IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW . . .

Robin Brownlee
April 17 2012 08:37AM

There was a lot of speculation at Monday's news conference to introduce Brent Sutter as head coach of Team Canada that the gig will double as an audition for the job as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

While that job belongs to Tom Renney until we’re otherwise informed, it seems obvious there's a measure of doubt the Oilers have decided to retain Renney – this "Take some time and then come back and tell me what your plan is" pitch being sold by GM Steve Tambellini doesn't ring true – and it's equally obvious Sutter is a candidate to replace him.

Sutter has history with Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, who will be in on the decision about what happens with Renney and is also part of Team Canada's management team. They go back all the way to 1984, when they were teammates with Team Canada.

And, given the reasons we're hearing behind the mutual agreement Sutter and the Calgary Flames decided to part company last week – Sutter wanted to begin a full-scale rebuild of the team while Jay Feaster and ownership are not so inclined – there seems to be an alignment in philosophy in Sutter's approach and what's going on here in Edmonton.

While it's fair to argue the merits of giving Renney the golden handshake to make room for Sutter based on coaching style and career records, if you know the business of hockey, any business, you know Sutter's history with Lowe and being on the same page philosophically carry as much weight as a few percentage points either way in career coaching records.

Of course this is an audition, denials be damned.

COMMON GROUND

Sutter is back on the coaching market because he and Feaster didn't see eye to eye on the future of the Flames. Sutter made it clear Monday he preferred going the full rebuild route rather than trying to tweak and coax the Flames into playoff contention as an also-ran. Sound familiar, Oiler fans?

"I’m not a guy to just get in seventh or eighth. To me, you build your team to win the Stanley Cup," said Sutter, who also commented on what he sees happening up the road in Edmonton.

"I like the direction Edmonton is going. They have a lot of young players. It’s a young man’s game. They’ve had an opportunity to take a lot of the best players in the draft. They’ve done a good job of drafting."

Then, there's the history with Lowe, who has always placed a premium on the relationships he's made in his career as a player, coach and manager. You need look no further than Lowe's long friendships with Craig MacTavish and Kelly Buchberger to know that.

"We go back a long, long way. We played together in a Canada Cup," Sutter told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, referring to being teammates with Team Canada in 1984.

"I was real nervous. I was the youngest guy on the team. I’d come in late after camp started. I was in the lobby ready to take a cab to the rink when Kevin came down and suggested we share one together. Remember the Oilers and Islanders were at war back then.

"Kevin convinced me to relax, be myself, that I was a good player and deserved to be there with the others, that we were all good players, and to go play the way I always played. He helped me through it. He didn’t have to say anything."

HERE AND NOW

Is Renney out as Oilers coach? We don't know for sure, although I suspect Tambellini leaving him to twist is not a good sign he will be back. Would Sutter represent a clear upgrade and a better match for the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

It's difficult to know for sure, just basing it on career points percentage and playoff performance. Neither Sutter nor Renney have enjoyed post-season success at the NHL level. Sutter's regular season points percentage through 410 games with New Jersey and Calgary is .584. Renney sits at .504 through stints with Vancouver, New York and Edmonton.

While those numbers tell us what Renney and Sutter have done until now, the history between Lowe and Sutter and the time they'll spend working together with Team Canada will likely carry far more weight as to what happens from here on out.

"Everybody knows the Sutters well," Lowe said. "They’re honest people. They’re obviously passionate about the game of hockey . . . I know what Brent represents. I know the type of person he is."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 Stocc
April 17 2012, 08:51AM
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How strange is it to hear that a Calgary coach doesn't agree with the philosophy of the Flames but that, hey, I sure like what that team in Edmonton is doing?

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#2 The Beaker
April 17 2012, 08:54AM
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Another reason KLowe should be removed "They’re obviously passionate about the game of hockey"

They aren't "obviously passionate" about anything. Heck, they may actually be passionate but it is not obvious if you catch my drift.

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#3 Woogie
April 17 2012, 08:55AM
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In a way I hope Sutter becomes the coach of the Oilers and we destroy the flames in ever facet of the game for the next few seasons.

Oh to see the faces of flames fans...

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#4 Truth
April 17 2012, 08:57AM
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@Stocc

I think that shows how dire things really are in Calgary. It's a bad time to be a Flames fan, even more so than usual.

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#5 @NateInVegas
April 17 2012, 09:01AM
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If Dave Tippett's not available, I'd be OK with Brent Sutter. (I was in favour of hiring him here before he went to Calgary.)

