Ken Hitchcokc (and I think there is a good chance that the Oil would too).

Lets see what “the internet” has to say about that. (Anyone else notice CBC’s been checking what “the internet” has to say lately (with Jeff Marek & Scott morrisson)? Is that a schtick, a catchphrase, or do they just sound plain silly? Kinda make it sound like this internet thing might stick around for a while.)

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#24 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 11:54AM
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@ RossCreek:

It probably doesn't surprise anybody here, but I'm a big fan of what CBC has been doing. Of course, Ron MacLean's been referencing blogs for a while (I'd guess because he immerses himself as fully as possible in the game) but I haven't seen any network take advantage of the blogs the way CBC has (Sportsnet and Versus have both flirted with Eklund, but that's stupidity, not exploitation).

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#25 RossCreek
April 17 2009, 12:00PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: It just seems a little funny to me. They come off as "awkward", and I've heard Marek say "at least thats what the internet is saying" on more than a few occasions. I don't know if they're actually using that catchphrase or if he just says it a lot Rwha. Maybe its Jeff Marek that seems awkward, I dunno. Its not bad, just found it a bit humourous. I'm more in to TSN's coverage personally.

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#26 Scott
April 17 2009, 12:10PM
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Dennis wrote:

I’d like to see him thrown in the mix because there’s been lots of good things said about the guy and he was a big fan of Pouliot during his rookie pro season in ‘06 at Ham.

Pouliot is nothing but a distant memory at this point IMO.

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#27 Sandra
April 17 2009, 12:26PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ Sandra: What rumour? I start so many I lose track . . .

The Souray rumour, and no you don't start them, there is something there. all the nay sayers on HF that came here had no right to say what they said here and at HF. Good Work.

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#28 topshelf
April 17 2009, 12:27PM
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@ Sandra: You are too much sometimes..haha

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#29 Sandra
April 17 2009, 12:27PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: And "Fred" is reliable, he does have Katz ears err Text

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#30 West Coast Oil
April 17 2009, 12:29PM
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Say what you will about Crawford's broadcast skills one thing I do know is he coached the Canucks here to great results. If they had a goaltender at the time who could stop a puck they may have won a Stanley Cup under him. Saying that though he plays his favorites much like MacT did and the said goaltender was one of Crawfords favorites..

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#31 Sandra
April 17 2009, 12:31PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Say what you will about Crawford’s broadcast skills one thing I do know is he coached the Canucks here to great results. If they had a goaltender at the time who could stop a puck they may have won a Stanley Cup under him. Saying that though he plays his favorites much like MacT did and the said goaltender was one of Crawfords favorites..

Roli has to go, We need to move forward, Like I said before, we don't need a Bertuzzi incident here. He had great players in LA, and no results.

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#32 Slurve
April 17 2009, 12:40PM
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@ Sandra: He called roli as rolofson...

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#33 DK0
April 17 2009, 12:42PM
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Off topic here, But can we get the top right of this page fixed? I really dont want to stare at a 4-1 loss to Calgary all summer. Losing to Calgary makes me a sad panda. Maybe put the previous nights playoff games up there instead?

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#34 Slurve
April 17 2009, 12:44PM
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I say if Brent Sutter is not avail. Perhaps one of the younger coaches with fresh and new ideas who are assistants to teams currently in the playoffs ex. GARY AGNEW, Assistant Coach of Columbus or Brad Shaw of St Louis or Doug Houda of Boston Bruins… These guys have great coaching successes in the AHL and with their current teams

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#35 DaveS
April 17 2009, 12:45PM
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Marc Crawford will be on Dan Tencer's show tonight. Take that for what it's worth I guess. I couldn't help but notice the other night when Tencer started defending Crawford against one of his callers, in a way eerily similar to how he’s defended MacT the past 2 seasons.

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#36 Milli
April 17 2009, 12:56PM
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God I hate the Crow, but you sure cannot argue with his results. And Bertuzzi, well, maybe Moore should have just turned and fought like a man. I'm not saying it was right, but I wouldn't mind a coach that demands a price be paid for taking liberities with our stars (if we have any). I just won't ever listen to his post gamers, I hate that man.

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#37 Ducey
April 17 2009, 12:58PM
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I would be disappointed if they went with Quinn. He had one 1st place finish with Toronto and a couple of good teams in Vancouver. There were a lot of avearge teams otherwise.

From what I remember with the Leaves, he tended to favour the veteran players who had grit. He seemed, relatively speaking, to just get out of the way and let the players play. I am not sure how he would work with younger players in terms of teaching them to compete.

He seems like the kind of guy that would manage a veteran team like NJ or Detroit very well. I don't think he is a development guy - which is what the Oil need.

I guess on the plus side Quinn's experience would allow him to handle all the rumours started by Brownlee...

I would like to see someone like Sutter or Clousten - someone young and keen who has a reputation as a motivator but still keeps his professionalism (no call outs in the media).

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#38 Word
April 17 2009, 01:01PM
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@ DaveS:

Interesting point.

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#39 Chris
April 17 2009, 01:18PM
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@ Dennis:

~I'm sure Tambellini's TOP priority is to find someone who can unleash the full potential of Pouliot~

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#40 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 01:49PM
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Further to my Sutter guess, this from Eric Duhatschek:

"Others have connected these dots before, but there is a compelling logic to the idea that Brent Sutter could be the next Edmonton Oilers' coach. Sutter has freely stated that he will evaluate his future with the New Jersey Devils following the season and has made no secret of the fact that he misses life in Alberta, where he owns the junior team in Red Deer, and has his roots. The Oilers are the NHL team closest to Viking, his hometown, and Red Deer, where he lives in the off-season."

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#41 Victoria
April 17 2009, 01:58PM
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Slurve wrote:

@ Sandra: He called roli as rolofson…

I don't know what's worse: "Rolofson" or "Desjarlies"

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#42 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2009, 02:03PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: If it's a guess, it's a good one. IF Sutter becomes available, he'll be the No. 1 candidate for the job.

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#43 Peter Pan
April 17 2009, 03:13PM
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@ Robin

If Sutter beomes available, and the Flames choke again, don't you think Brother Darryl will have the inside track on Baby Brent?

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#44 Prime
April 17 2009, 03:17PM
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As per TSN, Ruff staying in Buffalo...take him off your lists

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#45 Dyckster
April 17 2009, 04:05PM
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I'll take an answer from anybody (or everybody) on this one. What are the chances we could pull Ron Francis away from Carolina? Isn't he currently an asst. there? I think he would rock as a head coach. Any thoughts? Major league offensive talent, major league work ethic, simply a major league dude...don't ya think?

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#46 Wanye Gretz
April 17 2009, 04:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: If it’s a guess, it’s a good one. IF Sutter becomes available, he’ll be the No. 1 candidate for the job.

I take this to mean Brent Sutter is the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

SQUEE

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#47 Archaeologuy
April 17 2009, 04:19PM
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@ Dyckster: NO. Only qualified candidates please.

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#48 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2009, 04:25PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Dyckster: NO. Only qualified candidates please.

Seconded. 2 years in front office and one year as an associate coach isn't nearly good enough.

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#49 sns2
April 17 2009, 04:31PM
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Why all the vitriol toward Crawford? And what good players did he have in LA that would have formed a threat to any playoff calibre team?

Does anyone know for certain if Sutter has an out in his contract? If he does, Lamoriello surely wouldn't mind him coming to an out of conference team like Edmonton.

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#50 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2009, 05:05PM
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I wonder if Crawford will still be looking for a dinner date with the low-life media when he no longer is one of them?

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