Kelly Buchberger: The Perfect Fit?

bucky
Photo by Håkan Dahlström. View his Flickr stream.

When the Oilers announced major changes to their coaching staff this summer, the only survivor was former captain Kelly Buchberger. Head coach Craig MacTavish, assistants Charlie Huddy and Bill Moores, and video coach Brian Ross all saw their employment terminated. Goaltending coach Pete Peeters was let go a few weeks later, and Springfield Head Coach Jeff Truitt was let go earlier in the year.

Assuming that at least of these guys knew their business (a reasonable assumption) why was Buchberger – with his comparatively short resume – preserved? Some would argue that his behind the scenes connections kept him in Edmonton, but I don’t think that’s it. After all, it’s probably a reasonable guess that guys like Huddy and Moores were fairly connected to, given their long tenure with the organization.

I think the real reason is both more interesting and more encouraging: merit.

This is a bit of an about-face for me; I was highly critical of the decision last summer to bump Rob Daum into limbo so that Buchberger could take his job (Daum took a job as a scout and is the new coach in Springfield). It felt like one more act of nepotism from a club that already placed too much importance on on-ice accomplishments from two decades ago.

Two things have helped persuade me that Buchberger may be a valuable asset to the coaching staff.

Springfield: Going From Bad to Worse

Kelly Buchberger’s record in Springfield was not, in my opinion, an asset; at least, not prior to this season. They recorded only 80 points, missed the playoffs, and were outscored 257-214. Jeff Truitt took over this season with a relatively similar roster, and the Falcons recorded 20 fewer points, and scored 26 fewer goals while allowing one more.

Jeff Truitt is no dummy. He has a very good record as a junior coach, a record that includes championship victories, and he was hired quickly in the off-season to boot, despite his record in Springfield.

Individual players responded to Buchberger’s methods in Springfield (despite his reputation as a bit of a taskmaster). Rob Schremp had the finest season of his career, and Liam Reddox went from being an ECHL bit player to getting NHL icetime. From this vantage point, it’s probably fair to say that Kelly Buchberger’s limited time as a head coach was successful.

Experience

It seems a little funny to cite experience as an asset when Buchberger has spent relatively little time doing it (he was first hired as an AHL assistant in 2004-05). But the fact of the matter is that there probably isn’t a single person in the organization with the same feel for every prospect and young player in the system than Kelly Buchberger.

Buchberger not only has that experience by virtue of his work as an assistant and later head coach with Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, but also because of what he did in between. He was in a bit of limbo himself in 2005-06; the Oilers AHL franchise dissolved, and it seemed like he bounced around the organization as sort of a jack-of-all-trades. In 2006-07, he became the team’s development coach, working with every prospect in the system – including those playing for amateur teams. Lastly, this past season he saw every Oilers player from the vantage of the video room and during practices.

Given that Pat Quinn’s been away from the NHL (and freely acknowledges he doesn’t have a read on his players yet) and Tom Renney has been coaching in the East, doesn’t it make sense to leave a guy on staff who knows every player in the system; their strengths weaknesses, and history with the team? Furthermore, doesn’t it make sense to leave a guy who has shown throughout his playing career that he doesn’t mind filling any role that’s expected of him – particularly given that both Quinn and Renney are coming in as former head coaches and will certainly be the two guys making decisions?

At this point, Kelly Buchberger is probably the perfect fit to round out the coaching staff.

  • Hippy

    Chris IQ&RWT wrote:

    @ Archaeologuy:
    So that’s it. I’m in the camp that thinks Quinn called Hemsky the Lone Ranger. And yes, I’m kind of amused by that assessment… Though, clearly Quinn doesn’t know jack about the Oilers… but hey, I guess we wanted a fresh perspective…

    Well maybe he started paying more attention to the Oiler players during the world championships in case he ended up here and since Hemsky played centre during that tourny he thinks he is a centre? Or maybe he just thinks he should be? Or maybe he really doesn't know jack about the team yet. I dunno. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

  • Hippy

    @ Chris:
    For all the complaints about Penner there is the simple fact that he generally outscores his opponents in 5 on 5 play. For whatever reason, he is not a defensive liability. Quinn or Renney might value this more than MacT did.

