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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#1 Chris
May 26 2009, 05:43PM
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It took me 10 seconds of listening to the guy on the radio (Quinn) to know I'd follow him right off a bridge.

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#2 baggedmilk
May 26 2009, 06:05PM
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THANK YOU! People that don't think this is a great pick up by the Oilers don't know anything about hockey. The guy has missed the playoffs as a coach, what, once? All he does is win games, at every level he's coached.

"but he's too old"

Renney is right there as an assistant. Is that not 2000 games of NHL experience sitting behind our bench? Sweet Lord people, this has to be a new record for throwing someone under the bus.

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#3 Rusty Shackleford
May 26 2009, 06:15PM
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I love that freaking hit on Orr. Classic.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
May 26 2009, 06:21PM
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@ Robin:

Two questions for you, if I may, since I'm not going to argue your knowledge level:

1) Does it concern you at all that he doesn't match lines? 2) Do you think he's a coach who gets the most out of developing players?

I ask these questions because from what I've seen (during his Toronto tenure) was that he played a rather freewheeling style that gave his forwards (almost all veterans) a lot of initiative to make decisions. It worked there, at least in part because those players were mostly veterans and he always had the goaltending to bail out the team when things went south.

I'm worried that his coaching suited Toronto's roster, but may not suit that of the Oilers. I'm sure you'd disagree, but if you'd elaborate I'd appreciate it.

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#5 surshot
May 26 2009, 06:22PM
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Great hire...

Now lets focus on getting a team to match the coaching staff.

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#6 surshot
May 26 2009, 06:24PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: How do you know what the Oiler roster is going to look like come training camp?

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#7 Jonathan Willis
May 26 2009, 06:29PM
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surshot wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: How do you know what the Oiler roster is going to look like come training camp?

Well, I suppose they could dump most of Cogliano, Gagner, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Pouliot, Brodziak, Reddox, Stortini, Brule, Potulny, Jacques, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid, Peckham and Chorney, but it seems to me that if they're determined to turn a team of youngsters into a veteran team overnight just to suit the coach, they would have been better off with a different coach.

In other words, it's reasonable to assume that Quinn will be dealing with a roster still on the inexperienced side.

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#8 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 06:29PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Quinn doesn't get enough credit for being quick on his feet when it comes to adapting and tweaking the game he likes to play based on the roster he has. Pat likes up-tempo pick possession and that can work here with the players he has. If it doesn't pan out because there is a measure of inexperience here, he till tweak things -- in the short term by moving people around or in the long term by acquiring the players he is lacking.

I've never been alarmed by coaches who don't line match. Matching a defensive pairing can be, and often is, effective in shutting down a high-scoring forward line. I also like it that he sees values in a defensive specialist/pest/pain-in-the-ass type to check and bolster a shutdown pairing. That kind of player might also help the lame PK.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
May 26 2009, 06:35PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Thanks for the reply. Since you're here, can you recall a time he had a relatively young team? The Canucks quite young when he came aboard, weren't they?

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#10 nickxero
May 26 2009, 06:35PM
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I don't know if Quinn has the right tactics and style for this team.

That's not the important point. The team was strung along with the same lackadaisical system (or lack thereof) for way too long.

But it doesn't matter. He's a proven coach, with a good record, and a fresh voice in the room. I have to think that anything will be an interesting change if not an improvement over the last guy. What was his name again?

Getting a new voice who happens to be a respected and talented coach is win/win, IMO.

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#11 Archaeologuy
May 26 2009, 06:43PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I understand your skepticism, but what does it matter if Quinn prefers to use vets, because he isnt going to get any of value when he gets here. He wont make the Moreau/Pisani line the defacto 1st line just because they can legally rent cars. He isnt an idiot. Plus maybe Renney convinces him to at least do a minimal amount of line matching. Or maybe the value of Line matching has been over-rated against the value of rolling the lines, i dont know. I'm sure that if Brodziak and Macintyre crap the bed every time theyre out against the other team's best line they wont find themselves in that position too often.

