There was a lot of speculation at Monday’s news conference to introduce Brent Sutter as head coach of Team Canada that the gig will double as an audition for the job as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

While that job belongs to Tom Renney until we’re otherwise informed, it seems obvious there’s a measure of doubt the Oilers have decided to retain Renney – this "Take some time and then come back and tell me what your plan is" pitch being sold by GM Steve Tambellini doesn’t ring true – and it’s equally obvious Sutter is a candidate to replace him.

Sutter has history with Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, who will be in on the decision about what happens with Renney and is also part of Team Canada’s management team. They go back all the way to 1984, when they were teammates with Team Canada.

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And, given the reasons we’re hearing behind the mutual agreement Sutter and the Calgary Flames decided to part company last week – Sutter wanted to begin a full-scale rebuild of the team while Jay Feaster and ownership are not so inclined – there seems to be an alignment in philosophy in Sutter’s approach and what’s going on here in Edmonton.

While it’s fair to argue the merits of giving Renney the golden handshake to make room for Sutter based on coaching style and career records, if you know the business of hockey, any business, you know Sutter’s history with Lowe and being on the same page philosophically carry as much weight as a few percentage points either way in career coaching records.

Of course this is an audition, denials be damned.


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Sutter is back on the coaching market because he and Feaster didn’t see eye to eye on the future of the Flames. Sutter made it clear Monday he preferred going the full rebuild route rather than trying to tweak and coax the Flames into playoff contention as an also-ran. Sound familiar, Oiler fans?

"I’m not a guy to just get in seventh or eighth. To me, you build your team to win the Stanley Cup," said Sutter, who also commented on what he sees happening up the road in Edmonton.

"I like the direction Edmonton is going. They have a lot of young players. It’s a young man’s game. They’ve had an opportunity to take a lot of the best players in the draft. They’ve done a good job of drafting."

Then, there’s the history with Lowe, who has always placed a premium on the relationships he’s made in his career as a player, coach and manager. You need look no further than Lowe’s long friendships with Craig MacTavish and Kelly Buchberger to know that.

"We go back a long, long way. We played together in a Canada Cup," Sutter told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, referring to being teammates with Team Canada in 1984.

"I was real nervous. I was the youngest guy on the team. I’d come in late after camp started. I was in the lobby ready to take a cab to the rink when Kevin came down and suggested we share one together. Remember the Oilers and Islanders were at war back then.

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"Kevin convinced me to relax, be myself, that I was a good player and deserved to be there with the others, that we were all good players, and to go play the way I always played. He helped me through it. He didn’t have to say anything."


Is Renney out as Oilers coach? We don’t know for sure, although I suspect Tambellini leaving him to twist is not a good sign he will be back. Would Sutter represent a clear upgrade and a better match for the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

It’s difficult to know for sure, just basing it on career points percentage and playoff performance. Neither Sutter nor Renney have enjoyed post-season success at the NHL level. Sutter’s regular season points percentage through 410 games with New Jersey and Calgary is .584. Renney sits at .504 through stints with Vancouver, New York and Edmonton.

While those numbers tell us what Renney and Sutter have done until now, the history between Lowe and Sutter and the time they’ll spend working together with Team Canada will likely carry far more weight as to what happens from here on out.

"Everybody knows the Sutters well," Lowe said. "They’re honest people. They’re obviously passionate about the game of hockey . . . I know what Brent represents. I know the type of person he is."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Truth

    Ya, Sutter knowing that the”welcome mat” would be pulled from under him, all of a sudden loves rebuilding teams and loves what the Oilers are doing yada yada…. only reason being he wants a job, wants to be close to his Red Deer Rebels, and wants to close to his cows on the farm .
    Sucked Lowe into this situation…
    I hop this is all a bad dream. Sutter has won nothing in the NHL… and will destroy the young guys… I’d go back to your cows .

  • Oilers21

    What has Brent Sutter done to indicate he’s an upgrade over Tom Renney?? And I can’t imagine a more emotionless, depressing figure behind the bench. I’m not entirely sold that Renney is the answer, but if the new coach isn’t a clear upgrade (like Tippett) I see no reason to change just for the sake of changing

  • Truth

    If Sutter becomes the coach it would be nice if he would try to get Brandon Sutter for the Oilers.

    Maybe they are waiting to see if Alain Vigneault gets fired.

  • Oilers4ever

    Hard for Sutter to coach in Calgary when your philosophy does not match that of the GM… However.. I am quite pissed with how Oilers mgmt is handling Renney. He’s done nothing but do his best for this organization and to leave him twisting is about as ridiculous as the reason why. Coach and GM talk all damn season about the vision they see for their team. Don’t frickin tell me he needs to go away and come back with his vision on the team. You know it already. Tambi needs to go as I’m sick of a GM who hides under his mama’s skirt and can’t make a decision. Get rid of Kevin Lowe and any other former Oilers associated with this team. If I am Renney, I choose not to come back because of how this has been handled. Sutter is comparable to Renney in my eyes. I really like Tippett and I would wait and see what happens with him… Lindy Ruff as well.. I know the Sabres say they are keeping them.. but until the contracts are signed I don’t believe anything.

