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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is all so cute….

    It’s almost like a new coach is all we need to pave the Oilers way to the finals.

    Pay not attention to the 2 holes in the top 6, holes in the #1 and 2 spot on the blueline, or that we don’t have a starting goaltender. By the time those holes are plugged, Edmonton will be looking for new coach to replace the one they’re currently looking for. Just another needless sideways move by the Oilers. Is the worst…still to come?

    • Bucknuck

      So you’re saying that Hemsky and Gagner are a third line players, Dubnyk is not a starting goaltender, and that neither Petry nor Whitney will be a top defenseman in 2012-2013?

      Really? I am not sure they have the winning combination yet, and I do think they need to upgrade their size, get another big minute defender and also get a 1b tandem goalie to play with DD. But it’s not all quite so bad as you would have us believe.

      ≈The worst (30th, 30th, and 29th place) IS pretty much as low as they can go, so no, the worst is not yet to come. I think I will stay out of your dark parade, Quicksilver.

    • book¡e

      Troll – the Oilers need a coach and Oiler fans are discussing it – that’s all. Thank you for being here though – we all appreciate your words of wisdom.

  • slopitch

    Just an FYI Mr. Willis:

    “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.”

    Mark Crawford IS in fact on the list in Matheson’s article:

    “…to former big-league head men such as Sutter (Calgary and New Jersey), Paul Maurice (Carolina, taking the Hurricanes to the Cup final against Detroit in 2002, and Toronto), TSN commentator MARC CRAWFORD Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Dallas) who was interviewed in 2009 when Craig MacTavish left…”

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Just for the sake of the Hall and Ebs skits,
    I vote for MacT,
    I can hear it now…….

    Hall: Ebs! Ebs! Ebs!
    Ebs: What is Hallsy? why so excited?
    Hall: Coach Renney is back!
    Ebs: Hallsy, Coach Renney was let go remember?
    Hall: I know (in a pouty voice),
    But now he’s Back!
    And he got a cool perm! And new glasses!
    Ebs: that’s not coach Renney Hallsy,
    that’s Craig Mactavish our new coach.
    Hall: Coach Renney changed his name
    to Mactavish?! Cool!!!
    Can I change my name Ebs?
    Ebs: sure Hallsy, what do you want to
    change your name to?
    Hall: Nuge 2 point ohhhhh!!!!

  • slopitch

    I like both Maurice or MacT. Both have experience and have been out of the game for awhile but not too long. Being out of the game might give them a different outlook on coaching. I think either one of these coaches would be ideal to take over for Renny.

  • OilerLand

    You gotta go with Cooper. After researching records and history, even though other coaches have NHL experience I think you have to go with Cooper before another team snatches him up (Calgary). Victory surrounds this man, I would never blame Tambo for taking a chance on Cooper even if we finished last again.

  • reaperfunkss

    Ron Wilson would be a HUGE disaster. He only thinks he invented hockey. Been an Oiler fan since 79 and I would seriously reconsider my allegiance if that buttwad got the job here

    • book¡e

      Couldn’t agree more. And insofar as Tambellini is concerned, the guy’s going to get gassed, the only question will be why did it take so long. The hiring of an asshat like Wilson would only hasten his departure.

  • reaperfunkss

    Any idea how long this interview/hiring process will take. I understand the need to do your due diligence, but I see a few issues with letting this linger too long.

    First, how long do Ralph, Steve and Bucky twist in the wind for? If one or more are not retained at the end of all of this, once again the optics are horrible.

    Secondly, why couldn’t this process have started a while ago? Did ST/KL not have any idea until a few days ago that Renney wouldn’t be back? Weird approach to managing your HR.

    Lastly, how long does a new coach need over the summer to A)hire new assistants and B) get acquainted with the situation and formulate a gameplan?