As far as I'm concerned the Oilers managed to check off 2 boxes (at least) from their coaching wish list. They get the most experienced coach available and they get a technical guy. There is no perfect candidate available, otherwise he would already be working, so until the season starts there is no sense in getting too down on the coach.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
May 26 2009, 06:50PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

I'm a bit of a contrarian; when I see unabashed optimism I get skeptical, when I see pessimism I look on the bright side. It's a curse.

I don't have a problem with a "retread"; experience in the NHL, and especially success are never bad things.

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#13 RossCreek
May 26 2009, 06:57PM
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I like the tandem hiring. Good look IMO. WILLIS, weren't Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure young players under Quinn?

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#14 David S
May 26 2009, 07:01PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Archaeologuy: I’m a bit of a contrarian; when I see unabashed optimism I get skeptical, when I see pessimism I look on the bright side. It’s a curse.

Problem is, after this year Tambo could hire two beagles for coaches and there would still be unbridled enthusiasm.

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#15 David S
May 26 2009, 07:04PM
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BTW - I LOVED that fan giving the Boston how-dee-do over the glass (in the video). That would get somebody 5 years at least in the big house today.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
May 26 2009, 07:05PM
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@ RossCreek:

Linden and Bure for sure, and I'd guess Ronning wasn't all that old either. Beyond that I'm not sure.

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#17 Harlie
May 26 2009, 07:11PM
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I'm likin Tambellini's moves so far. I can't wait for next season already.

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#18 DonDon
May 26 2009, 07:19PM
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Just because some of the posters don't agree with the choice of Quinn doesn't mean they don't know anything about hockey; this is an insult, to say the least. On the contrary, some have seen Quinn up close coaching in Vancouver and Toronto. What it seems we're getting here is an effort on the part of Brownlee to discourage criticism of Tambellini's choice, the Odd Couple. It is apparent Brownlee is drinking the Tambellini Kool Aide! The only good thing I see is that Marc Crawford wasn't chosen; something most posters will probably agree upon. Other than that, we have just inherited a different Old Boys' network. Three year contracts! How many years does Tambellini have on his contract? If the new Old Boys aren't miracle workers with the mediocre players under contract, Tambellini and company will soon be gone. The future of the Oil is now in their hands; now I'm worried. And there will be a lot of guffawing and scratching of heads around the NHL over this risky choice. For Oilers' fans everywhere, we will now have to contend with the Chinese curse, our NHL hockey lives has just become more INTERESTING!

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#19 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 07:28PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ RossCreek: Linden and Bure for sure, and I’d guess Ronning wasn’t all that old either. Beyond that I’m not sure.

In Quinn's first year with Philadelphia, when he won his first Jack Adams Award and lost in the Cup final in 1979-80, he had eight players 23-or-under.

In Quinn's first year with Vancouver, 1990-1991, he had 15 players 23-or-under play at least a handful of games.

In 1991-92, when Quinn won the Adams Award with the Canucks, he had seven players 23-or-under.

Quinn didn't always have a completly veteran team in Toronto, either. In 1998-99, the 23-and-under crowd included Mike Johnson, Fredrik Modin, Alyn McAuley, Thomas Kaberle, Bryan Berard, Danny Markov, Ladislav Kohn, Chris McAllister and Jason Podollan.

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#20 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 07:38PM
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@ DonDon: The point, because you missed it, is people shouldn't discount Quinn because of his age or the broad misconception he's weak technically or doesn't know how to coach young players.

Tambellini's Kool-Aide? I don't give a squirt if you disagree with Quinn's hiring or if you criticize Tambellini, but it would be nice if you had a grasp of the facts. I wrote what I wrote because I think Quinn is the right choice.

