AT RANDOM: DECISIONS

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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I wish the media would stop this Sutter BS. Maybe they should poll us Oiler fans and we would give a big hell no to these media hacks insistant on being lazy and just trying to perpetuating this bad rumor during a slow news cycle.

    The coaches we should be looking at our like a Quennville, or Hartley, Trotz, Tippet if available. If not get a young coach like the casino boss Nelson outta OKC, or Eakins outta TO. No to Sutter, no to Crawford, no to Marice. Maybe to Martin or McClellan sp?

  • “Maybe they should poll us Oiler fans . . .”

    We media hacks are too busy making stuff up — you know, the BS about Sutter being a leading contender for the job — to ask you, Smokey.

    Smokey? As in Mary Jane, weed, reefer, ganja, rocket, fattie, doobie?

    You baked now, Bub?

  • Reg Dunlop

    I was thinking that Bob Hartley would be a good fit here, with his beautiful wife Emily and wackey neighbor Howard. But then I heard he was rumored to be in the running for the flames job, so obviously he is somehow tainted.

    Seriously, a defensive structure(trap?) would help the oil tremendously and with some offence talent(like Heatly in Atl) Hartley might save Tambo’s job here.

    Also, my fav BOC album is Cultosaurus Erectus

  • Reg Dunlop

    @brownlee

    So you do not prescribe to the Pierre lacroix theory? he went with a younger Marc Crawford because he wanted a younger, more progressive coach with whom the players could relate and grow.

    The NHL landscape is changing and we are seeing lots of younger coaches having success, for the reasons lacroix identified, and most likely because younger coaches are more likely to embrace new methods like leveraging advanced stats and the like.

    Tambo may go with the veteran coach because he hasn’t had an origonal thought in his life, but all you have to do is look at Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, Kevin Dineen, Kurt Muller and others to see that younger, innovative coaches can have success, more so than re-treads in many cases. When you look at the resume of a Cooper, I do not know how you could call hiring someone with his track record a “flyer”.

  • dawgbone98

    Chicken and egg. I would hope that you have a pretty darn good idea of what asset(s) you need to move to obtain an established top 2 Dman. If you’re going to move Gagner, Galchenyuk is pretty obvious as a replacement. If you (God forbid!) trade Hall to land Norris Trophy type Dman, then draft Yakupov to replace him.

  • “When you look at the resume of a Cooper, I do not know how you could call hiring someone with his track record a “flyer”.

    Refresh me on Cooper’s record as an NHL coach.

    Cooper may be one at some point, but that point is not now, at least not with this team. Can’t have a coach feeling his way in with a team that’s doing the same.

    I like most of the younger coaches you listed, just like I think Cooper will find a fit somewhere. It just won’t be here right now.

    It’s “Kirk” Muller. He played in the NHL for 19 seasons. If you don’t know his first name, how well do you really know his approach to coaching? Fair question, no? Or is it just that younger is better?

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    gcw_rocks wrote:

    So you do not prescribe to the Pierre lacroix theory? he went with a younger Marc Crawford because he wanted a younger, more progressive coach with whom the players could relate and grow.

    The NHL landscape is changing and we are seeing lots of younger coaches having success, for the reasons lacroix identified, and most likely because younger coaches are more likely to embrace new methods like leveraging advanced stats and the like.

    Tambo may go with the veteran coach because he hasn’t had an origonal thought in his life, but all you have to do is look at Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, Kevin Dineen, Kurt Muller and others to see that younger, innovative coaches can have success, more so than re-treads in many cases. When you look at the resume of a Cooper, I do not know how you could call hiring someone with his track record a “flyer”.

    exactly! look at the final 4 coaches this year as proof.. or the coaches in the finals last year..

    wait, what were we talking about?

  • “Robin, this Blue Oyster Cult group you speak of, are the from before Duran Duran, or after?”

    BOC is from before AND after because they are actually capable of playing instruments and making music, unlike a lot of the sh!tty bands that sold like hotcakes for 15 minutes in the 80s, which was the black hole decade for music. You know, Duran Duran, Glass Tiger, Culture Club, Fine Young Cannibals, Rick Astley, Human League and all the other gooey junk you had in your CD collection. Mercy, I feel my dinner rushing up my throat just thinking of that gaggle of stiffs.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Robin. You must have them mixed up with someone else Robin. You’ve never asked a girl to dance to this classic?

    “Hungry Like The Wolf”

    Sing it with me now…. a 1 and a 2 and a 123….