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#6 Oiler Al
April 17 2012, 09:19AM
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Ya, Sutter knowing that the"welcome mat" would be pulled from under him, all of a sudden loves rebuilding teams and loves what the Oilers are doing yada yada.... only reason being he wants a job, wants to be close to his Red Deer Rebels, and wants to close to his cows on the farm . Sucked Lowe into this situation... I hop this is all a bad dream. Sutter has won nothing in the NHL... and will destroy the young guys... I'd go back to your cows .

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#7 Oilers21
April 17 2012, 09:21AM
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What has Brent Sutter done to indicate he's an upgrade over Tom Renney?? And I can't imagine a more emotionless, depressing figure behind the bench. I'm not entirely sold that Renney is the answer, but if the new coach isn't a clear upgrade (like Tippett) I see no reason to change just for the sake of changing

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#8 Zen
April 17 2012, 09:23AM
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If Sutter becomes the coach it would be nice if he would try to get Brandon Sutter for the Oilers.

Maybe they are waiting to see if Alain Vigneault gets fired.

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#9 Oilers4ever
April 17 2012, 09:46AM
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Hard for Sutter to coach in Calgary when your philosophy does not match that of the GM... However.. I am quite pissed with how Oilers mgmt is handling Renney. He's done nothing but do his best for this organization and to leave him twisting is about as ridiculous as the reason why. Coach and GM talk all damn season about the vision they see for their team. Don't frickin tell me he needs to go away and come back with his vision on the team. You know it already. Tambi needs to go as I'm sick of a GM who hides under his mama's skirt and can't make a decision. Get rid of Kevin Lowe and any other former Oilers associated with this team. If I am Renney, I choose not to come back because of how this has been handled. Sutter is comparable to Renney in my eyes. I really like Tippett and I would wait and see what happens with him... Lindy Ruff as well.. I know the Sabres say they are keeping them.. but until the contracts are signed I don't believe anything.

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#10 Smokey
April 17 2012, 09:49AM
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Say no to Sutters, Edmonton north is no Sutter coaching zone. Lets start some better rumours. How about Alain Vignault, hes a better coach.How about Brad Tippet. We don`t need some Calgary castoff.

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#11 smiliegirl15
April 17 2012, 09:51AM
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Just another strike against Tambellini in his handling of the Tom Renney situation.

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#12 Quicksilver ballet
April 17 2012, 09:53AM
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I'd like to see Doug Weight and Dallas Eakins as co-coaches. The Quinn and Renney signings were boffo, bringing us Hall,Hopkins and Yakupov.

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#13 book¡e
April 17 2012, 10:07AM
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Oilers21 wrote:

What has Brent Sutter done to indicate he's an upgrade over Tom Renney?? And I can't imagine a more emotionless, depressing figure behind the bench. I'm not entirely sold that Renney is the answer, but if the new coach isn't a clear upgrade (like Tippett) I see no reason to change just for the sake of changing

Agreed - I would be pretty unhappy if Sutter became the coach.

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#14 geoilersgist
April 17 2012, 10:10AM
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Thinking about Sutter as the coach gives me an uneasy feeling. Really hope they either bring back Renney or get a clear upgrade. I fear though that Tambellini and his constant side steps will be sure to make this happen as to not progress the team only step to the side.

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#15 steelymac
April 17 2012, 10:12AM
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Sutter knows how to build a hockey team,so how about Brent takes over Tambellinies job.Tippet I dont believe is great with the young guys if you look at the Turris situation.Its to bad they never got Hitch for all the time he was available.

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#16 Truth
April 17 2012, 10:13AM
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What is Tambellini expected to do? Make an announcement that if no better coach becomes available by route of getting fired after missing the playoffs he will stick with Renney?

To me it is apparent that Tambellini believes as of right now Renney is the best coach for the Oilers. That may change if another coach comes available...Tippet, Vigneult (sp?), Bylsma (dreaming I know), or somebody of that ilk. Last thing we want is Renney to be let go only for all superior coaches to be retained, leaving Tambellini to hire what he considers to be an inferior coach.

Of course the worst case and entirely possible scenario would be one of the the coaches coming available, Tambellini dropping Renney, and then the available coach signing somewhere else. Forcing Tambellini to sign someone whom he would consider an inferior coach or pull a giant gaff and ask that Renney come back after he can't find anyone better.

