The Edmonton Oilers have added Duane Sutter to their professional scouting staff, as per an announcement made on the team’s official website earlier today.
The announcement quoted general manager Steve Tambellini as saying, “We are absolutely thrilled to be adding someone of Duane’s caliber to our scouting staff. Duane brings a vast knowledge of the game and will complement our staff very well.”
Steve Tambellini has had no compunctions about digging into his past when hiring for key positions. Both Pat Quinn and Tom Renney were colleagues during Tambellini’s time in Vancouver, but his ties with Duane Sutter go back even further – to the start of their respective professional careers.
Both Tambellini and Sutter were first round picks of the New York Islanders – Tambellini went 15th overall in 1978, and Sutter went 17th overall one summer later. Both players spent their junior careers with Lethbridge, and both players broke into the NHL with the Islanders around the same time. Tambellini was dealt part way through 1980-81, and the two played for separate teams from then on out.
Sutter played a little under 900 games between the regular season and the playoffs at the NHL level, the bulk of it with the dynasty and post-dynasty Islanders. He got into coaching after his retirement, though never with successful teams – in parts of five seasons as a head coach at the WHL, IHL and NHL levels, he never finished a season with more wins than losses.
Most of Sutter’s post-playing NHL career came with Florida – in addition to his time as coach, he also served as the club’s director of player development for five seasons. He joined the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2008 as part of the Sutter invasion (at one point, the club employed four Sutters – Duane, Darryl, Brent and Ron), but was not retained once Jay Feaster started making changes this summer.
The hiring is a difficult one to evaluate, given that Sutter’s post-playing role outside of coaching has generally been under the radar. On the positive side, he’s very experienced, and much of that experience comes in positions of greater prestige and responsibility than the role of professional scout. His history with Tambellini is likely another positive; cohesion and trust between a general manager and his subordinates being undoubtedly important. On the negative side, the clubs that he’s worked for haven’t been overly successful.
Personally, I lean more toward the former interpretation than the latter. Steve Tambellini’s brought in a man with extensive experience, a man he would seem to have a personal level of comfort with, and a man whose resume would suggest he’s overqualified for the position he’s taking over. Regardless of the historical implications, it isn’t hard to be positive here.