I don’t think it’s going to take Craig MacTavish long to make some of the bold moves he talked about when he was unveiled as the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers, and I still believe one of those moves could come behind the bench.

My suggestion on May 12 that MacTavish might, or at least should, consider moving head coach Ralph Krueger back into an associate coaching role if he wants to take a run at one of the available or soon-to-be available coaches out there – Lindy Ruff, Dave Tippett and, now, Alain Vigneault – to improve the Oilers, drew a mixed response.

Dismissed by some when I wrote the piece, discussion and speculation arounf town about the possibility – and that’s all it is because I’ve made it clear nobody within the organization has given me the drop that such a plan is in the works – has picked up steadily since then.

Jason Gregor and discussed it last week and again this week on his show. I’ve heard the idea debated on TEAM 1260’s morning show and on the Jason Strudwick Show. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug has touched on it more than once on all three shows. Rishaug believes, as I do, that MacTavish has to at put in a call if he thinks he can land one of the coaching UFAs.

Rishaug, for the record, thinks Tippett would be the best fit here, even with Vigneault now available. I like Tippett, who I focused on in the original piece, but I consider Vigneault neck and neck with him. Both would be an upgrade.

Why wouldn’t, and why shouldn’t, MacTavish consider moving Krueger aside or out — if he feels the same way? Bold, no?


After a carousel of coaches, including MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Krueger during these seven years out of the playoffs, I get it why fans roll their eyes at the thought of another coaching change. "They’ve changed the coaches, Brownlee. Change the damn players."

I get that sentiment and I agree with it completely. Gregor and I, as well as others, have talked about this at length. You can’t just keep replacing the men behind the bench because Scotty Bowman couldn’t coach this group, as it stands now in terms of personnel, into the playoffs. That’s a fact.

MacTavish would be foolish – he’s not — to think he can bring in a new coach, snap his fingers and get a markedly better result than what we’ve already seen without changing the roster considerably. He has to (and I believe he will, beyond farting around with fourth-line forwards and third-pairing D-men).

That said, needed upgrades in player personnel and the fact that it’s been a turnstile behind the bench in recent seasons, shouldn’t prevent MacTavish from pursuing Tippett or Vigneault IF he sees one of them as a key component moving forward. If that’s the first move available to him and it makes sense, then pull the trigger. Make the move. Be bold.

I’d like to think MacTavish, as the new GM, has been given the green light to make changes as he sees fit, regardless of what moves were made before he agreed to take the job. I can’t imagine MacT took the position with conditions attached – you’re the boss, MacT, but you can’t hire a new coach and you can’t trade Ales Hemsky and you can’t . . .

Would moving Krueger aside or out for Tippett or Vigneault or pick-a-name turn this team around without addressing the holes on the roster? Absolutely not. Should MacTavish approach one of them if he believes this organization will be better for it? Absolutely. It’s as simple as that.


Don’t forget to play StreakCred the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Only $20 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here

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

  • oilslick

    That poor effort was I think due to the players giving up after the unwillingness or ability of management to make any significant deals at the trade deadline. I’m not saying I agree with the lack of effort but let’s look at the facts RNH had a bum shoulder all year long which is finally being addressed and apparently Jordan Eberle had a nagging wrist injury which made shooting the puck difficult.The issues on defense and in goal were not addressed as was a lack of “sandpaper” in the lineup. MacT has the ability to “Make Bold Moves” to borrow from his vernacular whether he will or won’t is up for debate.

    • Saazman

      I agree with you on this. I addition we lost Horcoff, Belanger, and Lander in about half an hour. This is when the season ended in Edmonton. This team was terrible without these players.There was an immediate improvement once Horcoff returned (he gets no respect). S.T. needed to get a center that could play in the NHL but he played his patience card. How is Krueger to address this?

      • CaptainLander

        Ok when Horcoff returned we won five games……..and you credit his return for this success.

        We also lost every game there after, with your logic Horcoff is responsible for these lost games as well?

