PAT QUINN: THE RIGHT MAN

Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009 05:34PM

HOCKEY-WORLD JUNIORS/

People fixated on his birth certificate or his grey hair are already second-guessing the choice of 66-year-old Pat Quinn as the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, those who call the big Irishman old school and characterize him as some sort of dithering overseer without a grasp of the fineries of Xs and Os and the nuances of strategy in a game that's changed considerably since he broke into the NHL as a lumbering defenceman five decades ago, know not of what they speak. In simple terms, they're so far off, they don't know what they don't know.

Fact is, Quinn is one of the more progressive thinkers in the game. He is a tactician and a teacher, a believer in systems play, of tailoring his philosophy to the talent at his disposal and a consummate team builder. Don't be fooled by the pin-striped suits and cigars.

Quinn began learning his trade under Fred Shero with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 1977-78 season before taking over as the head coach in 1978-79. He's been drawing up game plans and tweaking defensive zone and forechecking systems since. Hell, Quinn was utilizing videotape to break down opponents with the Broad Street Bullies long before Roger Nielsen was dubbed Captain Video.

So, while GM Steve Tambellini doesn't need my stamp of approval, he's got it after unveiling Quinn and Tom Renney as his associate coach at Rexall Place today. Quinn is the right man for the job and the right fit for the Oilers.

Just you watch.

A BOOK BY ITS COVER

Quinn, a two-time Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year (1979-80 with Philadelphia and 1991-92 with Vancouver) with a career regular season record of 657-481-154-26 in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto, laughs off the tag he's a throwback and a fossil.

And he should. Anybody who has been around the NHL game awhile knows there are young men who are old thinkers and old men who are young thinkers -- the birth certificate has nothing to do with it. "I feel like I've been ahead of the curve in a lot of approaches," smiles Quinn when asked about his coaching style. "Heck, I was sending people out of the (offensive) zone, we call it the stretch now, in 1979. That's why we went 35 games without a loss (in Philadelphia)."

Off the NHL coaching carousel since 2006, Quinn coached Canada to a gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championship. Having dealt just fine with a roster full of pimply-faced teenagers, I don't see a generation gap being a problem with the likes of Oilers youngsters Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano or Patrick O'Sullivan. At the same time, Quinn will lean on his veterans, but not with no questions asked. He'll do his homework on who's who and what's what when it comes to veterans and the question of leadership before scratching out a pecking order. That, I'm guessing you'll agree, is a good thing.

"I have to do some research on some of the players," Quinn said. "I must admit I haven't watched a lot of them in the past couple of years. I've been concentrating on junior hockey. "I have some learning to do about the individuals with this organization, but I do know there's talent there. The talent did not become a team like everybody had hoped it would.

"Maybe there were too many similar kinds of players. Good teams have a mix, just like we hope we're a good team here at the coaching level with different assets and different ways to make contributions. The players on the ice have to have that same sort of mix."

SORTING IT OUT

From a tactical perspective, Quinn favours a puck-possession game and he'll blend all the offensive talent he can get his hands on with grinders and role players who fit the mix. Quinn's a proponent of having his team play his way and making opponents adjust as opposed to constantly changing things up based on the opposition. He doesn't regularly match lines, opting instead to use a shutdown pairing of defencemen and a maybe a defensive forward. Of course, the former Oil King also likes toughness in his line-up, which is no surprise given how he played.

Quinn, for those who weren't even born at the time, once knocked Bobby Orr so goofy with a wicked hit he almost started a riot:

He and Steve MacIntyre will get along just fine.

"You set up a style of play that is best suited to give the talent you have the opportunity to win," Quinn said. "We will do that. We'll give a system of play that, hopefully, encompasses our look at all of our players. At the end of the day, whatever you have, you still have to win and that's the bottom line. We'll find ways to help these guys become a team."

There's one other thing those who don't really know squat about Quinn don't understand because you can't attach a number to it, and that's his passion for the game. Quinn has as much fire in him to succeed now as he ever has, and that was apparent today.

NO DICE

Of course, some people will sniff the hiring of Quinn signals that the Old Boys Network is alive and well and that the only difference is it's Tambellini's old pals, not Kevin Lowe's, who get the jobs now. What, Tambellini was supposed to make Scott Arniel or Todd Richards the most important hire of his tenure as GM rather than go with somebody he knows, trusts and respects?

Please. That's naïve beyond words.

Call it a safe hire if you like -- I respect the opinion of colleague Jim Matheson immensely and he is leaning that way on the choice of Quinn and Renney -- but I wouldn't be rolling the dice on a promising but unproven newcomer right now, as tempting as it was, given the qualified candidates.

Quinn's the right guy.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#151 Robin Brownlee
May 28 2009, 08:28AM
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@ Chaz: Teams can talk to unrestricted free agents before July 1 if they negotiate the right (by offering picks etc) with the player's team.

