The next head coach: Matheson’s list

Jonathan Willis
May 30 2012 11:50AM

It was interesting to see Jim Matheson’s list of head coach candidates in the Edmonton Journal yesterday. Matheson has a long track record of breaking news about the Oilers and he’s one of a handful of people well worth listening to for an idea of what team management has in the works.

Answering a question from reader Dennis Wong, Matheson suggested that former Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter was the most likely replacement for Tom Renney, echoing similar statements from Terry Jones and OilersNation’s own Robin Brownlee. Matheson also brought up Ralph Krueger’s name, which also doesn’t come as a surprise.

But there are two other points that strike me as being of interest. The first is this:

But I believe that Tambellini will interview six people for the position over the next few weeks.

That comment fits with what Darren Dreger of TSN reported a few days ago: basically that the Oilers wanted to a) go through a bunch of candidates, b) ideally by the draft but c) that no firm timeframe existed. Six candidates in the next few weeks would let the Oilers burn through most, if not all, of the top contenders on their list, with the possibility of a decision before the draft at the end of June.

The other thing that jumped out at me were the names listed by Matheson as potential interviewees:

  • Brent Sutter
  • Ralph Krueger
  • Dallas Eakins
  • Jon Cooper
  • Todd Nelson
  • Paul Maurice
  • Ron Wilson
  • John Stevens

That’s eight names total, but it’s also worth remembering that Eakins and Cooper both have other things on their plate: as Wong points out, they’re coaching in the AHL finals. The seventh game – if necessary – of those finals is scheduled for June 15, so Tambellini isn’t likely to interview either candidate any time over the next two weeks. The seventh game (again, if necessary) of the Stanley Cup Finals – where Stevens is coaching – would take place on June 15. Is it likely the other five are on Tambellini’s interview list for the next few weeks?

Equally as interesting as the names listed are those omitted. Marc Crawford, who worked with Tambellini in Vancouver and was interviewed the last time the Oilers went coach-hunting, is not on the list. Neither is the man who succeeded him in Colorado, Bob Hartley. That may or may not mean anything – I credit Matheson with a great deal of information the rest of us lack, but not with omniscience – but it is interesting all the same.

Regardless, this further confirmation that the Oilers are going to do an extensive search for their next candidate is welcome news.

I’ve argued previously in favour of Jon Cooper, the lawyer who guided Norfolk (AHL) to 28 straight wins to close out the 2011-12 season, but there’s a lot of talent and hockey knowledge on that list. Todd Nelson’s work in Oklahoma City speaks strongly in his favour after years of poor Oilers farm teams (Gregor talked to Nelson about the possibility of becoming the Oilers' head coach here), while Dallas Eakins is deservedly a highly-regarded candidate.

The more veteran names on the list all deserve to be there too. Brent Sutter is a good NHL coach who has been discussed at length, while Ralph Krueger did superb work as the head of the Swiss national team. Paul Maurice is bright and articulate; Ron Wilson tough, demanding and innovative. John Stevens won it all in the AHL in 2005 and was a solid coach for the Flyers.

The last time the Oilers made this decision, Tambellini talked to a lot of people but eventually settled on Pat Quinn, a highly respected man he had a long history with. It backfired disastrously. That can’t happen this time – not just for Tambellini’s sake, but for the sake of the team. The Oilers are at a critical juncture, and how far they ultimately go is going to depend to no small degree on finding the right man to bring out the best in his charges.

As Lowetide put it the other day, this might be the team’s most important coaching hire since Sather. A thorough look at the different options is a very good idea.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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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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#1 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
May 30 2012, 12:20PM
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Ron Wilson would be a HUGE disaster. He only thinks he invented hockey. Been an Oiler fan since 79 and I would seriously reconsider my allegiance if that buttwad got the job here

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#2 Ducey
May 30 2012, 11:58AM
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I hope they go with Krueger.

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#3 Where's Your Towel
May 30 2012, 05:02PM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

You're right, they probably shouldn't even bother hiring a coach until every player need is filled. Go troll somewhere else.

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#4 ItsTheBGB
May 30 2012, 11:57AM
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FIST IN THE AIR FOR MACTAVISH!!!!!!

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#5 DLS
May 30 2012, 01:20PM
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Well would on earth would Dithers do anything on a timely basis. Point in case is the signing of Davidson, how much time left here 35 hours.

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#6 book¡e
May 30 2012, 04:12PM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

Troll - the Oilers need a coach and Oiler fans are discussing it - that's all. Thank you for being here though - we all appreciate your words of wisdom.

