There was a lot of speculation at Monday’s news conference to introduce Brent Sutter as head coach of Team Canada that the gig will double as an audition for the job as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

While that job belongs to Tom Renney until we’re otherwise informed, it seems obvious there’s a measure of doubt the Oilers have decided to retain Renney – this "Take some time and then come back and tell me what your plan is" pitch being sold by GM Steve Tambellini doesn’t ring true – and it’s equally obvious Sutter is a candidate to replace him.

Sutter has history with Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, who will be in on the decision about what happens with Renney and is also part of Team Canada’s management team. They go back all the way to 1984, when they were teammates with Team Canada.

And, given the reasons we’re hearing behind the mutual agreement Sutter and the Calgary Flames decided to part company last week – Sutter wanted to begin a full-scale rebuild of the team while Jay Feaster and ownership are not so inclined – there seems to be an alignment in philosophy in Sutter’s approach and what’s going on here in Edmonton.

While it’s fair to argue the merits of giving Renney the golden handshake to make room for Sutter based on coaching style and career records, if you know the business of hockey, any business, you know Sutter’s history with Lowe and being on the same page philosophically carry as much weight as a few percentage points either way in career coaching records.

Of course this is an audition, denials be damned.


Sutter is back on the coaching market because he and Feaster didn’t see eye to eye on the future of the Flames. Sutter made it clear Monday he preferred going the full rebuild route rather than trying to tweak and coax the Flames into playoff contention as an also-ran. Sound familiar, Oiler fans?

"I’m not a guy to just get in seventh or eighth. To me, you build your team to win the Stanley Cup," said Sutter, who also commented on what he sees happening up the road in Edmonton.

"I like the direction Edmonton is going. They have a lot of young players. It’s a young man’s game. They’ve had an opportunity to take a lot of the best players in the draft. They’ve done a good job of drafting."

Then, there’s the history with Lowe, who has always placed a premium on the relationships he’s made in his career as a player, coach and manager. You need look no further than Lowe’s long friendships with Craig MacTavish and Kelly Buchberger to know that.

"We go back a long, long way. We played together in a Canada Cup," Sutter told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, referring to being teammates with Team Canada in 1984.

"I was real nervous. I was the youngest guy on the team. I’d come in late after camp started. I was in the lobby ready to take a cab to the rink when Kevin came down and suggested we share one together. Remember the Oilers and Islanders were at war back then.

"Kevin convinced me to relax, be myself, that I was a good player and deserved to be there with the others, that we were all good players, and to go play the way I always played. He helped me through it. He didn’t have to say anything."


Is Renney out as Oilers coach? We don’t know for sure, although I suspect Tambellini leaving him to twist is not a good sign he will be back. Would Sutter represent a clear upgrade and a better match for the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

It’s difficult to know for sure, just basing it on career points percentage and playoff performance. Neither Sutter nor Renney have enjoyed post-season success at the NHL level. Sutter’s regular season points percentage through 410 games with New Jersey and Calgary is .584. Renney sits at .504 through stints with Vancouver, New York and Edmonton.

While those numbers tell us what Renney and Sutter have done until now, the history between Lowe and Sutter and the time they’ll spend working together with Team Canada will likely carry far more weight as to what happens from here on out.

"Everybody knows the Sutters well," Lowe said. "They’re honest people. They’re obviously passionate about the game of hockey . . . I know what Brent represents. I know the type of person he is."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Sutter knows how to build a hockey team,so how about Brent takes over Tambellinies job.Tippet I dont believe is great with the young guys if you look at the Turris situation.Its to bad they never got Hitch for all the time he was available.

  • geoilersgist

    Thinking about Sutter as the coach gives me an uneasy feeling. Really hope they either bring back Renney or get a clear upgrade. I fear though that Tambellini and his constant side steps will be sure to make this happen as to not progress the team only step to the side.

    • Gerald R. Ford

      I agree, but I think it goes beyond Tambo. It seems to be part of the culture now for management to leave personnel hanging until the last possible second when making decisions about their futures. I understand that business decisions can’t be rushed, and these things take time, etc., but, man… I have been sorely disappointed, and really taken aback sometimes, at the lack of consistency shown in handling personnel matters in a respectful, timely manner. The Druglord is supposed to be such an epic business tycoon, yet a fundamental aspect of operating any business is that, if you value people, LET THEM KNOW. All I’ve seen the last five years or so from this regime is a lot of people from many different areas of the organization (fans, included) being taken for granted. Not cool.

      As for Sutter… I dunno. He definitely seems to be able to squeeze every last bit of effort from his players, but I’m not too keen on the thought of him transplanting that coma-inducing Flames-style hockey here. If they hired him, I’d look on the bright side, and dwell on the positives, but I’m just not sold on the guy, and I’d just as soon let Renney try and take what he’s started to the next level.

  • book¡e

    Say no to Sutters, Edmonton north is no Sutter coaching zone. Lets start some better rumours. How about Alain Vignault, hes a better coach.How about Brad Tippet. We don`t need some Calgary castoff.

  • Oilers4ever

    Hard for Sutter to coach in Calgary when your philosophy does not match that of the GM… However.. I am quite pissed with how Oilers mgmt is handling Renney. He’s done nothing but do his best for this organization and to leave him twisting is about as ridiculous as the reason why. Coach and GM talk all damn season about the vision they see for their team. Don’t frickin tell me he needs to go away and come back with his vision on the team. You know it already. Tambi needs to go as I’m sick of a GM who hides under his mama’s skirt and can’t make a decision. Get rid of Kevin Lowe and any other former Oilers associated with this team. If I am Renney, I choose not to come back because of how this has been handled. Sutter is comparable to Renney in my eyes. I really like Tippett and I would wait and see what happens with him… Lindy Ruff as well.. I know the Sabres say they are keeping them.. but until the contracts are signed I don’t believe anything.

  • Truth

    If Sutter becomes the coach it would be nice if he would try to get Brandon Sutter for the Oilers.

    Maybe they are waiting to see if Alain Vigneault gets fired.

  • Oilers21

    What has Brent Sutter done to indicate he’s an upgrade over Tom Renney?? And I can’t imagine a more emotionless, depressing figure behind the bench. I’m not entirely sold that Renney is the answer, but if the new coach isn’t a clear upgrade (like Tippett) I see no reason to change just for the sake of changing

  • Truth

    Ya, Sutter knowing that the”welcome mat” would be pulled from under him, all of a sudden loves rebuilding teams and loves what the Oilers are doing yada yada…. only reason being he wants a job, wants to be close to his Red Deer Rebels, and wants to close to his cows on the farm .
    Sucked Lowe into this situation…
    I hop this is all a bad dream. Sutter has won nothing in the NHL… and will destroy the young guys… I’d go back to your cows .

  • Another reason KLowe should be removed “They’re obviously passionate about the game of hockey”

    They aren’t “obviously passionate” about anything. Heck, they may actually be passionate but it is not obvious if you catch my drift.

  • Stocc

    How strange is it to hear that a Calgary coach doesn’t agree with the philosophy of the Flames but that, hey, I sure like what that team in Edmonton is doing?