April 23 2009 12:46PM
Seeing as Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has neglected to text me his list of head coaching candidates for comment and approval -- Steve, where's the trust? -- I can only guess who he's considering.
While it might not be stop-the-presses stuff, I see the list of candidates to take over from Craig MacTavish falling into two categories: the been-there-done-that group and the if-I-only-got-the-chance bunch.
The first group includes obvious names that have been tossed out countless times already. In my mind, the leaders in the established bench boss group are: Brent Sutter, Marc Crawford and Pat Quinn.
The second group, and the one I hope Tambellini takes a long, hard look at, is made up of Brent Petersen, Todd Richards, Geoff Ward, Rob Daum, and Scott Arniel.
The old guys
SUTTER: if the New Jersey Devils release him from his deal, he'd be the clear-cut favourite. It's tough to argue with Sutter's track record in the WHL and what's he done in The Swamp. Question is, if the Devils let him go and don't make him sit out a year, who says he doesn't end up in Calgary?
CRAWFORD: Even if he calls the Oilers best player Alex Hemsky and thinks media guys are dough heads -- until he's out of coaching work and becomes one himself -- he's got a Stanley Cup ring, a Jack Adams Award and history with Tambellini dating back to their days as players in Vancouver.
QUINN: The big man is interested in getting back behind the bench in the NHL and, while he's no spring chicken, there's no question he's got both the experience and credibility to take hold of a dressing room that was divided much of this season. Like Crow, he's got history with Tambellini.
Outside the box
PETERSEN: If Petersen is ready to leave the comfort zone of Nashville and his relationship with Barry Trotz, he's one of those long-time assistants -- like a Paul MacLean or Todd McClellan -- who could easily run his own show. Again, history with Tambellini.
RICHARDS: Had 98 wins in two seasons as an AHL head coach in Scranton after four years as an assistant in Milwaukee. Just one season as an NHL assistant with San Jose on his resume, but he's thought of as an up-and-comer, and with good reason.
WARD: Critics point to his so-so record in some seasons in the Oilers farm system, but take a closer look at what he had to work with. After two seasons as an assistant to Claude Julien in Boston, he's ready to move up. Has lots of experience as a head coach in the OHL and AHL and he's very well thought of within the organization.
DAUM: After nothing but success with the Alberta Golden Bears, he went 50-24-0 with Houston in 2005/06, then was cut loose by Minnesota following the 2006-07 AHL season after a 27-43-0 campaign. How'd that happen?
Daum lost his top three scorers from the previous year, Kirby Law, Erik Westrum and Patrick O'Sullivan, during the off-season and then Minnesota took Josh Harding midway through the next. Daum deserves a Purple Heart, and an interview with Tambellini, after trying to clean up a mess not of his making in Springfield this season.
ARNIEL: Yes, he's had a first-rate organization to work with in Manitoba, but his record at the AHL level has been outstanding. Has history with Tambellini. There's nothing not to like about Arniel.
One more year?
It's just fine with me if Rod Phillips returns for a 37th season as the Oilers radio play-by-play man.
Jim Matheson suggested that might be the case in The Journal this week, calling it "60-40" that he returns, and when Senior suggests something it's usually because he knows it to be the case.
That's especially true when it comes to Phillips because he and Rod have been running buddies on the road since the 1970s, when they tore it up big time before morphing into Stattler and Waldorf after bell-bottom pants went out of style.
In this particular case, Senior got the dope first-hand because he and Phillips just spent a week golfing on the road while driving down to The Skipper's palatial estate in Buckeye, just outside Phoenix. Nothing like 30 straight hours of Frank Sinatra on the drive down.
I'd like to listen to another season of Phillips and Bob Stauffer. I find them a more dynamic tandem than Rod and Morley Scott, who didn't bring anything to the mix resembling the analysis and eye for details Stauffer has. Rod has earned the right to go when he decides it's time.
If Kelly Buchberger survives the purge of assistant coaches -- I believe he will because of his relationship with owner Daryl Katz -- bet the house he'll be pulling for Ward.
Buchberger and Ward have been tight since they coached the forgettable, inept and overwhelmed Roadrunners.
And, while the Roadrunners were abysmal, I've got to admit I've never had more fun on the road than when Ward, Buchberger and Joe Paterson were behind the bench. There was one night in Houston and another in Rochester when... Enough said.
Eric Thurston has competition for the head coaching posting at the U of A with the Golden Bears.
Dean Clark, a former WHL and CHL coach of the year with the Calgary Hitmen, has applied. Clark has been out of hockey since being let go after the 2007/08 season.
Clark, a former Golden Bear, got caught up in the ownership change with the Blazers and was let go after a 27-41-0 season in Kamloops. With two 50-win seasons with Calgary, including a ridiculous .833 winning percentage (58-10-2) in 1999-2000, Clark belongs behind the bench.
If you ask me...
As Jason Gregor has already pointed out, it doesn't matter who Tambellini hires behind the bench if the Oilers roster doesn't change significantly. The second-coming of Toe Blake couldn't make the roster, as it sits, a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
And, while I agree with Tambellini the Oilers need to get bigger and grittier, I'm also of the mind, as the old saying goes, that's it's not always the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that matters.
If I'm looking to move soft players, as opposed to just small guys, who have some cachet around the NHL, then my list of trade candidates includes Tom Gilbert, Dustin Penner, O'Sullivan and Andrew Cogliano.
I'm not saying changes begin and end with these four, but if Tambellini really is interested in shaping this team into a group that takes losing personally, I'm starting with them.
The complicating factor with Gilbert is a herniated disc in his back might do more than take him out of the mix as potential trade bait. If Gilbert and the Oilers medical staff don't stay on top of things they could be looking at a repeat of the ordeal JF Jacques just went through.
I can live with another year of Dwayne Roloson, at, say, $2.5 million or so, in tandem with Jeff Deslauriers, but there's zero chance I'm giving him two more years if I'm Tambellini. If Roloson coaxes a two-year stint out of another team, and he might, then Tambellini should target Scott Clemmensen.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.