(Updated) Coaching carousel: Bucky stays, Nelson buys the farm and Smith comes back …

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 5: Assistant coach Kelly Buchberger, Shawn Horcoff #10, Robert Nilsson #12 and Andrew Cogliano #12 of the Edmonton Oilers rest on the bench against the Minnesota Wild on March 5, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

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.


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.

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

  • The Oilers have just announced that Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger have been named as coaches (no joke, unless a friend is pranking me.. which wouldn’t be the first time :P):

    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.

    edit: a bit slow on that news report, sorry ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • MikeH

    @Rusty Duggan

    I don’t think @Vader is an idiot. He’s got a right to his opinion just like anyone else whether or not I agree with him.

    Steve Smith?? Please tell me it’s not the same Steve Smith that scored on our own net in Game 7? I can just see it now, everyone one of our defenceman will be kicking their heels on boards to knock the snow off their skates before every corner face-off (at the time I had row 2 season tickets in Oilers end and it drove me nuts).

  • Steve Smith was a VERY good defensive defencemanโ€ฆ who will unfortunately be eternally remembered for that gaffe. But I am glad to see him back. I think he could teach our d-men a lot (and no, not just to score (on their own net) like a friend of mine joked. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Aside from that one very costly goof up, he was a pretty reliable d-man. I don’t like the “old boys club” mentality of hiring, but they like to go with the devil they know. And well, Smith is actually a good choice in that sense.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      My issue is the guy has very little experience. Sure you have to start somewhere, but there is how many coaching openings with the Oilers organization? Including the Oil Kings? And we go with a guy that has very little expereince as an assistant in the NHL?

      Maybe Renney went with a raw guy so that he has more control?

      • And that I have absolutely no problem with (you saying that your issue is because he has very little experience). That’s a very valid argument, and I can easily agree with that too. I just know people are going to go “oh my god, isn’t that the guy that scored that own goal…” and pre-judge him. It would have been nice to see him start from the bottom up, you’re right. They also dragged their butts too much and were left with slim pickings in the end, it seems.

    • BarryS

      So you know personally all possible candidates? Like everyoine else, you know only what media and bloggers tell you, and what are their creds for such determinations? If they had any they would be doing the hiring not the opinionating.

    • Are you looking for “sizzle” as in a high profile for an assistant coach or are you looking at Smith’s resume?

      I’m not saying Smith is the best candidate out there, but I don’t think any of the garbage — Steve Smith, the guy who scored on Grant Fuhr? — matters either.

      I covered the beat when Smith was here as a player and when he was in Calgary as an assistant coach, but I can’t say I have a strong opinion off the top of my head about his credentials to be an assistant.

      I never once heard his name as a candidate.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I don’t care about sizzle, we had sizzle last year with our head coach and it did nothing. I could really careless about the own goal too.

        I look at his credentials and nothing is there to say he is anywhere near the top guy for this job. Maybe a scout, but not a coach.

        • Fair enough, but looking at his credentials has to go beyond X number of years with X team. Anybody can get that from a database or news release.

          I’m trying to recall conversations I had with anybody about Smith’s effectiveness, or lack of same, as an assistant with Calgary and I can’t remember anything — good or bad — of note.

          • According to Wikipedia, he was an AC under Brian Sutter in 1997/1998, when the team had a 26-41-16 record.

            Yikes. Not to say that a record that bad is solely an Assistant Coach’s fault, but still. Not necessarily inspiring. Not necessarily inspiring that his last NHL coaching experience was well north of a decade ago.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            The worse thing is I don’t even see anything on his resume that would make me pick up the phone and call him for an interview in the first place.

            Might be harsh, but maybe instead of hiring him as a coach we hire him as a scout.

            So what did Smith do from 01-08?

          • washed up

            Aside from the merits of Smith or Buchberger (which I’m certainly not any kind of expert on), does this mean only two assistants? Or is a third — more senior? — appointment yet to come?

  • Poo Czar

    Right now I’m just absolutely stunned that they didn’t draft Beukeboom’s kid.


    Seriously, there’s no way to spin this as “These were the absolute best 2 assistants out there”. Treat your hires like BPA – hire the best COACHES, not just the best ex-Oilers available.

      • Poo Czar

        What are the odds that the two best available assistant coaches just so happen to be former players from the Dynasty? I literally have NO IDEA about good coaching and have said as much, but doesn’t that seem highly unlikey?

        If you were applying for a job and the boss JUST SO HAPPENED to hire two of his former best buddies instead, that wouldn’t seem a tad bit fishy? Especially given the context of the Oilers – a rich (and mostly unsuccessful) history of hiring former players rather than possibly the best available people.

        And I EFFING LOVED both those dudes as players.

        • BarryS

          But being the boss, he can hire whoever he wants no matter what anyone thinks. The world of getting jobs has always been who you know, not what you know. The wonder is on the rare occasion someone gets a job not knowing anyone connected with the boss either directly or through the recommendation of friends or relations.