  • Hippy

    @ Chris:
    I like the Sedins. They outscore their opponents like crazy and they're both point per game players. They dont get the credit they deserve as a duo. The Oilers would be lucky to have 2 point a gamers on the top line + Hemsky. Those guys will be instant offense on whatever team lands them.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    For whatever reason, he is not a defensive liability. Quinn or Renney might value this more than MacT did.

    I don't think MacT undervalued Penner as much as disliked the fact he didn't play to what MacT thought was his potential. Every coach is stymied by the guy who he knows has alot more to give than he does. At some point, you give up because you've tried everything you can think of. Penner simply wasn't playing to the level MacT thought he should have been capable of more often than not.

  • Hippy

    @ David S:
    Oh i agree, he has more to give. But the whole team had more to give last season, not just Penner. MacT just wasnt the guy to be able to get it from the guys. His time passed a while ago but no one felt like admiting the milk went bad until Tambi took over.

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    @ Archaeologuy:
    I suspect any player who refuses to finish checks, and aggressively pursue the puck will suffer under Quinn.

    They won't suffer because they'll be gone. It seems to me both Quinn and Tambellini have been laying the foundation for what they expect every time they've spoken this summer. My guess is guys like Penner and Nilsson are working their butts off this summer. Nilsson especially because this is literally his last chance to be an NHL player.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    MacT just wasnt the guy to be able to get it from the guys. His time passed a while ago but no one felt like admiting the milk went bad until Tambi took over.

    You know, I'm not sure we could say that with any conviction being that we weren't in the dressing room and often what a fan sees on the ice isn't always what's going on. If the team remains basically intact this fall, then I imagine that was the case. If we have alot of roster changes, that might indicate the team wasn't as capable as we thought. Either way, there were alot of holes this last year. On top of which, after watching this last playoffs it was painfully apparent our team as a whole just wasn't very good compared to those guys.

  • Hippy

    Very disappointing the Oilers are not on the list of Heatly. What's the deal there? Come on Katz, fly him over and let me see the real Oilers these days.

    Tencer plucks his eyebrows? Sure looks that way from the T.V. pictures of him last night.

  • Hippy

    @ David S:
    8 years is too long for a coach that consistently misses the playoffs. Big changes almost every year but the same result all the time. If he was an effective coach for the first 3 years, he was inept the last 5.

  • Hippy

    Travis Dakin wrote:

    I’ve already ordered a number 15 Heatley jersey!

    Keep the receipt. According to Jim Mattheson, the Oilers are not in the running. As much as I like Heatley and think he would be a great addition, I am weary about a guy who demands a trade like this. Not sure how many believe in Karma out there, but how can we as a Nation villify the Human Rake for bugging out of town and then treat ol' Dany boy like the second coming for doing the same? Seems hypocritical to me and the hockey Gods may not like it…and they're the only Gods worth not making angry IMO.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    8 years is too long for a coach that consistently misses the playoffs. Big changes almost every year but the same result all the time. If he was an effective coach for the first 3 years, he was inept the last 5.

    06 was pretty good only because Lowe parachuted in the reinforcements. We've had crap lineups most of the time otherwise. Even Mike Babc0ck couldn't have done much with those squads.

    This year was different. A few things go the other way (Gagner stays healthy, Visnovsky avoids the check, Horcoff doesn't whiff, Brownlee does a voodoo dance in the locker room) and we're in the show. And we still didn't have that great a lineup (no matter what MacT said at the beginning of the year).

    More important, I wish we knew what the deal in the locker room was all about. Some nights watching these guys was like having a root canal with no freezing. The inconsistency was the thing that killed us the most.

