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.

  • Lets be honest Quinn and Renney haven’t been exactly great coaches in the NHL. One WJC win and now they are good ? I don’t have the answer to who we need but how about a proven winner, even a young coach from the AHL,OHL or WHL ?

    • From Wikipedia:

      • Won a Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 1963 (player) and Vancouver Giants in 2007 (minority owner)
      • Won a Jack Adams Award (NHL coach of the year) in 1980 and 1992.
      • Won an Winter Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2002.
      • Won a World Cup championship with Team Canada in 2004.
      •Won a IIHF U18 gold medal with Team Canada in 2008.
      • Won a IIHF U20 gold medal with Team Canada in 2009.
      • 684 NHL wins as a coach

      ~Yeah. That Pat Quinn is a total loser~

      • Player stats and owner stats don’t count. Won coach of the year over 15 years ago before the new rule changes. Won Olympic gold with a team that doesn’t need a coach. Won IIHF games coaching CANADA ( Best team in tourny before coaching decision). Yeah he has won games NO CUP 20 years behind the bench. I’m not a NHL owner but how many years do you go with the guy with out the major prize? 11 years before he won the western conference championship, how many years did it take MAC T ? Mac T coached 8 seasons getting 301 wins. Quinn 20 seasons 684 wins seems close to me, not to mention Quinn has mainly coached teams that had money to spend unlike Mac T for his first four season. By the way when he won the Jack Adams in 1979-80 season he had Pete Peters,Bobby Clark,Brian Proop,Ken Linsemen,Reggie Leech and Bill Barber all players that were good. 1992-93 Canucks had six players over 1.0ppg or close to it. Yes a good coach makes players better the same can be said about the players making the coach better

  • Just a thought but I would have trouble putting trust in the veterans of this team considering the record of the team before Quinn and the fact that the reports at the end of last season questioned the veteran leadership. Quinn will be fine and before the injuries hit the team was playing reasonably well.

  • If we’re looking for silver linings, a top 5 pick in June 2011 likely beckons if Pat Quinn is back. On the down side, this last year was a nightmare to watch. One more year of Sam Gagenr playing half of his games on the fourth line might cost me a new tv.

  • “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.”

    I didn’t think it was that difficult to figure out that last years team were not Pat Quinn type players. Pat Quinn type players are players that compete all over the ice for the puck and keep moving the puck ahead at all times. Pat Quinn had a little too much Robert Nilsson, Patrick O’Sullivan, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano. Otherwise too little compete, and not enough smarts. Everyone wanted to score the goals but no one wanted to do the work.

    Once Pat Quinn got frusterated and listened to Tom Renney a little more, Shawn Horcoff turned into a shutdown center and Whitney and Gilbert turned into a shutdown pair. At least going into next year, the Oilers have that. They should be able to at least win some home games with that.

  • Pajamah

    So Quinn is back in…hmm… I have a problem with this; a team rebuilding with possibly 3 or 4 rookies in the lineup this comin year learning the ropes and systems of the NHL. Then when Quinn is out next year, or next summer these kids of the rebuild in their second year in the NHL will have to learn a new system from a new coach. Why not just do it now and save everyone any confusion? especially during the first few years of a young NHL career?
    Any other thoughts on this??

    • I wouldn’t get too high on the Souray soapbox — he wants out of here and he had nothing to lose by finally speaking his mind after a year of clamming up.

      As a reporter, it would be great if players spoke candidly — and put their names to it on the record — all the time, but that’s not the reality.
      I’ll take an honest assessment from a player any time, even if the player asks to remain anonymous and doesn’t want to be quoted.

      • Pajamah

        Hockey players are union members.

        All union members know when to shut up, or else they end up buried at the 40 yd line in Meadowlands with good ol’ whats his face.

        Honestly though, what would this player gain if he were to go on record. A label as a whiner? malcontent? It certainly wouldn’t lessen the message sent, nor strengthen it much (provided he isn’t a superstar, or player with enormous clout, which the Oilers don’t have)

        However, Brownlee does not equal Eklund, you don’t come from MSM just floating a bunch of crap out there, hoping to stir the pot

        Hopefully this can lead to more positive change

  • Quinn lost the room when he cut the team up after the five game win streak on the road. After that the players played on egg shells and thats when they started to lose four times the games they won.Even Penner went into a slump then. Fire this bum or move him upstairs as an assitant to Lowe.

  • VMR

    My take on whether Quinn comes back for Year No. 2 or steps aside (or up or down) is this: does Tambo think the team’s abysmal finish was the fault of the coaches or the players?

    I’m thinking it’s the latter, not the former.

    The buzz words this spring have been “culture change” and I believe, to Tambo, this means changing players, not coaches – at least initially.

    I will obviously defer to Mr. Brownlee on this one, but that’s my guess. Quinn stays until it’s completely, totally apparent that he can’t coach effectively in this league and/or a vast majority of players have tuned him out.

    • I don’t know which way it’s going to go, but it’s obvious to me after what I was told that Quinn didn’t have the veterans in his corner.

      Some of those veterans are gone — Staios, Visnovssky, Grebeshkov etc. Some will soon be gone — Souray, Moreau etc.

      Still, this is the first I’ve heard a player speak candidly in a critical way about how the team was coached and how the room was handled.

      Tambellini goes back a long way with Quinn, but he’d be wise not to sweep these concerns under the carpet.

      • Hey Robin, in your opinion, do you believe that Tambellini knows about the issue at hand? I would think that it’s an even bigger concern if he doesn’t know what’s going on.

        It seems like, as someone mentioned in an earlier post, that Tambellini is going to have to chose bewtween the players or the coach, and from the sounds of it, most of these “veterans” will be gone by the start of next season anyways.

