With each passing day, frustrated fans continue to find new or old reasons as to why this team is where it is. Everyone is searching for answers, with many targeting the “old boys club” that has become the Edmonton Oilers. I don’t know if this is new but many want to focus on the assistant coaches today and blame them for this team’s demise.
I’m not going to sit here and defend the constant re hiring of former Oilers because if it works its great and if it doesn’t then it’s a failure and normally fixed. It’s tough to let go of good people and players that have been great to an organization.
I believe like many of you, more changes on ice and potentially off the ice are likely needed, but I do find it strange the focus is now being directed at assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith.
It’s easy to assume Eakins truly didn’t have a choice in picking his assistant coaches but maybe Eakins did decide he wanted to keep Buchberger and Smith? Maybe the players in the room were a vote of confidence for those two and Eakins understood that? That I cannot factually answer and everyone can form their own opinion.
He did however; bring over his buddy Keith Acton from Toronto, so he has someone he is familiar with on his staff. It’s very common for coaches to bring “their” guys to each new job but it is actually not uncommon for teams to retain an assistant coach when a head coach has been relieved of his duties.
HAPPENS ALL THE TIME
I’ve seen it on two of the three teams I played on in the NHL. When Glen Hanlon was fired in Washington and Bruce Boudreau was hired, Dean Evason (my favorite assistant coach of all time) was retained and Bruce kept him for his entire tenure in Washington. Dean had a great relationship with the guys and was very respected by everyone.
In Dallas Stu Barnes survived the Dave Tippett firing and worked under Mark Crawford for his 2 years in Dallas. Not to mention they were both former players for those respective organizations. It’s not just in Edmonton.
Regardless of all that, I think there is a bit of a misunderstanding of what exactly an assistant coach brings to the table. With all due respect to the great assistant coaches around the league, assistant coaches provide value but not near enough to blame them for day to day decisions.
I was always very tight with my assistant coaches. I have played for some fantastic ones. This was because they were tremendous guys. When times are tough and you have a question about how to handle a certain situation, you could go to them. Assistant coaches could get a message to the coach or from a coach to you about what he is thinking or why certain decisions are being made.
The reason former players are often hired to be assistants is because they have played the game, they understand the ups and downs throughout the year and how players want to be treated. Great assistant coaches in my opinion provide a pipeline to the coach, and they provide tips and good stories or techniques of how they would handle certain situations. They watch game tape and do extra work with you on things that need it. Many head coaches don’t want to deal with the day to day of player mentalities or headaches; this is the greatest asset an assistant coach provides.
Assistants have certain assignments and often run the power play or penalty kill meetings but many are mistaken if the thought is assistant coaches are calling the final shots on the systems you see. Some assistants are more active than others and handle more of a load but at the end of it all the head coach is taking their advice and providing the players with his message. It’s him who will ultimately land on the sword if things fail.
Be mad all you want at Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini who re-built this team. Be mad at the fact the players themselves haven’t produced winning results since Gregor debated a comb over, but I don’t think for a second if they had two different assistant coaches this team would be dramatically better. I think we’re reaching now.