I’d love to see Ralph Krueger’s priority list for the coming season (whatever season that is). Along with convincing Steve Tambellini to pass on the opportunity to sign Nikolai Khabibulin for another 4 years, what should Krueger do? What does his list look like? What would your list look like? Mine is after the break.
RALPH KRUEGER’S FIX IT AND FORGET IT TRAINING CAMP PRIMER
Whether it happens now or next fall or after I’m dead, someday there will be a top level pro hockey league on television and in your local 16,000 seat arena. When that day arrives, Ralph Krueger will take his action plan to his Camaro, turn the key, and rumble down to Rexall with all of the best intentions. I think most of us feel the Oilers will be better–at least a little–when the NHL returns, but can the new coach help this wayward team enough to make a difference in what will likely be a small window?
THINGS TO DO IN A RAIN DELAY
- I’m interested in his forward "pairings" and am hopeful he keeps Nuge-Ebs and Gagner-Hall together. Hemsky might fit in well on the Gagner line, and maybe Hartikainen could do some good things with the Burnaby kid and #14. That leaves Horcoff for Yakupov, with Ryan Smyth possibly helping out too. This would leave a veteran 4line of Eric Belanger, Ryan Jones and some combination of Ben Eager, Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk.
- Coach Krueger mentioned the blue in his recent talk with Jason Gregor and Kevin Lowe talked about adding a defenseman when the lockout ends to replace Andy Sutton. Both items are music! The friggin’ in the riggin’ for this edition of the Oiler defense is that Ryan Whitney’s health is still up in the air. If he’s fine, then this team has some nice things happening. Krueger’s comments in the Gregor piece suggested that the left side might be Smid, Schultz the elder and Whitney, with the RH side Petry, Schultz the younger and then you find a role for Corey Potter and Theo Peckham or Steve Tambellini acquires a Sutton replacement. When it comes to defense, 7 NHL D is a moving target due to injuries–the Oilers seem to order a double helping every season.
- In goal, I’m hoping they run Devan Dubnyk out there early and often. He’s the future for the organization, and if he isn’t better that average better to find out now than later. Nikolai Khabibulin will be 40 in mid-January, and surely to God there’s no question about re-signing him in time to suffer through another round of injuries. A hot streak by NK might make people in important places forget about the past 4 years. Not likely, but possible.
HOW TO MANAGE MANAGERS
Krueger might be the smartest man in the room when he gets together with the front office (I’d still put my money on MacT but admit bias). It’s his job to use all that charm and brain power to talk the Oilers out of the thought processess that had them settle on Nikolai Khabibulin, Cam Barker and others as the solutions to their problems (I’m not going to lay blame on Belanger, as God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly).
I think Craig MacTavish and Ralph Krueger could be Godsends for an organization badly in need of men with the courage of their conviction, a differing view, and the desire to make this clock work.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers spent a generation in the cellar, and I’m sure they could figure out a way to do it for another season or two. However, I’m also certain Ralph Krueger (and MacT) didn’t come to Edmonton in search of Seth Jones.
We’ll know where they are headed soonafter the lockout ends. For the sake of Oiler fans, Hall’s bunch and the mental health of Edmonton collectively, lets hope it’s about winning.