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#21 David S
May 26 2009, 07:51PM
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Robin - even before nailing this situation almost two weeks ago, I think most of us here are very appreciative of you and Gregor's continued participation on this site. After all the good insight you've provided, I'm amazed how some guys still want to go after you. *facepalm*

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#22 No longer Quinn
May 26 2009, 07:54PM
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I hope he's the right guy. I remain on the guardedly pessimistic side for now.

My hope is that the Oil don't get older to suit the coach. It would be better long term to work with the blue-chippers they have and build for 2-3 years down the road. Then keeping building for the future. I don't think the 'win it this year' mentality should apply to this team.

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#23 Harlie
May 26 2009, 08:00PM
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Canes are out. Egg on my face for calling them to win the cup this year!. Can I blame it on the Chinese curse, maybe?

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#24 OilerInPurgatory
May 26 2009, 08:17PM
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My greatest misgiving about Quinn as a coach after watching his tenure in Toronto is his tendency to not only chirp the refs, but also have his players constantly carping at the officials.

I believe Sundin, McCabe, Tucker, Domi, even Roberts and other Leafs of a few years ago got extra penalties (or the opponents didn't get one) because of their reputation as whiners.

It's hard to shake my image of the Quinn-era Toronto teams as indisciplined complainers.

Every coach has got to work the refs, but I pray we don't see the Oil go down that road.

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#25 Teufel
May 26 2009, 08:27PM
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I'm pretty excited about this signing. I can't wait for the playoffs to be over and the offseason overhaul to begin!

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#26 Librarian Mike
May 26 2009, 08:29PM
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OilerInPurgatory wrote:

Every coach has got to work the refs, but I pray we don’t see the Oil go down that road.

I see where you're coming from, but I think it said more about players like Tucker and McCabe than Quinn.

Also, I don't imagine MacT earned any special favours from the refs when he went nuclear on McGeough and called him a 'spastic' in the media a couple of years ago.

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#27 kingsblade
May 26 2009, 08:33PM
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I'm not sure Quinn is the best guy but I'm not sure he isn't either.

What I feel confident about is that he is probably the candidate with the best chance at inspiring confidence in the dressing room right now.

I think that if a young guy wont play for a guy with Quinn's track record then they wont play for anybody.

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#28 David S
May 26 2009, 08:51PM
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kingsblade wrote:

I think that if a young guy wont play for a guy with Quinn’s track record then they wont play for anybody.

Agreed. From the press conference today, I got the impression they won't be in the org very long either if they don't. I bet Dustin Penner was buying a Club Fit membership this afternoon.

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#29 99thoilerfan
May 26 2009, 08:52PM
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I am sitting here just shaking my head.

I would say if anyone else on the market, has the type of resume's that these two have, they would be working already. Both career coaches.

I think we were lucky to get these two on board. I hope they can breath new life into the team, after so long shut up in MacT's system.

Give all the boys a chance to come to camp, with no history, a clean slate to show the new coach, how wrong the old one was, about you.

When is Draft day again? Do I see some big moves ?

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#30 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 09:30PM
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David S wrote:

Robin - even before nailing this situation almost two weeks ago, I think most of us here are very appreciative of you and Gregor’s continued participation on this site. After all the good insight you’ve provided, I’m amazed how some guys still want to go after you. *facepalm*

Thanks, but don't sweat it. It comes with the territory. Besides, the people who were taking shots at me after the May 13 story don't have a helluva lot to say today, do they? Guess I got lucky again.

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#31 Archaeologuy
May 26 2009, 09:34PM
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99thoilerfan wrote:

When is Draft day again? Do I see some big moves ?

I'm hoping that some of the extra forwards can be used to move up in the draft. Goodbye O'Sullivan, Nilsson, and God willing Horcoff (just a dream).

Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’m a bit of a contrarian; when I see unabashed optimism I get skeptical, when I see pessimism I look on the bright side. It’s a curse.

That is quite the curse. It's not like the kind that happens when you dont give a Romanian Gypsy top dollar for their wares, but its not nearly as benign as being cursed by one of those fake Wiccan practitioners.

