Veteran Coaches

Jonathan Willis
August 27 2009 05:30AM

The hiring of Wayne Fleming continues a trend that we’ve seen with Steve Tambellini: a preference for veterans in the coaching position.

The hiring of people like Pat Quinn and Tom Renney might seem like a no-brainer decision in retrospect, but the route Steve Tambellini has taken differs sharply from the route Kevin Lowe took as a rookie general manager. Let’s start by looking at the coaching staff Kevin Lowe assembled:

  • Head Coach: Craig MacTavish
  • Assistant Coaches: Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores

This group of three featured a pair of relative new-comers in MacTavish and Huddy, with Bill Moores being the sole veteran coach. Moores had spent two seasons as an assistant with the Rangers in the mid-90’s but he’d had a long career in coaching before that, coaching everything from the University of Alberta Golden Bears to the WHL to a team in Japan. Charlie Huddy also had a couple of seasons with the Rangers under his belt, and prior to that had spent a year coaching an ECHL team.

Craig MacTavish had the longest NHL run of the three, with three years as an assistant coach before being granted the top job. Combined, the group had seven years of NHL coaching experience, none of it in the top job.

Steve Tambellini has gone in precisely the opposite direction with his coaching staff:

  • Head Coach: Pat Quinn
  • Associate Coach: Tom Renney
  • Assistant Coaches: Kelly Buchberger, Wayne Fleming

Pat Quinn alone has 19 years of experience has an NHL head coach – and in those 19 years, his teams have missed the playoffs only twice. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals on two occasions, although he’s never won, and has twice been the NHL’s Coach of the Year. He has won Olympic gold though, as Canada’s head coach in Salt Lake City.

Tom Renney has been an NHL head coach for parts of seven seasons, prior to which he had a nice run with Hockey Canada. Before that, he coached a very good Kamloops Blazers team. Under his watch, the New York Rangers have made the playoffs each of the past four seasons. He’s worked with Team Canada at the World Championships on a number of occasions, and coached the team to a gold medal in 2004.

I wrote quite a bit about Wayne Fleming the other day; he’s coached extensively in Europe and more experience as an NHL assistant than all of Kevin Lowe’s initial hires put together. Like Renney and Quinn he’s worked a lot with Hockey Canada, and most notably served as Quinn’s associate coach on the 2002 team.

Kelly Buchberger’s the sole exception to both the extensive experience and Hockey Canada thread that ties the rest of the coach hirings together. His time with the Oilers has featured a fairly rapid strong of promotions – he started as an AHL assistant in 2004-05, became the Oilers’ development coach when they closed down their farm team for a couple of seasons, and came back as the AHL head coach in 2007-08. Rob Daum was unceremoniously dumped to make room for him on the Oilers’ staff in 2008-09, and he was the sole survivor of a purge that claimed the jobs of the head coach, his fellow assistants, the goalie coach and the video coach. I was initially cool to the idea of keeping Buchberger, but as I detailed at the end of June I think he may complement the new hirings nicely.

Combined, this group brings 36 years of NHL coaching experience to the table, and in Quinn and Renney the Oilers have added 26 years of head coaching experience. Whatever mistakes Steve Tambellini has made this off-season, I find it very difficult to criticize the men he’s brought in to run his team.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#51 Mike from Hardware
August 27 2009, 01:24PM
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Jamie wrote:

BigE57 wrote: And for the record the Oilers beat Anaheim in their second last game on a goal by Ales Hemsky that blew the roof off Rexall. While Vancouver lost the same night eliminating themselves from contention. I think the Oilers last game was a meaningless tilt against Detroit a couple nights later. Colorado. The last NHL game Igor Ulanov ever played. *moment of silence*

I was there! We snuck down to seats behind the net during the second period. Conks stopped one that he wasn't looking at, and JFJ had a breakaway but fell down. That's when I came to think he would never score a goal in the NHL.

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#52 DeepOil
August 27 2009, 01:34PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

@ Poo Czar:

Not Al Qaeda, that would be Bush taking money from UAE - it appears by public documents that Rexall Sports is financed by CIT group, who is close to bankruptcy.... and Rexall Drugs is supplied - partnered by McKesson.

CIT GROUP ALMOST BANKRUPT http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071503305.html

McKesson Wholesaler to Rexall http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2002/1223/104.html

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#53 ChiliChunk
August 27 2009, 01:39PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

The cost of your roster is basically irrelavant when their aren’t better players available for less.

Well the lack of cap space also impacts your ability to make trades so not really irrelevant...

