BEHIND THE BENCH: WHAT’S NEXT?

A day after the Edmonton Oilers tied the can to Tom Renney, I’m still convinced Brent Sutter is the leading candidate to replace him as head coach. Being the "leading candidate" doesn’t, however, necessarily translate to Sutter being a slam-dunk.

I dubbed Sutter’s appointment as head coach of Team Canada for the World Championships an audition for the Oiler job – timing and the fact Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini were and are involved with Canada’s front office makes made that pretty obvious – and I still believe it was essentially that.

Lowe and Tambellini got a front-row seat at the WC and a close-up look at Sutter’s style and substance, albeit a brief one. That, unless you are of the mind Sutter isn’t being considered for the Edmonton job at all, is going to have an effect on the decision they make about Renney’s successor.

Sutter and Lowe go back a long way. I’ve got no doubt Lowe holds Sutter in high regard as a competitor and a coach. While Sutter’s latest gig might have served to reinforce the opinion of Sutter that Lowe and Tambellini had going into the tournament, there is a flipside.

With Canada’s performance, capped by a 4-3 loss to Slovakia, far from overwhelming, I’m wondering if Lowe and Tambellini saw any warts or shortcomings in Sutter’s approach – that’s a fair question when Team Canada doesn’t get into the medal round at any tournament.

If Lowe and Tambellini did come away from the WC tournament with questions or impressions they didn’t have going in based on what they saw first-hand, that’s not a bad thing. Getting more information never is. That’s especially true with this hire. Tambellini and Lowe have to get it right.

AND . . .

So, what of associate coach Ralph Krueger and assistants Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith? Convention has it that a new head coach gets to pick his staff, but I don’t see all three being shown the door.

I actually see two of the three sticking around on the staff with the new coach, and my best guess is Buchberger and Smith will retain their positions when training camp begins under Sutter, or whoever gets the job. Some fans believe Krueger should get some consideration as a replacement for Renney, and I think he will. I know Krueger, who did some fill-in work running the bench when Renney was ailing, has some support in the room.

Allowing for that, the likeliest scenario is Krueger ends up back in Europe and Smith and Buchberger stay on, leaving the new head coach to fill one slot on the staff with a hand-picked assistant. Smith did solid work in his first year here. Buchberger has become something of a fixture as sort of a resident assistant and provides some continuity.

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

  • Chris.

    What are anyones thoughts on:

    Jaques Martin. He had a lot of success with a fairly unimpressive roster. He is a good systems coach, something the oilers lack…

    Or Paul Maurice, he had success in his first term as Hurricanes coach, they had a lot of youth on the team as well.

    Scott Arniel, former standout in the AHL – he had a brutal roster in Columbus.

    • Bucknuck

      Jacques Martin is a fine coach during the regular season, and he had some success with some pretty thin rosters and some great ones. The years he missed were when he was coaching a sadsack Florida team. He was fired from Mtl and the team fared even worse without him this year. He should be given consideration.

      Paul Maurice coached in parts of fifteen seasons and made the playoffs four times. no thanks.

      Scott Arniel was a competent AHL coach, though his teams never really won anything, though they did make the playoffs four years in a row and one year went deep. If they were going to take a run at an inexperienced young coach I would prefer they go for Jon Cooper or Scott Nelson before Arniel.

  • Reg Dunlop

    @gcw rocks

    If Rick Tocchet had a nickname it would be ‘the Financier’, not ‘the Gambler’. He and a partner financed an illegal sports book,he was never accused of illegal gambling and gambling on NHL games has never been mentioned. For him to get a shot at a head coaching job after this indicates he must have something to offer, and if MacT deserved a 2nd chance as an ex-con,so does Rick.