  • book¡e

    Say no to Sutters, Edmonton north is no Sutter coaching zone. Lets start some better rumours. How about Alain Vignault, hes a better coach.How about Brad Tippet. We don`t need some Calgary castoff.

    • Gerald R. Ford

      I agree, but I think it goes beyond Tambo. It seems to be part of the culture now for management to leave personnel hanging until the last possible second when making decisions about their futures. I understand that business decisions can’t be rushed, and these things take time, etc., but, man… I have been sorely disappointed, and really taken aback sometimes, at the lack of consistency shown in handling personnel matters in a respectful, timely manner. The Druglord is supposed to be such an epic business tycoon, yet a fundamental aspect of operating any business is that, if you value people, LET THEM KNOW. All I’ve seen the last five years or so from this regime is a lot of people from many different areas of the organization (fans, included) being taken for granted. Not cool.

      As for Sutter… I dunno. He definitely seems to be able to squeeze every last bit of effort from his players, but I’m not too keen on the thought of him transplanting that coma-inducing Flames-style hockey here. If they hired him, I’d look on the bright side, and dwell on the positives, but I’m just not sold on the guy, and I’d just as soon let Renney try and take what he’s started to the next level.

  • geoilersgist

    Thinking about Sutter as the coach gives me an uneasy feeling. Really hope they either bring back Renney or get a clear upgrade. I fear though that Tambellini and his constant side steps will be sure to make this happen as to not progress the team only step to the side.

  • Sutter knows how to build a hockey team,so how about Brent takes over Tambellinies job.Tippet I dont believe is great with the young guys if you look at the Turris situation.Its to bad they never got Hitch for all the time he was available.

  • Truth

    What is Tambellini expected to do? Make an announcement that if no better coach becomes available by route of getting fired after missing the playoffs he will stick with Renney?

    To me it is apparent that Tambellini believes as of right now Renney is the best coach for the Oilers. That may change if another coach comes available…Tippet, Vigneult (sp?), Bylsma (dreaming I know), or somebody of that ilk. Last thing we want is Renney to be let go only for all superior coaches to be retained, leaving Tambellini to hire what he considers to be an inferior coach.

    Of course the worst case and entirely possible scenario would be one of the the coaches coming available, Tambellini dropping Renney, and then the available coach signing somewhere else. Forcing Tambellini to sign someone whom he would consider an inferior coach or pull a giant gaff and ask that Renney come back after he can’t find anyone better.

    My opinion: Renney is good, but Tippet, Trotz, Bylsma, Vigneult, Quennville, Hitchcock and Babcock are better. You never know what happens after an early playoff exit.

    *Edit: To keep this post relevant; No to Sutter

    • DieHard

      “To me it is apparent that Tambellini believes as of right now Renney is the best coach for the Oilers. That may change if another coach comes available…Tippet, Vigneult (sp?), Bylsma (dreaming I know), or somebody of that ilk. Last thing we want is Renney to be let go only for all superior coaches to be retained, leaving Tambellini to hire what he considers to be an inferior coach.”

      Why would Tambellini call up Omark (get him past the waiver issue) and Renny not play him. Seems like bad asset management and might be why Renny has to write up a report to be appraised by Tambellini.

  • Two things:

    1) Sutter has accomplished very little as an NHL Head Coach. There could be many other options that would bring the same quality of resume as a Coach.

    2) There is a very irrational (yet understandable) part of me that is uneasy picking up Calgary’s trash.

  • Quicksilver ballet


    I think Tippet figured out something about Turris before anyone else, that the kid is maybe not that great. He handled Keith Yandle and E. Larsson just fine. I would not hold that against him.

    Frankly, if Vignault or Ruff are released they are the cream of the crop I think in regards to coaches. I don`t want to take Sutter because hes available, I want the best guy moving forward. I love Ruff and I respect Vignault for two reasons. They have both been a part of systems that develop young talent very well. How many guys have Buffalo developed into excellent players. The Canucks have a number of guys they have drafted and developed into servicable players in years where they don`t get those sweet picks.

  • Rama Lama

    Well I’m dating myself but I went to school with Brent Sutter ( all the Sutter’s for that matter except the twins) and let’s just say, even in high school he had ” the look”, but never said much.

    The more I think about this the more I like this. Brent Sutter as with all the Sutters, like tough aggressive hockey players. With Tamby and Lowe coveting small, fast, skilled players, maybe Brent can convince them to draft some size and grit?