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#152 Heazues
May 28 2009, 08:29AM
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@Sourcrouse

bingo.

tootoo is a waste of space. stortini or JFJ can play the role of the hitter/instigator AND they arent the type to blindside players or make suspendable hits.

trading o'sully JUST because we need to get bigger is also a waste. ( unless of course someone has a stroke and they put a deal on the table that cant be refused ) but both coggs and sully play bigger than they are. (i find it funny watching them bounce when they give a hit though ) but you want everyone including the smaller fowards to play that way. if they are going to move a "kid" it should be nilsson. theres a guy that wont even try to give out some physical play. or maybe work on penner and kotalik as they are big players that play like small players. if kotalik,penner,JFJ,stortini,and moreau all play physical, then the moves to get "bigger" have already worked and there is no need to make more moves. ( in THAT regard anyway )if those guys cannot bring it, then it may be time to upgrade on those players. but gagner,coggs,sully,hemmer etc... shouldnt be relied upon to punish the opposition, they should be relied upon to put the points up. play with some jam yes, but not required to knock guys silly every game.

im sure ill get nailed for this, but if we were to start the season today this is how i would like to see the lines.

o'sully-coggs-hemmer - speed and fast hands kill. this line has that. a rush scoring line. as long as they can get back,to be defensivly responsible,they will create more than they give up.

kotalik-gagner-penner - all a little slower but a well rounded line. all 3 can score, and potentially a threat anywhere. plus penner has to break away from the "ryan smyth" role. he has horrible puck retrival skills and is better used differently. if thats the role you want played on the PP or 5v5 they may aswell put reddox there, he has better retival skills than penner. a waste IMO but so is putting penner in that role.

moreau-horcoff-pisani - ALOT of money for a 3rd line, but a heck of a defensive line that can pitch in a few goals. and they come with good blend of veteran savvy and responibility.

stortini-brodziak-JFJ - big energy/punishment line. storts & JFJ arent going to amount to more than 4th line but they can skate/hit and fight. brodz is a developing 3rd liner and IMO would benifit from another year on the 4th.

the downside of the forwards is the faceoffs, as our bottom 6 would be better than our top 6 by a country mile. and our top line would be pounded when caught.

the upside is that if you are going to make due with what you have (AKA not panicking and trading everything away for a win now mode) this plays to the strengths of each player. and the only way to have success is to put guys in positions to be successful. no more hemmer being considered a checker :P and no more horcoff on the PP or in a significant scoring role.

i would also move/bury staios and bring in peckham. contract wise it makes sense, and i think smid would benifit from being paired with a guy that brings it every shift.

with souray,visnovsky, gilbert, grebs, smid, peckham i think the D is set.

another big question is the goalie. i personally would sign roli another 2 years. with a cap hit of around $2M. give him a big first year and a small second year. allow JDD to have 20-25 games this year and hope he is ready to take over the year after. if he isnt, THEN you decide that he is a backup for know and sign someone with a solid backround that they are sure can take the starter role. but i wouldnt want to bring in someone that the oil will want to keep long term as we will never figure out what JDD can actually do.

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#153 Mikey
May 28 2009, 08:33AM
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Ogden Brother is probably cringing at all this Tootoo talk again haha.

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#154 OvenChicken8
May 28 2009, 08:34AM
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@ Dan: I would almost think that Gilbert would have more trade value then Horton in that situation because Florida will most likely be losing Bouwmeester to FA this summer. If that trade was to happen I could see Horton + something to sweeten the deal, but that's just my $0.02

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#155 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 08:37AM
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Heazues wrote:

