Ken Hitchcock: What if?

Robin Brownlee
April 25 2010 06:50PM

Michigan News - April 17, 2009

After I talked to Ken Hitchcock the other day to confirm my suspicion that he'd have no interest in coming home to coach the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, it dawned on me I'd missed the most obvious question -- what about the Edmonton Oilers?

I know, maybe you're thinking that Brownlee fell down the stairs again and hit his head, or that I'm pining for a trip down memory lane to the 1980s when I rode the iron lung in the WHL with Hitchcock and the Kamloops Blazers.

The Oilers already have a coach and his name is Pat Quinn. They already have an associate coach in Tom Renney, who I'm guessing took the job here with the understanding he'd be first in line for Quinn's job, should it come open. I'm not ignoring either obvious fact.

That said, the only reason I even asked Hitchcock about a job with the Oil Kings, a position he's clearly over-qualified for, was the home hook, the full-circle thing. How appealing would it be for Hitchcock to come home to Edmonton to close out his career where it began?

I'm still thinking about it.

What are the odds?

Hitchcock, 58, has two years left on his contract with Columbus after being fired by the Blue Jackets this season. When I asked Hitch about any interest in the Oil Kings, he said: "I still have the burn to coach, but my heart's still in the NHL right now. I feel like I've got five, six or seven good years left in me.

"I feel re-energized right now. I really just want to be ready for the next opportunity."

With 533 career wins, a winning percentage of .588 and a 1999 Stanley Cup ring with the Dallas Stars, Hitchcock is going to get that opportunity. The question I have is, might things play out so that opportunity unfolds here with the Oilers? I don't know the answer -- yet.

I also don't know if Quinn will be back behind the bench next season. He has term left on his contract, but, at age 67, is Quinn really interested in being part of a rebuild? Did he have any inkling whatsoever he'd have the kind of season he just endured here?

Does Quinn, who is kicking back in California not far from where Hitchcock is laying low, really need, or want, the aggravation at this age and this stage in his career? I don't know. I'll be asking him.

Just asking...

And what of Renney? If Quinn opted not to return would Renney insist on running the show as the head man or would he be open to an associate set-up with Hitchcock if the Oilers pitched that to him?

Renney, 55, followed Hitchcock in Kamloops. He knows him well, not only from rubbing elbows at the Blazers annual summer golf tournament, but from Hockey Canada and off-season coaching clinics. Renney is no spring chicken as a coach, either, but if he was willing to share the gate with anybody at this point, it might be Hitchcock.

Likewise, Hitchcock has ties to Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe through international competition going way back. Do they see him as the kind of hard-nosed coach that would fit this team now?

If things unfold as they might and there's an interest there, all somebody has to do is pick up the phone and ask Columbus GM Scott Howson for permission to talk to Hitchcock.

Of course, all this is nothing more than speculation on my part. A bunch of what-ifs? I'm just asking...

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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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 RossCreekNation
April 27 2010, 01:38AM
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If Tom Renney takes over for Pat Quinn, do they look at hiring another Associate Coach? I say - why not? My list: Perry Pearn, Scott Arniel, Marc Habsheid, Don Hay (the latter 2 also being candidates to coach in OKC if they wanted.

How about:

Hire Scott Bonner as Asst. GM/OKC GM (replacing KP).
Fire Rick Olzcyk; hire Johnny Misley (former vice-president of Hockey Canada who recently stepped down to 'pursue other professional opportunities in hockey').
"Promote" Pat Quinn to senior vice-president (a la Jimmy Devallano in Det).
Promote Tom Renney to Head Coach.
Hire Habsheid/Arniel (if he doesn't get a head coaching gig) as Associate Coach.
Re-assign Wayne Fleming to pro scout.
Promote Mike Sillinger to Asst. Coach (with Bucky).
Hire Hay/Habsheid as OKC Head Coach.
Hire Pearn as Oil Kings Head Coach.

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#152 Rusty Duggan
April 27 2010, 01:46AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

If Tom Renney takes over for Pat Quinn, do they look at hiring another Associate Coach? I say - why not? My list: Perry Pearn, Scott Arniel, Marc Habsheid, Don Hay (the latter 2 also being candidates to coach in OKC if they wanted.

How about:

Hire Scott Bonner as Asst. GM/OKC GM (replacing KP).
Fire Rick Olzcyk; hire Johnny Misley (former vice-president of Hockey Canada who recently stepped down to 'pursue other professional opportunities in hockey').
"Promote" Pat Quinn to senior vice-president (a la Jimmy Devallano in Det).
Promote Tom Renney to Head Coach.
Hire Habsheid/Arniel (if he doesn't get a head coaching gig) as Associate Coach.
Re-assign Wayne Fleming to pro scout.
Promote Mike Sillinger to Asst. Coach (with Bucky).
Hire Hay/Habsheid as OKC Head Coach.
Hire Pearn as Oil Kings Head Coach.

Wow, you've really looked into this, are you sure you aren't an Oiler?

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#153 Chris.
April 27 2010, 06:18AM
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@RossCreekNation

You'll end up being an Oiler fan yet... If you keep reading, writing, and thinking about this team as it is slowly put back together over the next few years; you won't be able to stop yourself from rooting for them when they finally make a run. Funny.