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#54 DeepOil
August 27 2009, 01:45PM
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@ ChiliChunk: Nothing has changed since April except a changeout of Rollie for Khabi..... with the gift of our only faceoff man (BRODS) to the wild..... must be the new mantra of Quinn (chew gum), Renney (i am Jagr's friend), and Flemming (me to... Jagr and I go way back).... so taking this to the next level.... even if we wanted senior citizen Jagr, he would have to clear waivers and the oilers would have to bury $5mm - $7mm in the minors (PENNER) or trade (insert name here Souray (villeneuve sources) or Vis..... so unless the WALL and this coaching braintrust can muster 10 more points..... we are picking 6th - 8th again in the draft.... and remember that Lowe blackballed the Comrie trade in return for FLIPPING COREY PERRY!!!!!!!!!

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#55 jeanshorts
August 27 2009, 01:46PM
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BigE57 wrote:

And for the record the Oilers beat Anaheim in their second last game on a goal by Ales Hemsky that blew the roof off Rexall. While Vancouver lost the same night eliminating themselves from contention. I think the Oilers last game was a meaningless tilt against Detroit a couple nights later.

As a matter of matter, Vancouver's last game was against Anaheim a couple nights later, and at that point they were still in contention. If they had won that game they would have made it. A loss put the Oilers in via some mathematical algorithm. I was at that Vancouver game. Not that I want to take any credit, but, you're welcome City Of Edmonton.

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#56 Ogden Brother
August 27 2009, 01:53PM
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ChiliChunk wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: The cost of your roster is basically irrelavant when their aren’t better players available for less. Well the lack of cap space also impacts your ability to make trades so not really irrelevant…

I don't know about that, I'd bet their has been roughly the same amount of trades for years now.

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#57 Jonathan Willis
August 27 2009, 01:53PM
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DeepOil wrote:

even if we wanted senior citizen Jagr, he would have to clear waivers

Only if they signed him after the season started.

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#58 smiliegirl15
August 27 2009, 01:54PM
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@ jeanshorts:

Thank you!

Everyone seems to conveniently forget this little tidbit of information!!!

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#59 Curious
August 27 2009, 02:40PM
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@ jeanshorts:

I wonder what would have happened if Vancouver beat Anaheim that night. The run was great, but it also led us down the path of a bunch of high priced contracts. Pronger would still have left so Penner would have still happened probably. But Pisani woudl not have got what he got, Roloson might not have been resigned. Interesting the way things work out. Could we say that that the run perhaps put us in the situation financially we are in today?

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#60 Travis Dakin
August 27 2009, 02:44PM
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@ Curious: And if the oilers had stayed together in their primes back in the 80's and into the 90's they would have won 10 cups in 12 years. Or so THN led me to believe in an article they did a few years ago.

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#61 BigE57
August 27 2009, 02:50PM
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@ Mike from Hardware: @ Jamie:

You're right my mistake, the Detroit game was the game before the Anaheim game. The Oilers beat Colorado 4-2 in their final game to move 3 points ahead of the idle Canucks.jeanshorts wrote:

As a matter of matter, Vancouver’s last game was against Anaheim a couple nights later, and at that point they were still in contention. If they had won that game they would have made it. A loss put the Oilers in via some mathematical algorithm. I was at that Vancouver game. Not that I want to take any credit, but, you’re welcome City Of Edmonton.

@ smiliegirl15:

On April 13th 2006 Vancouver lost what would be their SECOND last game of the season, unless NHL.com is incorrect, 5-3 to the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks won 2 of their last 8 games finishing (including their last 4-3 over Colorado in overtime) the season 3 points back of the final playoff spot. You can say the playoff spot was theirs to lose but it was just as much Edmonton's to win. Again I say you get no points for style, just getting in is all that matters.

Basically the same scenario as this past season all the Oilers had to do was win games down the stretch to make the playoffs and we all know how that went down.

Sorry Jeanshorts no mathematical algorithm here.

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#62 jeanshorts
August 27 2009, 03:00PM
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@ BigE57:

I could have sworn it came down to that Anaheim game. Maybe it was that loss that officially put Vancouver out. But I thought that was their last game of the season. It's been 3 hazy, beer fueled years since then though, so clearly my memory is a little bunged up. Either way it came down to the wire. I don't think any of us were completely sure the Oilers were going to make it until game one of the Detroit series.

What was the original point of all this?

*wanders off into the street, mumbling to himself about birds and lasers*

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#63 DeepOil
August 27 2009, 03:02PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

DeepOil wrote: even if we wanted senior citizen Jagr, he would have to clear waivers Only if they signed him after the season started.

Plus the Oil would have to give cash to KHL Omsk to relieve Jagr from contractual obligations, too many what if factors....

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#64 freeze
August 27 2009, 03:03PM
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NO to Comrie! NO to Comrie! NO to Comrie! NO to Comrie!

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#65 Bob Cob
August 27 2009, 03:14PM
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Is there any truth to a Comrie back to Edmonton rumor? I hope not, where not that desperate for a third line center when Betts and Malhotra are still out there.

