Deep thoughts VI: the do-over


It’s better that the Edmonton Oilers got it right late than never getting it right at all when it comes to putting Rob Daum back behind the bench where he belongs instead of schlepping around as a pro scout.

That’s what the Oilers did today when they announced Daum would be taking over from Jeff Truitt as coach of the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. It’s a step toward undoing a series of events that happened last summer, and should go in the books as the first substantial move made by new GM Steve Tambellini.

It’s a saga that began with the decision to promote Kelly Buchberger to the Oilers as one of Craig MacTavish’s assistants, while Daum was bumped off the staff after one year.

The story, as we’ve all been told, was Daum was inked to a one-year deal as an assistant coach and he knew going into the gig that was the case. When his contract ended, that opened the door for Buchberger.

I’m not sure that’s as much reality as spin. I’d suggest Buchberger wanting a promotion and his relationship with MacTavish is what prompted Daum to be told, “Thanks for coming.”

At the very least, Daum should’ve been made the head coach in Springfield at that point. The problem is, Truitt had already been promised he’d get the top job on the farm if Buchberger moved to the Oilers. Daum’s consolation prize was a position as a pro scout.

Bench boss

With Springfield dead-last in the entire AHL with a record of 16-27-7, there can be little debate Truitt was a failure and that Daum has his work cut out for him. While the Falcons aren’t brimming with talent, Truitt had enough to work with for the team to be better.

It says here Daum, who spent two years with the Houston Aeros and compiled a record of 77-67-16 after a decade as bench boss of the Alberta Golden Bears, where he compiled a 345-79-32 record and won three CIS University Cups, has the coaching chops to turn things around.

Whether Daum’s credentials meant anything at the NHL level in terms of keeping him ahead of Buchberger were a matter of great debate here and elsewhere last summer, I’m guessing there’s not much question in the mind of Tambellini that Daum will do a good job.

It’s also worth mentioning president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, GM at the time Buchberger was promoted, is a staunch backer of Daum, having gained an appreciation for his knowledge of the game over the course of this season as they’ve worked together.

What’s interesting about how this unfolded in the last several days is that Daum was actually sent to Springfield to assess the situation — in essence, to report to Tambellini on what he saw. That had to be difficult as Daum and Truitt are friends.

In any case, Daum is behind the bench where he belongs. As far as the possibility of him showing up back on the Oilers coaching staff at some point, let me spare you much guesswork and speculation. The longer Daum coaches in the system and the closer Tambellini, the only fresh set of eyes in the organization, watches him work, the better the chances are he’ll end up on the Oilers coaching staff.

Fact is, Daum should never have been removed.

Let’s play patty-cake

Those braying that fighting in hockey should be banned must be applauding the latest report that backs their stance, one that’ll turn the game of hockey into patty-cake if the do-gooders have their way.

From the Canadian Press: “A London anti-violence expert is applauding recommendations from a panel on concussions that call for the elimination of fighting from all levels of hockey.

Peter Jaffe said the report could be the tipping point that changes the culture of the game.

“It makes a lot of sense. It is hard to argue with physicians when they talk about the short and long-term dangers of getting punched in the head,” Jaffe said. “I think there are enough parents, enough fans and enough coaches who are concerned about the impact.”

Reporters, as you’d expect, were at the Oilers skate today at Millennium Place looking for reaction. Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre got scrummed. Words cannot describe the look on Stortini’s face after the mob had moved on.

Getting punched in the head carries a risk? Really? Here’s a news bulletin — so does getting checked in the boards, dodging frozen rubber pucks and playing a game where people have sticks in their hands and blades on their feet. Let’s get rid of all that, too, shall we?

This and that…

MacIntryre got several grenades tossed his way in the form of questions about facing Georges Laraque when the Montreal Canadiens come calling tomorrow.

Reporters, as you’d expect, were looking for a scintillating sound byte or an inflammatory quote, but MacIntyre played it straight and spoke his mind without saying anything stupid.

“Absolutely,” said MacIntyre, asked if he’s looking forward to facing Laraque and the Canadiens. “We’ve got to win the game, first and foremost, whether I’m playing or not playing.

“I can’t go in thinking of that (fighting Laraque) necessarily. If it happens, it happens. I just have to react and do the best I can.”

  • This isn’t Laraque’s first trip back to Edmonton, of course. In previous times back he’s done nothing in terms of bully-boy stuff against his old team that could spark a showdown. In simple terms, Laraque’s been classy, even though he might have been tempted to make a point with MacTavish in games he played here before they talked things out — when the Oilers were trying to re-sign Laraque last summer before he took Montreal’s offer.
  • So, will Laraque and MacIntyre go? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe they have a date already. Would it surprise you if I told you Laraque and MacIntyre exchange text messages?
  • Lubomir Visnovsky out for the season because he’ll need surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum? Aside from weakening the blueline corps, that puts a big kink in any plans Tambellini has between now and the trade deadline March 4. If there’s any place the Oilers have — make that had — depth was on the back end in terms of offensive defencemen. With Sheldon Souray, Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov, Tambellini had bargaining chips. Now, not so much.
  • Fernando Pisani skated with the team today and will accompany them on the next road trip. Expect him back in the line-up before the Oilers return from their four-game swing.

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