    RB, you have Tamby’s little charade all figured out. It’s laughable that he wants to give Renny some time to think about the season and ” hear his plan”……….come on Tamby the only joker is you!Let’s hear your brilliant plan…….and finishing last and drafting first is NOT a plan!

    I think it was Gregor( in his post season address after the draft) that pointed out Tamby told the entire hockey world that Yakapov is not a elite talent. Now what kind of GM would diminish the value of his first overall pick? A stupid one!

  • Sutters bench management is actually worse than Renneys, he’s stubborn as a mule and somehow believes that making the same decision over and over again will miraculously yield a different result. (as evidenced by his unbelievably bad line matching in Calgary)

    Lowe claiming hes passionate is well and good but evidently he is incapable of transferring that passion into on ice performance by his mighty steeds.

    Stick to ranching (and scowling) Sutter….. its what you are good at…. apparently. Coaching………. not so much.

    And 1984 is a freaking long time ago…… just saying.

  • oilfan in yyc

    As has been said over and over Sutter has done nothing to improve any NHL team he has coached. I think if they hire him I will be finally forced to box up all of my Oiler paraphernalia a mail back to Oiler head office.

  • A-Mc

    I know nothing about B.Sutters coaching abilities but if i have to watch that mopey face after every game, I’m going to stab something.

    I cannot stand his television presence!

  • DieHard

    I like how a coach’s point percentage is usually brought up but never applied to a general manager.

    To stay on topic, I don’t blame for any of the teams woes on Renney so I don’t see the need for change there.

  • As much as I think tambellini is a doofus, this mess isn’t on him. He (as far as we know) does not have a contract yet just like Renney. Hang this bungling on Kevin Lowe. There’s plenty of incompetence and blame to go around.

  • Lots of quality names being thrown around as possible replacements if Renney isn’t retained.

    Looks to me the best early bets for a short list are Sutter and Craig MacTavish (assuming the Canucks don’t run Vigneault).

    Alain, by the way, is a classy guy and a damn good coach who’d be in demand if he was fired.

    • bazmagoo

      Hey RB, do you think Vigneault would be a good fit in Montreal? For some I think if he gets bounced from Vancouver, MacT is going to get a promotion to the big leagues and Vigneault will get an interview in Montreal.

      There is no way I’d prefer Sutter over Renney, I think Renney deserves another year at least to show us what he’s got. It’s not his fault the horses haven’t been there for him, it wouldn’t be good to fire him just before it looks like the roster is filling out!

    • O.C.

      Alain is a good coaching prospect, if available, but only if he swears off allowing players to dive. Oil fans hate the image that conjures.

      We won’t hear anything about discussions as that would be tampering.

  • I agree that we need a different coach too. and should wait to see who is going to be available. I think if the Oilers already know they have no plans on bringing Renney back, they should at have enough respect for him to tell him so he can explore his options. I wonder how the players would feel playing under Sutter, or if they could choose their next coach, who would get their nod. It seems that Sutter is being courted to be the next coach, and I can’t help by wonder if anyone is being courted to be the next GM.

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    My coaching wishlist for the Oilers goes:
    1) Dave Tippet
    2) Joe Quenville
    3) One more year of Tom Renney then moving Todd Nelson up to the big club to be the Coach the year after
    4)Brent Sutter
    5) who evers left
    6) Tom Renney for more than one year

    the reason I said Todd Nelson in one year instead of now is that way he can have one more year of familirarizing himself with the young farm hands that would follow him up in the years after his hiring (think like a Boudreau in WASH when he was first hired)

    also i see next year as another year where growth and learning will still be emphasized more than winning, maybe to a lesser extent then previous years but still the bias towards learning over winning will be there IMO and Renney is a VERY good coach when it comes to teaching the young guys, his downfall is just that he’s a horrible in-game tactition, thats why youd turf him as soon as your ready to compete

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    How many Sutters do we want anyway? These are the guys that ran the Flames into the ground. Why are the Oilers hiring former direct rivals? Hoping for trade secrets?

    There was a time when the Oilers thought outside of the box, and innovated the game for the better. I’d like to see that type of fresh thinking again.

    One idea would be to ice a team of the best players available, forgoing anyone to “soften up” opponents or be a deterrent. If the BPA’s happen to be mean, all the better.

    I also think interpersonal skills are going to be one of the most important qualities in any coach for the Oilers. He has to get them playing their best, but also maintain a good rapor so these guys actually want to stay – build “team”. Keeping the quality players together is as important as anything if the rebuild is going anywhere. Really there are only a few systems teams use, lots of coaches have the technical abilities.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan


    Tencer tweeted today : Nail Yakupov’s agent Igor Larionov says every team with a top draft pick has talked to he and/or Nail. Except for Edmonton. More to come…

    how can the team that has been locked down to a sure top 3 pick for so long not have chatted with the player or agent yet? this plus murray to team canada where KLowe happens to be GM a tip off something is coming?

    serenity now serenity now serenity now serenity now serenity now