RALPH KRUEGER: NIGHTMARE ON 118TH AVENUE?

When the Edmonton Oilers announced this morning they’d hired Freddy Krueger as an associate coach, my first reaction — aside from passing Cornflakes through my nostrils — was "DubyaTeeEff?"

It didn’t take long, me being a seasoned journalist and all, to realize the Oilers had actually hired Ralph Krueger, not Freddy, the pizza-faced maniac from the Nightmare on Elm Street series of slasher flicks.

Freddy Krueger? Honestly, I felt like a blockhead for mixing my Kruegers up. I mean, complexion aside, Freddy Krueger might be a laugh riot at a sushi party and he does lend new meaning to the term "putting on the blades," but he’s got no business coaching in the NHL.

It goes without saying the Oilers would be nuts to hire Freddy Krueger and his ZERO games of NHL coaching or playing experience and add him to the already green bench tandem of Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith under head man Tom Renney, right?

Silly me.

SOMEBODY ‘SPLAIN

Apparently, that NHL coaching experience thing doesn’t really matter because when I got my Kruegers straightened away, it turns out Ralph hasn’t coached any more games in the NHL than Freddy has. Krueger, 50, actually does have a coaching resume, as highlighted in the news release from the Oilers:

"Krueger was most recently the Head Coach of the Swiss National Team. During his tenure from 1997-2010, he advanced the Swiss National Team Program from 15th to 7th in the IIHF World Rankings. He guided the team to a 6th place finish at the Olympics in 2006 and 4th in the World Championship in 1998 and 5th in 2010. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native has participated in 12 World Championships and three Olympics.

Prior to joining the Swiss National Team, Krueger was the General Manager and Head Coach of VEU Feldkirch in the Austrian 1st Division from 1991-1998. Under his leadership, they were a five-time Austrian Champion, three-time Alpen league Champion and the 1998 European Champion.

Krueger played his major junior hockey in the WCHL with New Westminster and Calgary before playing in the German 1st Division from 1979-1989. He was also part of the German National Team from 1981-1986 in which the he participated in the World Championship twice.

Krueger, who wrote a German best-seller called “TEAMLIFE – Over Setbacks to Success”, has also served as a European Consultant with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2005 until now."

THE RIGHT MIX?

Renney and GM Steve Tambellini must know something I don’t — and that’s entirely possible — because I don’t see a lot on Krueger’s resume that leads me to believe he’s the best guy to be adding as an associate when the two assistants, Buchberger and Smith, are as inexperienced as they are.

While building the Swiss from the depths of futility into also-rans as a hockey power is a feather in Krueger’s cap, I’m not convinced that feat trumps NHL experience behind the bench, given the distinct lack of same Renney has with Buchberger and Smith. The other issue, of course, is familiarity with players in the Oilers system. Smith has very little. Krueger, I assume, has next to none.

Maybe I’m out to lunch — it wouldn’t be the first time — but this one’s a head-scratcher for me. Renney obviously sees something in Krueger I don’t, which would be easy. I’ve never met the man. I haven’t followed his career. Is this hire simply thinking outside the box, which I have no issue with, or is it a reach?

My ignorance about Krueger — I vaguely remembered his name from his days as a player with New Westminster and his latest Olympic appearance with the Swiss — doesn’t make him a bad coach or even a bad choice. Neither, necessarily, does that big zero in terms of NHL experience.

But it makes me nervous.

THIS AND THAT

— There’s something to rumours the Oilers may be following the lead of the Vancouver Canucks, who have eliminated their pay-per-view games to have additional games on Sportsnet 1.

My information is the Oilers, who had 16 pay-per-view games during the 2009-10 regular season, are talking to Sportsnet 1 about picking up some games. The Oilers had 44 games on Sportsnet last season, 12 on CBC and 10 on TSN.

Don’t be surprised if the Oilers end up having a handful of games on pay-per-view regardless of what comes about in talks with Sportsnet 1. They could opt to go the PPV route again during pre-season for road games.

