Bucky comes home


Jeff Truitt is in as head coach of the Springfield Falcons and that means it will be made official shortly that Kelly Buchberger is joining the Edmonton Oilers as an assistant coach.

My sources tell me that Truitt was informed Friday he’ll be taking over as bench boss with Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, meaning it’s likely only a matter of days until the Oilers come clean on Bucky’s impending return.

As a close friend and former teammate of head coach Craig MacTavish, Buchberger has had the position earmarked for him from the moment he signed a two-year contract and took over behind the bench with Springfield after Geoff Ward left for the Boston Bruins.

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Bucky took the out-of-town gig because the plan all along was to bring him to Edmonton after the first year of his deal. Likewise, Truitt was told by the Oilers after he left Kelowna of the WHL he would become the head man in Springfield when Buchberger was bumped up.

Well, as of the last 48 hours, that dime’s been dropped on Truitt, so I’m assuming the Oilers will let the local media and fans in on the goings-on soon enough.

MacTavish hinted something might be up in terms of an announcement in conversation with Just A Game host Jason Gregor on Team 1260 late this past week.

MacTavish: “I’ve got a plan in place here that I don’t want to divulge right now. Any further discussion of that would put the cart ahead of the horse right now. It’ll become clearer for everybody with time.”

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Gregor: “Fair to say Kelly Buchberger is in the mix in that future, possibly?”

MacTavish: “Yes, that’s fair to say, but that’s as far as I want to go on it.”

Didn’t I say that?

Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, Buchberger being fast-tracked to MacTavish’s staff is a shot I called here at OilersNation at the end of this season and a formality Total Sports host Bob Stauffer and I have talked about repeatedly in recent weeks.

I think the term I used just last Tuesday when Stauffer asked about the likelihood of Bucky drawing NHL per diem this season as an assistant coach was “Bet the farm.”

Maybe that’s why Gregor referred to Buchberger’s pending promotion after his interview with MacT as one of those “worst-kept secrets.” Of course, it would have been appreciated if Gregor had mentioned that. I mean, it’s not like “BUCKY WILL BE HIRED” became public because it was scrawled on a shathouse wall at Overtime. Anyway, I whine. I whine.

Thanks Daumer

The guy taking the pipe in all of this is Rob Daum, even if the Oilers are spinning it differently.

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“I thought Rob, firstly and foremost, did a very good job for us in the time he was there,” MacTavish told Gregor. “But I was very clear to Rob at the start when we brought him in at the start of the year it was going to be a one-year position.

“That’s the way I felt about the job. It certainly wasn’t a reflection of the job Rob did because I thought he brought in a lot of really good, positive things for the club. In a lot of ways, he did some real good work for us.”

Not good enough, though, to get the head coaching job in Springfield—a position Daum has said he’d happily take—because that was promised, and has been delivered, to Truitt.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    According to Mactavish Daum's job was to prepare the team for the opposition (on that same interview with Jason Gregor)

    Doesn't sound like huge responsibilities.

    Daum also knew the score coming in and it is not like Truitt doesn't have a lot of coaching experience.

    I don't agree with the Buchberger hiring but Truitt has been coaching for quite a while.

    Yes I am sure Daum would happily take it but he knew the score when he signed his contract.

    There are a lot of coaching openings out there, if he is a great "technical mine" as has been said on your show I am sure he will find an NHL job as an assistant coach.

    While I don't necessarily agree with the Buchberger hiring I don't think Truitt is unexperienced and can't handle the job so the two situations are not the same.

    I don't disagree with Truitt as head coach.

  • RobinB

    101: Let me be blunt. Your assertion that Daum preparing the Oilers for opposing teams "doesn't sound like huge responsibilities" tells me how little you understand the coaching structure at the NHL level.
    There's no need in trying to debate the merits of letting Daum go and bringing in Buchberger if that's your position.

  • David S

    Robin, I'm not sure if I would say that Rob is "taking the pipe" here. From what you've written here and previously, it seems he knew exactly what he was getting into.

    However, if I were in Daum's position, I might have thought if I proved to the team how valuable I was, it might translate into a more permanent position. I'm sure we've all been through some version of this scenario in our own work lives. The boss's buddy always gets the job, regardless of how suited for that job he actually is. Not saying its right, but it is what it is.

    If Daum is half as good as you say he is, I'm sure he has his own plan in place. Still, kinda sad to see that winning is still not the driving force here like it is in say…Detroit. I would have thought that with Katz buying the team, alot of this political stuff would have been thrown out the window. Although I guess technically its still an EIG team, so maybe this is MacT's last chance to take care of his friend.

    BTW – thanks for continuing to write about Oilers stuff this summer. You're about the only guy out there right now (well OK, besides Wanye) who seems to get it that the team exists even though they aren't playing in the SCF.

