The Oilers Next Head Coach: Names Being Floated

Todd Richards

I’ve discussed the list of possibilities before, and I’ve repeatedly stated that I think the Oilers next head coach will be one of four people: New Jersey head coach Brent Sutter (in the unlikely event that he’s available), Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel, Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, or Montreal assistant coach Don Lever. Still, that’s just my list, and I’ve certainly overlooked at least one name (more on that below). Let’s take a look at which names the print media is dropping.

Robert Tychowski doesn’t go so far as to list who he thinks will get the job, but based on Tambellini’s press conference he has some ideas:

The list of coaches out there who like tough, offensive-minded teams is long, from Bob Hartley to Pat Quinn to Marc Crawford, but Tambellini says he’s in no rush to name MacTavish’s successor.

Two of the candidates from that list make it over to the one that Jim Matheson offered up today. He tossed out a few additional names as well:

Perhaps New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter, or San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards.
Or Scott Arniel, the AHL coach of the year (Manitoba Moose).

After offering those names, though, Matheson turned back to the two candidates who have the most history with Steve Tambellini: Crawford and Quinn. Quinn’s comments are quite extensive, but Matheson mentions that Quinn may be a candidate for the G.M. job in Minnesota; if he is being seriously considered I doubt he’d jump at the Edmonton job (and for the record, I think the Wild could do much worse than Quinn in that position).

Crawford’s comments are much less equivocal:

“I’m interested in the job,” said Crawford, who saw the Oilers an awful lot this season doing colour commentary on late Hockey Night in Canada games. “But I’m not the only guy who knows Steve Tambellini. I’m sure he’ll take a strong look at a lot of candidates. Hopefully I get a chance to get in and let him know how I feel.
“It’s going to be a job that a lot of people covet. I don’t have pre- conceived notions. I know the people there will put two and two together. I know Steve will be very thorough,” said Crawford.

Matheson mentioned Todd Richards, a man whose name also appears in Dan Barnes excellent column today:

We wait for Tambellini to build a list of coaching candidates, whittle it down and choose a successor. I think he will be youngish, from outside the Oilers’ organization, he will favour aggressiveness and offence over defence, have particular acumen for plotting a potent power play and he will have professional head coaching experience though not necessarily at the NHL level. I think San Jose assistant coach Todd Richards will be just such a candidate in due course.

Richards was on my long list the other day; he failed to make the short list simply because he’s only had one season of NHL experience and two seasons as a head coach in the AHL so I thought he might not be seasoned enough to get serious consideration for an NHL job. Still, what he’s done in a short time is impressive, and also working in his favour is the fact that the Oilers organization has some familiarity with him; he was the coach of Wilkes-Barre Scranton in 2006-07, meaning that he had many current Oilers playing for him, including Gilbert, Brodziak, Nilsson and others. By all accounts he was an extremely professional AHL coach, and it may very well be that he’s on the Oilers’ short list.

Finally, Sun Media’s Ken Wiebe focused on Scott Arniel:

While most pundits assume that means either Pat Quinn (who gave Tambellini his first job with the Vancouver Canucks) or Marc Crawford (a former Stanley Cup winner who also coached the Canucks) would be the likely successor, don’t rule out Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel to at least get an interview and possibly be a dark-horse candidate.

Arniel quite properly refused to discuss the possibility with Wiebe, as he’s still coaching the Manitoba Moose in the AHL playoffs, but his contract does expire at the end of this season, and he has expressed a desire to coach at the NHL level before. His players (unsurprisingly) sang his praises, with Jason Krog being the most effusive:

“There’s a lot of great things that he does. He’s great at preparing us, he’s good at adjusting and he’s good at recognizing guys strengths and weaknesses. And he’s a good motivator. He knows when to get on us and when to take it easy on us. All around, he’s pretty solid and he’s finally getting the recognition that he deserves.”

As good as some of the available ex-NHL coaches are (aside from the three mentioned above, Jacques Lemaire and Tom Renney come to mind), I think that Dan Barnes’ take on the profile of the successful candidate is probably accurate: a young coach who favours an up-tempo style and can coach special teams, who will have experience in the NHL and as a head coach, but quite probably not as an NHL head coach.

  • Hippy

    Mother Pucker Hockey wrote:

    Sandra wrote:
    I hope it’s not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn’t know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don’t need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country.
    I agree that Crawford is the last one that I’d want here. Think that squeaky voiced sonic the hedgehog look alike will be able to deal with the kids? Come on…

    What? You mean 83's name isnt Alex?

  • Hippy

    As I mentioned at Lowetide,
    this line from Barnes' column:

    "I think he will be youngish, from outside the Oilers’ organization, he will favour aggressiveness and offence over defence…."

    Made me think of Kevin Dineen
    A guy who's scoring peaked at 40 goals in a season, and had over 2200 minutes in penalties in his career.

    One good thing about Lever or Dineen
    is that we wouldn't have to listen to, or read,
    the line about the defensive specialist who can't coach offensive talent anymore.

  • Hippy

    Jon: I mentioned this in the comments section of DeepThoughts VIIII and I'll repeat it here. Don't overlook Boston assistant Geoff Ward. He has history with the Oilers and is very highly thought of in the organization.

    As this unfolds I'd be surprised if he isn't on the short list with Todd Richards.

  • Hippy

    Sandra wrote:

    I hope it’s not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn’t know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don’t need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country.

    I agree that Crawford is the last one that I'd want here. Think that squeaky voiced sonic the hedgehog look alike will be able to deal with the kids? Come on…

  • Hippy

    I hope it's not Crawford, He makes me sick they way he didn't know any Oilers players while working for CBC. We don't need a Bertuzzi incident here in Oil Country.

  • Hippy

    FROM TSN’s BOB MacKENZIE VIA TEAM 1260’s MORE ON SPORTS:
    Here’s 2 names to throw in the hat for the Oilers head coaching job that haven’t been mentioned a lot:

    RYAN McGILL
    Local product has worked his way up through the coaching ranks since his playing career ended. After serving as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Ice for a season and a half, McGill spent the next 4 1/2 seasons as the head coach with the Ice organization after moving to Kootenay. McGill’s assistant there was Cory Clouston who is now coaching in Ottawa. Many thought McGill would get a shot before Clouston, so his time may be coming sooner than later. McGill also served as the head coach for the Rangers affiliate in Hartford for 3 seasons and is currently in his 3rd season as head coach with the Flames affiliate. Probably a long shot, but a name to keep an eye on nontheless.

    BRENT PETERSEN
    I brought up Petersen’s name yesterday for the Minnesota gig and this morning, MacKenzie said he may receive real consideration for the Oilers because when Tambellini was still in Vancouver and they were conducting their last head coaching search (that Alain Vigneault won), Petersen was a finalist right down to the wire. Apparently Tambellini thinks highly of him, and his name has popped up a few times over the past few years with other openings.