Pat Quinn revisited: the wrong guy?

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks

If Steve Tambellini is as serious about doing a proper rebuild of the Edmonton Oilers as he says, then the GM had better be taking a long look at his coaching staff, including old friend Pat Quinn.

Having written I believed Quinn was the right man for the job when he was hired in tandem with associate coach Tom Renney last summer, I’ve got some significant misgivings whether that’s true after a conversation I had with a veteran member of the Oilers today.

— I’m told Quinn likely didn’t get as much out of his veterans as he could, that he didn’t communicate well with them. I’m told he didn’t do much to embrace the veterans, to build trust and let them know they’d be his go-to guys on a team trying to put three straight years out of the playoffs behind them. It’s now four years, of course.

That criticism is particularly unnerving because much of Quinn’s distinguished NHL resume has been built on his ability and willingness to lean on his veterans, to get the most out of them.

— I’m told that Quinn and Renney weren’t always on the same page in terms of game preparation — what strategy should be employed against a particular opponent. Apparently, Quinn sometimes overruled Renney, scrapping strategies that had been drawn up.

— I’m told there was confusion and disagreement about roles players were expected to play — for me, that started right out of the blocks when Sam Gagner opened the season on the fourth line. Apparently, it didn’t end there.

Houston, we have a problem

Lack of communication? Failure to connect with the veterans on the team? The head coach and his associate at odds? Players cast in the wrong roles? And 30th place. Any of that sound like a problem to you?

I’ve got no reason to question what the player I talked to today told me. This isn’t somebody with an axe to grind. This isn’t a malcontent prone to whining or somebody just pissed off about missing the playoffs for four straight seasons. This was a player offering an honest assessment.

Jason Gregor hinted at a "disconnect" between Quinn and some of his players in a brief item a week or so ago. I remember questioning Gregor about it because, to be honest, I hadn’t heard anything firm that there might be an issue. Today, I’m certain there is.

Was Tambellini made aware of any of the issues related to me today by players during exit interviews? Did Tambellini come to any of the same conclusions on his own after watching Quinn for a full season behind the bench?

I don’t know the answer to that, but it sure didn’t sound like it on the weekend. Tambellini gave Quinn a vote of confidence in a interview with Jim Matheson of The Journal.

Quinn is Tambellini’s guy

In last Sunday’s Hockey World, Matheson wrote:

"Unless Edmonton Oilers coach Pat Quinn tells GM Steve Tambellini that he doesn’t want to return as Oilers coach in a couple of weeks when they sit down to discuss the past season, Quinn has certainly got the job for Year 2 of his three-year deal.

"Pat’s our coach. Yes, I want Pat back. I just wanted to give Pat some time to think where he’s at and what lays ahead for us to get better, then go talk to him. To talk to coaches two days after the season, that’s not the time," said Tambellini.

"Quinn was often exasperated by the Oilers’ play (too small, not competing hard enough) for the first several months of the season, but backed off in the latter going, knowing his team was hurt and clearly not good enough. There has been some online conjecture that the Oilers might want to go younger if they are into a major rebuild next season, but Quinn is Tambellini’s guy."

Of course Quinn is Tambellini’s guy. Quinn gave Tambellini his first sniff at a hockey operations job while running the show with the Vancouver Canucks. But should Quinn be Tambellini’s "guy," the man with the keys to a rebuilding Oilers team, moving forward?

What now?

So, yes, Tambellini wants Quinn back. Hmm. That answer leads me to believe there’s three possible scenarios.

First, Tambellini wasn’t telling Matheson the truth. He’s aware of the concerns regarding Quinn’s handling of the team but he isn’t about to embarrass his old friend. Tambellini is putting his best foot forward while looking for a way to extract Quinn from behind the bench gracefully.

Second, Tambellini has been made aware of the concerns but hasn’t been swayed by them enough to consider making a change behind the bench. With the team in transition, those players not happy with Quinn might be a minority that can be moved in the normal course of rebuilding the roster leading into training camp next season.