  • RobinB

    David S: Thanks for the note. I'd like to write more during the summer months but there's only so much I can do based on traffic and revenue during the off-season. We're trying to build this site the right way and we'll ramp things up again as the 2008-09 season approaches. Keep reading and writing.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    Robin, what happened in Houston. Why didn't he last there? Wasn't he fired? What is the story there?

    What I read of his experience there was not very flattering.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    Since we are being so blunt Robin, while coaching video can be an art. Roger Nielson was a master.

    I didn't see that the Oilers were any more prepared for their opposition this year than in previous years.

    I am sure if he is as good as you and Stuffer have made him out to be he will be hired somewhere else in the NHL as a coach there are a lot of openings.

    Yes is is sad but in the grading of controversial moves for the Oilers in the last couple of years, this one rates about a 2 out of 10, but hey what else is there to talk about.

  • RobinB

    101: And what is is exactly that you read that was not very flattering?
    If you've got something, as in a link or a quote from a reliable source, that Daum did a poor job in Houston, provide it. This isn't freaking Ask Matty . . .

  • Hockey Addict 101

    If he did such a great job why was he fired a mere two days after the season ended and the comment was that the new coach would develop their youth. Obviously a difference in opinion on how well he develops kids.

    As we both know, teams don't cut up their coaches when they are fired but there was obviously some question about the direction of the team and the development of the Wild's kids.

    Here is your link!


    And the comment about developing youth.

    The Aeros will go in a completely different direction next year, more in tune with the style of the Minnesota Wild," Lynn said. "The team will rely less on older veterans to hope for success and more on team play for development and winning."

  • Of course, it would have been appreciated if Gregor had mentioned that. I mean, it’s not like “BUCKY WILL BE HIRED” became public because it was scrawled on a shathouse wall at Overtime. Anyway, I whine. I whine.

    Yes, it does suck when that happens, doesn't it? Welcome to life as a blogger.

    As for Daum's work, once you start to get into the guys with murkier roles, in terms of their work being so totally behind the scenes, like Daum, I don't know how an outsider can really judge them all that well. At least with guys like MacT and Huddy, big parts of their work involve getting the right guys on the ice in the right situation, which is easy enough to check out. Pretty tough to say whether the Oilers were poorly prepared early in the season or just plain sucked, although I know my answer.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    Also I think you jumped the gun when you said that I thought he was a poor coach. Where did I say that?

    I am sure that you don't need to wait for my links to know what those comments are going to be.

    There is always more than one side to a story or more than one perspective to a story.

    You did a very good job the one side of the fence but left the other side of the fence completely unpainted.

    Buchberger being hired without little experience is one side of the story but I know from life experience there is more than one perspective to any story.

  • Tim S

    I have asked Robin B before on why Daum was let go in Houston, the answer was injuries, goalie called up and nothing to do with Daum. He was just a victim.

    As to whether he is a good coach or not, the only people that can really say for sure is those he has worked for, 2 years with Minny before being fired and 1 with the Oilers. Maybe we can say whether he is a good coach or not.

  • jdrevenge

    Read somewhere that Daum was responsible for their breakout attack that came together at the end of the season. Part of the reason the oilers attack became so effective at penetrating the O zone in the last 30 games or so. It's unfortunate that given his background that these promises were made to Bucky. It's a dangerous game mixing business with personal relationships. I am glad however that the Oilers organization decided to take the long route with grooming Bucky for the position. Its been in the works for a while and heres hoping it all works out for the team.

  • RobinB

    Tim S: Please refresh my memory — I don't recall ever stating that Daum was "just a victim" in the Houston firing. Don't put words in my mouth.

    The answer, as I said at the time, was losing Josh Harding and bad years by key prospects. If you don't produce you don't keep your job. That's the business. It's the suggestion, made by people like 101, that Daum is somehow a bad coach, that irks me. It's like he was lucky to win 50 games the season before, then turned stupid the next season. Not so.

    I'll say it one more time – in this case it didn't matter how good or how bad a job Daum did with the Oilers, he was going to be moved aside to make room for Buchberger because MacT wants him here and MacT calls the shots.

  • FBomb

    Hey Robin,

    I've been reading your blogs here & am glad you're back in the game. Not to sound like a bootlick but you're a refreshing voice on Stauffer's show too.
    Anyway, I agree about the Buchberger hire. It reeks of nepotism – this club seems to be trying to be the opposite of the Detroit model if you ask me. Can you imagine what this looks like to free agents & such? Not exactly a progressive organization here. Our only hope is that Katz is smart & progressive enough to put the club ahead of his friendships & start cleaning the deadwood out of here. Start with Lowe & work your way down. What say you about that, sir?

