To hear Edmonton Oilers’ president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe tell it, his team hasn’t talked to Brent Sutter about taking over from Tom Renney as head coach. Not a conversation. Not a word.
I’m not going to call Lowe a liar – or even a fibber — because I have no proof to contradict what he told reporters today at the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan when he was asked about Sutter and the vacancy behind his bench. Still, what Lowe said strikes me as odd, given the circumstances.
I suppose Sutter is technically still under contract with the Calgary Flames, even though he and the team announced they were parting ways shortly before Sutter took the gig as coach of Team Canada at the World Championships. In that context, discussing a new stint up Highway 2 would be a no-no.
Then again, you’d think with their parting of the ways public, the Flames would’ve granted Sutter permission to talk to other teams about finding new employment. It follows that Sutter might have discussed the Edmonton job with Lowe, who has known Sutter since their days as players and had a hand in seeing him appointed as Team Canada coach. Seems reasonable, no?
The Oilers, after all, extended the courtesy of talking with other teams to Renney after telling him he wouldn’t be offered a new contract last Thursday, even though he’s under contract until the end of June. That’s convention when you cut a guy loose. Renney told us today he’s already had contact with more than one NHL team.
WHAT HE SAID
Here, courtesy of the Edmonton Journal, is what Lowe told reporters today on the subject of Sutter.
"Brent’s obviously been a good coach and we’ve seen him recently,” Lowe said. "He’s an Albertan and he has lot, I don’t want to say ‘vested,’ in the Battle of Alberta, but he knows it well."
Asked if he thought Sutter would be interested in the job should the subject happen to arise at some point (it HASN’T BEEN DISCUSSED yet), Lowe said: "I don’t see why he wouldn’t want to coach the Edmonton Oilers. He’s a worthwhile candidate, no question."
Again, given the history between Lowe and Sutter, you’d think the subject might come up over dinner or maybe coffee at some point during the World Championships. And again, no.
"The sacredness of the World Championship and everything that needs to be (done), he didn’t need any distractions," said Lowe. "He had just come off the mutual decision, I guess, that he wasn’t going to continue to work with (Calgary) and he had a lot to do. He had a new coaching staff to get to know and he had a lot of players to get to know in a short time."
While it HASN’T BEEN DISCUSSED yet, I’m guessing Lowe, GM Steve Tambellini and Sutter will get around to that bit of business soon enough. Tambellini has said he hopes to have
Sutter a new coach in place before the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place in Pittsburgh June 22-23.
Lowe is in Shawinigan to watch son Keegan play with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Memorial Cup wraps up with the championship game on Sunday the 27th (the Oil Kings are a longshot to reach the final). After that, Lowe and Tambellini will attend the NHL combine, which starts next Monday in Toronto.
Given all the above, and allowing time for Lowe and Tambellini to compile a short-list of candidates, carry out their due diligence and conduct the requisite interview process, I’m guessing the soonest fans can expect the new coach to be unveiled is June 4-8.
My guess, assuming Lowe and Tambellini eventually get around to talking to Sutter about the job – it HASN’T BEEN DISCUSSED yet – is there won’t be any surprises when the announcement does come.
UPDATE: FROM SUTTER
Calgary Sun columnist Eric Francis spoke with Sutter today and asked him about his interest in the coaching situation in Edmonton. That conversation is here.
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