My opinion: Renney is good, but Tippet, Trotz, Bylsma, Vigneult, Quennville, Hitchcock and Babcock are better. You never know what happens after an early playoff exit.

*Edit: To keep this post relevant; No to Sutter

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#17 Archaeologuy
April 17 2012, 10:15AM
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Two things:

1) Sutter has accomplished very little as an NHL Head Coach. There could be many other options that would bring the same quality of resume as a Coach.

2) There is a very irrational (yet understandable) part of me that is uneasy picking up Calgary's trash.

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#18 Quicksilver ballet
April 17 2012, 10:29AM
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Time for a new poll.

Should he stay or should he go...the ultimate decision on a Ryan Smyth extension.

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#19 Smokey
April 17 2012, 10:30AM
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Steelymac,

I think Tippet figured out something about Turris before anyone else, that the kid is maybe not that great. He handled Keith Yandle and E. Larsson just fine. I would not hold that against him.

Frankly, if Vignault or Ruff are released they are the cream of the crop I think in regards to coaches. I don`t want to take Sutter because hes available, I want the best guy moving forward. I love Ruff and I respect Vignault for two reasons. They have both been a part of systems that develop young talent very well. How many guys have Buffalo developed into excellent players. The Canucks have a number of guys they have drafted and developed into servicable players in years where they don`t get those sweet picks.

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#20 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
April 17 2012, 10:41AM
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I like Sutter but prefer Renney keep coaching this group.

I believe a change in leadership/captaincy would go further than a coaching change.

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#21 Ken
April 17 2012, 10:43AM
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He may look like Yoda, but does he have the force of Yoda?

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#22 Rama Lama
April 17 2012, 10:44AM
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Well I'm dating myself but I went to school with Brent Sutter ( all the Sutter's for that matter except the twins) and let's just say, even in high school he had " the look", but never said much.

The more I think about this the more I like this. Brent Sutter as with all the Sutters, like tough aggressive hockey players. With Tamby and Lowe coveting small, fast, skilled players, maybe Brent can convince them to draft some size and grit?

RB, you have Tamby's little charade all figured out. It's laughable that he wants to give Renny some time to think about the season and " hear his plan"..........come on Tamby the only joker is you!Let's hear your brilliant plan.......and finishing last and drafting first is NOT a plan!

I think it was Gregor( in his post season address after the draft) that pointed out Tamby told the entire hockey world that Yakapov is not a elite talent. Now what kind of GM would diminish the value of his first overall pick? A stupid one!

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#23 VK63
April 17 2012, 10:47AM
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Sutters bench management is actually worse than Renneys, he's stubborn as a mule and somehow believes that making the same decision over and over again will miraculously yield a different result. (as evidenced by his unbelievably bad line matching in Calgary)

Lowe claiming hes passionate is well and good but evidently he is incapable of transferring that passion into on ice performance by his mighty steeds.

Stick to ranching (and scowling) Sutter..... its what you are good at.... apparently. Coaching.......... not so much.

And 1984 is a freaking long time ago...... just saying.

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#24 oilfan in yyc
April 17 2012, 10:51AM
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As has been said over and over Sutter has done nothing to improve any NHL team he has coached. I think if they hire him I will be finally forced to box up all of my Oiler paraphernalia a mail back to Oiler head office.

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#25 A-Mc
April 17 2012, 11:15AM
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I know nothing about B.Sutters coaching abilities but if i have to watch that mopey face after every game, I'm going to stab something.

I cannot stand his television presence!

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#26 DieHard
April 17 2012, 11:19AM
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@Truth

"To me it is apparent that Tambellini believes as of right now Renney is the best coach for the Oilers. That may change if another coach comes available...Tippet, Vigneult (sp?), Bylsma (dreaming I know), or somebody of that ilk. Last thing we want is Renney to be let go only for all superior coaches to be retained, leaving Tambellini to hire what he considers to be an inferior coach."

Why would Tambellini call up Omark (get him past the waiver issue) and Renny not play him. Seems like bad asset management and might be why Renny has to write up a report to be appraised by Tambellini.

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#27 Chris81
April 17 2012, 11:25AM
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I like how a coach's point percentage is usually brought up but never applied to a general manager.

To stay on topic, I don't blame for any of the teams woes on Renney so I don't see the need for change there.

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#28 Jay Gray
April 17 2012, 11:41AM
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Uneasy with Sutter, would rather have someone else, but if no one else is available, what do you do?…Sutter is an upgrade on Renney. Upgrades are good.

