I was spit-balling here not long ago about the possibility the Edmonton Oilers might consider moving Ralph Krueger aside if they could land a big-name NHL coach. As it turns out, they just might get the marquee name they’re after without moving Krueger anywhere. That’s not a bad thing.
While Paul Maurice might not rate as the big catch that, say, somebody like Dave Tippett, Alain Vigneault or Lindy Ruff would be, the former bench boss of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs is still an experienced NHL coach with a good (not great) record.
Just as important, Maurice is apparently interested enough in plying his trade in Edmonton without needing the "head coach" tag attached that, according to multiple reports, he’s already interviewed with GM Craig MacTavish.
That kind of move – plugging in Maurice as an associate coach – would land the Oilers the experience they need on the staff without deep-sixing Krueger after just 48 games. That possibility, in the days since Maurice’s interest came to light, is somewhat surprising to me, given his CV. It’s not something I can see Tippett or Vigneault doing. Associate coach? Not a chance.
HEAD FOR THE GAME
In 1,084 games behind the bench dating back to 1995-96 with Hartford, Maurice has a point percentage of .501. Nothing to write home about, to be sure – save for a trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2002 with Carolina – but you don’t work an NHL bench for more than 1,000 games without knowing your way around and picking up a thing or two.
That kind of time-tested experience is exactly what the Oilers to complement Krueger, Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger. All the better if that experience comes aboard without displacing Krueger, who had the Oilers within hailing distance of a playoff spot until the wheels fell completely off in the stretch.
It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a connection between Krueger and Maurice – Krueger served as a scout for Carolina during Maurice’s second tenure as head coach there, so they wouldn’t have to start from square one.
On a personal level, I’ve always found Maurice an engaging guy and a pretty sharp coach with a head for the game. Back in my days on the beat, Jim Matheson and I used to head straight for Maurice’s office whenever we were in Carolina. He was happy to sit around and talk hockey for as long as we wanted, and a lot of what he said didn’t just fill our notepads, it made sense.
Maurice would be a solid hire and adding his experience to the staff without displacing Krueger, who is well-liked and respected by the Oiler players I’ve talked to, would be a noteworthy first move by MacTavish.
THIS AND THAT . . .
. . . I like it that the NHL has decided to make visors mandatory for players entering the league in the 2013-14 season, but I’m also onside with the caveat allowing players in the league now to make their own decision on the issue. There is no downside to wearing a visor and certainly no adjustment needed for players now entering the league.
. . . I ran into mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte in Vancouver on the weekend. As everybody knows, Diotte, a colleague at the Edmonton Sun, opposed the new downtown arena project as it was structured every step of the way. While I respect that he was consistent in his opposition and never strayed from it for political gain, my guess is it’ll bite him at the polls.
. . . I still wonder about Nathan Horton’s noggin, but he’s playing himself into a big payday as a UFA with his performance in these playoffs. Likewise, Bryan Bickell, who could have a date with Horton in the Stanley Cup final.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.