One of the major changes we’re likely to see in Edmonton this fall is playing style. If the Oilers are seriously considering Brent Sutter (seen here in a rare moment of jocularity) as their next coach we can conclude management wants a change in direction: aggressive forecheck, dump and chase, a stern hand. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
LET’S GET STARTED!
A new coach–especially a guy like Brent Sutter–would be an interesting addition to the current Edmonton Oilers. Whereas Pat Quinn had specific old timey priorities–defensemen pass the puck up, one enforcer per line–coach Renney seemed more about teaching and letting the kids run within certain (TOI) limitationsand relying on veterans.
Sutter’s style–dump and chase, hard on the forecheck, turnovers are evil, WIN THE PUCK BATTLE, possession–may not match up with some of the current roster should the Oilers choose to go that way.
Sutter’s coaching style has been described as "defensively responsible but high tempo" and "dull as dishwater" but the truth is that Sutter was (in NJ) successful in getting his teams into the post-season. The reason Edmonton would hire a coach like him is to make the playoffs, so the "style" may be less exciting but "results" are key.
WHO MIGHT STRUGGLE?
These are just guesses, Edmonton might hire someone else or maybe they do hire Sutter and it all works out.
- Ales Hemsky: The best coach for 83 was MacT, who took an exceptional natural talent and asked him to learn some aspects of the game that required hard work. Ales Hemsky learned those lessons and has been playing against the tougher opposition for most of his career. However, he does turn the puck over in bad spots and is a pass first option. I can see player and coach having long meetings when things aren’t going well. Remember, when Brent Sutter arrived in Calgary there were rumors of heated discussions with Iginla and Phaneuf and Double Dion was sent away during his first Calgary season.
- Devan Dubnyk: Sutter has been blessed with veteran goaltenders during his NHL career and Dubnyk is still working on becoming a starter. The second half stats heavily favor DD over NK, but Renney didn’t see it that way (ran Khabibulin out there even when he was bleeding) and the new coach may feel the same way.
- Sam Gagner: Winning puck battles is something Sam Gagner can do, but he’s not 6.04 and 225 either. Sam Gagner and Tom Renney were in my estimation a subpar match and a guess might be that Gagner would be found wanting in some areas by coach Renney as well.
During Brent Sutter’s first season in Calgary, the club dealt Dion Phaneuf, Olli Jokinen, Brandon Prust and brought in Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and others. It was a very active transaction period for the Flames.I think there’s every chance something similar could happen in Edmonton.
WHO MIGHT FLOURISH?
Sutter got great mileage out of some unsung types in CGY, among them (I thought) Nigel Dawes who was drifting when he got him and then drifted after he let him go. Curtis Glencross would also be a player who flourished under Sutter, but I think we knew he was going to be pretty good the summer he left Edmonton.
- Taylor Hall: I figure the new coach–whoever it is–will use Hall as a big minutes evens and PP option. Hall spent 15 minutes a night at evens and 3 minutes a night on the PP this past season. Sutter rode Iginla 17/3, I think we’ll see more of Hall this season.
- Ben Eager: Should be more at home this season and of course let’s hope that Russian doesn’t flatten him right at the start. Eager would be a player whose skills probably match the Sutter style well. Eager’s speed should be a major asset for the aggressive forechecking game.
- Teemu Hartikainen: Things are already trending well for the Finn, but his ability to win battles and go to the net have to be viewed as a positive for a coach like Sutter. This could be the year.
- Chris VandeVelde: Call it a hunch, but Sutter likes experience and bigger men in the middle. VandeVelde is older for a prospect and may still have a small window of opportunity, especially with a new coach.
- Theo Peckham: Sutter likes crust and his hiring might be a Godsend for a young player who perhaps lost his way a little this season. He might even end up as a forward; Peckham would be hell on the forecheck.
- Alex Plante: Another tough defender, Plante has shown a willingness to drop the gloves over the past two seasons. That added dimension may be enough to get him into the NHL under a new coach.
- Colten Teubert: Much as Plante, Teubert will toughen up the roster and make life miserable for opponents.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Edmonton’s new coach will arrive to exceptional top end talent, some disappointing veterans eager to turn things around and a surprisingly strong minor league system. A coach like Brent Sutter may overlook some players we believe are on the verge of full time employment in favor of men we’ve come to see as AHL lifers.
That’s the nature of a change in coaching staffs.