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#7 slopitch
May 30 2012, 01:52PM
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I hope Nelson is content another year in OKC. I like him but hoping they go with Cooper or Kruger. Good time for a poll no?

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#8 EL PRESIDENTE
May 30 2012, 02:39PM
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Just for the sake of the Hall and Ebs skits, I vote for MacT, I can hear it now.......

Hall: Ebs! Ebs! Ebs! Ebs: What is Hallsy? why so excited? Hall: Coach Renney is back! Ebs: Hallsy, Coach Renney was let go remember? Hall: I know (in a pouty voice), But now he's Back! And he got a cool perm! And new glasses! Ebs: that's not coach Renney Hallsy, that's Craig Mactavish our new coach. Hall: Coach Renney changed his name to Mactavish?! Cool!!! Can I change my name Ebs? Ebs: sure Hallsy, what do you want to change your name to? Hall: Nuge 2 point ohhhhh!!!!

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#9 Shredder
May 30 2012, 04:13PM
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I'm of the opinion here that there is a lot of due diligence regarding hiring a coach, and that 99% of bloggers don't know anything about hiring a coach...

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#10 Dave Casselman
May 30 2012, 05:10PM
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reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan) wrote:

Ron Wilson would be a HUGE disaster. He only thinks he invented hockey. Been an Oiler fan since 79 and I would seriously reconsider my allegiance if that buttwad got the job here

Couldn't agree more. And insofar as Tambellini is concerned, the guy's going to get gassed, the only question will be why did it take so long. The hiring of an asshat like Wilson would only hasten his departure.

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#11 Dave Casselman
May 30 2012, 05:12PM
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Smokey wrote:

Kruger, with Nelson as the associate coach, and keep Smith for the defence.

Eakins and Coopers as runners up.

I like it. And because I do it will likely never happen.

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#12 Bucknuck
May 30 2012, 05:49PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

This is all so cute....

It's almost like a new coach is all we need to pave the Oilers way to the finals.

Pay not attention to the 2 holes in the top 6, holes in the #1 and 2 spot on the blueline, or that we don't have a starting goaltender. By the time those holes are plugged, Edmonton will be looking for new coach to replace the one they're currently looking for. Just another needless sideways move by the Oilers. Is the worst...still to come?

So you're saying that Hemsky and Gagner are a third line players, Dubnyk is not a starting goaltender, and that neither Petry nor Whitney will be a top defenseman in 2012-2013?

Really? I am not sure they have the winning combination yet, and I do think they need to upgrade their size, get another big minute defender and also get a 1b tandem goalie to play with DD. But it's not all quite so bad as you would have us believe.

≈The worst (30th, 30th, and 29th place) IS pretty much as low as they can go, so no, the worst is not yet to come. I think I will stay out of your dark parade, Quicksilver.

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#13 Chris.
May 30 2012, 07:20PM
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Tambellini: Hi Justin. Have had a chance to review our offer?

Schultz: Yes. I'm really strongly considering signing with the Oilers... One question though: who is the head coach?

*stunned silence* (Why would we need one of those before October?)

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#14 Reg Dunlop
May 30 2012, 11:47PM
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Holy smokes Mr. Mantooth, thats some serious emotion you showed there. I was a little scared for a moment. But, I still want to take you to task:

Mr. Quicksilver doesn't need you in his corner, I'm sure he can defend himself.

Scotty Bowman couldn't help the oil, true, but mainly because he is 1000 years old. A coach that can get the best out of these players, can get them to play as a team, play for each other, that coach can make a large enough impact so that the playoffs are in reach. Who is that coach? I thought Bob Hartley, but rumor has him going to Calgary.

DD is the real deal. His last 20 games have shown that. Not just 3 or 4 good games, 20 good ones with a sketchy defence out front.

Petry. He has all the tools. Even though he must learn on the job, he is our best all around defenceman, at least until the oil select Ryan Murray.

Thats it, so if you feel like going postal on me, try some of your wife's mood modifiers first(no woman should be without anti-psychotics).

Just in case you thought I was serious... I was only joking about the clozapine. Actually I like the fire you showed. Your line starts.

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#15 gongshow
May 30 2012, 12:03PM
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Any idea how long this interview/hiring process will take. I understand the need to do your due diligence, but I see a few issues with letting this linger too long.

First, how long do Ralph, Steve and Bucky twist in the wind for? If one or more are not retained at the end of all of this, once again the optics are horrible.

Secondly, why couldn't this process have started a while ago? Did ST/KL not have any idea until a few days ago that Renney wouldn't be back? Weird approach to managing your HR.

