After I talked to Ken Hitchcock the other day to confirm my suspicion that he’d have no interest in coming home to coach the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, it dawned on me I’d missed the most obvious question — what about the Edmonton Oilers?
I know, maybe you’re thinking that Brownlee fell down the stairs again and hit his head, or that I’m pining for a trip down memory lane to the 1980s when I rode the iron lung in the WHL with Hitchcock and the Kamloops Blazers.
The Oilers already have a coach and his name is Pat Quinn. They already have an associate coach in Tom Renney, who I’m guessing took the job here with the understanding he’d be first in line for Quinn’s job, should it come open. I’m not ignoring either obvious fact.
That said, the only reason I even asked Hitchcock about a job with the Oil Kings, a position he’s clearly over-qualified for, was the home hook, the full-circle thing. How appealing would it be for Hitchcock to come home to Edmonton to close out his career where it began?
I’m still thinking about it.
What are the odds?
Hitchcock, 58, has two years left on his contract with Columbus after being fired by the Blue Jackets this season. When I asked Hitch about any interest in the Oil Kings, he said: "I still have the burn to coach, but my heart’s still in the NHL right now. I feel like I’ve got five, six or seven good years left in me.
"I feel re-energized right now. I really just want to be ready for the next opportunity."
With 533 career wins, a winning percentage of .588 and a 1999 Stanley Cup ring with the Dallas Stars, Hitchcock is going to get that opportunity. The question I have is, might things play out so that opportunity unfolds here with the Oilers? I don’t know the answer — yet.
I also don’t know if Quinn will be back behind the bench next season. He has term left on his contract, but, at age 67, is Quinn really interested in being part of a rebuild? Did he have any inkling whatsoever he’d have the kind of season he just endured here?
Does Quinn, who is kicking back in California not far from where Hitchcock is laying low, really need, or want, the aggravation at this age and this stage in his career? I don’t know. I’ll be asking him.
And what of Renney? If Quinn opted not to return would Renney insist on running the show as the head man or would he be open to an associate set-up with Hitchcock if the Oilers pitched that to him?
Renney, 55, followed Hitchcock in Kamloops. He knows him well, not only from rubbing elbows at the Blazers annual summer golf tournament, but from Hockey Canada and off-season coaching clinics. Renney is no spring chicken as a coach, either, but if he was willing to share the gate with anybody at this point, it might be Hitchcock.
Likewise, Hitchcock has ties to Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe through international competition going way back. Do they see him as the kind of hard-nosed coach that would fit this team now?
If things unfold as they might and there’s an interest there, all somebody has to do is pick up the phone and ask Columbus GM Scott Howson for permission to talk to Hitchcock.
Of course, all this is nothing more than speculation on my part. A bunch of what-ifs? I’m just asking…
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.