— Krueger apparently approached the Columbus Blue Jackets about a coaching gig before the Oilers came calling. I’m not sure if he was after the head coaching job Scott Arniel got or the position of head coach on the AHL farm in Springfield, but GM Scott Howson said "No thanks."

— My understanding is the Oilers did re-visit the question of keeping Rob Daum around and interviewed him last week. Obviously, the second look didn’t change the minds of Tambellini and Renney.

— While I haven’t confirmed it with the Oilers, my understanding is they are looking at Aug. 15 as the date to have a replacement for retired radio play-by-play man Rod Phillips in place.

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

  • That’s funny, I saw Ralph Krueger’s name and immediately thought it was a terrific signing. Slightly out of the box and not an ex-Oiler, which are good things. The Swiss team was nothing until he took over, and he really did some nice things as far as tactics and team play goes, which is pretty much exactly what this coaching staff needs. He’ll be a great choice.

    • Reggie

      Brian,

      I agree with you. Check out Lowetide’s blog. He has a few other links as well.

      RB, I understand the nervousness given the lack of NHL experience, but I think there’s lots to be said for career coaches and someone who’s been a GM (although in Europe).

      With the up and coming European contingent, of Omark, MPS, etc. I think this is a good sign as well.

      I like it.

      • I’m almost as nervous about the lack of familiarity with the younger players in the system as I am with lack of NHL experience.

        That said, Krueger is clearly no a dim guy and he’ll get up to speed. Besides, when it comes to really knowing the youngest prospects, like Hall and Eberle, he won’t be at much of a disadvantage — they’re all square one kids.

        Career coaches with no NHL playing time are fine by me. It’s pretty well known I have a lot of respect for Ken Hitchcock, who never played a minute of pro.

  • Only time will tell if Kreuger is going to pan out as a good NHL coach or not. If we are going to finally give a rebuild a chance, why not this guy? At this point, I think the Oil and the fans need to keep an open mind towards new things, because the times, they are a changing……thankfully!

  • Krueger should carry Bucky & Smith’s shoulder pads before he gets the associate title…

    I’m all for giving someone a chance based on the Oilers current position but it isn’t the first decision Tambi’s made that’s left me wanting more.

    Good post Robin.

    point taken from previous post, my apologies.

  • I assume he can pass an english language test?

    I dunno. Do they speak English in Winnipeg?

    I really can’t see a big issue with hiring a coach with 20 years of experience to be an assistant.

    I’m not sure why being unfamiliar with the players would be any kind of stumbling block at all. 90% of the Oilers players have a lot to learn about hockey, they’d do well to just do what they are told.

    • Krueger is the associate coach.

      It’s not simply about players doing what they’re told — that’s a profoundly simplistic view of things.

      Familiarity helps in the development process. As a coach, it takes time to figure out who responds to the carrot, who needs the stick and who falls in between.

      • Reggie

        Robin,

        Thinking about your familiarity comment, I think there has been a pretty large turnover in players this season and there will be a introduction of a lot of kids as well. None of the coaches will be that familiar with the kids.

        That said, maybe the challenge is understanding the NHL in general – the travel, the amount of practise and prep time between games, etc.

        As much as I was tired of MacT and it was time for him to go, I think you could do a case study of the Oilers coaching staff’s prep for the 2006 playoffs. They out coached every team on the way to the cup – except maybe the Canes.

        So, you play 3 – 4 games a week and you are trying to figure out what happened last night and you are enroute to your 2nd of back to back games.

        I think this might be a challenge for him to overcome and adjust to. Back to the playoff run comment above – it’s easier to focus a game plan on the same team for 7 games, than 4 teams in 7 days.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s not simply about players doing what they’re told — that’s a profoundly simplistic view of things.

    Familiarity helps in the development process. As a coach, it takes time to figure out who responds to the carrot, who needs the stick and who falls in between.