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#32 OilerInPurgatory
May 26 2009, 09:40PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

OilerInPurgatory wrote: Every coach has got to work the refs, but I pray we don’t see the Oil go down that road. I see where you’re coming from, but I think it said more about players like Tucker and McCabe than Quinn.

I do agree for Tucker and McCabe, but the one that mystified me was Sundin. Always took the responsibility in front of the press, seemed pretty sterotypically "Swedish" - polite, etc. But he became progressively yappy on-ice when he wore the "C" for Quinn. No Nik Lidstrom style strong, silent leadership. Chopper's already no shrinking violet with the refs, and I can see Quinn as not reining that in, if anything making it worse.

Librarian Mike wrote:

Also, I don’t imagine MacT earned any special favours from the refs when he went nuclear on McGeough and called him a ’spastic’ in the media a couple of years ago.

For sure, and I bet Renney's got his own special relationships with a few zebras. I just know from being subjected to 10+ years of TML as my "local" team (aside - come on Balsillie!) that the Leafs had a poorer rep than most. Some may have been "woe is us" played to the media though.

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#33 SLURVE
May 26 2009, 09:46PM
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I thought the Oilers were going to go for a younger coach like Paul Maclean or similar. That was what the press printed regarding Tambo's criterium to go younger. Don't get me wrong I also like Quinn as someone that will have the patience and be firm but fair when necessary esp. involving the younger players. MacT seemed to lack that character aspect but he does seemed to do better with older seasoned players. I can't wait to see what Quinn and Renny can do with the stragglers and underachievers; and oh yeah, the extinct powerplay as well...

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#34 DonDon
May 26 2009, 09:52PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Congratulations, it appears that if anyone disagrees with your point of view, they don't have a grasp on the facts. Or they don't know anything about hockey. Or they are naive. Pretty insulting, considering you really don't know your audience on this blog. You are entitled to your opinion and the rest of us are entitled to our opinions, whatever they may be. No one is absolutely right or wrong in subjective matters such as this. I expected better from you as to balanced reporting as a pro sportswriter. Is Quinn the right coach for the Oilers at this time? I don't think so, but we'll see as next season progresses. I feel warmer about Renney. And what does Bucky bring to the table? So far, Tambellini is one for one on major decisions. The next test is providing the fans with the type of players he described in his presser announcing the firing of MacT.

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#35 Librarian Mike
May 26 2009, 09:53PM
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@ SLURVE:

Hopefully between the 2 of them they can do what others have failed at: Make the powerplay work. We'll see I guess.

I doubt age will be a factor, and having 2 coaches is a masterstroke. Hey, if it works it works. Like you, I'm very excited to see how the players respond.

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#36 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 09:59PM
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@ DonDon: And if someone disagrees with you they are drinking the Kool Aid?

And, yes, everybody is entitled to an opinion, but things are so much more entertaining if those opinions have some basis in fact. Or no?

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#37 charlieangels
May 26 2009, 10:02PM
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Great hire by Steve. I think they will both do well. In watching the video on TSN, Quinn said the team had to many forwards that looked the same. Good point and he is upfront with that.

I feel for Billy Moores. Looks like he is out. Same for Charlie Huddy. I really dont' understand how Bucky made the cut.

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#38 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 10:11PM
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@ charlieangels: Bucky is tight with Katz. Him staying on was a called shot weeks and weeks ago.

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#39 Librarian Mike
May 26 2009, 10:14PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Hey Robin. I have a question for you, seeing as how you are a real reporter and actually have contact with players and stuff.

Do you think having these new coaches will have any effect on the Oilers' ability to attract top players? I know there has been talk that Renney might be the carrot that brings Jagr here (although I'm not sure that's a great idea, but whatever). Do you think there are 'names' out there that are thinking 'new coaches, new direction. I could go there'? Or, do we have to wait until the big one wipes out the west coast and Edmonton becomes beachfront property?

