After a lengthy two month process the Oilers officially announced that Ralph Krueger would be the 11th head coach in Oiler history. Krueger has over 20 years of coaching experience, but he’s a rookie NHL head coach. Will that matter? Time will tell, but the young Oiler players are fans of Krueger.

I don’t mind the hire, in fact it is first time I’ve seen Steve Tambellini make a bold move. Tambellini needs this hire to work out if he wants to remain GM in Edmonton, so I applaud him for going against conventional wisdom, hire a former NHL coach, and giving Krueger his first stint as an NHL bench boss.

After Krueger’s press conference, I caught up with him for a one-on-one to get a better grasp of what style and philosophy he’ll bring behind the bench. 

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Can you describe your approach will be, not your personality, as a coach?

“My approach as a coach is that I will hold people accountable for the things we agree on. I’m somebody who at the beginning of the season and throughout a season, will continually make the expectations clear so everybody knows what is expected of them.

"What is critical as a leader is to react when it (expectations) is not met, and I’m very quick at that. I do not have any interests in my own popularity. I will trust the fact that there will be respect at the end of day, if you draw a line and you hold that line and you hold people accountable to that line. I can only say that wherever I have coached I’ve been very, very clear on that," he said.

A lot has been made about allocating icetime and responsibility between the veterans and the kids, however, Krueger made it clear that experience won’t guarantee you icetime.

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"I’m not interested in the age; I’m interested in the passion and work ethic,” said Krueger when asked about playing kids over veterans.

I asked him about his motivational speaking background and how, or if, he’ll incorporate that into his coaching.

“It’s very open and honest multi-directional communication. I will be a lot less about technicalities and tactics than I will be about keeping the communications lines open. I’m into coaching quality and not quantity. I found that the pace of the NHL and the travel we have doesn’t allow for a lot of quantity as far as the work we have…as an example, video.

"I think it is about quality. I think it is about bringing the players what they need so they can play freely on the ice. I’m going to be really big on balance, really big on giving them proper rest and recovery times. Days off will be used as a tool, not as a form of reward or punishment. I think it has to be in the plan that rest and recovery and proper nutrition and all of these details are looked at.

“I’m really big on being organized. I love being over-organized so we have no stress in the day and in the moment. If you are disorganized as a coach then the players will feel that. If they know you are well structured and organized then you can be spontaneous in the game, in the practice and in the day. I like to live with good organization and live spontaneously through the day.”

Krueger definitely is a thinker. He seems to have a similar philosophy of former NBA coach Phil Jackson. He is big on communciation and understanding the human side of his players. He is very open to getting feedback from his players and discussed how he feels those open lines of communcation will help him.

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“I think strong coaching allows the instincts of the players to flourish and flow naturally, and that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges. With all the skill we have we still need to bring them together on one page in the defensive side of the game, but allow them the freedom to flow and be dynamic and exciting offensively. We will find a way I’m sure.

"I want the fans to really embrace this team, not only with Ws going in the column at a higher level, but more about the way we play and the way we execute on the ice. I think they will accept the results if we play with passion.”


Many have said they feel Renney and Krueger are the same coach, in that neither of them can be a hard ass. I asked Krueger about the "hard ass" perception, and if he has it, or if he thinks it is necessary.

“I think hardness is relative. I use tough empathy. I approach coaching from the heart. I like to feel what is going in the players emotionally. More than anything if they feel you are consistent and you’re fair to everybody you can bring that toughness to the decision making process. Whether it is benching a player during the game, or whether it is changing a line, or taking someone out of special teams. If they see it is consistent and it is fair to everybody, then there is a certain toughness behind that too."

I think it is fair to say that is one area that Renney struggled with at times last season. No matter what Eric Belanger did he continually played him. Same with some other veterans, but it sounds like Krueger won’t follow that path.

The one element that hasn’t changed, despite a new coach in town, is the personnel. The Oilers still don’t have a lot of grit, and unless Steve Tambellini addresses that in the upcoming months, Krueger will have to be a master motivator to get this team to be harder to play against.