    That’s a bizarre objection then as 95% or better of the potential candidates for the assistant coaching job would be just as unfamiliar with the vast majority of the Oilers players’ personalities. Most of the team has only played with the Oilers at the NHL level. Very few candidates would know more then one or two of the guys on a personal level.

    Unless of course your objection is based on the fact that you were hoping for Daum. Then it is understandable.

    • First, lack of familiarity isn’t an objection, it’s a concern, within the limits I expressed. Second, that concern isn’t the least bit bizarre. Feel free to read what’s written for context. It’s not black-and-white.

      Third, tell me how you came up with the 95 per cent figure. You must have been provided with a list of coaching candidates I haven’t seen.

      Lastly, yes, I remember the (fake) name, so let’s skip the Daum digs. There’s no need for you to get worked over again.

      • The 95 percent figure is from my common sense. Can you name five coaches that would be familiar enough with all the Oilers’ players to know which players would need the carrot or the stick?

        Any coach the Oilers hire from outside their own system would have the same learning curve in that regard so I just don’t understand that particular concern.

        P.S.-I don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about with the fake names and the workings over.

        • Any coach would have the same learning curve?

          Would ANY coach who was at the AHL level the past two years facing Springfield have the same learning curve with many of the players in the Oilers system? No.

          Would ANY coach who was at the WHL or OHL level the past two years facing Windsor or Regina know Hall or Eberle, two pretty key prospects, better? Yes.

          If you’re here to nitpick — and you are — and look for holes in my logic then you’re going to have to do a better job than offering vague generalities. Familiarity, which can come in varying degrees, can be an advantage. If you’re arguing that, then you’re just here to argue — but I know that already.

      • Yes, they do.
        Nothing wrong with hiring somebody you’re familiar with in the context of knowing their work — as opposed to a buddy thing.
        Renney must see something in Krueger he likes because he’s putting him a key position. I see no reason, my NHL experience and familiarity questions aside, not to keep an open mind.

    • “This is an exciting hire for us, to be honest,” said Renney. “After Donnie (Hay) said no and I also knew what Wayne Fleming’s situation was (the Oilers assistant coach last season was talking to the Tampa Bay Lightning), Ralph was the guy I circled big time. I was happy his name was under the radar.

      “He lacks a bit of NHL experience, but the width and breath of what he’s done is second to none . . . look what he did for that hockey federation (Swiss, going from 15th in the IIHF rankings to No. 7). Hopefully he can translate some of that to us.”

      Courtesy Jim Matheson

  • Sorry, but apparently I’m out of the loop here (it’s not the first time and definitely won’t be the last)…

    “Sportsnet 1”?

    Google didn’t help, I tried. Any insight into what this actually is would be appreciated. I have Sportsnet West and have heard of the other regional broadcasts, but this is the firs I’ve heard the 1 moniker.

    • m3sh

      They (Rogers) are launching another channel, akin to TSN2.

      http://www.sportsnet.ca/one/

      You fail at google.

      Interesting they don’t mention anything about the apparent Nucks coverage that will be on there on that site. I wouldn’t be sad to see the Oil PPV go, they’ve got a losing record for PPV games anyhow (I suspect, haven’t looked it up)

  • Ssseth

    Please disregard my previous comment. I tried spelling it out “Sportsnet ONE” and magically Google led me to the info I craved. Cheers, let’s hope if nothing else there are at least less PPV games anyway. 16 was ridonkulous.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Appears to be a decent signing, i mean, we’re so strong in the face off circle there’s really no need to bring some help in on that front. Whats wrong with Mike Sillinger moving downstairs teaching some of these kids how to cheat in the face off circle.