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#40 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 10:19PM
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@ Librarian Mike: Good question. If all things are equal -- and that's a big if -- a player will sometimes gravitate toward a coach he has had success with or has enjoyed playing for. Still, assuming a player will get roughly the same salary regardless of where he signs, it often comes down to having a chance to win and lifestyle, especially for family guys. Truth is, Edmonton won't top any list of destinations for free agents, but having Quinn and Renney in the fold won't hurt and, in the specific case of Jagr (bad idea) could help.

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#41 Clarkenstein
May 26 2009, 10:32PM
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I don't care if Joey Moss coaches as long at this team wins and competes better than they have under the Lowe/MacT regime. Robin don't be so damn grumpy when somebody disagrees with you. You're not always right and others are not always wrong. The point of a blog is to discuss, agree or disagree but always to enjoy doing it. That's why I read it. What would the point be if you wrote a story on here and 100 guys agreed with it? I'd go read another blog because I enjoy the discussion and banter. Everyone on here has the utmost respect for you so just relax please.

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#42 GSC
May 26 2009, 11:03PM
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Beauty hire(s), very pleased with the job Tambo did in getting BOTH Quinn and Renney. Even the most vehement of skeptics must admit that's quite an accomplishment.

Hopefully Quinner is what this team needs to finally take the next step. I'd like to think so, and having Renney as the "Ace in the hole" doesn't hurt either.

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#43 alphah
May 26 2009, 11:11PM
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Hes a guy who has been outcoached head-to-head in the playoffs.

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#44 esa tikkanen
May 26 2009, 11:22PM
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Robin, what do you think Tampa would be looking for to get Lecavalier? without giving up Hemsky or Gagner do the Oilers have the players to package up - Gilbert, Cogliano and O'Sulivan enough?

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#45 Sourcrouse
May 26 2009, 11:38PM
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@ esa tikkanen: Al Strachen reported that Vinny will be a King by his deadline. I can see them having the type of young players available to make a flip for Vinny work...Strachen might have bad hair, but he usually has some good insight. We can dream...but, I just don't think that when a guy signs a 10 year deal with Tampa Bay, he ends up in cold, cold Edmonton.

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#46 Robin Brownlee
May 26 2009, 11:56PM
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@ Sourcrouse: Robin, thanks for the insightful answer.

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#47 BigE57
May 27 2009, 12:15AM
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DonDon wrote:

And there will be a lot of guffawing and scratching of heads around the NHL over this risky choice.

Just wondering how this could be any more risky than picking a coach with no NHL experience or giving the job to one of MacT's former assistants?

It seems to me the Oilers have hedged their bets with this one. Quinn gets another oportunity to coach in the show, a place where he's had nothing but success and Renney is in the background waiting in the wings.

As far as criticizing Tambellini's choice, none of us, free spech, open blog or not are in a position to do that considering the fact that Quinn has yet to coach a game for the Oilers.

Why don't we give the man a chance and let's not expect the man to make a silk purse out of a sows ear......

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#48 B.C.B.
May 27 2009, 01:02AM
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What I hate is this new old boys club approach . . .

What do you think someone is not going to hire people they have worked with (and had some minimal degree of success with)? Business does this all the time, but every time the Oilers hire someone with connections it is a complete mistake. How big do you all think the hockey world? Even if the Oilers hired Scott Arniel, someone could complain about his links to Tambo and the Dys.

What do you folks want? For the Oilers to hire someone from Russia.

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#49 humantorch
May 27 2009, 01:41AM
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A crucial difference that people are missing:

Oilers Old Boys Club: hiring people with zero experience into critical positions within the team.

Vancouver Old Boys Club: hiring people with proven track records of success into critical positions within the team.

Guess which one of those two I'd rather see.

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#50 myteammytown
May 27 2009, 07:01AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

silly brownlee. we all know that uneducated personal opinion farts in the face of facts on these here interweb message boards.

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