If two heads really are better than one, why does Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini have to settle on a single candidate to replace Craig MacTavish behind the bench?

The short answer is, he doesn’t. While most fans and interested onlookers have been satisfied with the assumption Tambellini will hire a head coach, who will in turn appoint his own assistant coaches, I suspect Tambellini is considering going a different route. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Tambellini hire a head coach and an associate coach in tandem, then fill out the bench roster by adding an assistant or two.

Why not Pat Quinn as head coach and Tom Renney as his associate? Both have long resumes as NHL head coaches. Both have history with Tambellini. Both have been interviewed by Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe.

While Tambellini and Lowe could certainly pick one or the other — I’d give Quinn the nod if I had to choose one — there’s nothing preventing a package approach that would see Quinn and Renney run the show together.

Why not?


The concept of using a head coach-associate coach set-up isn’t exactly new. Eight of the NHL’s 30 teams went that route this season — Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Dallas, Montreal, Nashville, Phoenix and Vancouver. The difference between an associate and an assistant coach is more than terminology.

Generally, an associate is more experienced and has more input into decisions. Mike Keenan had Jim Playfair in that role in Calgary. Alain Vigneault had Rick Bowness in Vancouver. Quinn, who has a regular season career coaching record of 657-481-154-26 (.567) and has won the Jack Adams Award twice, is certainly on Tambellini’s short list of candidates.

Quinn has interviewed for the GM’s job in Minnesota, but beat writer Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune doesn’t see him being on the short list in Minny, and big Mike always has the dope. Renney, working as a TV analyst after taking the pipe from the New York Rangers, boasts a career mark of 203-170-9-46 (.539) and stands to be on the short list. So, likely, is Marc Crawford, who has the personality of a shit sandwich but does have a Cup ring and an Jack Adams on his resume.



There are several other names who could fill the associate’s role in a two-man set-up, but I’m not sure about the language in the contracts they have with their current teams. Teams have out-clauses in their contracts that allow coaches to take a job with another team if it’s a step up, usually to a head coaching position, but I don’t know if moving from an assistant’s job to associate spot is considered the same thing.

Brent Peterson has history with Tambellini, but he’s an associate to Barry Trotz in Nashville. I can’t see the Predators letting him make a lateral move. Boston assistant Geoff Ward is highly thought of by the Oilers after several seasons in the organization. Would the San Jose Sharks allow Todd Richards to take an associate’s gig here?

Would Mark Messier, who joined Tambellini and Lowe in Europe at the World Championships, take a job in Edmonton as an associate or is he destined to go the management route? And, would plugging Messier into that role with no experience be a good idea? I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that you can’t have too many good hockey minds in an organization. Detroit has proven it for many years by adding sharp people to middle-management positions, and in my mind the same approach can hold true with a coaching staff.

From where I sit, it makes sense.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ surshot:
    @ Archaeologuy:
    Men: how did we go from a hockey discussion about the Oilers coaching situation to rimjobs and pajamas?
    And, really, given the cliches about bloggers, do we want to talk about ON pajamas? Will ON be offering a limited WIC (write-in-comfort) series featuring the finest flannel with JW or WG embroidered on the cuff?

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    you make it, we'll buy it. And I wrote that at 12:30, it was bed time. You guys are missing out on some nerdly impulse buys over there. I'm assuming that Wanye has been working his loom for about 8 hours by now and should have the first batch ready to ship by Friday.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Archaeologuy:
    Most nerds don't buy on impulse. Everything is carefully calculated.
    Still, it's worth a shot. While we're at it, I'm sure Wanye sees the value in trying to squeeze some money out of the deal. ON should try to get some sponsorship happening — Tim Horton's, Doritos, E-Harmony, that kind of thing.

    As this is the first day of a $60,000 renovation on my estate — really — let me get things started with a mention of BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert. If you want quality work at a reasonable rate, call BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert. Remember, that's BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert. They'll build you a dark, little room, including a beverage fridge, snack storage and pajama locker, custom-fit to your needs. Call them today. That's BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert.
    There, that'll knock about 5K off the estimate.

  • Archaeologuy

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    Most nerds don’t buy on impulse. Everything is carefully calculated.

    hmmm, it seems you've done your homework on the nerd community. Though i think you're pushing it with E-Harmony. Dating?! That sounds like it might lead to actual human contact. Until Beautiful Basements revamps their respective caves I dont think too many Nerdites will be ready to have company over.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Archaeologuy:
    Yes, first nerds must call BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert. BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert can tackle any remodel or development. That's BEAUTIFUL BASEMENTS of St. Albert.
    Once the work is done, those E-Harmony girls will be lining up to share a jug of Coke and play Twister after a little dirty chatroom talk.

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    I think we just wrote the next commercial for Beautiful Basements. Seriously, this has been more entertaining than half the crap that passes for Canadian TV. The only thing more entertaining than this will be the Media Room that Beautiful Basements will build for you at a reasonable price…and perhaps the E-Harmony dirty chatroom talk that will come AFTER you call Beautiful Basements.

  • Dennis

    There are a couple of good hockey writers in Edmonton but doesn't it bother anyone else that Lowe's made so many bad moves but no one seems to be allowed to, have the sack to and/or are oblivious to it?

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Dennis:
    Lowe also had some great moves that almost resulted in a Stanley Cup. The last few years were filled with more bad moves than good ones and now he's been taken out of the position to make those decisions (they tell us). I dont think that it's in the best interest of the writers themselves to trash one of the guys in charge of the club though. Especially when the Oilers have been slowly but surely trying to be their own media outlet.

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Dennis:
    with the state of newspapers these days, the teams have the media by the tenders. The next 3-4 years might see a radical change in how much access and critical assessment MSM will have, especially in a market that isnt used to a sharp tongued media.