Secrets at the top


For crying out loud, Brownlee, get off your fat ass and tell us who the candidates are to be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Give us something. Names. Times. Places. Anything, already.

I understand the sentiment because nothing drives me nuts like not being able to find out what I want to know. The only “news” I can offer is that the search for Craig MacTavish’s successor, and details about that search, is being conducted strictly at the top. Even middle management isn’t in on proceedings. I know, stop the presses. Thanks for nothing, Mr. Inside Guy.

I’m told the process is being handled strictly by president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and GM Steve Tambellini. Obviously, owner Daryl Katz is being kept abreast of developments, but beyond those three, nobody’s getting a sniff, including assistant GMs Kevin Prendergast and Rick Olczyk. The loop is Lowe, Tambellini and Katz.

Short of borrowing Wanye’s van and staking out Lowe’s place or rummaging through Tambellini’s garbage — old school investigative journalism techniques when bribes, blackmail and subtle cajoling doesn’t work — I’m not sure what or who to lean on next. It’s a case of limit the loop and stop any leaks.

If there’s been one significant shred of news — not speculation — in the past two weeks, I’ve missed it.

The name game

My understanding is Tambellini interviewed one candidate Monday before heading to pro scouting meetings in Banff Tuesday. My guess is it was San Jose assistant Todd Richards, but a guess is all it is because nobody outside the trio at the top even knows.

If it was Richards, he joins Marc Crawford, Tom Renney and Pat Quinn as people who’ve been interviewed. Rob Daum has also talked with Tambellini, but not specifically about the job opening.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie started sniffing around when a rumour that Crawford had been offered the job began circulating this week, but outside of finding out that’s not the case, even McKenzie came away with little else — at least that he’s willing to let us in on.

At this point, we don’t even have a firm list of candidates. Will Tambellini interview eight candidates, nine, 10? Then, who gets shortlisted? Will Tambellini have someone in place before the draft? I think so, but I don’t know so.

Big fat nothing

So locked down is the process that Joanne Ireland of The Journal and Derek Van Diest of The Sun took in an autograph session before the Capitals home-opener at Telus Field Thursday to squeeze Kyle Brodziak, Steve MacIntyre, Steve Staios and Zack Stortini, who were attending on behalf of the Oilers. They got nothing.

“I couldn’t even guess,” Brodziak said. “No one has heard anything.”

The only item of note comes from The Journal’s Jim Matheson, who says Richards might be out of the running because of the hire of Chuck Fletcher as the GM in Minnesota.

Matty writes: “With Chuck Fletcher, the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager, reportedly getting the job as Minnesota Wild GM, Richards could be joining him.

“Richards, an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, has been interviewed for the vacant Oilers’ bench boss post. He is closely associated with Fletcher.

“Fletcher, son of long time NHL executive Cliff Fletcher, hired Richards to coach the Penguins Wilkes-Barre American Hockey League farm team where he was hugely successful for a couple of seasons.”

I’m trying to track down Boston assistant coach Geoff Ward to see if or when he’ll get an interview, but no luck yet. Likewise, I’m trying to find out the status of Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger — specifically if any of them have been told they’re free to pursue employment elsewhere — but I haven’t heard one word back.

On the air

Rod Phillips tells me he hasn’t decided whether he’ll be back for his 37th season as the radio voice of the Oilers or if he’ll retire and hand the play-by-play duties over to Bob Stauffer.

I got a hold of The Skipper this week as he was hacking a golf ball all over the joint at Trickle Creek near Kimberley in B.C. as part of a road trip with Matheson and he says he won’t make a call until he sits down and talks to management next week.

Like Tambellini, Phillips isn’t giving anything up right now. He won’t even say which way he’s leaning. My guess is he’ll be back for one more season.

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

  • swany

    With what we had left on the ice this year Toe Blake could coach this bunch and not make a diff. Robin have there been anything floating around about player changes, to me that's more important than who the coach will be. Great players make great coaches, haven't you heard? All the speculation around Vinny, Jagr, Gaborik what's the scope, I don't think it will matter for Tamby who he hires he will make the player changes with or without a coach in place.