@Sourcrouse bingo. tootoo is a waste of space. stortini or JFJ can play the role of the hitter/instigator AND they arent the type to blindside players or make suspendable hits. trading o’sully JUST because we need to get bigger is also a waste. ( unless of course someone has a stroke and they put a deal on the table that cant be refused ) but both coggs and sully play bigger than they are. (i find it funny watching them bounce when they give a hit though ) but you want everyone including the smaller fowards to play that way. if they are going to move a “kid” it should be nilsson. theres a guy that wont even try to give out some physical play. or maybe work on penner and kotalik as they are big players that play like small players. if kotalik,penner,JFJ,stortini,and moreau all play physical, then the moves to get “bigger” have already worked and there is no need to make more moves. ( in THAT regard anyway )if those guys cannot bring it, then it may be time to upgrade on those players. but gagner,coggs,sully,hemmer etc… shouldnt be relied upon to punish the opposition, they should be relied upon to put the points up. play with some jam yes, but not required to knock guys silly every game. im sure ill get nailed for this, but if we were to start the season today this is how i would like to see the lines. o’sully-coggs-hemmer - speed and fast hands kill. this line has that. a rush scoring line. as long as they can get back,to be defensivly responsible,they will create more than they give up. kotalik-gagner-penner - all a little slower but a well rounded line. all 3 can score, and potentially a threat anywhere. plus penner has to break away from the “ryan smyth” role. he has horrible puck retrival skills and is better used differently. if thats the role you want played on the PP or 5v5 they may aswell put reddox there, he has better retival skills than penner. a waste IMO but so is putting penner in that role. moreau-horcoff-pisani - ALOT of money for a 3rd line, but a heck of a defensive line that can pitch in a few goals. and they come with good blend of veteran savvy and responibility. stortini-brodziak-JFJ - big energy/punishment line. storts & JFJ arent going to amount to more than 4th line but they can skate/hit and fight. brodz is a developing 3rd liner and IMO would benifit from another year on the 4th. the downside of the forwards is the faceoffs, as our bottom 6 would be better than our top 6 by a country mile. and our top line would be pounded when caught. the upside is that if you are going to make due with what you have (AKA not panicking and trading everything away for a win now mode) this plays to the strengths of each player. and the only way to have success is to put guys in positions to be successful. no more hemmer being considered a checker and no more horcoff on the PP or in a significant scoring role. i would also move/bury staios and bring in peckham. contract wise it makes sense, and i think smid would benifit from being paired with a guy that brings it every shift. with souray,visnovsky, gilbert, grebs, smid, peckham i think the D is set. another big question is the goalie. i personally would sign roli another 2 years. with a cap hit of around $2M. give him a big first year and a small second year. allow JDD to have 20-25 games this year and hope he is ready to take over the year after. if he isnt, THEN you decide that he is a backup for know and sign someone with a solid backround that they are sure can take the starter role. but i wouldnt want to bring in someone that the oil will want to keep long term as we will never figure out what JDD can actually do.

Ouch, that first line would never start with... or retrieve the puck.

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#156 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 08:37AM
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Mikey wrote:

Ogden Brother is probably cringing at all this Tootoo talk again haha.

Ha-ha, I was actually just thinking the same thing.

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#157 OvenChicken8
May 28 2009, 08:39AM
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@ Heazues:

That second line wouldn't work very well imo because both Penner and Kotalik are lazy and play smaller then what they are. You would have to rely on 5'2 140lbs Gagner to play the big man role.

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#158 Archaeologuy
May 28 2009, 08:41AM
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@ Heazues: I dont think the team wants Cogs to be a Centre anymore, given that he couldnt win a faceoff if his life depended on it. So that's one issue with your lineup. Another is that Kotalik wont be an Oiler as of July 1st. I think especially if the Draft Day sees some trades.

The only other problem with the lineup is that it is exactly the same lineup that finished well out of the playoffs this past season. I think a new coach will go a long way in motivating the guys, but even that can only take this limited talent so far.

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#159 GSC
May 28 2009, 09:06AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Heazues: I dont think the team wants Cogs to be a Centre anymore, given that he couldnt win a faceoff if his life depended on it. So that’s one issue with your lineup. Another is that Kotalik wont be an Oiler as of July 1st. I think especially if the Draft Day sees some trades. The only other problem with the lineup is that it is exactly the same lineup that finished well out of the playoffs this past season. I think a new coach will go a long way in motivating the guys, but even that can only take this limited talent so far.

Couldn't agree more, this lineup needs definite (if not drastic) changes to make the playoffs next season. Another top 6 forward, more size, a bottom 6 centre who can win draws, a shutdown defenceman, and a starting goaltender are required for this team to meet last season's expectations of a division contender.

Problem is that even a total rebuild may be out of the question due to the contracts of players like Horcoff, Pisani, Penner, Moreau and the like. Way too much salary for marginal players that other teams are not likely to take on. We're more or less stuck with much of the roster as is.

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#160 Mikey
May 28 2009, 09:22AM
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Where did Brett go?

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#161 Chaz
May 28 2009, 09:25AM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Thanks for that. Although I doubt JBo would go this far towards Free Agency without riding it out to the end to see what's out there.

By the way Robin, great Job on getting the coaching scoop two weeks prior. Any idea what the winning numbers for this Saturday's 6/49 are shaping up to be? :)

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#162 Chris
May 28 2009, 10:42AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

That’s not the point. The point is he was played in the wrong situations with the wrong players. I know there were few if any choices other than him but that doesnt matter.

This is exactly the point. Cogliano IS being played in the wrong situation with the wrong players... We completetly agree! Cogliano should be playing as a second line center... right where Gagner is playing.

And if Quinn gives Cogliano this ideal slot: Gagner will be the redundant player who is being played in the wrong situations with the wrong players. Oilers management needs to make a choice.