        • Banger

          Sometimes the best guy isnt the best guy. There is more to bringing someone in then just what they may be as a coach. If your coaching staff and team are familiar with eachother and have good chemistry together then lots of times that can take a team further. Bring in 4 guys that have no experience working together and it can take time to create that chemistry.

          I have no idea if they are the right guys. Just like i dont know if they are the wrong guys. I think we have to wait and see what happens before we can start jumping all over this decision.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I hear where you’re coming from, but I don’t think being an ex-oiler should be a negative bullet on a resume for a coaching position.

  • Poo Czar

    nelson has 2 years as an NHL assistant, won 2 uhl titles in a semi pro league, & came recommended. Give him a chance before we question the move. He’s got a nice team to work with on the farm. That’s something daum & bucky didn’t have. As for bucky, his forte was pk & checking when he was a player. Yes the pk sucked but we couldn’t win a fo in our own end(horcoff was hurt) & we had such a small lineup so we got pushed around. Nobody blocked shots but staois & strudwick & our goaltending was average at best. We have added some sandpaper & Fraser(good defensive guy) to help in that regard. If horcoff returns to health & we add that rh 2-way centre that’s been talked about it will give bucky something to work with. I actually want the oilers to give o’marra a long look at tc. He’s a rh shot & suppose to be good at defence & faceoffs. We must find a trade for cogliano unless they religate horcoff to 3rd line/special team faceoff guy. A smart move may be reuniting hemsky & horcoff. If that happens there is no way cogliano can play the checking center role unless he drastically improves in the dot during tc.

  • Banger

    AWSOME!!! More fuel for everyone to whine about hiring ex-Oilers! We may as well start talking about Horcoff’s contract again or maybe complain about Kevin Lowe some more.

  • MikeH

    Steve Smith is interesting. Just goes to show how secretive the new Oilers management has become. If only they could keep the Cogliano trade offers secret…hahahaha.

    • Thank you for that. Can’t be said often enough that Smith was a very good player. It’s a tough position to play. As Lowe (I think) put it, you know you are doing well when no one notices you out there. Very unglorious job, but Smith did it well. The two towers were fun for me to watch, minus the own goal. I’ll remember Smith for more than 5 seconds of his career.

  • BBOil

    Once again can any detractors on Buchy and Smith provide any evidence as to why they are bad choices based ACTUAL coaching pedigree from a technical stand point?

    Anybody ever see Steve Smith run a practice? Has anybody ever analyzed Buchy’s ability to see a technical flaw in a players game and then take the steps to improve that part of the player’s game?

    Once again, I don’t know these answers, but would like to hear some reasons as to why they are bad choices beyond ex-oiler, coached bad teams in past, etc…..

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Smith hasn’t ran a practice in 12 years.

      I have no issue with Bucky. But from where I sit he wasn’t the man for the job because if he was he would’ve gotten the job a long time ago. He fell into the position when everything else failed.

      • BBOil

        An assumption I think…

        Do you know if Smith has applied for coaching positions in the last 12 years, because that could play a factor in why he hasn’t been hired for any.

        I understand arguments against his experience (as clearly he hasn’t coached in the NHL since his mini stint with Calgary), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the knowledge and skills to be a good coach.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I have no idea whether or not he was looking for a coaching job in the last 12years, but at the sametime the Oilers have to be going into this knowing Smith is a rookie. If they think Smith is the right guy and he is going to bring a lot, I’d like to know what gave the Oilers this idea.

          • BBOil

            Agree totally. I’d like to know why they hired him too. My point is that just because he hasn’t coached in the NHL in the last 12 years doesn’t mean he isn’t suitable for the position and capable of succeeding. He could be seen as a rookie coach, or he could be seen as a guy with 16 years pro playing experience, that had little stints as an asst coach and scout.

            In general probably a knowledgeable hockey guy, perhaps with a good eye for picking apart technical aspects of a players game. Speculation on my part, but I’d like to think guys don’t just get hired in the NHL just because.

      • Jason Gregor

        Smith won’t run the practice. Head coaches run the practice, not the assistants, unless your name is Scotty Bowman or Pat Quinn.

        And just curious how you know what else failed? Don Hay? Let me know who else turned down the job.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Maybe that wasn’t the proper wording, but if Bucky was the #3 guy from the start why wouldn’t you just give him the job as a leap of good faith?

  • washed up

    I’ve liked lots of the moves oilers management have made so far this off-season. I don’t know anything about this guy, but have never heard is name come up in any news article, sports shows when coaching as been the topic. I feeling a bit worried about this. Hopefully this is the righ move. I was hoping they would bring some promising guy up the the minors.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      To be honest it’s not really a big deal if the media didn’t hear about him is it? Tambo is trying to keep things on the down low, so that shouldn’t be the issue on hand.

      There was probably quite a few guys interviewed that we will never hear about and that’s okay.

      Wouldn’t the head coach of an AJHL team have more qualifications then Smith?

