BEHIND THE BENCH: WHAT’S NEXT?

A day after the Edmonton Oilers tied the can to Tom Renney, I’m still convinced Brent Sutter is the leading candidate to replace him as head coach. Being the "leading candidate" doesn’t, however, necessarily translate to Sutter being a slam-dunk.

I dubbed Sutter’s appointment as head coach of Team Canada for the World Championships an audition for the Oiler job – timing and the fact Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini were and are involved with Canada’s front office makes made that pretty obvious – and I still believe it was essentially that.

Lowe and Tambellini got a front-row seat at the WC and a close-up look at Sutter’s style and substance, albeit a brief one. That, unless you are of the mind Sutter isn’t being considered for the Edmonton job at all, is going to have an effect on the decision they make about Renney’s successor.

Sutter and Lowe go back a long way. I’ve got no doubt Lowe holds Sutter in high regard as a competitor and a coach. While Sutter’s latest gig might have served to reinforce the opinion of Sutter that Lowe and Tambellini had going into the tournament, there is a flipside.

With Canada’s performance, capped by a 4-3 loss to Slovakia, far from overwhelming, I’m wondering if Lowe and Tambellini saw any warts or shortcomings in Sutter’s approach – that’s a fair question when Team Canada doesn’t get into the medal round at any tournament.

If Lowe and Tambellini did come away from the WC tournament with questions or impressions they didn’t have going in based on what they saw first-hand, that’s not a bad thing. Getting more information never is. That’s especially true with this hire. Tambellini and Lowe have to get it right.

AND . . .

So, what of associate coach Ralph Krueger and assistants Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith? Convention has it that a new head coach gets to pick his staff, but I don’t see all three being shown the door.

I actually see two of the three sticking around on the staff with the new coach, and my best guess is Buchberger and Smith will retain their positions when training camp begins under Sutter, or whoever gets the job. Some fans believe Krueger should get some consideration as a replacement for Renney, and I think he will. I know Krueger, who did some fill-in work running the bench when Renney was ailing, has some support in the room.

Allowing for that, the likeliest scenario is Krueger ends up back in Europe and Smith and Buchberger stay on, leaving the new head coach to fill one slot on the staff with a hand-picked assistant. Smith did solid work in his first year here. Buchberger has become something of a fixture as sort of a resident assistant and provides some continuity.

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

  • The Farmer

    I am excited for whoever they hire. We keep hearing all this stuff about poor Renney, I am sure he is a very nice man, and nobody wants to see someone out of work. However, he was making seven figures to make a team finish last, last, and second last. (Associate for first) The veterans were checking out again, and there seemed to be no accountability. I don’t know who will do better, but it’s unlikely they will do worse.

  • Sean17

    Sutter does nothing for me. I live in Red Deer, stopped going to Rebels games because he made them so boring. He seems like a bit of a dick. So, he won a Memorial Cup. Big whoop, he coached All-Star junior teams to gold. So did Pat Quinn.

    What has he done lately? Not make the playoffs with the Flamers and lose at the Worlds.

    What young players in Calgary has he developed? None.

    What Lord of the Rings character does he look like? Gollum.

    3 Strikes.

    I will admit he would probably be a quick fix to get to the playoffs next year, but he is not a long term solution.

    • Fatboys796

      Sorry Sean17

      He won a Memorial Cup, pretty decent, how many coaches can you look at that have done it.

      He hasn’t made the playoffs with the Flames because he had no one in that organization to play for him, they are all 90yr olds.

      He lost at the Worlds because he “let them play,” I don’t know about you but its hard to get a system going when you only are there for 3wks to play.

      He hasn’t developed any players in Calgary because they have no one in the system. The only exceptions are Brodie and Sven Bartschi. They traded all their assets away to only get the 9th or 10th place the last couple years.

      Homework is what you need to do good sir….that is all.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I really, really hope they don’t hire Sutter. Not a fan of his style and he doesn’t strike me a guy players will want to play under for a long time which will only continue the coaching carousel.

    Personally I’d like to see MacT back but there’s likely too much fan baggage for that.

    I agree that more information is always better – let’s see how Nelson handles OKC the rest of the way. It would be a shame to let a good prospect they’ve groomed be lost to another organization. Lowe/Tambellin wouldn’t let that happen would they?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    @ Oil country

    A lot of coaches that don’t have jobs lost them because they lost the team. It’s not uncommon for this to happen. Dave Tippett lost teams in the past, Ken Hitchcock lost teams, but they were both praised before they played the LA kings.

  • Spartacus

    Has Smith done a good job? Are we crediting Smith with Petry’s emergence? Seems fair, but if you’re going to change the coaching staff, change the frickin’ coaching staff.

    The powerplay saw real improvement, does credit for that go to Krueger? Or to increased talent on the powerplay, specifically RNH & Hall?

    Buchberger, though? The penalty kill improved, but I don’t know that I’ve seen anything from Buchberger that says he deserves to keep his position indefinitely.

    They changed the entire medical/equipment staff, including Kevin Lowe’s brother; can’t we cut ties with the entire coaching staff, as well?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’m getting sick of this whole keeping guys on, just leaves another excuse down the road. If you want to have Bucky/Smith as coaches make it off ice coaches. That is unless the new coach really likes Smith/Bucky.

    I don’t want to hear next year that the reason our PK sucked is because Sutter kept a guy around that he didn’t want and they had different opinions.

  • Oiler Country

    Alright then, I am going to be the fist to say that I don’t think it was that big of a deal that Renney didn’t find out on the way back to the dressing room after the final buzzer of game 82 that he wouldn’t be returning. There area a lot of players each year that arein limbo as to whether or not they are going to have employment. And guess what…some of them are good guys too.

  • Toro

    What about the Barons coach becoming the oilers new head coach? , I’m not too thrilled bout Sutter being the next coach mostly because of his stint in Cowtown lol