Lastly, how long does a new coach need over the summer to A)hire new assistants and B) get acquainted with the situation and formulate a gameplan?

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#16 freeze
May 30 2012, 12:16PM
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Good to see Stevens name come up somewhere. Based on the stated needs analysis from upper mgt., he seems like a good person to interview.

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#17 OilerLand
May 30 2012, 01:57PM
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You gotta go with Cooper. After researching records and history, even though other coaches have NHL experience I think you have to go with Cooper before another team snatches him up (Calgary). Victory surrounds this man, I would never blame Tambo for taking a chance on Cooper even if we finished last again.

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#18 west can oiler fan
May 30 2012, 02:12PM
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I like both Maurice or MacT. Both have experience and have been out of the game for awhile but not too long. Being out of the game might give them a different outlook on coaching. I think either one of these coaches would be ideal to take over for Renny.

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#19 Smokey
May 30 2012, 02:25PM
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Kruger, with Nelson as the associate coach, and keep Smith for the defence.

Eakins and Coopers as runners up.

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#20 deeeward
May 30 2012, 02:58PM
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Just an FYI Mr. Willis:

"Equally as interesting as the names listed are those omitted. Marc Crawford, who worked with Tambellini in Vancouver and was interviewed the last time the Oilers went coach-hunting, is not on the list."

Mark Crawford IS in fact on the list in Matheson's article:

"...to former big-league head men such as Sutter (Calgary and New Jersey), Paul Maurice (Carolina, taking the Hurricanes to the Cup final against Detroit in 2002, and Toronto), TSN commentator MARC CRAWFORD Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Dallas) who was interviewed in 2009 when Craig MacTavish left..."

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#21 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 30 2012, 03:13PM
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This is all so cute....

It's almost like a new coach is all we need to pave the Oilers way to the finals.

Pay not attention to the 2 holes in the top 6, holes in the #1 and 2 spot on the blueline, or that we don't have a starting goaltender. By the time those holes are plugged, Edmonton will be looking for new coach to replace the one they're currently looking for. Just another needless sideways move by the Oilers. Is the worst...still to come?

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#22 VMR
May 30 2012, 04:30PM
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I dont see this coaching decision as absolutely critical as you do Jonathan. Developing teams sometimes go through a string of coaches in a short time, hopefully they learn something from each but it may take a bit for it all to click.

The Hawks went through Yawney and Savard in a short period before they settled on Quenneville. The Penguins moved past Therrien to Bylsma.

I think having the right coach can have a huge impact on a team but it has to be the right coach at the right time and where this team is at now is not where it'll be when we're ready to compete. I'm happy with a good coach that is going to teach the team something even if he doesnt last as head coach for 8 years like MacT.

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#23 Greg the Hammer Valentine
May 30 2012, 04:32PM
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What about Jacques Martin? I think he did an impressive job with a woeful Habs lineup.

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#24 gcw_rocks
May 30 2012, 04:35PM
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maurice is bright and articulate, but his coaching record is a train wreck.

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#25 old hippy
May 30 2012, 05:38PM
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For those criticizing Tambellini for taking his time, bad optics surrounding asst. coaches. Does it make sense hiring a coach,now, just because he is available? You totally eliminate the possibility of several good candidates who are currently otherwise occupied. I mean, sure, let's not even consider coaches who's teams are in or just finished their playoffs.

It reminds me of the same fans critical of McTavish for scrambling his lines; Except pretty much every coach in the NHL does the same, if they are struggling or losing.

I'm not saying Tambellini doesn' deserve some criticism,(signing Khabibulin) but with some fans, he's damned, no matter what he does.

I guess that is why we are fans, cause nobody would be stupid enough to put us in charge.

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#26 Oiler Al
May 30 2012, 06:02PM
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My bet is that it will be Sutter. If Kruger won't stay as an associate coach, then they should pick, Eakin, or Cooper or Nelson as an assistant.

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#27 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 30 2012, 06:15PM
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@Bookie

Just seems a little odd to blame tire performance when the motor is shot. Why even deal with this issue till the others are dealt with?

A Ken Hitchcock type coach won't help this hockey club.

I'm just venting, wasn't looking for responses.

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#28 old hippy
May 30 2012, 06:21PM
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@Dark Parade

Tambellini has actually done a lot of little moves, and they may start to add up. Balanger was consistently a 35 to 40 point player and even or above plus/minus. Will a new coach get him back to his usual stats and role? Dubnyk was clearly the better goalie. With more starts by a new coach, might we not expect a 15 to 25 goals against, drop. Add in Nail Yakupov, one more year of maturity to three or four young defenders, and the strengthening of Hemskeys shoulder. It really isn't unreasonable to suggest the Oilers have a 15 point jump coming, even without changing coaches.

