April 21 2012 10:22PM
Is Steve Tambellini going to make a call any time soon on who is going to coach the Edmonton Oilers next season? And if he does, will it work out any better than the last two times he hired a coach – inking Pat Quinn and then replacing him by promoting associate coach Tom Renney?
While we wait for Tambellini to decide on Renney, who has now had a couple of weeks to rest, recharge and come up with a plan moving forward – that is what the GM said he wanted – I was reminded of the Oilers current state of coaching limbo tonight when the St. Louis Blues polished off the fading San Jose Sharks in five games with a 3-1 win.
Specifically, I'm contemplating the job Ken Hitchcock has done with the Blues since taking over for the final 69 games this season and how the Oilers could have, and should have, put a call into him a couple of years ago when Hitch was sitting around twiddling his thumbs and collecting a salary after being relieved of his coaching duties by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That's a call the Oilers never made, it turns out, despite connections with Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe through Team Canada and the fact Hitchcock is a homegrown coaching talent from right here in Edmonton. Oh, and there's that Stanley Cup ring from 1999 . . .
NOT THE RIGHT GUY?
I never understood at the time why the Oilers never rang up Hitch -- my guess is Tambellini promised Renney first crack at the job as a condition of coming aboard as an associate in the event Quinn was, ahem, promoted to senior advisor or some other important hockey-ops position.
Was Hitchcock perceived as too old-school for a young and rebuilding Edmonton team? It probably didn't help that Hitch was pushing 60 when the Oilers were looking to replace Quinn. Then again, Renney isn't a whole bunch younger. Hmm.
In any case, after being taken out of mothballs in Columbus by St. Louis, Hitchcock guided the Blues to a record of 43-15-11, good enough for a points percentage of .703. Now, a first-round win over the Sharks. Given all his time in Columbus, it's astounding Hitchcock boasts a career percentage of .595 as an NHL coach. Alas, water under the bridge. Too late to think about bringing Hitchcock home now.
So, will Renney get his job back? My sense is the answer is no, but that's just the old gut talking. Nobody has told me that. What about Brent Sutter? He's
auditioning for the Oilers coaching Team Canada right now after parting ways with the Calgary Flames, isn't he?
I'd think, given the timetable Tambellini loosely referenced in his season-ending availability with media, we should hear something on the coaching front this coming week. The right call? Let's not expect too much.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.