Starting today with the announcement Todd Nelson will be named coach of the Oklahoma City Barons, we’re likely to know who fits where behind the bench with the Edmonton Oilers in the next 24 hours.
Multiple sources, notably Jim Matheson at the Edmonton Journal, are reporting Nelson will be unveiled as head coach of the AHL Barons at a news conference.
That means incumbent assistant Kelly Buchberger, rumoured to be a candidate for the AHL job Nelson will get, will remain on the Oilers coaching staff. The other member of Edmonton’s staff from last season, Wayne Fleming, is out. That’s been obvious for weeks.
What remains now is for GM Steve Tambellini to announce who will round out Tom Renney’s staff of assistants. That’s a formality I expect will be dispatched with by the weekend.
Nelson, 41, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Thrashers, takes over the Oilers top farm coaching job from Rob Daum, who was not re-hired this off-season after two seasons with the mess that was the Springfield Falcons.
Nelson’s head coaching resume consists of three seasons with the Muskegon Fury of the UHL, including league championships in 2004 and 2005. Nelson got the Oilers attention when he was short-listed for the head coaching job with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
I don’t see anything on Nelson’s resume that separates him from Daum in terms of accomplishments behind the bench, but that’s a story for another day. In an off-season of change after a 30th-place finish by the Oilers, sweeping changes should surprise no one.
I, for one, thought Buchberger and the organization might be best served by a return to the minors to hone his skills behind the bench, but I’m told Bucky balked at any suggestion of a ticket to the minors. Enter Nelson.
The question now: who will round out Renney’s staff with the Oilers? Don Hay of the Vancouver Giants, who coached with Renney with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, emerged in recent days as a front-runner for the job, but Giants owner Ron Toigo says he isn’t going anywhere.
Hay, an assistant under Ken Hitchcock with the Blazers back in the late 1980s when I was covering the team, was certainly a worthy candidate, but he’s got a sweet deal with the Giants.
With Hay out of the running, I’ll be putting in a call to former Oiler Mark Lamb, who was an assistant here in 2001-02 before spending six years in Dallas under Dave Tippett, to see if he’s been short-listed. Lamb is running the bench with the Swift Current Broncos these days.
I’ll be on the sniff for other candidates, but I’m guessing I won’t have long because, like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Renney’s staff is unveiled by the weekend.
UPDATE: SMITH NAMED AS ASSISTANT
Well, that didn”t take long — former Oilers defenceman Steve Smith has been named to Renney’s staff as an assistant coach. Here’s the release from the Oilers:
General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have appointed Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith as Assistant Coaches to Tom Renney and named Todd Nelson Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
Buchberger, 43, spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Oilers. Prior to that the former Oilers captain was Head Coach of the Springfield Falcons, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate where he guided the team to a 35-35-10 record. Under Buchberger’s guidance the Falcons showed a 21 point improvement over their record of 28-49-3 in 2006-07.
A veteran of 18 National Hockey League seasons, including 13 seasons with the Oilers, Buchberger began his coaching career in 2004-05, serving an Assistant Coach with the AHL’s Edmonton Road Runners. He held the position of Oilers’ Development Coach in 2006-07.
Smith, who spent the past two years as a scout with the Chicago Blackhawks, re-joins the team that drafted him back in 1981.
The 47-year-old Glasgow, Scotland native had a solid career in the NHL playing in 804 games recording 375 points (72G, 303A) and 2,139 penalty minutes. He won three Stanley Cups while with the Oilers and made it to the Finals twice more with the Blackhawks. In 134 post-season games Smith had 52 points (11G, 41A).
“Steve was an integral part of the Oilers on the blue line,” said Tambellini. “He will be playing an important role in developing our young defense group.”
Smith also served as an Assistant Coach with the Calgary Flames during the 1997-98 season but elected to return to the ice playing three more seasons with the Flames before retiring.
|Todd Nelson joins the Oilers organization after serving as Atlanta Thrashers assistant coach for two seasons. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)|
Nelson, who spent the previous two seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Atlanta Thrashers, is the Barons’ first Head Coach since becoming Edmonton’s AHL affiliate this summer.
“Todd has demonstrated a winning record and attitude throughout his professional career and we know that he will be a very valuable asset mentoring and developing our players in Oklahoma City,” said Tambellini. “He has a wealth of experience both as a player and a coach in the NHL and AHL, which will be an added benefit to our organization. We are extremely excited to have him as our coach.”
Prior to being with the Thrashers, Nelson was also an Assistant Coach with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL from 2006-2008. In his last season with the Wolves the team won the Calder Cup, had an impressive regular season record of 46-25-3-6 and broke or matched 30 franchise records.
Nelson, who hails from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, spent three seasons (2003-2006) as Head Coach of the Muskegon Fury of the UHL. In his first two seasons with the Fury the team was Colonial Cup Champions. Nelson is the all-time winningest coach in Fury club history with a 149-58-25 record.
Nelson was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 4th round, 79th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft following a solid junior career with the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL.
Gerry Fleming, who was an Assistant Coach with the Springfield Falcons the last two seasons, will continue the same role under Nelson’s leadership.
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