April 08 2012 10:08PM
With no word yet on a new contract for coach Tom Renney, there's going to be plenty of speculation in coming days and weeks about his future, or lack of same, behind the bench with the Edmonton Oilers. I'd like to add a bit of a twist to that.
Given the uncertainty of Renney's status, it's not surprising that Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe was spotted in Oklahoma City Saturday. After all, Todd Nelson, who has done a fine job coaching the Oilers AHL affiliate, is considered a strong candidate to end up behind the bench in Edmonton, should a change be made. Perhaps Lowe and Nelson had a chat, a little lunch, did some catching up.
What I do find a bit curious, assuming the Lowe sighting in OKC is accurate, is that Nelson and the Barons were playing the Chicago Wolves, who just happen to be coached by Craig MacTavish. Hmm. It makes one at least ponder the same possibilities about two old teammates and friends like Lowe and MacT – a little chat, a bite to eat, some catching up?
I'm wondering if MacTavish, 53, who is now three seasons removed from stepping away as coach of the Oilers following the 2008-09 season, might be a candidate to step back behind the bench here, if Renney isn't retained. Is an encore a possibility Lowe and owner Daryl Katz, both close friends of MacTavish, are willing to consider? Something they have considered?
SECOND TIME AROUND
When MacTavish departed after the Oilers went 38-35-9 for 85 points in 2008-09, it seemed the right time to go. After eight years running the bench, MacT wasn't sure if his message to the players on the roster then was getting through any more. The relationship had grown stale. It was time.
Now, three years later, MacTavish looks and sounds rejuvenated despite an ongoing battle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. MacTavish says he feels good. Signed by the Vancouver Canucks to coach the Wolves, he's got his team sitting atop the Midwest Division of the Western Conference.
At the same time, the Oilers are almost a completely different team than the one MacTavish left, the one that, critics insisted, was tuning him out. Only Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner and Ladislav Smid remain from that team. It's a new group. So, is there a possibility that MacTavish is the right coach for this group? Is this the right group for MacTavish?
While MacTavish is considered to be a bit of an old-schooler, defense-first and all that, which doesn't sound like a fit with this young bunch, it should be noted coaches, smart coaches, evolve in their approach. A tweak here and there. Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis comes to mind, to name one.
MacTavish wants to be back in the NHL. He was in the running for a couple of jobs he didn't get before he signed on with Vancouver for the Chicago gig. I'm guessing the Canucks wanted a commitment of at least one season from MacT before any out clauses to move up with another team kick in.
I'm just thinking out loud, but, given MacTavish's longstanding relationship with Lowe and Katz, his ties to Edmonton and his desire to return to the NHL, I think it would be foolish to dismiss the notion that MacTavish could return, should the team decide Renney has run his course. Just sayin.'
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.