  • RobinB

    FBomb: I appreciate the compliment, but I have to take issue with your reference to the "deadwood."

    While there's definitely nepotism and friendships in play with the hiring of Buchberger, I don't consider Lowe and MacTavish deadwood.
    When I assess Lowe and MacTavish I do it in terms of their performance under the new CBA. At the risk of being accused of giving them a free pass, I think they've done reasonably well given how Pronger derailed their building plans after the Cup run and injuries have decimated the team the past two seasons. That doesn't mean I agree with every decision that's been made since then, but those factors have had a signficicant impact.

    That said, it's a results-based business and, in my opinion, they have to deliver this season. They'll get that chance under Katz. He'll give them plenty of rope to build on the promising finish of last season. For me, anything less than a playoff spot will be an out-and-out failure.

    As for the nepotism aspect, I understand why coaches and GMs hire and promote people they know. As I've said before, there are plenty of examples of how it's worked very well. Where I have trouble with it is when friendships etc take over at the expense of qualifications and hiring the best person for the job. I thought that happened in the hiring of Craig Simpson and I think it's happening again with Buchberger.

    As for changes under Katz, he'll leave the hockey ops decisions to Lowe and MacTavish, so I wouldn't look for any sweeping changes, at least not right away. It'll be a different story a year from now if we don't see results.

  • Wanye Gretz

    "You’re about the only guy out there right now (well OK, besides Wanye) who seems to get it that the team exists even though they aren’t playing in the SCF."

    Whaddya mean the Oil aren't in the SCF? What year is this? Where is my calendar?

  • Rick


    Obviously you know these guys a hell of alot better than any of us pee-ons so I am curious as to how you think Buchberger would do as a coach?

    Not in a better or worse comparison to Daum, just on his own merits.

    Do you see something there that would explain why the Oilers are so intent on bringing him along? Obviously I am asking this as an aside to the nepotism angle.

    The other day you I believe you wrote that Jason Smith could make a fine coach if he chose to do so. Again, this is just from the outside looking in but aren't the qualities that make Jason Smith so endearing to us the same qualities that made Buchberger so endearing to us as well? If so and you think Smith could be a fine coach, then isn't there reason for us to be optimistic about Bucky as well?

  • RobinB

    Rick: Yes, I think Buchberger can be a success as a coach. If you've followed this all the way along you know I've mentioned that I watched Bucky up close and personal during his first coaching gig with the AHL Roadrunners during the lockout season, 04-05.
    Kelly put in a lot of extra work to help bring Kyle Brodziak along. His approach meshed well with head coach Geoff Ward and co-coach Joe Patterson. The team's lack of success that season was a reflection of the team not having enough talent, not poor coaching.

    My issue with the hiring is that it was going to happen no matter how well or poorly Buchberger did in the AHL and, likewise, no matter how good or bad a job Rob Daum did here. It is not based on results or merit. It's based, largely, on the relationship between MacT and Bucberger. It was telegraphed long ago.

    There's nothing wrong with MacT giving Buchberger a chance to prove he's got the capability of becoming an NHL coach, but it makes sense to me that he should at least earn the promotion.
    What's wrong with having him in the AHL for the full two seasons to get a gauge on his progress? What's wrong with seeing how he handles young talent? What's wrong with giving him time to develop and learn as a coach? What's wrong with two or three or even four seasons in the minors, if that's what it takes, to get a real feel for his aptitude for the job rather than judging — good or bad — on one season?

    That didn't happen. Bucky might one day be a fine coach — he was a student of the game because he relied on being smarter and harder working than players with more talent — but the whole process was skipped because it was pre-determined he was getting the job no matter what. Merit was not a factor.

  • Rick


    Thanks for that.

    I get the frustration regarding Daum. It has been well covered and is completely valid.

    It just seemed to me that an obvious question has been ignored and that was what I asked.

    Now that all of the fruit has been shaken from the tree the end result is that, as you called it, Buchberger is going to be an assistant coach with the big club. With that my concern as a fan has less to do with where Daum pops back up and more to do with what can be expected from Buchberger.

    That said, in a capped world you can only spend so much on players but can invest as much as you want in off ice staff. Based on that I am left scratching my head as to why both of those guys can't hold assistant coaching positions with the Oilers. If in the eyes of management they can both add something to the success of a the team then why not? You don't need all your coaches standing on the bench during the games.

  • RobinB

    Rick: With the Oilers yet to even make the promotion of Buchberger official, it follows we haven't been told what his duties will be? I can't see him having the same duties as Daum.

    As for both guys holding assistant positions, that's a valid point. All we know at this time is that won't be the case.