    [scratches head] nothing like bringing in an outsider to a dressing room full of players thinking who the hell is this guy. Guess we’ll have to button our lips again and see if the kids will grasp another new system before Christmas roles around.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    First of all, I will keep an open mind with our new coach. No experience and all doesn’t bother me too much – I like thinking outside the box. What does bother me, though, is the feeling that he is an extreme-trap coach, or at least was for the Swiss team. I LOVE my offensive hockey and hope to hell that stays with that team and doesn’t carry over to ours! You know it’s nice to get more wins and all when one is staring at the stats page, but the actual game should be entertaining, too (just my opinion, which I am very strong about on this point!)

    Can’t wait for the PPV experiment to fail! Don’t mind the production…it’s pretty good actually, but really I don’t want to pay $16.95 or $18.95, whatever it was for a hockey game if I don’t need to. I didn’t buy one last year on principle alone.

    Pelle Lindbergh – coolest goalie ever!

    Welcome back R.B.! I hope you and your family had an awesome vacation!!

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I like the hiring. If a person can defend the hiring of Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger then why not Krueger? I just question what roles each guys are going to have. Are all 4 going to be on the bench?

    Krueger may not have the NHL experience which would be nice, but he is a long-time coach with a lot of coaching expereince under his belt. I wouldn’t call him as green as I did Smith and to some degree Bucky.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    YOOUDALAITTY ! As long as he can youdle it’s okay with me. Should be fun , with a new Oiler chant to taunt the opposition . I wonder if he can play that big horn the Swiss play at the top of mountains as well ? Ricola , Ricola . MMMMM- Swiss cheese .

      • Mike Modano's Dog

        Do you know the Oilers training camp schedule for this year, and do you know where they are having it?

        I was told August 17th by someone but they weren’t sure. I really hope it’s in the Edmonton area as I’d like to attend it this year, like every year. It’s pretty much the only Oilers action I’ve been able to afford to go see.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Usually camp starts around the second week of September. I’m not sure if they still do but alot of the veteran NHL players from this area use to skate at the Glen Allen arena in Sherwood park. You might find them there skating about 2-3 weeks before camp starts. The Oilers usually pimp out rookie camp to a smaller center/town….. hopefully main camp will be at the Coliseum again, they’ll probably have to with renewed interest/crowds wanting to check out these kids.

  • I am teettering as to why i feel the Oilers will be an upper eschilon team this year or a basement dweller once again .

    We are so close to being a big contender this season you can smell and taste it . Don’t underestimate the new rookies that should outperform by a large margin the Gagner , Cogs and Brule early starts . Most of these kids can literally fly and have an offensive punch and dynamics the last three simply did not have compared to their level .

    We still have about 6-8 weeks to help compliment them yet , with some tools to help them progress and make the team better than it presently is . I have plenty of optimism these rookies will excel with Souray staying , and possibly adding a few bodies outside like a healthy Mitchell , Turco and another physical forward around the $2M mark . That would give us veteran balance in order for our rookies to grow rapidly .

    Presently i don’t like our chances of helping the rookies or team if they don’t make some more adjustments to team before season starts . We all know how filling voids from within turned out last couple of seasons . Give these rookies the tools they need to excel and playoffs here we come this season !

    Our team might be so fast , we might have to rename them the Edmonton Flyers ? Man, i’d hate to see the Oilers destroy the rookies by not providing the tools to help them succeed ! They don’t need to go down to the AHL if Oilers provide the tools up here to help them
    excel right out of the gate .

    SO Close , Yet SO FAR AWAY at the same time . Still time for Tams and company to make adjustments before season begins . So i will continue to teeter on optimism and pessimism in the interim .

  • ESKIMOS UPDATE . . . . .

    I know this is Oilersnation, but the Eskimos have called a news conference for 1 p.m. where it’s expected they will announce a significant firing.
    TEAM 1260 will be covering the event live with Jason Gregor and Corey Graham, so tune in then to get all the details.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Must’ve been difficult for Lalacheur to play the dead man walking game with Maciocia for a few days, looked like Danny never thought this would happen. Hopefully he lands on his feet somewhere.