June 10 2014 06:56PM
Craig Ramsay's name didn’t draw much reaction from fans around here when I mentioned him as a top candidate to be added to the coaching staff of the Edmonton Oilers Feb. 6. Ramsay will get considerably more attention from here on out after being named as an assistant to Dallas Eakins today.
"If the Oilers are looking to add a coach to their staff in support of Eakins between now and next season -- they are -- they should be taking a long look at Craig Ramsay, who was sacked by the Florida Panthers last November when head coach Kevin Dineen was let go.
"Ramsay, 62, who has made coaching stops with Florida, Ottawa, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2004, is the kind of teacher and technical coach who'd be a fit here."
The item containing my assessment of Ramsay drew 135 comments. None of them, not one, contained a response about Ramsay. Not sure why. Older coach. A bit under the radar for many, I guess. Not a sexy hire. Besides, fans were justifiably skeptical that a FOK like Kelly Buchberger would be moved aside for a proven coach and teacher like Ramsay.
LEFT AN IMPRESSION
Today, here he is. Jonathan Willis wrote about Ramsay's hire earlier today, so I won’t go over his resume again. What I will second is that Ramsay, who will work with the defensemen and the power play units, is exactly the kind of hire – experienced, technically sound and a teacher of the game – the Oilers needed to complement Eakins and associate Keith Acton.
I spent about 20 minutes one afternoon chatting with Ramsay in Tampa Bay not long after he was hired in 2001. I remembered him as a player. I'd read the stats. I knew what he'd accomplished as a coach, but I'd never spoken to him. The 20 minutes we talked that day, shooting the breeze talking hockey, was time well-spent. I've seldom been more impressed by a hockey man.
Ramsay's a soft-spoken type. He doesn't beat his chest to get his point across. He's a communicator and a teacher. Back when we chatted, a young Vincent Lecavalier, just 20 or 21 at the time, talked at length about Ramsay's ability to teach, to impart knowledge, especially with the younger players.
That impression stuck enough that with the Oilers struggling mightily again last season and debate raging about what changes were needed, including to the coaching staff, Ramsay came immediately to mind, even if it seemed like a long shot he'd ever end up here. The Oilers got it right.
With Buchberger out, Ramsay in the fold and destined to join Eakins and Acton on the bench, we're waiting to see what happens with Steve Smith, who can either accept being bumped upstairs into the press box as an eye in the sky or seek employment elsewhere.
If Smith chooses to move on rather than accept the new gig, Eakins will be in the market for a coach to fill that role. That would open the door for Derek Laxdal, who, as everybody knows, led the Edmonton Oil Kings to the 2014 Memorial Cup and now has three 50-win seasons on his resume.
Yes, as many people have pointed out, Todd Nelson is also a deserving candidate based on the work he's done in Oklahoma City. No question about it. That said, my best guess is Nelson will remain on the AHL farm as head coach rather than take a job as an assistant here. He sees himself as a head coach and he's already had a gig as an NHL assistant.
From an organizational standpoint, it makes more sense to me to promote Laxdal to the Oiler staff as an assistant, promote Oil Kings assistant Steve Hamilton to head coach and have Nelson in OKC continuing the fine developmental work he's been doing for the time being. We'll see soon enough if it shakes out that way.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.