Third, Tambellini has no idea of the concerns related to me. He hasn’t heard them from any of the players. He hasn’t seen them with his own eyes. There is no issue and Quinn is the guy Tambellini wants running the bench for the coming season.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • JohnQPublic

    Well, it’s not hard, reading between the lines, to see who was whining into Brownlee’s ear.

    I’m personally sick and tired of listening to these underachieving, overpaid losers who feel they’re entitled to everything. It can’t be the coaches year after year. Someone needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize, “it’s not them, it’s me”.

    It’s really time for a culture change—hopefully they begin with that sad excuse for a captain.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Ethan Moreau didn’t change, why pull the daggar out on him? The only thing different with Ethan is when the Oilers gave him the C..the fans expectations suddenly changed.

      I very much admired what Ethan said about his possible departure at the deadline last season, he said something to the fact that he cares much for this organization that has treated him so well for many years and would never say anything to tarnish the Oilers in any fashion. He showed a tremendous amount of class in the face of an imminent trade possibility such as this…’s unfortunate that Souray chose not take the same high road.

  • Skidplate

    Was hoping to 🙂

    I do not like blaming the coach. It happens too often in this league. We have players making huge amounts of money playing a game for a living. Sure it’s “hard to get up for every game” (something a player can think but should not say), but it is them that are on the ice dictating what happens, not the coach.

    Can a coach influence what happens, yes, through practice, preparation and communication.

    I would like to give the mighty Quinn at least one more year with the removal of several of the veterans and see what happens. I think with our #1 goalie re-khabbed, our #1 offensive player healthy (fingers crossed), and a solid stay at home d-man we will be close to or potentially making the playoffs.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Robin

    I never said it was Moreau, I said getting rid of him would be a good start. In my opinion, he’s been one of the worst captains in the history of the franchise.

    @quicksilver ballet

    I don’t know what interview you’re referring to, but in the interviews I read and listened to, he came off as a spoiled jerk who felt he was entitled to more. Nothing made me smile more when no one wanted him at the deadline. He thought there were teams out there who would want him—sorry,no one likes overpaid and underachieving players who constantly throw teammates under the bus. I used to have a ton of respect for Ethan, but ever since the C was sewn on that jersey, he’s a shell of the player and character in the room he used to be.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Quinn will NEVER get fired by Tambo, he is as much Tambo’s guy as MacTavish was Lowe’s guy. Quinn will either step down because it is too much of a rebuild for him to bother with in his old age or he will come back because he’s an old school guy who’s been embarrassed and wants to prove everyone wrong.

    I can also see where the veterans are coming from. Guys like Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani, Moreau, and Stios have spent so much time under MacTavish’s systems. They also were leaned on heavily (rightly or wrongly) then it was the complete opposite when Quinn took over. No respect or defined rolls can be partly attributed to all of them having such poor years. Horcoff is an effective, hardworking player (please don’t bring up his contract) that was left out to hang himself most of the season as far as I saw. He will prove a lot of people wrong if he can be given some definition and structure to his game by the coaching staff.

    The only way I see this staff working out is if Quinn leaves the systems and team play to Renney and takes care of one on one coaching and player motivation.

  • In my opinion this has a somewhat Horcoff tone to it.

    But maybe whoever this masked man is could be right. Quinn is in a generation of his own and probably has great-great grandchildren the same age as Gagner. If there is a possible disconnect between the players and Quinn I think it’s about time that the leadership core of this group speaks to him behind closed doors and they can figure it out that way.

    I’m not a big fan of the players speaking out about the coaches to the public even if they are anonymous and this has “I’m another spoiled pro” written all over it.

    The long and the short of it is the players need to man up and say what they need to face to face with Quinn and Tambellini and not spew it to the public. (Not that I don’t mind hearing some juicy gossip though)

    • Bang on.
      If players aren’t willing to be honest about their concerns with management then they aren’t taking the most direct route to change.

