Veteran Coaches

The hiring of Wayne Fleming continues a trend that we’ve seen with Steve Tambellini: a preference for veterans in the coaching position.

The hiring of people like Pat Quinn and Tom Renney might seem like a no-brainer decision in retrospect, but the route Steve Tambellini has taken differs sharply from the route Kevin Lowe took as a rookie general manager. Let’s start by looking at the coaching staff Kevin Lowe assembled:

  • Head Coach: Craig MacTavish
  • Assistant Coaches: Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores

This group of three featured a pair of relative new-comers in MacTavish and Huddy, with Bill Moores being the sole veteran coach. Moores had spent two seasons as an assistant with the Rangers in the mid-90’s but he’d had a long career in coaching before that, coaching everything from the University of Alberta Golden Bears to the WHL to a team in Japan. Charlie Huddy also had a couple of seasons with the Rangers under his belt, and prior to that had spent a year coaching an ECHL team.

Craig MacTavish had the longest NHL run of the three, with three years as an assistant coach before being granted the top job. Combined, the group had seven years of NHL coaching experience, none of it in the top job.

Steve Tambellini has gone in precisely the opposite direction with his coaching staff:

  • Head Coach: Pat Quinn
  • Associate Coach: Tom Renney
  • Assistant Coaches: Kelly Buchberger, Wayne Fleming

Pat Quinn alone has 19 years of experience has an NHL head coach – and in those 19 years, his teams have missed the playoffs only twice. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals on two occasions, although he’s never won, and has twice been the NHL’s Coach of the Year. He has won Olympic gold though, as Canada’s head coach in Salt Lake City.

Tom Renney has been an NHL head coach for parts of seven seasons, prior to which he had a nice run with Hockey Canada. Before that, he coached a very good Kamloops Blazers team. Under his watch, the New York Rangers have made the playoffs each of the past four seasons. He’s worked with Team Canada at the World Championships on a number of occasions, and coached the team to a gold medal in 2004.

I wrote quite a bit about Wayne Fleming the other day; he’s coached extensively in Europe and more experience as an NHL assistant than all of Kevin Lowe’s initial hires put together. Like Renney and Quinn he’s worked a lot with Hockey Canada, and most notably served as Quinn’s associate coach on the 2002 team.

Kelly Buchberger’s the sole exception to both the extensive experience and Hockey Canada thread that ties the rest of the coach hirings together. His time with the Oilers has featured a fairly rapid strong of promotions – he started as an AHL assistant in 2004-05, became the Oilers’ development coach when they closed down their farm team for a couple of seasons, and came back as the AHL head coach in 2007-08. Rob Daum was unceremoniously dumped to make room for him on the Oilers’ staff in 2008-09, and he was the sole survivor of a purge that claimed the jobs of the head coach, his fellow assistants, the goalie coach and the video coach. I was initially cool to the idea of keeping Buchberger, but as I detailed at the end of June I think he may complement the new hirings nicely.

Combined, this group brings 36 years of NHL coaching experience to the table, and in Quinn and Renney the Oilers have added 26 years of head coaching experience. Whatever mistakes Steve Tambellini has made this off-season, I find it very difficult to criticize the men he’s brought in to run his team.

  • Hippy

    Lowe's coaching decisions may have seemed risky at the time, but if MacT wins Game 7, then Kevin Lowe looks like a frigging genius. Alas, Game 7 was not won. Still, MacT and co. were solid and worked well with what they had (up until last year imo).

    Experience isn't always the most important factor (see Bylsma, Dan), but I guess it's certainly the "safe" route to take.

  • Hippy

    The rebuild of the players on the team, might not
    have happened the way the Nation hoped this off
    season, but I agree, Tambo has done a great job,
    with the rebuild of the coaching staff.

    I am excited to see how our boys will respond.

    I should also include the re tooling of the farm club,
    as there has been some strong additions this summer.