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We discussed the lack of grit and how he’ll try to overcome that.

“We have a lot of speed in our lineup and aggressiveness doesn’t always mean going through and killing guys. It means taking away the space from the opposition; it means being on the puck quickly and winning it back. We have to build the aggressiveness for the team that we end up having.”

That sounds similar to Dave Tippett’s style in Phoenix.  The Coyotes were never blessed with lots of huge, physical players, but he was able to convince and demand that every player was tenacious on the puck.

We’ll see if Krueger can convince this group they need to play that way.


My only beef with the Krueger hiring is that it looks like Tom Renney and Cam Barker are the reasons the Oilers finished 29th. I know it isn’t that simple, but so far those are the only two who have lost their job. The rest of the coaching staff remains in place, the management team is the same, the scouts are the same and so far the majority of the players are still here.

The Oilers should be better due to the addition of Nail Yakupov, and a healthier Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky, but by not re-signing Renney it sure seems like they felt he was the main problem.

Renney wasn’t free from blame, but he wasn’t the only problem.


  • The Oilers still haven’t been granted a meeting from Justin Schultz camp. They are confident they will be granted one, likely Thursday or Friday, but nothing is guaranteed.
  • It sounds like Hall and Schultz were supposed to meet last night, but that Schultz had to postpone the meeting. No word if, or when, they will get a chance to meet again. But it is clear the Oilers want Schultz to speak with players, coaches and management before making his decision.
  • Ryan Smyth and the Oilers are scheduled to meet before July 1st. Smyth wants to be here, and the Oilers need a solid veteran who can play 3rd line minutes, and be capable of filling in on the top-six. I expect them to come to an agreement on a one-year deal with bonuses.
  • Yakupov said if he makes the team then he will unveil what number he will wear, but until then it is a secret.
  •  Oscar Klefbom would like to come to main camp and see how he compares to NHL players, but he admitted he doesn’t want to rush things. He felt he took some huge strides after the WJC, and that he feels he is very close to being an NHLer.
  • Kyle Bigos is huge at 6’5", 250 pounds. He needs to work on his skating, but he’s a giant. He’s a prospect at this point, but if he can gain a step and use his size properly he might have a chance to make this team down the road.

  • The Hall Way

    First. My first ever! i am excited to see what Krueger can do. i am also excited for all of Geno’s Nail & Freddy Krueger puns! First Schultz, next Free agency! Then bring on the Season!

  • John Chambers

    Kruger sounds like he has a modern outlook on coaching. I’m far more satisfied with this outcome than reaching back into the bag of old tricks and coming up with Marc Crawford or Sutter.

    Cooper would’ve been an interesting choice but Kruger’s motivational style has also had proven success, and it’s beneficial that he already has rapport and familiarity with the players.

  • One Time!

    I am very happy we have Ralph Krueger! But when are we going to replace the biggest problem in Steve Tambellini? He has been here for too long and has done NOTHING with this team. We have picked the BPA everytime at the draft (I can do that) 30,30,29 great results. I understand you have to crawl before you can walk but this guy is still crawling and will be till we punt him from this team.

  • I like this coaching change. Look forward to seeing how it changes the on ice product.

    I do have a question for you Gregor, did the Oilers have any interest in Wideman? To me, he seems like he would have filled a void we have and at 5.25 a season ( i think that is what I read) it’s not too big of a cap hit.

  • Spydyr

    Flames Sign Wideman. All out for Shultz Oilers. You will regret
    not signing in E-town Justin if thats what happens.
    We are loading and taking aim NHL.. Lookout.

  • One Time!

    And now we missed the boat on Dennis Wideman because Steve, Craig and Kevin are discussing who should pay for lunch in Toronto when all three go and try and land Schultz. Too many chiefs not enought indians!

      • justDOit

        Now that I think about his user name, he must be a Flames fan. So we should probably let him bathe in the delusion that Wideman is a good defenceman – regardless of how overpaid that contract is.

