It sounds like you can cross one name off the list of potential candidates to replace Tom Renney. I spoke with OKC Barons head coach Todd Nelson on my show this afternoon, and his response to my question about his current coaching situation made it sound like he really wants to be back in OKC next year.
Nelson’s contract is up, and I asked him about the vacancy in Edmonton and if he expects to speak with Steve Tambellini about the job.
"I expect them to talk to me about the future of the Oklahoma City Barons, but if something else comes up then we’ll talk about that. It’s been so busy here lately for everybody in the organization. Tambi and Kevin have been jet setting everywhere to watch different games, and we just finished up our exit meetings so everybody’s been very busy. I’d like to talk to them about the future of the Oklahoma City Barons and go on from there," said Nelson.
The easiest decision Steve Tambellini will make this off-season is re-signing Nelson. Nelson coached the Barons to a 45-22-9 regular season record and got them to the 3rd round of the playoffs. If Nelson wants to come back, Tambellini will gladly give him a new contract.
What if another NHL team is looking for an assistant coach. Nelson made it sound like he’s looking to be a head coach, not an assistant, at this point.
"I was already an assistant in the NHL. I’ve been there and saw what it was like. Right now I really like my role with this team. I love being a head coach, and if I had the opportunity to be an assistant elsewhere I might entertain it, but it would have to be a pretty decent offer. I’d like to stay here (OKC) as a head coach and eventually try to make it in the NHL as a head coach."
Nelson was pretty blunt in saying where he wants to be. He’s happy in OKC. I suspect that in a few more years, with a more few solid seasons under his belt, he’ll be a candidate for some NHL coaching gigs. But for now he made it clear that he wants to be in OKC, and that has to be great news for Tambellini.
Next season Nelson will be able to lean more on guys like Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and he’ll have either Olivier Roy or Tyler Bunz to develop in goal. He won this season by relying on AHL veterans like Josh Green, Ryan Keller, Yann Danis and Bryan Helmer, but next year he’ll be able to use Pitlick and others more often.
The other interesting side note is that Nelson might get to work with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. If there is another lockout those two would be playing in OKC. It might only be for a few months, but that would be a great opportunity for Nelson and the kids to get familiar with each other.
Continuity is a key component for successful organizations, and the Oilers would be wise to re-sign Nelson and have him behind the OKC bench for the next few seasons.