  • Chris

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Do you care to specualte about the cause and effect relationship between player personnel changes and how that alters the pecking order of the coaching candidates?
    For example: if Tambellini figures he can convince Jager to ditch the KHL and sign in Edmonton; would that give Renny an edge over the others? Do you get the sense that the length of this hiring process isn't just about waiting for all the potential candidates to become available for interview; Maybe they are waiting on some potential player/presonnel trades or aquisitions before making the final decision? Or is that just not how things are done?

    I know Tambellini has been keeping his cards close to his chest… but… Like Kingsblade said; Why all the secerecy? Does your gut say something big is afoot?

    Or should I just chill out and wait for the draft like everybody else?

  • BigE57

    @ Mark:
    I would think bringing Messier in would be pretty good sign that nothing is changing and the old boys club isn't interested in moving forward. I have all the respect in the world for the Moose but his coaching experience is virtually nil.

    Quinn on the other hand did a great job at the world juniors, and though I'm no Leafs fan he did keep them above water for a lot of years.

    I for one would be happy to see Quinn get a shot with the Oilers I think he has a good presence with both young players and veterans and regardless of what anyone says the man knows the game.

  • David S

    Mark wrote:

    did they not speak to Messier informally at the WHC this spring?

    Obviously he'd never be a head coach, but I could imagine him as a cracking assistant. Although I wonder if he'd ever accept an assistant's role, or a coaching job in the first place. Then there's the fact that even if he did accept the assistant job, he'd so badly overshadow the head coach that it probably wouldn't be workable anyways. Still, a shot of Messier's attitude is what this team sorely needs.

  • roger

    can someone bring me up to speed on why everyone hates marc crawford so much, all i read are negative comments but no facts to back them up, just curious thats all.

  • Ducey

    @ kingsblade:

    Well we appear to know who has been interviewed, what more do you want?

    You expect Tambellini to have a presser to say: "Yeah, I interviewed Quinn last week, I have not told him yet, but we were not impressed with the fact that he felt Tie Domi would be a good first line pickup or the fact that he dozed off after 15 minutes. We have not made any decisions but we thought we would just let you know how we are thinking" ?

    I expect that they would like to talk to Sutter and maybe someone who is tied up in the playoffs still.

    Once they announce who it is, they can have a presser and answer all the questions Robin might have.

    I think they are handling it quite professionally actually.

  • kingsblade

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Do they have anything to gain by all the secrecy? There must be some reason for it, but I'm having a hard time seeing any real advantage to be gained.

  • Mark

    Fiveandagame wrote:

    No news means Marc Crawford is STILL not the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. I for one take that as a positive.

    @ Fiveandagame:
    I'll second that

  • Mark

    did they not speak to Messier informally at the WHC this spring? I think the moose would be able to whip these guys into shape, draw in players interested in playing for him and give the Oilers a sorely needed shot of "winner mentality" in the dressing room.

    Crawford is too much of a pussy, Quinn is a dinosaur who's style of hockey should be relegated to 1990 and the rest of the list simply doesn't have the star power to draw in top talent (the biggest hurdle for Edmonton IMHO)

  • yo

    Four teams are still playing and were are not one of them. All we can do is wait for something, anything to break so we can talk about it. This is hell. When is the draft anyway?

  • jayoilfan

    I, for one, am just sitting back and taking it all in, not that there is much coming in at this point. I'll take it all in stride and heaven forebid I alter my lifestyle based on supposed rumours of what is happening to the Oilers.

    One thing I have promised myself to not do this summer is make bold prediction to friends etc and try and figure out goals and assists for individual players this up coming season and who will/willnot be on the team come September. I know we all do it to some extent but I have been severely let down (I, probably like many others, consistently overestimate our beloved Oilers). So this summer I'll take it easy and just read the blogs and relax.

    BTW, RB, loved your articles! thanks for the good reads this last year, keep it up.

  • Colin

    Rod's got a good voice at anyrate, sometimes his mishandling of the names bothers me "an uh…….the sharks player strips pisani of the puck and moves it up the ice" but he's pretty good for the most part.

    It be nice to see him for one final hurrah.

    And thanks for the update Robin, pretty much what we expected(no news), but its nice to know.

  • me

    I am pretty sure Matheson wrote a piece a few weeks ago that there was a 60-40 chance that Phillips would return.

    I believe they are good buddies so your hunch or information is probably correct.