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#30 S931404
April 17 2012, 11:56AM
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As much as I think tambellini is a doofus, this mess isn't on him. He (as far as we know) does not have a contract yet just like Renney. Hang this bungling on Kevin Lowe. There's plenty of incompetence and blame to go around.

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#32 Team Hall
April 17 2012, 12:12PM
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How well do you think Yakupov and Sutter will get along? The answer, not at all. Better keep Renney, the players dont hate him.

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#33 mcselli
April 17 2012, 12:17PM
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I agree that we need a different coach too. and should wait to see who is going to be available. I think if the Oilers already know they have no plans on bringing Renney back, they should at have enough respect for him to tell him so he can explore his options. I wonder how the players would feel playing under Sutter, or if they could choose their next coach, who would get their nod. It seems that Sutter is being courted to be the next coach, and I can't help by wonder if anyone is being courted to be the next GM.

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#34 #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...
April 17 2012, 12:17PM
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My coaching wishlist for the Oilers goes: 1) Dave Tippet 2) Joe Quenville 3) One more year of Tom Renney then moving Todd Nelson up to the big club to be the Coach the year after 4)Brent Sutter 5) who evers left 6) Tom Renney for more than one year

the reason I said Todd Nelson in one year instead of now is that way he can have one more year of familirarizing himself with the young farm hands that would follow him up in the years after his hiring (think like a Boudreau in WASH when he was first hired)

also i see next year as another year where growth and learning will still be emphasized more than winning, maybe to a lesser extent then previous years but still the bias towards learning over winning will be there IMO and Renney is a VERY good coach when it comes to teaching the young guys, his downfall is just that he's a horrible in-game tactition, thats why youd turf him as soon as your ready to compete

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#35 FastOil
April 17 2012, 12:26PM
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How many Sutters do we want anyway? These are the guys that ran the Flames into the ground. Why are the Oilers hiring former direct rivals? Hoping for trade secrets?

There was a time when the Oilers thought outside of the box, and innovated the game for the better. I'd like to see that type of fresh thinking again.

One idea would be to ice a team of the best players available, forgoing anyone to "soften up" opponents or be a deterrent. If the BPA's happen to be mean, all the better.

I also think interpersonal skills are going to be one of the most important qualities in any coach for the Oilers. He has to get them playing their best, but also maintain a good rapor so these guys actually want to stay - build "team". Keeping the quality players together is as important as anything if the rebuild is going anywhere. Really there are only a few systems teams use, lots of coaches have the technical abilities.

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#36 Jonathan Willis
April 17 2012, 12:27PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Any idea how close Tambellini and Vigneault are, Robin? I have the same opinion of his coaching abilities as you do and I think the Oilers would be crazy not to pursue him if he became available this summer.

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#37 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
April 17 2012, 12:46PM
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Brownlee:

Tencer tweeted today : Nail Yakupov's agent Igor Larionov says every team with a top draft pick has talked to he and/or Nail. Except for Edmonton. More to come...

how can the team that has been locked down to a sure top 3 pick for so long not have chatted with the player or agent yet? this plus murray to team canada where KLowe happens to be GM a tip off something is coming?

serenity now serenity now serenity now serenity now serenity now

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#38 Al
April 17 2012, 12:49PM
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Kevin Lowe should get behind the bench. He only spent one year as coach, but he had a winning record and finished second in the NW division.

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#40 Archaeologuy
April 17 2012, 01:02PM
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Is anybody else's Reply function broken?

@cableguy

It's that kind of communication acumen that makes our GM the brilliant team builder he is. He probably thought he already had Yakupov under contract, which is why he proceeded never to bother talking to him. Ever. Even in passing.

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#41 Fresh Mess
April 17 2012, 01:07PM
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I think Montreal would offer Vigneualt what ever he wanted to become coach or GM if he became available. He did a good job with the habs before but was inexplicably fired.

If the Oilers bring in Sutter it should be to replace Tambellini. BTW, does anyone know what a "president of hockey operations" does? Isn't the GM supposed to be the head of hockey ops?

It seems that Pat Laforge has been slowly demoted by Katz. First he was the CEO/team President, then President/COO. Now he is just referred to as COO and is basically an executive VP in charge of Business while Lowe is his counterpart in charge of Hockey. Both men report to Bob Black, who is the real CEO and reports to Katz.

