One of my favorite songs is Then Came The Last Days of May by Blue Oyster Cult, not that I’d expect anybody under 40 to know that tune or the band, for that matter.
As for the actual last days of May on the hockey beat, they always serve as a reminder that covering the games is the easy part of the job, especially if your gig is covering a team like the Edmonton Oilers, out of the playoffs for the sixth straight season. It’s down time and nobody is answering the phone.
With the Oilers on the slab in terms of post-season since January, the carcass poked and prodded, the disappointment of another fail duly documented and the toe tag affixed to the stiff – fire Kevin Lowe/Steve Tambellini/the coaching staff and everybody else who had hand in the mess – we work the phones, we snoop around, we speculate about stuff and, mostly, we wait.
With the next real bits of actual news being the NHL combine in Toronto this coming weekend and then the Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, thank goodness the Oilers have a head coach to replace and the first overall pick to make for the third June in a row.
The last days of May, for those with gigs that don’t involve documenting the conference finals and the Stanley Cup unless the teams we cover are in it, tend to drag on. The real meaty stuff – should Tambellini hire Brent Sutter or fill-in-name-of-anybody-who-didn’t-coach -the-Godless-Flames-here and getting a handle on who Stu MacGregor and his staff have decided to use the first pick on (they aren’t saying) – is just around the corner.
Not a day too soon.
ABOUT THE BENCH
I still think Sutter is the name we’ll hear when Tambellini summons us to announce a replacement for Tom Renney, but knowing it and thinking it are two distinctly different matters. Nobody is talking, and in rare cases when they do, they aren’t telling us anything. Gut feel. Circumstance.
While there’s plenty of room for debate about who the next coach should be, and we’re reading and hearing plenty of it, what I don’t get are the references by readers here about not wanting Sutter because of the stint he put in down the road in Cowtown. Record? Sure. Ability to develop young players? Yes. The right fit for this stage of the rebuild? Obviously. But having Calgary on your coaching resume as a negative? Please.
I chatted with Craig MacTavish the other day and came away from that conversation with the sense he won’t be on Tambellini’s short list and has no great desire to be. While I think the circumstances are markedly better than the situation he left no so long ago, an encore isn’t in the cards. I’ll get together with MacT in Kelowna for a coffee before the draft, but I expect Renney’s replacement will be in place by then and it won’t be him.
There are some outstanding young coaches out there – Jon Cooper of Norfolk and OKC bench boss Todd Nelson, to name two – but I can’t see Tambellini putting his job on the line (and, make no mistake, it is) on a coach without NHL experience running the bench. Tambellini won’t roll the dice on anybody without a track record. Should they get a look? Yes. Will they get the job? No.
ABOUT THAT PICK
Until MacGregor coughs up the Oilers draft list, something I’ve yet to coax out of him despite all the history we have dating back 20 years or so, we’re left to guess about who he and his staff slotted No. 1 heading into Pittsburgh.
I’m not completely convinced that it could be any one of three or four players as MacGregor was selling last time we talked, but there probably is more room for debate than there was in 2010, when Taylor Hall separated himself from Tyler Seguin with a second straight Memorial Cup win as MVP, and in 2011, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the class of field.
What struck me in my last conversation with MacGregor was his reference to Tambellini making it clear that organizational need is a factor that has to be considered, as opposed to taking the garden variety BPA. This is the first time I remember MacGregor making that reference regarding Tambellini or Lowe.
Might "organizational need" bump Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk or defensemen Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhart ahead of winger Nail Yakupov or am I just reading between the lines and seeing something that isn’t there? I don’t know, although I read Jason Gregor’s latest piece here with interest — as it pertains to the unquestionably talented Galchenyuk.
THIS AND THAT
The Oilers used to send a horde of scouts to the NHL’s combine, but they’ve cut down on the size of the contingent in recent years. Expect MacGregor, Brad Davis, director of research analysis Sean Draper, Tambellini and Lowe to attend this edition.
The Oilers have interviews planned with 83 prospects in Toronto, including Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Murray and Reinhart, the Oil Kings defenseman who has the benefit of showcasing himself in the Memorial Cup while the others sit and watch.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.