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#154 Jamie Davis
April 27 2010, 08:50AM
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Robin, I am curious as to whether the media is missing the boat on the whole "training/equipment staff reassignment" thing. Was it just me or did anyone else noticed right off the bat that the training staff was treated a little different this year. I'd call it displaced a little further down the bench. There was a new boss in town. With all due respect to the great Pat Quinn, where's he been through this debacle while Tambelini is being thrown under the bus. I think this has Quinn written all over it. Can we agree least if there was a guy that could have saved the training staff it was Quinn. The GM doesn't waltz in and can the training staff without input from the coach. I can understand that if it's Quinn's team and he's uncomfortable for any reason with a training staff left over from another regime then he should be able to change that. It's his sandbox. That may have come up before he was hired. It wouldn't be an unreasonable agreement to "try them for a year and see how it goes. Could you do that for us Pat? They've been here a long time." I think good on ST for taking the heat for his coach if it was Quinn who wanted the change. Bad on Quinn. JD

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#155 Rick
April 27 2010, 08:51AM
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@RossCreekNation

Re: John Misley replacing Rick Olzcyk is a big time miss unless they add another person to the team.

For better or worse Olzcyk is the resident CBA/capoligist expert and that is a critical role for any organization these days. John Misley isn't qualified to take over that role.

Olzcyk seems open for critisism at how well he has managed the cap as well and perhaps replacing him wouldn't be a bad move but in comparing the two guys, he atleast has the necessary credentials.

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#156 RossCreekNation
April 27 2010, 10:05AM
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@Rick

Sure... they could add a "financial advisor" or "capologist"to the team. I kinda knew your point and should of added this tidbit in there.

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#157 RossCreekNation
April 27 2010, 10:14AM
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@Chris.

lol... maybe... or maybe I just can't stand to see the "villains" be SOOOOO weak... kinda feel sad for the Oil lately... makes it hard to hate... lovable losers almost.

Growing up with the Edmonton media, I've always read & thought about the Oil. Its part of the reason I hate them so much. I'm almost certin that if I grew up in Calgary that I would hate the Flames, etc.

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#158 tapdog
April 27 2010, 11:34AM
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Hitch has had a fine career and is a good coach but for my dollar I would rather not have him here as the coach. Hitch is a defense first kind of guy and would rather see the Oil go to taking the game to the offense! Hey, I get defensive responsibility but not the defense first game plan Hitch has! It also has looked like he has had a few issues with the younger generation in Columbus. No inside info here, just observation of the year some of the youngsters there have had!

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#159 Robin Brownlee
April 27 2010, 11:50AM
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@Jamie Davis

Yes, Jim. All the media guys in town failed to to pick up on something you figured out.

Where's Quinn been? He's been in California taking a break, which is what I'd expect any 67-year-old man to be doing after a season like that. You're looking for twists and turns where there aren't any. Tambellini makes the calls, not Pat Quinn. This isn't any more complicated than a team that finished 30th looking at everything and everybody. Taking the heat for the coach? Oh, the conspiracy and the obligatory cover-up. Please.

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#160 dunciano
April 27 2010, 03:01PM
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@Ender

For Nash the first 3 years before Hitchcock got there were his first 3 years in the league.

Nash points per game did not go up when Hitchcock got there.

They sure should have as Nash was only 21, an ascending player.

His points per game in fact dropped from 1.0 ppg to .76ppg with a minute more ice time!

The next season: .86 ppg with 2 minutes more per game than before Hitchcock!

Finally in the 3rd season he got back to where he was as a 21 year old before Hitchcock.

Then dropped again the following season.

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#161 Ender
April 27 2010, 04:36PM
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@dunciano

First three seasons (02/03, 03/04, 05/06) Nash recorded 150 points in 208 games for a combined PPG of 0.72. In his next three seasons under Hitch, Nash recorded 205 points in 233 games for a PPG of 0.88. There wasn't any point in breaking it down by year since a coach doesn't change styles year-to-year; either he can coach skill or he can't.

The bottom line is that Nash scored more in his first three years with Hitch than he did before, just like Modano and Nieuwendyk.

Edit: After checking in more detail, I see what you did there. You took his pre-Hitch number to be only from the 05-06 season, a career year for him. He has only put up that pace in one other year (08/09) and that was under Hitchcock. You can't cherrypick a one-off year like that unless you do it for everyone else too; otherwise the study becomes a farce. Nash has not ever been a consistent point-per-game player, regardless of coach.

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#162 dunciano
April 27 2010, 05:20PM
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@Ender

This getting lame - but - as I said, its not fair to use his first 3 years in the league against his 4, 5, 6th years in the league. age 18-20 vs. 21-23. huge dif

he was ascending before Hitch

dropped quite a bit after

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#163 OilFan
April 28 2010, 02:17AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

lol... maybe... or maybe I just can't stand to see the "villains" be SOOOOO weak... kinda feel sad for the Oil lately... makes it hard to hate... lovable losers almost.

Growing up with the Edmonton media, I've always read & thought about the Oil. Its part of the reason I hate them so much. I'm almost certin that if I grew up in Calgary that I would hate the Flames, etc.

Bandwagon is writen all over you and has been for at least a couple months. You can try to BS everyone but we all know.

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#164 Death Metal Nightmare
April 28 2010, 05:39AM
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no thanks to Hitch. he totally melted that CBJ locker room along with Filatov. with all the youth around the Oilers coming up it could be a brutal disaster.

Edmonton loves their hometown boys and pals but the fit seriously isnt there for what Hitch wants out of players. he needs a team of vets to get anywhere without being a complete spaz. i dont even know if Renney is right for the job either.

both together seems like a bad idea also. seems like Renney took the associate job thinking he'd end up supplanting Quinn.

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