      • washed up

        I don’t know much about the guy except from what i’ve read on hear. As long as the oilers are playing hockey with a system that suits there skills and they can get the players to buy in to “said” system. IMO they will be the right guys for the job regardless of creds.

        He could have the great creds but if he fails here it won’t matter he will be hung out here to dry

  • MikeH


    I already defended Bucky and I can’t on Steve Smith. I just don’t like the guy. He may end up being the greatest coach ever but I’m never going to like him.

  • JJmorrocco

    Not to detour the battle over coaches but a quick question about Theo Peckham now that we have him locked for one mroe year – could he be our Byfugilen in a couple years? he has the size and agression, not sure if his can match the speed of Dustin? Can he play a forward postion in front of the net?

    • I thought that afterwards too.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But that actually brings up an interesting point….

      How many people would have been pleasantly surprised if Gator got hired as coach? Now, of those of you who answered yes to that, are you pleased that Steve Smith was hired as coach? If not, why not? Steve Smith was a great d-man whose career most people have a very narrow memory of. People will use the argument “well this guy has no experience” when it comes to Steve Smith, but I bet that most would be jumping up and down if Gator was hired, even though Steve Smith arguably had the better career.

      Btw, not targetting this at you Pajamah… this is a general question directed at the people that are upset over Steve Smith’s hiring because of his inexperience. Just wonder how they would have felt if it was Jason Smith that was announced.

      For the record though, I will even say, I would have preferred for them to move away from the OBC mentality, and thought we were doing that up until recently.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I really don’t know. I wasn’t sure that Gator was the best option when Brownlee brought it up in the first place, but really depending on who the other assistant was it could potentially work.

        My biggest question is who is going to teach this team offense? All three coaches are defense first.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            LOL. We don’t have the talent we did like back then.

            It’s going to be a wait and see, but my opinion is going to be that one or the other. I don’t like the combo of Bucky and Smith as assistants. Both seem too raw.

          • MikeH

            Wellll, back then at the start no one knew if we had talent either…not saying we do now but it’s certainly possible that we have something special on the horizon ๐Ÿ™‚

        • And thus, the circle of Oilers life repeats…
          “We need more offense defensemen!”
          *Lowe signs a bunch of offensive d-men that can’t defend*
          “Oh man, now we need more defensive defensemen!”
          *Lowe trades away the offensive guys and picks up a bunch of slugs who can’t get out of their own zone, but can play solid d*

          Seriously, I think they’ll get it right eventually, but they never seem to get the proper balance here. Case in point being 3 defensive minded coaches, I suppose. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Anyways, I’m not exactly ecstatic that Steve Smith was hired, but I’ll just take a wait-and-see approach here and see how it works out. Definitely could have made a better hiring, but I thought the Quinn-Renney hiring would have been money too, and that didn’t work out… so I guess you just never know what’ll happen until you see first hand.

  • JJmorrocco

    it must be the humidity making people grumpy. i get the feeling that jebus himself would get roasted on this website if he was named asst coach. newer coaches might be hungry and raring to go. instead of being tired old men un willing to change.

  • “The Head Scout was on record as saying he was in Seguin’s camp right up to the Mem Cup Final.”

    Stu’s statement makes it clear that Hall LOCKED it up with that Final. But I’d expect a good head scout to state the case for Seguin faced with so much enthusiasm in the room for Hall. So I’d assume nothing about him personally leaning to Seguin, Hall or being on the fence before that.


  • Steve Smith…I hope you are going to be teaching the d-men not to send the outlet pass up the middle of the ice. (that own goal vs Calgary is all I can think of when I hear this news) nothing like costing us another cup and then becoming a coach…lol…
    I didn’t see this coming, I hope it turns out ok…good luck Smith!!

  • enough with the Steve smith bashing! Was an assistant in Calgary(yes 12 years ago)& brings valuable experience from a scouting perspective…as for bucky he did have an ok record on a crappy ahl team & been an assistant the last 3 years….too many negative people.

  • Pajamah

    @ Racki

    I think Steve Smith will do a good job here.
    Jason Smith may be more of a sentimental choice, but in both cases, we really don’t know how either will/would have fared.

    ~Gawdamn old boys club BS, does it never end!!~

  • Ducey

    If only the GM was as smart as some of the negative Nancys around here.

    Most of the negative reaction centers around people who say they don’t know what Smith has done therefore he must be incompetent.

    I don’t know what he has been doing, have never met him and don’t know what Renney is looking for. But there appear to be some positives:

    He must have some aptitude if the Flames made him a coach when he was essentially still a player. He has a specific job which is to teach the Defence. He certainly has experince with that. He has played on championship teams and been around Hall of Famers and played on crappy teams. He is a lot like Huddy.

    If Steve Yzerman was brought in people would say “wow, thats awesome” even though he has no experience.

    And the own goal? This makes him MORE qualified. He has experienced one of the worst moments in playoff history. That can only help him understand other people and young players. I also expect he is going to work his butt off to try and turn the page on that incident.

    And its ballsy that he has the guts to return.