        Listen we all think Horcoff has a future with this team………just not playing the game. Except for skating, shooting, passing, playmaking, scoring, and physically dominating, Horcoff is a good hockey player.

        • Saazman

          Easy Lama! My point isn’t that Horcoff can save the Oilers! He isn’t Hall and never will be. Just because he has a bad contract doesn’t mean he has no value to this team (or many other teams salery cap removed).

          My point is why would you judge the coach when the GM doesn’t address the problem (we had NO centermen!). You can see the improvement when Horcoff returns. And before you say we lost a bunch more…read the whole comment. There where other injuries that contibuted to the season the Oilers had.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Sample size is everything…agree with what you mentioned.

          Horcoff played 31 games this past season, which the Oilers went 15 wins and 16 losses. If you take away that 5 gm win streak, as well as a 5 gm losing streak, he still has a sub .500 winning %. His last 5 yrs as captain must be the most dismal of all the Oiler captains on record.

          • Saazman

            Can you look up the Oilers record when we missed all three injured centers and played with an injured RNH? I’m sure it’s not good. This is part of the problem we had with S.T. He NEVER in his 5 years addressed the problem at center. But how can he not even attempt to address problem in the most important year of his GM career? And then we question the coach’s ability? What would Scotty Bowman done?
            The coach isn’t the problem or the problem would have disappeared with one of the last three coach’s.

  • CaptainLander

    I think the role the coach plays in the success of a team is a bit overrated. The strategies are there and many are similar. The will and determination to succeed on the ice is all up to the players. Moving out Krueger would in my opinion be rather pointless. If the players like him, (I assume they do or else he would not have obtained the job in the first place), then the rest is on the players. Changing the coach on this team without changing the players would have negligible results either positive or negative. Stick with Krueger, get some NHL players, play a season, then decide if this coach is the right fit for this team.

  • oilabroad

    MacT was brought in to overhaul the team period… If you watched this team and weren’t a bit surprised by some of the coaching decisions you werent paying attention. If MacT is doing his job, he flushes the entire coaching staff and hires AV and allows him to bring in his own guys. The team was a colosal failure, you can’t pick around the edges and hope for significant change

    Having said that, I thought he said all the right things last night, especially glad to hear they are flushing Horcoff, time for new leadership, this is Hallsy’s team now

    • shea78

      Agreed! When you have a chance to get a guy like AV or DT you have to make that move. It’s like being able to get a first line center or a first pairing D man and not doing it. Kruger should have never been hired in the first place. He’s a good assistant coach. Not a head coach.

  • Spydyr

    Most intelligent fans know the team needs a wholesale change of players outside the kids.Too soft, no offence in the bottom six an AHL defence no legit back up to push the starting goalie.It goes on and on.

    The GM’s job is to do whatever it takes to make the team better.If that entails changing the coach ,change the coach.Just don’t forget to change the players too.

  • Aitch

    Sam Gagner is looking to set a new NHL record.

    Most coaches over the course of your career with one team.

    Its gotta be the coach, right???

    Can’t fire the team, I guess……..

  • Tencer has a summary of the MacT phone interview with fans from yesterday:

    I absolutely love that he was as honest as he was about some things, namely the goalie situation, and to an extent, Shawn Horcoff. I’ve always liked Horcoff, but I can’t help but think he’s replaceable with some names out there. That would give a fair bit more salary for the team to work with too. I hate to say it, because I’ve always been a big supporter of his.

    The big thing for me in that interview was recognizing the goalie issue we have here. Pre-MacT, we would have heard all about how good Khabi was for us the past couple years, and how Dubnyk is blossoming into a great goaltender. However, MacT said exactly what I’ve been seeing, and what I wanted to hear…. Khabi is great in the games he played, lately, but the fact is, he’s broken. He can’t play enough games to be a consideration for our backup. That’s a huge concern. Dubnyk is looking better each year, but even in him, there is room for improvement.