        • Spydyr

          I think the money for a guy with 44 points, over a hundred hits, and lead a team in shot blocks is worth it. This guy was the best all around defenseman available at free agency (minus Suter). However, the addition of a first round pick and another defenseman makes it an overpay, especially for a team like Calgary.

          What I will say is at least they were able to pull the trigger on something like this. Do you know what’s worse than overpaying for Wideman, icing the same team that put you in last place for the last three years.

          • justDOit

            Sure Wideman puts up good numbers, but he’s also consistently a heavy minus. I get that he’s a right hand shot, and they’re coveted in the league right now, but putting up PP points while sucking at preventing goals against isn’t a trait the Oilers should be looking for.

            I would rather see a Matt Carle type of defender acquired by the Oilers. He isn’t a right hand shot, but has put up similar numbers to Wideman in Philly the last few seasons, and is a PLUS 55 in his career.

          • justDOit

            I’ve been trying to work and patrol the Oiler blogs, and in doing so can’t figure out the context of your response. I would agree with your statement though – I just can’t relate it to anything I might have posted.

            You mean that signing Wideman would be a good thing? Or that Carle would be bad for the Oilers?

          • justDOit

            I believe that someone has written a blog about the significant point drop of dmen who make the move to the western conference – JayBo being front and center.

            I expect that Wideman’s abysmal -36 (career) will improve in his first season with the Flames, but I doubt he’ll be near his 0.5 ppg average.

  • justDOit

    Wideman at $5.25M/yr for FIVE years? That’s not a boat that the Oilers missed, it was a canoe going up a certain creek, and I don’t think Feaster has a paddle!

    Edit: And reports have it that ST is not on the Schultz expedition – just Lowe, MacT, and their all their Cup rings.

  • Spydyr

    Why don’t they offer Cooper an Associate coaches job.The last two head coaches of the team came from that position.It would only be a matter of time before Cooper gets a shot.As coaches are hired to be fired.

    What do you think will happen to the assistant coaches .Will Ralph keep all, some or none?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    We already have two underachieving 5 mill+ performers on this team. If two wrongs don’t make a right, adding a third in Wideman certainly won’t.

    Gift wrapping roster spots for Klefbom and Justin Schultz (cross our fingers) is the better way to go.

    Sure like to see Ralph bring Mr. Cooper into the fold as an assistant. Two motivators are better than one.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      My mistake, well then I am sad we didn’t get him, and for anyone who calls wideman underachieving, how does a defenseman get in the top ten for points for defense, and is labelled as underachieving?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    This isn’t a surprise. They didn’t bring in someone new. Krueger doesn’t have any experience as a NHL head coach.

    And it’s all fine here – it could have been Sutter!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I am curious if guys like Jason and Robin, guys in the know, were left with the feeling that the Oilers really did conduct an, I think Tambellini used the word, exhaustive search for the new head coach?

    Stauffer has been calling this one for a long time now which suggests to me that this process was just more meaningless lip service from the brass.

    The only names that seem to have be confirmed as interviewed were Crawford and Nelson. Not exactly an example of turning over every stone.

  • vetinari

    Krueger sounds like an excellant motivator and should provide the kids the continuity that they need at this stage of their careers.

    I am curious as to how many people did the Oil brass talk to about the position before hiring Krueger? Does anyone know the extent of their search? I’m fine with Krueger but typically you hear about 4-6 names associated with a position before a coach is announced and this time around, I only heard Sutter’s name (and he says that he never interviewed for the job) and Krueger’s.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Rick

    I’m inclined to agree with you Rick. That Dial a Vagina (TreenasOil) sure makes it appear as though the Oilers were alot busier than they really were.

    She paraded every name possible through those offices as possible/interested candidates.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jason, it’s a little early to be stating the only changes made are Renney & Barker. I’m just hoping they don’t make too many changes but I’m sure there will be more changes! Would like to see Vandevelde make the team along with Hartikainen & Paajarvi. Justin Shultz would be fine as well.