So nlife, er I mean Dark parade, enjoy your trolling while you can.

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#29 old hippy
May 30 2012, 06:43PM
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As has been noted by many beat reporters, the New Jersey Devils are in the Stanley cup finals with no real Stud defencemen. In the TSN fantasy player rankings (not a perfect rating system, I know, but) Not one New Jersey Defenceman cracked the regular season top 40. With Schultz, Petry, Smid, and perhaps Whitney, we have a defence by committee that is similar to the Devils. I think Smid would be top 2 on half the teams in the NHL, as a shutdown style player.

For the new coach to lead us to the playoffs, we need... Either one legitimate offensive defenceman or Petry to grow in to that role. One of Teubert, Peckham, Marincin, Fedun, to grow in to a solid 5/6, and able to move up when required. Return to career form of Eric Belanger.(and that might only require a different coach) A solid back-up for Whitney(or for 'Bulin to get solid playing fewer games) Yakupov to play as billed. And maybe some relief from the injury curse of the last three years.

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#30 old hippy
May 30 2012, 06:45PM
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Sorry, I meant solid back up for Dubnyk. Doh!!

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#31 Saytalk
May 30 2012, 07:31PM
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@old hippy

It's difficult to compare the Devils to the Oilers. The front office have different philosophies, the coaches run different systems (in that the Devils actually have a system), and the players fit together to collectively form a much different product.

For the Oilers to succeed with a defence by committee, that defence also needs to come from at least 11 forwards in the lineup. In other words, there would have to be a commitment from nearly every player on the team to battle hard for the puck, pick up your assignments, finish your checks, and play with discipline, at both ends of the ice, on every shift. The Oilers and Canadiens are the two teams farthest from achieving this, and I can only guess that the Oilers are looking to build something much different from what the Devils have anyway.

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#32 longbottom/P.Biglow
May 30 2012, 07:59PM
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@Saytalk: Oldhippy is on to something with the injury bug and defense by commitee. Last season at 1 point the defense was w/o 4 out of top six defenders for a lengthy period of time and when the defense was healthy they were a bit above average. Will they get hit by the Injury bug again? Who knows but it will possibly be other areas of the team next season like our bottom six.

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#33 oldhippy
May 30 2012, 08:29PM
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@saytalk

I realize they are different from New Jersey, but, as you say the coaches run a different system, and we are getting a new coach, perhaps even a new coaching staff. So two things I was saying. 1. A new coach with a different philosophy (system) could in fact vault us in to the playoffs. #2 Do we really ned to get a Suter or a Weber, or perhaps would shoring up 5/6 to 3/4 ablity, and roling three pairings, work as well.

As I said, I don't agree with everything Tambo has done, but he certainly doesn't deserve near the criticism levelled here. Was Belanger really a bad signing or did he have an off year? Could that be corrected by different coaching/sytem?

So tell me, do we sign a coach who is available now, or do we wait and see who is available, when the playoffs are done? Why should Tambo get criticized for waiting to see who is available.

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#34 Walter Sobchak
May 30 2012, 10:13PM
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I'm going to stick up for "Come join the Dark Parade"

First of all he’s not a Troll! He’s been a contributor to this site since I’ve been on.

This is a site to share your opinions on matters pertaining to the Oilers!

How wrong was those statement’s he made? Scotty Bowman himself would not get this team out of the lottery position!!!! Is that not a plausible possibility??

@ Bucknuck

He’s not saying that Hemsky or Gagner are third line players but there is a massive hole at L wing on that line!That's 1 hole.

Hemsky’s two years away from leaving and Gagner is an RFA and not to mention small and slow! could use an upgrade there.

What happens if the Oilers and Gagner can’t come to an agreement?

Is it not plausible the Oilers won’t sign him and trade him? What would that create? A big hole!

About Dubnyk- since when did Dubnyk become a legitimate number one. He’s not and you have no bloody idea if he can be! So if he cant be, are you going to just what…shove Khabibulin back in?.... Ya, that’s what thought,

As for Petry and Whitney, Whitney is no longer a top two option he can barley skate and that’s a fact! Petry you’re just going to ordain as a number one or two after half a year in the NHL!!!!!

Thank bloody hell you’re not a GM!

This post was about possible coach's, I still dont think any coach will improve the Oilers enough to get them out of the lottery without big changes.