    I think MacT will look for a #2 for Dubnyk, but he mentioned they’d be looking for AT LEAST a couple goaltenders. So, you could take that as meaning that they’re shoring up the goalies in Oklahoma too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to land someone who could push for starter here. I still say that Mike Smith is the best guy for this job, although he won’t come cheap. But the one aspect of Dubnyk’s game I can’t tolerate isn’t the “one bad goal a game he gives up”… it’s that he’s an awful puck handler. This kills our breakout. Having a guy like Mike Smith back there firing the puck up will speed up our break out immensely. Our skill players are only going to score goals if they get out of our zone… Dubnyk hinders that, Mike Smith facilitates that.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I like his honesty too, but I wonder if that can sometimes also fall under the category of “loose lips sink ships”.

      Comments like “we want to draft a center” certainly gives other GMs some leverage if he decides to move up or down in the draft – depending who is on the board.

      MacT not mentioning Lindholm’s name in the elite center category would lead one to believe if MacK, Barkov and Monahan are gone he would be a willing seller – thereby lowering the asking price to trade down or increasing it if he were to trade up.

      As you indicated, he made it clear he is willing to buck up for a goalie or two – again free agents or trade partners could view him as a bit desperate.

      Even the “bold moves” promise opens him up to some pressure if the summer goes by and there have been no big deals. If I am an opposing GM, I have to think their might be a little collar tightening going on in the MacT camp and would likely come in low balling.

      Maybe he is floating some of these comments out as a false flag and is cagier than I am giving him credit for. I hope so. But I am concerned that we are dealing with an enthusiastic first time GM who should be holding his cards a little closer to the vest but instead could end showing them to some pretty experienced poker players. That can’t turn out good.

      • It’s funny because oftentimes people complain when it’s the other way around, more often than not. I generally bring your point up, that it isn’t a very good tactical move to let other GMs know your intentions.

        But that said, I don’t think he revealed too much that could hinder him. He didn’t say things like “it’d be a miracle to get anything for Hemsky”, or “Horcoff has no value, I doubt we can offload him”. In the case of Horcoff, he probably spun it well enough to imply that it would be worth it for a team to take him on since he’d be under less pressure as here.. although he wasn’t at all firm in saying he’d try to move Horcoff.

        Re: goalies, I don’t think it will hinder him in any way to make it known that we’re shopping for a goalie.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Fair enough. I don’t suppose any GM agent sees the Oilers as having a dirth of capable NHL goaltenders. So nothing too revealing there.

          I guess the exclusion of Lindholm and declaration they want one of the top three centers is the one that bothers me and gives up information that can help others and hurt the Oilers.

          Maybe he is trying to throw others off track – if so then good for him.

          I realize you are damned if you and damned if you don’t in terms of talking to the fans / media. I like to get info as much as anyone but it is more important that MacT makes good trades or signings and anything that hampers that, IMO handicaps a rookie GM who is under the spotlight.

          • Totally on the same page as you with all of that.

            Although I will emphasize that I’m relieved to hear MacTavish recognizing the problems here and noting what needs to be done to fix them, cause it’s in line with what I have felt (and a lot of fans). With Tambellini, you just didn’t know what was going on. That can be good, as you note, as it can protect the cards, so to speak. But it also can mean that he just had no idea what the heck to do.. and his actions seemed to reflect that. At the very least, his actions indicated that they didn’t want to win enough (which can be taken as, they want to bottom feed a little longer to get more high picks).

            MacT talks about his 3rd /4th liners being too content last year in losing and being a non-factor.. well that is how I’d describe Tambellini. With MacTavish, I am just happy because I feel like “finally.. a guy who gets it… knows what’s wrong with this team, and for sure wants to fix it”. Actions speak louder than words, but if you don’t recognize the problem, you can’t fix it.

            EDIT: Actually, for the most part, I take comfort in hearing MacT talk openly right now because since Tambellini’s hiring (maybe longer) we’ve really had no sense of direction here, other than what the standings have told us. It’s never really known if we flunked another year by design or because Tambi’s moves just didn’t work out. It’s refreshing to hear MacT identify the problems with accuracy and state his willingness to address them. The details (the how, for example) he can be a bit more secretive about though. Now there can be more accountability, since the “intentional suck phase” of this rebuild is definitely done.