    • justDOit

      As an Oiler fan, please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of my semi-literate friends. Maybe once we see your name on the back of an Oilers jersey, some of us will start to get it right?

  • DoubleJ

    I would have offered mike eaves a assistant job. He was the head coach for J Schultz, Gardiner and smith in Detroit. Three amazing young d- man. Also probably wouldn’t hurt in landing Schultz.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Yeah, there is rejoicing far and wide.

    The guy that used to coach


    is now in charge.

    AND MAYBE…just maybe the Oilers can acquire a university student with a bad attitude to save the day.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

  • book¡e

    Two years in a row that we are now talking about a healthier Taylor Hall helping us next season. Considering he’s only had two years in the league, I am pretty worried about this.

    Back to the main topic, I think there isn’t much to get upset over with the Krueger hiring. People who expect brand names and name recognition won’t be happy, but I think the educated hockey fan should see his remarkable work in Switzerland and the fact that he says the right things without sounding cliche as good indicators.

    I’m less sold on this idea of Krueger being Tambo’s last hire. The Oilers have been an unpredictable, somewhat funny organization in recent years. To me it almost looks like they simply went ahead with the plan they’d had in mind from the get-go. They went with Quinn, he failed, so Renney was the backup. He failed, though he helped the last two tank jobs brilliantly – not matching lines in 2010-2011, not replacing Khabi in 2012. Now they’ve gone with the man they had as a backup. The man who’s as familiar with the team as anyone else, the man with a sterling resume and an impressive reputation among those who work or have worked with him.

    If I was to hazard a guess, I’d say the Oilers have a plan and are sticking to it. They made some gambles last year with Barker and Eager, and weren’t overly concerned with the failures of those. This year, they know they’d better show progress, so I’ll be deeply surprised if Tambellini doesn’t fill the obvious holes with actual players, rather than gambling.

    I think Steve Tambellini & co. are aware of public perception and simply don’t care. They’re confident in their abilities and loyal to one another.

  • RexLibris

    I suspect that Taylor Hall will enjoy Krueger’s coaching style, especially the aspect of direct communication and consequences for failure based on that communication.

    Hall obviously wants to win and I get the impression he isn’t going to stand for a disparity in player efforts and outcomes.

    Reading through Krueger’s coaching philosophy I have to also say that I am very happy that it is he at the helm when Yakupov is joining the team.

    I like Yakupov, I just feel that he is a player who needs some frank communication about directions and focus. Not because he is Russian, but because he is 18, very talented, and very confident.

  • toprightcorner

    I like what Kreuger brings but I think it is a big mistake not to reconsider the assistant coaches. Normally a newly hired coach gets to bring in a staff of his choosing and they should allow Kreuger to do the same. I don’t think Bucky brings anything to the table and Smith, in my opinion, has not been an asset in developing the defence. I do not see where the assistant coaches share the same type of philosophy as Kreuger as they are a little more traditional in their coaching style.

    Cooper won’t be an assistant here, he has a way better chance getting a head coaching job staying a head coach. Usually when NHL assistants are hired as a coach, it is from a very successful team and we are a couple years from being one of those.

    I wonder if ST spoke to many of the players to get their thoughts on Kreugers style and their relationship with him before pulling the trigger? It just seems strange that it took 2 months to name a head coach, but that would explain the delay.

    • book¡e

      I follow the Oilers pretty closely, but to be honest, I have very little insight into the approaches and contributions of the individual coaches. What have you developed your assessments on?

      I am sure that the new head coach had the option to hire new assistants and has chosen this group, so what do you know that Krueger does not?

