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.