CBC’s Elliotte Friedman made waves a few nights ago on Hockey Night in Canada when he reported that the Oilers had initially offered their head coaching job not to Ralph Krueger, but to former great Mark Messier. Today, he expanded on that report.
Last year, the Edmonton Oilers considered Messier, Brent Sutter, Todd Nelson and Ralph Krueger (who got the job) to replace head coach Tom Renney. There may have been more, but that’s who I can pin down. At some point, Messier was offered it. Oilers president Kevin Lowe declined a request to comment, so exact details are sketchy. But Messier considered it, took a little bit of time and said "no" for family reasons.
While the Oilers at times struggled under Ralph Krueger, who eventually got the job, it says here that the team still did well by Mark Messier’s decision not to come to Edmonton.
That isn’t a shot at Messier, who had a legendary playing career both in Edmonton and elsewhere, so much as it is a reflection of his lack of experience. He retired in 2004 and hasn’t worked as a coach in either the AHL or NHL over that span.
Instead, Messier has worked with the New York Rangers as a special assistant to Glen Sather. He’s had a series of brief stints with Hockey Canada. As head coach, he guided the national team to a second place finish at the 2010 Spengler Cup and a third place finish at the 2010 Deutschland Cup. The team he put together as general manager at the 2010 World Championships finished seventh. It’s a poor resume for either the top job in hockey operations or the number one role behind the bench of an NHL team.
It’s also hard not to look back at what happened in Phoenix after Wayne Gretzky stepped down as head coach. The Coyotes went out and hired Dave Tippett, a career coach who had 13 years behind the bench, starting as an IHL assistant coach, before taking the top job with the Coyotes. Phoenix improved by 28 points in his first year behind the bench.
Perhaps Messier would have been a coaching prodigy, able to hit the ground running at hockey’s highest level without spending any time learning the ropes as even an NHL assistant. Maybe that’s what he’ll do in New York. But it’s given the choice between a career coach who has paid his dues and put in his time (either in the majors or the minors or even junior, as new Colorado coach Patrick Roy did) and a guy walking in with his playing career as the number one point on his resume, it seems folly to offer the job to the latter.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Canucks Army, Thomas Drance grabs a point from the same Friedman column and runs with it – this regarding Dallas Eakins, the Toronto Marlies head coach who is a candidate for an associate job in Edmonton and the main job in Vancouver. From Dallas Eakins Will Do A Second Interview With Canucks Brass:
With a number of other clubs hot on Eakins’ tail, it’s possible that the Canucks may need to ditch their usual cautious, gradualist approach to, well, everything really and secure the young coach who has impressed them.
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