  • justDOit

    Congrats to Kruger. I hope he does well in coaching this group to go much further in the standings than they’ve been the last few years. All he need to do now is to put his own assistants in place. I hope he is going to be a huge confidence booster when the chips are down, so they don’t get off on a lengthy losing skid. I’d like to see the Oil and Smytty come to a fair and reasonable agreement asap. Justin Schulz, the guy that’s all the rage around the league, my spidey senses are telling me to stay clear of this guy. I think from reports that I’ve been reading, is he likes playing games, and not just hockey. He strikes me as a guy that likes to cause great inconvenience to teams and players, just because he can. Leaving the Ducks hanging in the balance with no notice of his intentions, and standing up Taylor Hall, is an exercise in control and selfishness, based on what I see. I would love to have his projected talent, but not the character that comes with it. I think the secret that Yakapov has, is #96 will be on the back of his shirt. Tambie needs to get off his arse and on the phone to land a stud here before the draft. If so many other teams can sign contracts, why in the hell can’t we get someone in the books.

  • toprightcorner

    It’s a wonderful day for Oiler hockey! Ralph Krueger is the right man at the right time – he’ll be incredibly successful as head coach. The team will go through a wall for him, wait and see. If Stevey Boy can provide him with the groceries, Ralph will make the best omlette since the Boys on the Bus. Book it!

  • toprightcorner

    Just thinking out loud but maybe I should at least listen to the entreaties of the Oilers. It is true, after all, the Oilers may just well become the offensive juggernaut that so many qualified experts expouse. It’s also true that they’re incredibly young, and who better for team mates than actual peers; young guys who have a burning passion not only for the game itself but also for WINNING.

    It helps they’re a Canadian city with a rabid fan-base; If I’m as good as I think I am, (and I am,) I will be revered more in E-Town than I would be in pretty much any other city. (Montreal excepted.) I’m pretty sure I’d have an immediate opportunity to play big minutes, for sure 3-4 but maybe over time 1-2. And it THAT’S the case, I’ll get the big contract sooner than later. (Nothing like security.)

    I don’t much like the climate, and maybe some other cities offer more history and more things to do, but geez, Edmonton isn’t THAT bad. Besides, nothing says I have to live there permanently.

    Hmmm. This decision might be a bit more difficult than I thought. I did, after all, promise Jake, (around 4 a.m. and after 1624 beer,) that I’d do everything I possibly could to see to it we’d be team mates now and forever.

    Well, I guess that’s it for now. One thing for sure, knowledge is power and I’d best be listening to what they say. The last thing I want to do is make a hasty or wrong decision because I CHOSE NOT TO LISTEN.

  • This was a huge gamble for Tambellini. While Krueger may be the best man for the job, I think Tambellini is putting his own job at risk by making the change only two seasons after his last coaching change. I am happy with the hire and if Tambi feels it was the best move for the team right now, good on him. He could have taken the safe road and just left Tom Renney at the helm. Hope this pays off, for his sake, and that of the fans.

  • I don’t have anyting against this decision except for the fact that it sure feels like it was a decision by Default. It doesn’t sound like the Oilers talked to more than 2 or 3 guys. So you would think that Kreuger must have been a front runner all along. If that’s the case why did it take so long to get rid of Renney, interview other coaches and then make a decision? I think it makes us look like fools. And I will say one more thing…….go ahead and take forever to make the decision if you have to, but it better be right. If this doesn’t work out Tambo has gotta go.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    ADAM BURISH,ADAM BURISH,ADAM BURISH……he, along with Ben Eager and Zenon Kanopka could pee in many a bowl of Cornflakes. Shoots/throws rights and plays center as well as the right side.

    Initiate the violence, don’t respond to it. Hopefully they can unload Eric Belunjour before too long.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    At least this hiring was an ‘outside of the box’ idea. I sometimes worry about an assistant coach being promoted to the head coach because the relationship between him and his players changes really quickly. Still, Krueger’s communication skills make it seem like that shouldn’t be an issue. I am glad to hear that there should be some actualy accountability on the Oilers this year. It’s been missing for far too long.

    Hopefully he can get more out of this group. Xs and Os are fine but they are useless unless done with passion and belief. Krueger seems to understand the emotional side of the game.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The puck is in MacTambiLowe’s court now.

    If they try to ice the same team as last year Krueger is doomed.

    If the three headed monster manages to find Ralph a couple of NHL D and an NHL forward and backup that can push Duby…..well, I like his chances of finishing out of the lottery.