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#66 BigE57
August 27 2009, 03:16PM
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@ jeanshorts:

Yes, a lot of beer has been swilled since those magical 2 months where the folks of Edmonton once again believed the impossible.

Anywho, I wasn't trying to rip on you I just remeber those days well as I spent enough money on tickets and beer and more beer never realizing that we were in some kind of time warp and when we came out the whole damn hockey club would go in the crapper for 2??? years.

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#67 Librarian Mike
August 27 2009, 03:22PM
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Mike from Hardware wrote:

JFJ had a breakaway but fell down. That’s when I came to think he would never score a goal in the NHL.

Well, I'll bet you're eating your words because indeed Mr. Jacques got ONE goal last year. To be fair though, I think that goal went in off the chair he was pushing. Hahaha.

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#68 Dallas
August 27 2009, 03:25PM
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I'm not sure if anyone knows or posted this but I read in the sun that Smackintyre has really improved his skating to the point of unrecognisable. That could only be good for a few more games and watching the behemoth paste flameouts ensued by working another one over in a scrap. Damn I can't wait

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#69 ronaldo
August 27 2009, 03:35PM
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While I don't believe for a second that Comrie is ever coming back, nor do I think he is a good fit for this roster, does anyone else think that in some way it might help our image around the league if we could kiss and make up? Comrie seems to be popular with other players (and wives- ZING) and it hasn't helped our cause recruiting ever since that gong show.~ Plus maybe we could sign him and trade him for Perry. That would be awesome.~

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#70 Jamie
August 27 2009, 04:53PM
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BigE57 wrote:

On April 13th 2006 Vancouver lost what would be their SECOND last game of the season, unless NHL.com is incorrect, 5-3 to the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks won 2 of their last 8 games finishing (including their last 4-3 over Colorado in overtime) the season 3 points back of the final playoff spot. You can say the playoff spot was theirs to lose but it was just as much Edmonton’s to win. Again I say you get no points for style, just getting in is all that matters.

Yeah, it was definitely the same night as the Anaheim game, Vancouver was playing San Jose. I know because I was at that Oilers-Ducks game, and people kept updating each other with the Vancouver score. There was still half a game left after the Oilers won and we went to a bar to watch the end of the Nucks game. I think it was a Thursday, before ... Easter? Some long weekend anyway, because Whyte Ave was a gong show and I got properly liquored up. Pandemonium when San Jose won the game, guaranteeing the Oilers were in. I wonder if the Sharks regreted that a few weeks later ... heheh.

I was at the Colorado game too! Still drunk off our playoff spot, I bought a half-price single for row 2, right beside the zamboni entrance, and got to watch around the goal judge all game. I just remember some Av firing a slapshot that missed the net and blasted off the glass right in front of me. I couldn't help but duck like an idiot.

Ah, 06. How fondly I remember you.

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
August 27 2009, 05:14PM
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So rumour is Quinn will only be here on gamedays for the most part and fly home to Vancouver for off days during the regular season. Guess this leaves Tom Renney as the day to day fulltime coach of the Oil. LOL...Is this another example that even coaches prefer not to live fulltime in our city Mr. Willis?

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#72 BigE57
August 27 2009, 08:10PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

So rumour is Quinn will only be here on gamedays for the most part and fly home to Vancouver for off days during the regular season. Guess this leaves Tom Renney as the day to day fulltime coach of the Oil. LOL…Is this another example that even coaches prefer not to live fulltime in our city Mr. Willis?

You actually believe that? Between road trips, 3 games in 4 nights, general public relations availability, oh and the fact Quinn is like pushing 70, that rumor doesn't even make sense and if it were true I'm not sure that Quinn would be employed here very long.

It makes sense that Renney would be running practices but really a head coach who only shows up for game day? Gimme a break.

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#73 quicksilver ballet
August 27 2009, 11:19PM
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@ BigE57: Between home games....just watch him.

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#74 A.T. Husky
August 27 2009, 11:54PM
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Any chance Comrie will be an overqualified fourth line center as opposed to an underqualified third line center?

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#75 A.T. Husky
August 28 2009, 08:45AM
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Mike from Hardware wrote:

I was there! We snuck down to seats behind the net during the second period. Conks stopped one that he wasn’t looking at, and JFJ had a breakaway but fell down. That’s when I came to think he would never score a goal in the NHL.

Mike from Hardware... from Home Depot?

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#76 BigE57
August 28 2009, 11:01AM
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@ quicksilver ballet:

Do you actually have a source for this rumor? Or is your water cooler at work the new hockeybuzz.com?

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#77 Thorn
August 28 2009, 11:08AM
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@ Quicksilver ballet: Rumor has it that Ekland is looking for a reliable source for an inside track on the rumor mill. Sounds like you've got an EXCELLENT handle on things; you guys should totally get together and educate the rest of us!

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