          • The Soup Fascist

            I NEVER had any confidence in Tambo – period. I do have much more in MacT because it is clear he is a bright articulate guy. I just hope he is a very good GM.

            I am sure Tambo is not an idiot either but the “paralysis by analysis” thing was way past the expiry date.

            Maybe it was somewhat by design as you infer, but I am glad we are moving on. Good Luck to MacT.

          • Oh I’m definitely not saying it was by design, but the management often tries to sluff it off that way (ex, Lowe made a comment during MacT’s presser when he snapped back at a reporter saying something like “this is just year 3 in the rebuild!”). What I meant is they seemed to be able to hide behind the rebuild for each failing year, as though it was intentional. Was it? Probably not, until the failure to react quickly/smartly enough left them with no choice but to tank another year.

            I had hopes for Tambi when he was first hired, because he was different, but it became clear early on that he was a horrible GM. So I’m with you there too. Your second sentence “I am sure Tambo is not an idiot either but the “paralysis by analysis” thing was way past the expiry date” is bang on with my thoughts too.

            I thought last year should have been the year that the Oilers put a lot of effort into making the team a winner (if not before then) and clearly Tambo screwed that up or felt differently. Either way, I am happy he’s no longer in the picture here. MacT is saying all the things I like to hear (well, aside from laying out his draft cards on the table, as you noted), so my optimism is high, even though guarded.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Love to see Smith. But I think he could command. 4-5 years at 4-5 million. You sign him you trade Dubby which I am fine.with.cause Smith is.a more.high end.goale in. my opinion. I think a backup comes outta Europe, or from a trade.

      • It’s a lot of money to dump in a goaltender, and your terms look right to me too. But I think it would pay extreme dividends in the end, so long as we don’t go all crazy Vancouver on him and boo him when he allows a single goal in a game. Every time I watch Smith though, I’m just blown away by how quickly he gets out of the net to move the puck.. even if the other team is in his zone, he still manages to quickly do it without getting in trouble. How invaluable would that be?? I think we can all agree that this team has far too tough a time getting out of the D zone, and that would be just one move to improve that transition game.

        The way MacTavish talked in this phone interview, I smell compliance buyout for Horcoff (whereas I didn’t think that before).. that alone would allow us room for Smith. Plus, consider that Khabi’s $3.75M is gone. We could definitely stand to move Dubnyk too, if it was necessary. If possible, I’d like to see him sharing duty with Smith.. maybe 60% (Smith) / 40% (Dubnyk).

  • Sask Oil

    We need to give Krueger at least the year with a changed roster. Jumping to hire AV or any of the other names won’t accomplish anything this year. We want Stanley, not Presidents Trophy’s, give the motivator a year.

  • Aitch

    I don’t have the time to read all the comments, so, I apologize if someone else has said this already.

    I don’t have a problem with replacing the coach per se. But if that’s the first move MacT makes then he is blaming the coaching staff. As you said, unless he makes some player personnel moves first, changing the coaches is pointless (unless you have it on very good authority that bringing in Coach X (v 5.0) will lead to a yellow brick road leading playoff calibre players to Edmonton.)

  • Aitch

    Funny that with all the coaching comments, no one has brought up the Red Wings who are outplaying and outcoaching the Blackhawks. Mike Babcock and the Red Wings fired/replaced their assistant coaches last year to bring in a more experienced veteran coaching presence on the bench. One of whom is Tom Renney.

    I’d like to see MacT bring in a Larry Robinson/Tom Renney hire as an assistant. I for one never understood why Bucky was kept on and Huddy let go. Huddy developed the D nicely here, in Dallas and Wpg. seems to be doing well with what they have. I suspect he would be a great addition, only the screams of the “old boys club” would be heard all the way to Victoria.