It used to be that they called department managers, well, managers. Then in an ego-stroking move they started calling managers Vice presidents. Now it's "President of...."

Ridiculous.

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#42 Jimmer
April 17 2012, 01:20PM
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Culture change is as important this off season as getting a pair of top 4 d-men.

Sutter as Head Coach and Hall as Captain might do that overnight.

Go back and watch Boys on the Bus...I remember one instance where Kevin Lowe is about to literally pull his hair out with his hands because he is so mad that they lost.

That my friends is "Oiler Hockey" a true hatred of losing EVER!

A Sutter/Hall combo is just what the doctor ordered for this piss poor group.

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#43 Gerald R. Ford
April 17 2012, 01:21PM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

Just another strike against Tambellini in his handling of the Tom Renney situation.

I agree, but I think it goes beyond Tambo. It seems to be part of the culture now for management to leave personnel hanging until the last possible second when making decisions about their futures. I understand that business decisions can't be rushed, and these things take time, etc., but, man... I have been sorely disappointed, and really taken aback sometimes, at the lack of consistency shown in handling personnel matters in a respectful, timely manner. The Druglord is supposed to be such an epic business tycoon, yet a fundamental aspect of operating any business is that, if you value people, LET THEM KNOW. All I've seen the last five years or so from this regime is a lot of people from many different areas of the organization (fans, included) being taken for granted. Not cool.

As for Sutter... I dunno. He definitely seems to be able to squeeze every last bit of effort from his players, but I'm not too keen on the thought of him transplanting that coma-inducing Flames-style hockey here. If they hired him, I'd look on the bright side, and dwell on the positives, but I'm just not sold on the guy, and I'd just as soon let Renney try and take what he's started to the next level.

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#44 Jasmine
April 17 2012, 01:24PM
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The Oilers will be criticized no matter what. This has been happening ever since Slats left. Lowe has been criticized for every move he made.

The first trade Lowe made; Hamrlik for Josh Green, Eric Brewer and something else. Fans wanted Lowe fired. Every trade Lowe made, fans wanted him fired. Every draft pick Lowe made, fans wanted him fired.

Same thing is now happening with Tambellini as he's not Slats.

The Oilers draft Hall but some fans wanted Seguin. Oilers drafted RNH but some fans wanted either Landeskog or Larsson.

Same thing with trades. Every trade the Oilers make, they'll be criticized for it.

Lowe and now Tambellini are being criticized 24/7. Scotty Bowmann could be coach and Ken Holland GM and fans will find something to critiicze the Oilers for.

They could finished 82-0 and fans will critiiczed them.

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#45 bazmagoo
April 17 2012, 01:28PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Lots of quality names being thrown around as possible replacements if Renney isn't retained.

Looks to me the best early bets for a short list are Sutter and Craig MacTavish (assuming the Canucks don't run Vigneault).

Alain, by the way, is a classy guy and a damn good coach who'd be in demand if he was fired.

Hey RB, do you think Vigneault would be a good fit in Montreal? For some I think if he gets bounced from Vancouver, MacT is going to get a promotion to the big leagues and Vigneault will get an interview in Montreal.

There is no way I'd prefer Sutter over Renney, I think Renney deserves another year at least to show us what he's got. It's not his fault the horses haven't been there for him, it wouldn't be good to fire him just before it looks like the roster is filling out!

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#46 bazmagoo
April 17 2012, 01:29PM
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It will also be interesting to see how far Todd Nelson can take the OKC Barons in the Calder Cup playoffs. I think that's going to factor into the equation as well.

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#47 Walter Sobchak
April 17 2012, 01:31PM
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If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it's probably a duck. I would be stunned if he Oilers not only bring in Sutter, they also pass on Yakupov and make a dumb deal.

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#48 Oilcan
April 17 2012, 01:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Quicksilver, Moneyshot (quick moneyshot?), whatever you're calling yourself these days: Smyth should stay . . . one year at a time with bonus-laden contracts.

Can bonuses be applied to a 35+ contract? IS their restrictions?

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#49 bazmagoo
April 17 2012, 01:34PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it's probably a duck. I would be stunned if he Oilers not only bring in Sutter, they also pass on Yakupov and make a dumb deal.

Sutter I could live with. Passing on the Yak would make me angry unless it's through trading for a high pick plus an asset.

But I think you are right, let's keep our fingers crossed this is not the case.

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#50 Walter Sobchak
April 17 2012, 01:36PM
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@bazmagoo

Completely agreed!

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