August 25 2009 06:00PM
The Oilers have hired Wayne Fleming - last seen as the head coach of Avangard Omsk of the KHL (far right in the video above) - as an assistant to Pat Quinn.
Fleming, like virtually everyone who Steve Tambellini has hired since being named Oilers’ GM, has had extensive experience with Hockey Canada. Fleming served as the GM (and assistant coach) of Canada’s National Olympic Program from 1990-92. Under his watch, the Canadians won silver at the 1992 Olympics. The Canadian team featured (among others) former Dallas coach Dave Tippett, while current Oiler Nikolai Khabibulin was the third goaltender for the gold-medal winning Russians. Fleming also served as Team Canada’s head coach at the 2001 and 2002 World Championships (he coached Steve Staios at the latter event), and as an associate coach at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Outside of his work with Hockey Canada, Fleming’s had an incredibly diverse career as a coach. He spent nine seasons as head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons (he was an assistant coach and player before that) before joining Hockey Canada, and during those nine seasons he won two championships. After his time with the Bisons and his first stint with Hockey Canada, Fleming took a job coaching Leksands in the Swedish Elite League, a position he held for four seasons. He also coached in Switzerland and Germany before taking a job as an assistant to Islanders head coach Rick Bowness in 1997-98. He lasted two seasons, and worked with three head coaches: Bowness, Mike Milbury, and Bill Stewart. Oilers’ defenseman Jason Strudwick played some games for the 1997-98 team.
During his time with the Islanders, Fleming was responsible for coaching the powerplay. Over his two seasons with the team, the Islanders ranked 10th and 13th in the NHL in PP%; in overall scoring they ranked 16th and 22nd. It seems safe to say that Fleming got the job done. Fleming’s time on the Island ended with the promotion of Stewart to head coach; Stewart’s first move was to move Fleming into scouting.
After two years, Fleming was hired as an assistant coach to Bob Francis in Phoenix (future Bruins’ coach Mike Sullivan was on the roster) then. He left the Coyotes to work for Hockey Canada, before returning to the NHL. His next job was in Philadelphia, where he spent three seasons as an assistant to Ken Hitchcock (Hitchcock had previously worked with Fleming at the 2002 Olympics). During the NHL lockout, Fleming considered a position in Switzerland, and his agent talked a little bit about why HC Bern wanted to hire him:
"Wayne is a kind of hockey god overseas. He spent a lot of time in Europe. He is considered a teacher over there, not a yeller. They really like people like him."
After resigning in Philadelphia, Fleming joined Jim Playfair’s staff in Calgary in time for the 2006-07 season, and worked for both Playfair and Mike Keenan. He resigned his position in Calgary to make the jump to the KHL after being recruited by Jaromir Jagr.
Last year, Fleming was the head coach for Avangard Omsk, and things went badly. Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov died in October because of a heart condition, and ex-NHL’er John Grahame was released by the club because of alleged off-ice issues (Grahame denies the team’s allegations). In early January, Fleming was fired mid-game, but then asked to return; he stayed on until the end of the month before resigning.
All things considered, I’m a fan of this move: from everything I’ve read, Fleming brings in experience on special teams, he’s done a ton of video work (and with the Oilers video coach being shown the door, it’s a good bet he’ll be doing it again) and he’s worked extensively with younger players. It's also worth noting that Fleming's departure from Phoenix, Philadelphia and Calgary was on his own terms - he wasn't fired but instead chose to move on. He’ll be a nice addition to an already loaded coaching staff.