  • Aitch

    I think firing Krueger just because there are a couple of respected coaches available is a big mistake. If there weren’t any other coaches out there would you consider firing him?(and Tippett should not be considered ‘available’ right now so he doesn’t belong in the conversation). I don’t see how anyone can make that justification on a guy who was only allowed 48 games to coach a bad mix of players. And there’s no way that Krueger would take a step backwards and accept a role as associate. Don’t make a move like this just for the sake of being bold…that’s just not smart. Let Krueger show his ability as a head coach over the course of a full season with a better group of players then evaluate. There will be other opportunities down the road if Krueger is deemed to not be a good fit…good coaches will always become available, it just nature of the job.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oops, almost forgot.

    Oilers should put a package together and see if they can get their hands on a guy like Shea Weber. He would lift the play of almost everyone on that back end.

    Every topic needs some Shea Weber love.

  • Saazman

    Interesting that MacTavish say he wants one of these centers. MacKinnon, Barkov and Monahan

    The first 2 would be a huge overpay.

    Monahan could go 5th 6th or 7th. A trade with Calgary would be probably the 7th pick and they would want the 38th pick.

    All this could be a bluff also and maybe they want the Russian or the Swede.

    9 players for the to 7 teams


  • Saazman

    I am not a fan of Krueger, he is the last bad legacy of Tambo’s reign in Edmonton. He was picked solely due to Tambo not wanting to rock the boat and also because it meant they would not have to dump Buchburger who seems to have a “job for life” ….FOr godsakes its not like we are firing Scotty Bowman, krueger has done nothing and has been a non-factor , do you give him another year for us to suck just because you feel sorry for him? I would be on the phone to Vigneault in a second.

  • I mean no disrespect with this observation, Robin, but I’m actually a little surprised that you’re suggested that MacT either moves Krueger aside, or removes him altogether.

    Actually, let me clarify that. I’m not surprised that someone bring forth the notion of a coaching change. But I am surprised that you’d suggest that it would be OK to do it now … roughly three-weeks-and-change after the season’s over.

    Isn’t the “unwritten-protocol” that you remove a coach quickly – i.e. immediately at the end of the season? Would three-weeks-and-change not present the image of a lame-duck-coach being allowed to “twist-in-the-wind?”

    Or does the also-unwritten “new-GM-gets-to-bring-in-his-own-coach” protocol trump that?

    Again, Robin – I’m not trying to be snarky here. I legitimately don’t know.

    And I guess I’m wondering if there’s any chance the Edmonton media will look the other way if Krueger was fired, say, a week before the draft and replaced with Tippett. How will that play to the scrum?

  • Why the hell do people want Tippet and his lousy trap hockey?! This is Oil country not the New Jersey Devil country. What proves Tippet is such an amazing coach? the fact he can get a sub par team to trap the hell out of more talented teams? I’ll take a pass thanks. Ill take a pass on Vigneault too… Mishandled his goalies and his line combinations for years in Vancouver… It’s just strange around here that there’s so much love for these two coaches. Give RK a team with a reasonable 3rd and 4th line, at least 1 more top 4 D man and lets see what he can do.

  • I am not convinced about any of the ‘big three’. AV and Ruff had players to work with and couldn’t get it done. Ruff just proved it again at the worlds. MacTavish was a better coach than those two given what he did with limited talent.

    Tippet is a defensive type who doesn’t seem to suit what the Oilers claim they want to be, although he is the only one I would even consider. I see the most important thing a coach does now is to manage people.

    They can’t effectively bully the players anymore because of social norms and the bucket loads of money involved. The team also has a lot of Europeans that aren’t yet well adjusted to North America.

    I don’t know if RK is the answer, but if he can get a system going that isn’t so unusual and actually works, he might be a good transition guy especially to bring the Euros along until they they get used to being here and settled, given his resume.

    The ‘core’ doesn’t need much help outside of convincing them to play defense which is what a good communicator can do and a ‘tough guy’ likely will struggle with.

    Although if Babcock ever wanted a change…. Then again how would he have been without 3 of the league’s best two way players?