The next head coach: Matheson’s list

It was interesting to see Jim Matheson’s list of head coach candidates in the Edmonton Journal yesterday. Matheson has a long track record of breaking news about the Oilers and he’s one of a handful of people well worth listening to for an idea of what team management has in the works.

Answering a question from reader Dennis Wong, Matheson suggested that former Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter was the most likely replacement for Tom Renney, echoing similar statements from Terry Jones and OilersNation’s own Robin Brownlee. Matheson also brought up Ralph Krueger’s name, which also doesn’t come as a surprise.

But there are two other points that strike me as being of interest. The first is this:

But I believe that Tambellini will interview six people for the position over the next few weeks.

That comment fits with what Darren Dreger of TSN reported a few days ago: basically that the Oilers wanted to a) go through a bunch of candidates, b) ideally by the draft but c) that no firm timeframe existed. Six candidates in the next few weeks would let the Oilers burn through most, if not all, of the top contenders on their list, with the possibility of a decision before the draft at the end of June.

The other thing that jumped out at me were the names listed by Matheson as potential interviewees:

  • Brent Sutter
  • Ralph Krueger
  • Dallas Eakins
  • Jon Cooper
  • Todd Nelson
  • Paul Maurice
  • Ron Wilson
  • John Stevens

That’s eight names total, but it’s also worth remembering that Eakins and Cooper both have other things on their plate: as Wong points out, they’re coaching in the AHL finals. The seventh game – if necessary – of those finals is scheduled for June 15, so Tambellini isn’t likely to interview either candidate any time over the next two weeks. The seventh game (again, if necessary) of the Stanley Cup Finals – where Stevens is coaching – would take place on June 15. Is it likely the other five are on Tambellini’s interview list for the next few weeks?

Equally as interesting as the names listed are those omitted. Marc Crawford, who worked with Tambellini in Vancouver and was interviewed the last time the Oilers went coach-hunting, is not on the list. Neither is the man who succeeded him in Colorado, Bob Hartley. That may or may not mean anything – I credit Matheson with a great deal of information the rest of us lack, but not with omniscience – but it is interesting all the same.

Regardless, this further confirmation that the Oilers are going to do an extensive search for their next candidate is welcome news.

I’ve argued previously in favour of Jon Cooper, the lawyer who guided Norfolk (AHL) to 28 straight wins to close out the 2011-12 season, but there’s a lot of talent and hockey knowledge on that list. Todd Nelson’s work in Oklahoma City speaks strongly in his favour after years of poor Oilers farm teams (Gregor talked to Nelson about the possibility of becoming the Oilers’ head coach here), while Dallas Eakins is deservedly a highly-regarded candidate.

The more veteran names on the list all deserve to be there too. Brent Sutter is a good NHL coach who has been discussed at length, while Ralph Krueger did superb work as the head of the Swiss national team. Paul Maurice is bright and articulate; Ron Wilson tough, demanding and innovative. John Stevens won it all in the AHL in 2005 and was a solid coach for the Flyers.

The last time the Oilers made this decision, Tambellini talked to a lot of people but eventually settled on Pat Quinn, a highly respected man he had a long history with. It backfired disastrously. That can’t happen this time – not just for Tambellini’s sake, but for the sake of the team. The Oilers are at a critical juncture, and how far they ultimately go is going to depend to no small degree on finding the right man to bring out the best in his charges.

As Lowetide put it the other day, this might be the team’s most important coaching hire since Sather. A thorough look at the different options is a very good idea.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Reg Dunlop

    I’m sure that I’m guilty of overestimating what our guys are capable of but the young guys with their upside… I seriously think breakout seasons are imminent. If DD puts in a solid 60 games just maybe Khabbi can hold together for 20. Petry is Gilbert with a physical edge. He will be a 1st pairing guy. If Hall can stay healthy he can push for 50 goals next year. Combine this with a coach(Sutter?) that fires the vets up for BOA games, which we will sweep, and the playoffs are possible next year. I want to believe.

    Also, if oilfans are guilty of over valuing their players, do you think many also over value Yak? Or is he truly our last shot at a Calder win? I think Henrique may have wrapped it up with his playoff performance this year, sorry RNH.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Resistance is futile gentleman.

    Once the poison (hockey) enters the bloodstream, any chance of rehabilitation is lost.

    Wes and myself will help guide you guys through these darkest of days. Just try and show a little appreciation now and then, kay guys?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I was just downtown and driving near the Leg grounds and I stopped at a red light and Tom Renney and maybe it was his wife walked right by. I tooted my horn and gave him the “thumbs up” and he smiled, waved and mouthed “thank you”.

    Seems like a classy guy and great to see him and the lady with him enjoying a nice stroll through Edmonton when he very well could be anywhere else in the world right now.

    Thanks again for everything Tom!

  • oldhippy

    Groundhog Day quote. “Some people would say this beer glass is half empty, some guys would say this beer glass is half full, I think your a beer glass is half empty kind of guy”
    Seriously, this is half the posters on here. Thanks Reg Dunlop for being a beer glass is half full kind of guy.

    Dubnyk has been making great strides. If he had played Khabi’s minutes, and maintained his sv%, we would have wone at least another 6 to 8 games.

    From a coaching perspective…..
    Belager gets a lot of hate from Oil fans and Tambellini is criticized for signing him. He had a career worst year. At 34, did the wheels come off or would different coaching get him back to where he was with Phoenix?
    Horcoff and Smyth started off strong and then collapsed. Could a different coach get more out of these two?
    My point is this…If a new coach can get more out of players, who had off years from their normal metrics, how many more wins would that translate to?
    If a new coach gives DD starter minutes, and his gaa/sv% stay the same, how many wins would that add?
    A coaching change might well add 10 to 12 wins. Add in a healthy Hemskey and additional scoring from Yak…..Add another year of maturity and experience from Hall…..Add in another year of experience to the youth on the blue line….Add in a healthy(er) Whitney…

    Call me a beer glass is half full kind of guy, but I see reasons to be optimistic, and the coaching is a big part of it.

  • oldhippy

    JW – can someone give us a POV on Doug Weight as a candidate? John Tavares credits Weight’s mentorship this year with being a big factor in his development as a competitor and a professional (radio interview on FAN 590 when #JT91 wa talking about the cover vote last week).

    Tihough he has roots in New York, a job of this stature would have definite career upside as opposed to his current position on the Island.

  • OutDoorRink

    It’s always easier to aim low. How about this. This is my ‘Goth’ version of the Oilers

    The Oilers will hire the wrong coach and draft the wrong player and it’s doom and gloom for 4 more years. Life’s not worth living. Time to paint my fingernails black.