      That said, I don’t put this off to being a spoiled pro or to somebody having an axe to grind. That’s not the case here.

  • Skidplate

    I forgot to ask you Robin, you asked:

    “Was Tambellini made aware of any of the issues related to me today by players during exit interviews?”

    You say you don’t know the answer to that question—you didn’t ask the player if they relayed their concerns to management? Wouldn’t that be one of the first things a journalist/reporter/blogger would ask?

    Just wondering…

  • Skidplate

    Nothing new here, that disconnects been in the dressing room since well before the end of the MacT era, rooted deeply into the Moreau/Staios leadership core. Seems like it’s finally in the process of being fixed, so I can’t complain. It’s time to let the kids play and see who emerges as the true leader on the ice.

    It’s gotta be Horcoff… he doesn’t have an axe to grind because he has a juicy contract?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    You know, Robin, I usually agree with you, but on this one, I differ. I want to see Quinn back next year. I do believe that there has been a lack of leadership on this team, well there’s been leadership built on the drive-for-eighth-place type of mentality. I just don’t believe there has been enough accountability in the dressing room for a long time. I can’t help but wonder if Quinn didn’t give some of the leaders on this team a dose or reality that they didn’t like hearing…considering how easy life has been when finishing in 8th place has been considered acceptable for years and years.

    It’s just a theory but I really do think that Quinn might be exactly the guy we need to upset the apple-cart here in a city where we have let our leaders off the hook for much too long. I don’t know exactly what Quinn is like in the dressing room, etc., but I have hoped for someone to end that cycle. Perhaps someone else would be better, but I don’t know someone who shoots straighter than the mighty Quinn. From where I sit I like him as our coach.

    • I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I haven’t said Quinn shouldn’t be back, and I wouldn’t come to that conclusion based on a conversation with one player, no matter how believable he is.

      What I was told, however, does cause me to wonder if Quinn is the right guy, and that’s something I wasn’t doing when he was hired.

      Even if you write off some of what I was told as a veteran whining — the older guys have hardly been stellar the past few seasons and shouldn’t complain too much — the stuff about Quinn and Renney not being on the same page is a concern.

      • Vaclav

        Quinn and Renney not being on the same page is a huge concern. How does the team convince it’s players to buy into a system if those players are getting mixed messages from the coaching staff?

        I feel for you, Robin, having to give up cars for family. The birth of our daughter necessitated the purchase of a “family truckster” which happened from the proceeds of my ’65 conv Vette 396. But my daughter’s the greatest thing that’s happened to me so an easy decision to make.

        • No need to feel for me. The Gator is the family hauler. My wife drives the the Grand Cherokee, which has the whiz-bang Mercedes Blue Tec diesel in it and we have the GT for cruising around.

          When I get more time and space, to borrow a hockey term, I’ll be back wrenching on cars again. My son Sam isn’t even four yet, but he’s got the bug. He’ll have been to Barrett Jackson before he turns five, guaranteed.

  • Interesting stuff Robin. I still don’t see why a player would bother to be annonymous in this. It just smells funny to me.

    If a guy wants things changed, talk to the team. These are grown men and they have opinions, especially in a re-build. Business is business. Talk to Quinn and Tambi and air it out.

    Maybe that’s been done. As you mentioned, this was a conversation and not an interview per se. So perhaps the player in question has done this already.

    All in all I see this as a tempest in a tea pot. New coach, four years out of the play offs and an uncertain future for many at all levels of the organization as to how they fit into the re-build.

    I’m just chalking this up to what we all know to be true. Some players are likely unhappy with the coaching change and re-build and others are likely, quietly, very happy about it. This is change and sometimes it’s not always neat and clean.

    I think it’s clear that Quinn was brought in to sort out the mess and that’s going to rub some the wrong way depending on what they were used to under the old coach. So be it.

    Chane is a comin’.