  • fyvmvv

    KLowe quickly dismissed a recent radio interviewer's questions about his decisions as only a 'vocal minority'. Other questions he didn't even answer. The point is these questions were not being asked in his first couple of seasons. So he is well aware that there is a rising tide of dissatisfaction with his reign. I predict it is going to get alot worse before it gets better if he doesn't start putting the team and the fans higher on his list of priorities. The unrest comes from nearly 8 years of a nearly perfect record of missed playoffs, blown draft picks and a corporate policy of hiring untrained and vertual neophytes in the coaching ranks etc. This kind of conduct and the lack of results and world class excuse-making is gradually starting to piss people off. The ham-handed treatment of players and deals like the Daum affair are symptoms of much bigger problems. Of course this all vanishes from our collective radars if the Oil win the division and go to the playoffs. We are that fickle. Be honest!
    I hope to hell that Katz and his group are not clones of the Vancouver owners who are seemingly a bunch of meddling dopes with deep pockets.

  • MrG

    What do think of getting Dean Clark into the Oilers system? I posed this question via an e-mail on Total Sports way back when we found out Craig Simpson was leaving the Oiler's coaching staff to go to CBC, and his question was who the Oiler's get to replace him? I didn't get a chance to hear if Bob commented on that or not. At that time I didn't know where or what Dean Clark was doing. I just recently heard how he was unfairly ousted in Kamloops by J. Iginla et al.. I thought he was a great coach back when he was coaching the St. Albert Saints, and thought for sure he would someday be in the NHL. Too bad to hear he's out of coaching right now at least. I hope he gets back in, but the way he was treated in Kamloops may have left a bitter taste in his mouth.

  • erixon

    I don't know if I am entirely thrilled with KB hird as assistant coach or not, but I have to hope that MacT realized he has to let the guys be creative out there. Robin, I have coached what I would consider fairly competitive hockey, and learned from some really good coaches, and one thing I have learned when guys get of a certain age, skill cannot be taught. The main things I think we have to look for in our coaching staff is if they can do the following:

    -Instill confidence in the players, probably one of the most important characteristics for success.
    -Coach good systems, and break down what style the opposition is playing, and adapt your team to it.
    -Find chemistry in your players, make sure there is good structure, mixed with creativity.
    -Relate to your team, inspire your players.

    I think a lot of people are mad because its another 3-4th line player on the bench, who may infact know a lot more about the systems and the way the game is played than someone who used to be a 30-goal scorer. A lot of these players have had to work and learn a lot more, because they could not rely on their skill to get them by. I'm not saying that KB is a brainiac or anything, for all I know he might like to draw plays with a crayon. I am just saying that I don't think it to be bad that a grinder-type player entering the organization as a coach is necessarily bad. Everyone seems to think that if this type of guy comes in, he will think exactly like MacT does. Skilled guys can flourish under anyone, as long as they are allowed some room to add their creativity. I think maybe MacT understands he has to allow this, and he passed a learning curve last year. Right no we have no news in Oiler Country, so we end up stretching the stuff we do have to talk about out, and it gets be like a 50 year old woman gossiping in a small town.

    That being said, the only thing that really worries be about KB is he rep. as a screamer, and not a teacher. As a good coach, this should be common knowledge that you have to relate with your players, and work with them to get better. Every player is different, and you have to learn and respect the way they learn and grow as players. You might even be able to get away with shouting a bit at the AHL level, but at the NHL where egos come into play, screaming gives you nothing but negativity amongst your team, and players become unhappy. I hope MacT is in control of his staff, and Kelly realizes he isn't running the show here, and is more of a supporting cast than a dictator. Having a good supporting coaching staff is very important, especially with all the oung players. If the head coach wants to harp on someone for not doing something right, there should be an assistant coach that can come over and say "hey, listen, to do this better, I'll go over it with you, and you'll be fine". I don't know if KB can be that guy, you probably know that better than I do.

    I guess all in all, its not that he is a grinder, or even a friend of the front office, its just the hard-nosed approach that I have a problem with.

  • RobinB

    Erixon: You make some good points. It's difficult to know what Kelly's role will be because he is very different than Daum and I can't see him just taking over what Daum did. Until we see how resposibilities are divided among the staff, we're just guessing.

    Like I said before, I think Kelly will be effective with certain players — I saw it with Brodziak in the AHL — and not so effective with others based on his approach. The same can be said of Daum or any other coach. No coach has the entire dressing room nodding in agreement at everything he says.

    My issue, again, is that Bucky has been fast-tracked without, it seems, time to develop as a coach. He might overcome that and be a real contributor here right away, but the prudent route in my mind would have been to let him coach in the AHL for the full two years of his contract, keep Daum for the upcoming season and then re-assess.

    That went out the window when promises of promotion were made before he'd even coached his first game in Springfield.