    Darken the city, night is a wire
    Steam in the subway, earth is a afire
    Do do do do do do do dodo dododo dodo
    Woman, you want me, give me a sign
    And catch my breathing even closer behind
    Do do do do do do do dodo dododo dodo

    In touch with the ground
    I’m on the hunt I’m after you
    Smell like I sound, I’m lost in a crowd
    And I’m hungry like the wolf
    Straddle the line in discord and rhyme
    I’m on the hunt I’m after you
    Mouth is alive with juices like wine
    And I’m hungry like the wolf

    Stalked in the forest, too close to hide
    I’ll be upon you by the moonlight side
    Do do do do do do do dodo dododo dodo
    High blood drumming on your skin, it’s so tight
    You feel my heat, I’m just a moment behind
    Do do do do do do do dodo dododo dodo

    In touch with the ground
    I’m on the hunt I’m after you
    A scent and a sound, I’m lost and I’m found
    And I’m hungry like the wolf
    Strut on a line, it’s discord and rhyme
    I howl and I whine, I’m after you
    Mouth is alive, all running inside
    And I’m hungry like the wolf

    Hungry like the wolf
    Hungry like the wolf
    Hungry like the wolf

    Burning the ground, I break from the crowd
    I’m on the hunt, I’m after you
    I smell like I sound, I’m lost and I’m found
    And I’m hungry like the wolf
    Strut on a line, it’s discord and rhyme
    I’m on the hunt, I’m after you
    Mouth is alive with juices like wine
    And I’m hungry like the wolf

  • Slapshot

    @ brownlee

    Its called a typo.

    Flyer: a reckless or speculative venture

    Hiring Ryan Smyth as coach would fit the definition of a flyer. Hiring a guy who has won consistently at every level he has coached at, ran off a 238 game win streak in a very tough league and has his team marching through the AHL playoffs would not seem to fit the definition of a “flyer”.

    Sheesh.

  • Brownlee,

    I don`t believe it takes a genious to figure out that the Oilers may have interest in Sutter, or visa versa. How many stories have been written about it. My media hack comment is directed at the media that are obviously interested in keeping the story alive. Your skin as a journalist should be strong enough to accept that. My comment was not even directed at you. I`ve simply heard few stories about other canidates, thus the nature of my comment.

    You want to attack me on my opinions, go ahead. Making comments about Cannibis use is lazy and unproffessional for someone I thought of your ilk. If I made comments on this blog about you smoking reefer then I bet guarantee my comment would be removed. I have been a huge fan of your work, however today that has been lessened by your comments. I am reader who reads this blog, tells my friends and family about it, and I don`t know if I am going to waste my time doing that anymore. I`ve read this blog for almost as long as its been around, and I`ve read your work for probably longer. We the readership are important to you, don`t alienate us.

    Dawgbone,I am definitely aware some of the coaches are under contract. Have you concidered that some may not be under contract at the end of the playoffs.

  • No, a typo is writing “Krik” when you mean “Kirk.” You thought his name was Kurt. Big difference.

    A 238-game win streak? My God, I did sell Cooper short. Hire him immediately.

    I know what a flyer is, but thanks for the tip.

  • Bylsma won a Cup recently. Boucher made it to the final four last year, and Deboer is on the younger side of the NHL coaching grinder as well.

    My point is its crazy to discount young coaches just because they haven’t coached in the NHL yet.

    You need to look at the track record of all the candidates and pick the one you beleive will be the best fit.

    I would love to grab Vineault if he come available, and I would be okay with Hartley (I mean he got the Thrashers into the playoffs for christ sake) or Cooper as second choice.

  • I’m not discounting young coaches. NHL hires should not be a non-stop carousel of retreads and guys in their 50s and 60s. Here and now, however, I’m of the mind the Oilers need a coach with NHL experience.

    In case the thought has eluded you, I’ve also “discounted” a lot of experienced coaches because I don’t see them as fits in substance and/or style.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Sutter is 50. some of the youngsters mentioned:

    Kurt Muller-46
    Alain Vigneault-51
    Bob Hartley-52

    What does it matter? A few years here or there. What will matter to Tambo is NHL experience because the new coach holds Tambo’s job in his hands.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Renney as coach was at 1 end of extremes, he seemed to never say anything to the boys on the bench as if he didn’t want to miss the game. The other end of this extreme was Viktor Tikhnov who would face his players, back to the ice, to better scream at them. Someone in the middle would be nice.