        Perhaps Tambellini dealing away these players is his way of NOT sweeping these concerns under the carpet? The veteran leadership was questioned alot publically and I have to wonder if these decisions haven’t already been made.

  • VMR

    It seemede to me that it March before the players started to listen, I though the team (inspite of massive injuries) closed the season far better. I want to see how the team and the new players respond to Quinn, and if they listen

    • Your all wrong on Bucky – give him a chance and he will prove you all wrong ! I know what type of coach turns a player on and inspires players to play better . I’d certainly bust my butt for the guy if he were the head coach . Getting players to play with you and your game plan , is just as important as getting them to play for you . I like a coach that still has the youthfull enthusiam to hype me up and still know and recall the value of being a bit player , etc.. No, he does not have a big resume as yet , but i believe he can do the job effectively if he is given the chance . Not to overbearing, and knows the value of a strong work ethic . One thing is certain ,is that the players don’t seem to be trying to freely to help out last couple of coaches . Why don’t some of you close to Oilers players ask them how well they might play for Bucky if he were head coach !

  • Bar Qu

    Getting Quinn out is a number one priority. The coaching this year took the team from middle of the pack to last. IMO, it was as much a factor as injuries.

    Finding a coach who has had development success would be a much more important characteristic than an ability to quip or dress well.

    Hello, Mr. Arniel?

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      Re: Quinn being a snappy dresser.

      I think that’s a stretch.

      Re: Quinn rivaling the injury problem as the reason for this year’s profound suckiness.

      I think that’s a stretch.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Make Bucky head coach ,and allow him to form a team of coaches from Oilerland . Maybe then the incumbent Oilers will play with more pride and passion . Going outside didn’t seem to help . I’m not fond of Renney’s record as an NHL coach to be honest – it’s basically abysmal . To be fair to Quinn , he did not have much to work with as far as on ice product and mounting injuries that complicated things even more . Some coaches you just can’t help but want to play for , and Bucky seems to have that quality and youthfull enthusiam that makes you want to perform better .

  • I wasn’t stoked about Quinn during the year, but this is especially concerning. The whole franchise seems to be in a state of disconnection, and when you add that to the regressinon of our young players, inability/unwillingness to explore situational line-matching and general state of suckitude, why the hell should Quinn come back?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    For “what now”, how about #4;

    Tabellini sticks with Quinn in a cover your ass type decision.

    It’s a point that Barnes (I think) brought up last week on Gregor’s show. Tambellini has made 1 major decision since he got this gig and that was hiring a new coach. What does it say about his GMing skill when he is forced to go go back on that decision after only a year and has very little else to show for his time here?

    Factor in his other big decision in signing Khabibulin and he isn’t exactly building currency with the fanbase.

    Back to Quinn now, the one thing that really bugged me from the first day he was hired was how he knew nothing of the team. I bring this up because I think it ties in with the article in terms of the Gagner comment and not leaning on the leadership thing.

    It took him until November before he stopped referring to the Oilers as them, making comments about “being told” this or that guy can do various things.

    Hell last summer he talked openly about not following the team or knowing much about the players, their problems and so on.

    I am wondering if anyone else, particularily in the media, found it odd that a guy was hired despite the fact that he clearly didn’t prepare himself with an assessment of the team, what needed to be done and what that course of action should be if he did get the job prior to being interviewed?

    I found it very strange and would have thought that first rules in hiring a coach is getting a guy that knows what he has to do, fits with managments vision and how he will go about getting there for the specific situation he is entering.

  • Vaclav

    If a player is willing to bring info like that out of the dressing room to a reporter, that is a pretty good sign that the issues are serious.

    I was told by a player who played for Quinn at the World Juniors one year, that he learned more from Quinn in that short period of time then his whole hockey career. Maybe Tambellini is more worried about Quinn’s importance and teaching for the younger players and not concerned about a few disgruntled vets…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I like the idea of Pat staying behind the bench for the second year of his deal as coach, he’s not the quality/21st century coach that we threw under the bus last spring… Pat is entertaining in his post gamers. Quinns post gamers were better than the game itself many nights last season. Hiring Pat was Steves call, what are we to expect….he’s not about to admit a mistake 1/3rd the way into this deal. Can you imagine paying MacT, Quinn plus the new guy this year…now THAT would be a leadership problem.

    The accessing the building during road games really seems to be gathering momentum this year. For teams going 2,3 or all 4 rounds in the playoffs this may turn into another goldmine for clubs.

    18000 @ 20.00 each with free parking…for the fortunate few clubs it could be well over a half million dollar cash grab for multiple nights when the building would otherwise be empty.

  • Vaclav

    It starts to become a little disconcerting when prospects and roster players alike are unhappy with poor communication from both the coaching staff and Oilers management.

    This seems like something the organization can easily improve on moving forward.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I kind of wonderd if having two “head coaches” wasn’t a situation of over-kill that would lead to some miscommunication and clashes in philosophy.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Even if was a clash you would think that two men such as Quinn and Renney could figure out a system and stick to it.

      It hasn’t been brought up but if there is a clash happening who’s to say Renney doesn’t come back if Quinn is here next year?

      • Vaclav

        Exactly. Both of their roles and responsibilities should have been clearly defined at the start of the season. And if part of Renney’s job is game planning then Quinn shouldn’t be undermining him.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I wonder if this is something that should be pushed back onto Tambo? He was the one who decided to go with two coaches and if he seen it wasn’t working he should’ve stepped in and dealt with it.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Maybe Quinn just steps down and makes the decision for Tambo. If that does happen who else would they bring in to help out?