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#35 Walter Sobchak
May 31 2012, 12:20AM
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@ Reg. Nope, Quick doesn’t need me in his corner Reg. Sorry if you got the impression I was angry actually the opposite.

You honestly think a coach is going to get this team, the same team that was in 29th place 22 extra wins! Make the playoffs? Ok.

Even with drafting Murray a 2nd pairing defenseman that will take 4 years to develop and won’t be much use next year?

Dubnyk is fine Reg, the point was not having a decent backup if he does have consistency problems, if you can tell me without a shred of doubt that Dubnyk won’t struggle then you should be a pro scout.

As for Petry, yes he has the tools, but is it at all possible he too might struggle. He’s been in the NHL for half a year and you’re going to tell me he won’t have any serious issue’s or consistency problems?

Regardless he’s no where near a number one or two.

So agree to disagree, I think people over value the players Oilers actually have here.

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#36 Reg Dunlop
May 31 2012, 01:42AM
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I'm sure that I'm guilty of overestimating what our guys are capable of but the young guys with their upside... I seriously think breakout seasons are imminent. If DD puts in a solid 60 games just maybe Khabbi can hold together for 20. Petry is Gilbert with a physical edge. He will be a 1st pairing guy. If Hall can stay healthy he can push for 50 goals next year. Combine this with a coach(Sutter?) that fires the vets up for BOA games, which we will sweep, and the playoffs are possible next year. I want to believe.

Also, if oilfans are guilty of over valuing their players, do you think many also over value Yak? Or is he truly our last shot at a Calder win? I think Henrique may have wrapped it up with his playoff performance this year, sorry RNH.

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#38 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 31 2012, 09:32AM
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Resistance is futile gentleman.

Once the poison (hockey) enters the bloodstream, any chance of rehabilitation is lost.

Wes and myself will help guide you guys through these darkest of days. Just try and show a little appreciation now and then, kay guys?

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#39 Sox and Oil
May 31 2012, 10:52AM
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I may be wrong but the votes have been cast long ago for Calder (and all the other awards) playoffs have no impact. I may be wrong though.

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#40 Harlie
May 31 2012, 11:34AM
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I was just downtown and driving near the Leg grounds and I stopped at a red light and Tom Renney and maybe it was his wife walked right by. I tooted my horn and gave him the "thumbs up" and he smiled, waved and mouthed "thank you".

Seems like a classy guy and great to see him and the lady with him enjoying a nice stroll through Edmonton when he very well could be anywhere else in the world right now.

Thanks again for everything Tom!

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#41 oldhippy
May 31 2012, 12:34PM
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Groundhog Day quote. "Some people would say this beer glass is half empty, some guys would say this beer glass is half full, I think your a beer glass is half empty kind of guy" Seriously, this is half the posters on here. Thanks Reg Dunlop for being a beer glass is half full kind of guy.

Dubnyk has been making great strides. If he had played Khabi's minutes, and maintained his sv%, we would have wone at least another 6 to 8 games.

From a coaching perspective..... Belager gets a lot of hate from Oil fans and Tambellini is criticized for signing him. He had a career worst year. At 34, did the wheels come off or would different coaching get him back to where he was with Phoenix? Horcoff and Smyth started off strong and then collapsed. Could a different coach get more out of these two? My point is this...If a new coach can get more out of players, who had off years from their normal metrics, how many more wins would that translate to? If a new coach gives DD starter minutes, and his gaa/sv% stay the same, how many wins would that add? A coaching change might well add 10 to 12 wins. Add in a healthy Hemskey and additional scoring from Yak.....Add another year of maturity and experience from Hall.....Add in another year of experience to the youth on the blue line....Add in a healthy(er) Whitney...

Call me a beer glass is half full kind of guy, but I see reasons to be optimistic, and the coaching is a big part of it.

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#42 Ricky
May 31 2012, 12:42PM
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Igor Larionov should coach the Oilers

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#43 champsin1985
May 31 2012, 11:40PM
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JW - can someone give us a POV on Doug Weight as a candidate? John Tavares credits Weight's mentorship this year with being a big factor in his development as a competitor and a professional (radio interview on FAN 590 when #JT91 wa talking about the cover vote last week).

Tihough he has roots in New York, a job of this stature would have definite career upside as opposed to his current position on the Island.

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#44 OutDoorRink
June 03 2012, 07:03AM
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It's always easier to aim low. How about this. This is my 'Goth' version of the Oilers

The Oilers will hire the wrong coach and draft the wrong player and it's doom and gloom for 4 more years. Life's not worth living. Time to paint my fingernails black.

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