    And the g*d d*mn PP. *shudder*

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    Some nights watching these guys was like having a root canal with no freezing

    True story, that happened to me when i was 10. It was like a scene out of Marathon Man.

  • Hippy

    @ Archaeologuy:

    Very hypothetical… don't want to start an argument… IMO Hemsky would not be a good fit on the right side with the Sisters during five on five play. Historically the duo has been most effective playing with a big physical power forward who can plant himself in front of the net or create havoc along the boards… Someone willing stand up for the Girls with his fists… Last season it was Burrows.

    I'd be afraid that a long term Sedin signing would spell the end of Hemsky's career as an Oiler… And I'd hate to see that happen.

  • Hippy

    Chaz wrote:

    Travis Dakin wrote:
    I’ve already ordered a number 15 Heatley jersey!
    Keep the receipt. According to Jim Mattheson, the Oilers are not in the running. As much as I like Heatley and think he would be a great addition, I am weary about a guy who demands a trade like this. Not sure how many believe in Karma out there, but how can we as a Nation villify the Human Rake for bugging out of town and then treat ol’ Dany boy like the second coming for doing the same? Seems hypocritical to me and the hockey Gods may not like it…and they’re the only Gods worth not making angry IMO.

    The Ducks won a Cup with the Rake after he went there. If that happened here with Heatley, I could live with being a bit hypocritical. As far as Karma goes, if we get an elite player to come here that demanded a trade from their old team, doesn't that net us out to zero, Karma-wise?

  • Hippy

    @ Chris.:
    I know i said i would never take him in a straight up trade for Hemsky, but what about Brown playing with the Sedins.

    LA has the cap room and the Sedins would instantly take the pressure off of Kopitar and Frolov. Sun, Beach, Blondes and Money. I cant think of too many other teams that can accomodate the Sedins.

  • Hippy

    @ The Menace:
    True that, if we won a cup Karma could take a flying leap for all I care. That being said, I think it's a pipe dream to think adding Heatley to our team would do that. Anaheim had a lot more pieces of the puzzle in place when CP was added than we have now (IE: A goalie).

    Also, one could argue that we already received good Karma when Pronger took us all the way to the finals and then suffered the bad when he dumped us for La-la land. I'm not an expert in Karma though…

    I guess my point is, character matters and Heatley doesn't seem to have much of it. There is no quick fix to the Oilers concerns and putting too much stock into one player may back fire. I think the old adage "Carefull what you wish for" is very relevant in this case.

    * Realizes he just sounded like a cheap immitation Mac T interview. Goes back to comparing the careers of Joe Sakic and Marty Reasoner…

  • Hippy

    Chris. wrote:

    @ Archaeologuy:
    Very hypothetical… don’t want to start an argument… IMO Hemsky would not be a good fit on the right side with the Sisters during five on five play. Historically the duo has been most effective playing with a big physical power forward who can plant himself in front of the net or create havoc along the boards… Someone willing stand up for the Girls with his fists… Last season it was Burrows.
    I’d be afraid that a long term Sedin signing would spell the end of Hemsky’s career as an Oiler… And I’d hate to see that happen.

    Like Penner?

  • Hippy

    Nice article, Mr. Willis. I agree with all of your points but I also think that KLo wanted to keep a bit of the link to the past teams on the staff as well.

    This is hardly surprising. Other teams do it as well: Montreal – Gainey; Colorado tried with Roy; Chicago – Tallon; Dallas – Hull/Neiundiek/Barnes; Boston – Neely, etc.

    It's hard to find a team that doesn't have a link to a past player or a friend of someone.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    I know i said i would never take him in a straight up trade for Hemsky, but what about Brown playing with the Sedins.

    Absolutely. Brown would be a perfect compliment to the Sisters… on paper anyway.

    RossCreek wrote:

    Like Penner?

    I suggested that on the other blogroll. Penner with the Sisters; Hemsky could then eat up on softer competition with Gagner; and Horcoff would center a solid shutdown line with Moreau, and Pisani… Not feasible under the cap though.