You asked me what would be the point in trading Wolski for Cogliano. It isn't just about trading goals and assists. It is about trading where those goals and assists are coming from. Wolski could provide points for the Oilers from the first line left wing; a position currently occupied by Ryan Smyth in Colarado. Cogliano could provide points for Colorado as the second line center and on PP unit #2; a slot not available to him in Edmonton because it is occupied by Sam Gagner. Both players would be in a better position to succeed and both organizations would benifit from a trade like this. This is merely an example of swapping players from one organization to another to better balance the depth chart of both respective rosters.

It's easy for you to say: Just move Cogliano to the wing and get rid off O'Sullivan. Or, Move Gagner to the first line and make Horcoff the shutdown guy... Tambellini and Quinn will make those decisions; but IMO it would be a waste of Cogliano's ability to have him mucking it up along the boards as a winger, and neither Gagner or Cogliano is ready to jump up into first line duty.

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#163 roger
May 28 2009, 12:25PM
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i read the comments with just as much interest as the columns just for the bickering and bitching. cheap entertainment, thanks.

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#164 Dominoiler
May 28 2009, 02:45PM
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Does anyone else think that eberle's performance during the last world juinors helpped establish a base worth for smaller-ish players... do you think this will translate into a more appreciative eye for this type, instead of the generalized "big-good, small-bad" attitude some people have been painting Quinn as having...

I think he is a fan of eberle from his heroics and that, once given a year or two of seasoning, we'll see him in the show... and that in the mean time O-sullivan will be taking care of business in the same role, which will be a organizational priority to develop...

thoughts?

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#165 Jack Bauer
May 28 2009, 02:50PM
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Hey Robin,

Do you know the details of Pat and Tom's contract? Im curious how much money they make.

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#166 Heazues
May 28 2009, 07:22PM
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@Ogden Brother

i know what your saying. i even stated that faceoffs would be brutal. but there are 2 idea's to my theory. the first being that last season cogliano took a large number of his faceoffs against much stronger opponents. simply put, MacT was a big line matcher and coggs was on the "shutdown" line. i think his numbers would improve on the top line as we would probably see him take faceoffs against varying opponents. (Quinn likes to roll his lines as i hear it) the second idea is that his faceoffs were good against guys of similar size (from his days in school) so i think the skill is there, but he simply wasnt strong enough to overpower the guys he was seeing here. (does anyone have a link to some stats on his days in michigan? i remember reading that he was good at them, but i cant find a damn thing to back it up)

@oven chicken8

i know the idea is that both kotalik and penner are lazy, and i have no problem upgrading on those players, but my idea was that the skill sets play well off of eachother and since they all are a little slower in the skating dept, they would all be a good fit.

i am a firm believer that there were several players that were not playing in the position that would give them the best chance to succeed. and i thought that there were better opportunities that were squandered because MacT would go with the guy he knows before giving someone else a chance.

@Archaeologuy

im not convinced that cogliano is completely out as a center. but i think that if he is going to stay there he has to continue to show the game he has been, AND he has to make marked improvement in the faceoff circle.

and im pretty convinced that kotalik will be an oiler after july 1st. in fact my thoughts were echoed on 1260 this afternoon when it was mentioned that nobody else is going to give him the contract he wants AND the first line mins. (although i wouldnt want to see him on the first line anyway)

in any case. i did state that IF they started the year now with the roster they have this is how i would like to see it. im sure there will be changes, hell i HOPE there will be changes. but to upgrade the positions they have. not change the dynamic of the team. it should be built the same way.(skill wise, they DO need to get bigger or meaner) i like the idea of a speedy first line that can kill on the rush. a second line thats a threat anywhere and a very solid 3rd. the fourth is a punishment/development line and can be filled with just about anyone.

@chris

i think i would rather wait for coggs and gagner to become center 1a and 1b before giving a divisional rival a prospect like that. i see your point in filling out the holes but anyone in our division shouldnt be a trading partner unless someone gets drunk and offers something that cant be refused.

your last point about neither being ready for the 1st line is probably correct. i would have given coggs a chance at least, but your right. but the fact is that either or both WILL eventually be ready, and i would rather NOT trade it away. legit 1st liners are hard to aquire (we have been bitching for years about it) and everyone wants to build through the draft, well thats exactrly what the oil did in getting coggs and gagner. we just have to be patient with them and allow them to develop into the players they can be.

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#167 Archaeologuy
May 28 2009, 11:08PM
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Chris wrote:

Cogliano should be playing as a second line center… right where Gagner is playing.

In a perfect world I would be the 1st line C of the Oilers with a faceoff % of 150. Unfortunately that wont happen. As much as I would like to see Cogs get better in the dot, he hasnt improved from his rookie season and likely wont get drastically better over 1 summer. Translation: HE SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING CENTRE NEXT SEASON ON ANY TEAM. Learn the wings and go.

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