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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#101 Jonathan Willis
April 19 2009, 12:08PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Shremp will at best be a complementary player in the NHL. Who was there to complement in Springfield?

The obvious answer is Ryan Potulny.

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#102 Archaeologuy
April 19 2009, 04:11PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: meh, it was a bad year in Springfield. It's hard for me to gauge how well anyone played given that I didnt actually watch them play.

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#103 Andrew
April 19 2009, 09:59PM
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It's quite funny being an oilers fan. Looking at the situation it blows my mind to see how long we had MacT as the oilers coach and how the pens made the finals last year and changed their coach early this season. Tambellini did the right thing letting MacT have a year now the real game begins. Depending on how the flyers do this post season if they release John Stevens from his coaching job would he be a candidate?

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#104 Brad
April 20 2009, 08:07AM
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Dale Hunter for coach.

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#105 Frank
April 20 2009, 10:11AM
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What about Brian Sutter?

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#106 Joseph Peterson
May 05 2009, 12:53PM
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Whatever happens, i think we need a head coach prior to the NHL Draft. We need someone at the helm that the players look to prior to putting on the sweater as they get selected by the Oilers.

The only thing that I do not want to see is another head coach from the "hay-day". I reminisce every now and then about those days, but I never will expect the oilers of today to be like the oilers of ten years ago now. The game has changed too much.

Honestly, I would like to see someone like Mark Crawford behind the bench. Look at what Steve Tambellini done in Vancouver?

On another subject. I think some interior maintenance is also in need of. Letters on your sweater used to mean something. they meant you led, you were a veteran (Not only by time, but also by skill and knowledge) - I guess what I am trying to say is I think Ethan Moreau is not the guy for the Captain's Chair. I think the likes of Sheldon Souray should be bestowed with that honor. I am prepared as a fan to Ethan another shot, but somebody has to read the riot act to him...show up or...ship out!

Whatever the powers that be end up doing I hope in the direction of winning a Stanley Cup in a few years or at the least being considered a viable threat as opposed to a cinderella story. A good start - let Ales Hemsky play and make sure someone is there to support him. The goaltending situation is good, just don't play Roli all the time and for god's sake play every night like its game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. See you guys on the ice...

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#107 Tracking Moose « the 4th star
May 13 2009, 11:53AM
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[...] next season. AHL coaches are a hot commodity of late. Arniel’s name has circulated in the Edmonton Oilers head coach search, which indicates that others have taken notice of what he has done in his time in Winnipeg. This [...]

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