Derek Laxdal has earned a promotion. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to leave Edmonton to get it.

That’s the sentiment I put out on Twitter Sunday after the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Guelph Storm to claim the 2014 Memorial Cup, and I feel even stronger about it today. We’ll find out soon enough if the Edmonton Oilers feel the same way.

Oilers bench boss Dallas Eakins has some decisions to make about his coaching staff — calls which will likely happen in the next 10 days or two weeks — and it makes sense to me Laxdal could, and should, figure into that process based on what he’s accomplished in four seasons as head coach of the Oil Kings.

Laxdal, 48, has produced three consecutive 50-win seasons as coach of the Oil Kings. His teams have won two WHL titles and, now, a Memorial Cup. Not to be overlooked on his resume, Laxdal won the Kelly Cup in the ECHL as head coach of the Idaho Steelheads in 2007.

Based on what Laxdal has accomplished, not who he knows, how can he not merit consideration for a promotion to the Oilers coaching staff? Speaking of merit, one can make the same argument for Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson, the man Laxdal beat out for the job with Oil Kings four years ago.

Will Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish make room for one of both of them?



We’ve been over the notion put out by MacTavish that Eakins has final say about his coaching staff, so I won’t go over old ground again, aside to point out the obvious — Eakins has incumbents Keith Acton, as an associate coach, and Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, as assistants, in place now.

If the Oilers are as impressed with the job Laxdal has done as I am, they could simply add him to the existing staff as an assistant. On the face of it, that would be the easiest move, given the presumption that neither Smith nor Buchberger are going anywhere, to borrow from owner Daryl Katz.

To me, though, having four bench coaches beside Eakins seems less than ideal. Three seems right. So, they either pass on promoting Laxdal, which would leave him open to an offer from another NHL team despite the one year remaining on his contract, or somebody is moved out or aside.

If Eakins really does have the authority MacTavish says he does, my sense is we could see Buchberger moved, as unlikely as that seems. That would leave Eakins with Acton as his associate and Smith and Laxdal as assistants. Call it an educated guess. Or call me nuts, it’s up to you.

If I had to sketch it out, I see it as Buchberger (and goaltender coach Fredric Chabot) out and Laxdal in on the Oiler staff. I see Steve Hamilton promoted from assistant to head coach with the Oil Kings, taking over from Laxdal.

As for Nelson, while he’s certainly as deserving of a promotion as Laxdal, I wonder if the Oilers might keep him in the AHL with Oklahoma City as a back-up plan should Eakins falter next season. Frankly, I’d be fine seeing both Laxdal and Nelson join the Oilers, but that might be a bit bold.

Successful organizations don’t just develop players, they develop coaches as well. If Laxdal and/or Nelson are promoted from within, it would be a move based on merit, not cronyism. Stay tuned.



Can’t imagine it’ll be long before Bob Green, who built the Oil Kings as GM with assistant GM Randy Hansch before joining the Oilers as director of amateur free agent scouting last August, gets a promotion. Morey Gare is the head of Edmonton’s pro scouting staff now.

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

  • Thanks for all the comments so far.

    No matter where you come down on the issue, the one thing that nags me is the notion Eakins has complete say regarding the coaching staff, thus the line: “If Eakins really does have the authority MacTavish says he does . . .”

    I’m not going to call MacTavish a liar because I can’t read his mind, but I certainly found it odd how he framed the claim that the call belonged to Eakins by saying he thought the team had the right people in place now.

    I’ve spelled out what my calls would be. Let’s see if anything happens.

    • I think you have to see it from MacT’s point of view. First though, what you’re saying isn’t out of the realm of possible or unlikely. It could be true. But I’ll play devils advocate here… The way I took mac’s comments.. Eakins has the power to make the decision but he (Mac) wanted to give the vote of confidence to the current staff (which likely Would be his choice) since they’re under fire. That’s my guess.

      That said, I think Eakins accepted these guys in year one because there was no obvious reason to make waves (at least for the new guy in town). I have no doubt that MacT gave him his best sales pitch for his buds. I hope year two is all about what Eakins really wants though. Some fresh ideas are likely needed, even if the existing ones aren’t bad. Much like MacT after year 82 of his coaching stint. I hope Eakins sees that

  • It would be better to let all 3 of our assistants to go. Then try to hire Ramsy (for experience) and Oates (for the power play) and bring up Nelson (young kids play well under him).
    Then make Lextall as the head coach of the OKC barons and get him a couple years of experience there.

    • Aside from self-propping, your question shows a loser’s mentality.

      Confident, competent people surround themselves with the best help they can find. If you’re hiring stumblebums to make yourself look good, chances are you’ll look bad eventually anyway.

      • BLAKPOO

        I’ve recently hired a few people to help our business. I hired the first person because I saw potential and she is family. I hired the second person based on his abilities and his credentials.

        Guess which one is still with us?

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          It’s a trick question. You burned down your business for insurance fraud, but somebody tipped off the fuzz and now you’re on the run, trying to make up for your past misdeeds by assembling a ragtag group of vigilantes that go around the country solving mysteries and fighting criminal activity, all the while forgiving those that write run-on sentences.

  • Dan 1919

    Interesting article, hopefully Eakins doesn’t pay much attention to MacT’s vote of confidence for his buddies Smith and Bucky. Eakins should fire the old boys club based on terrible results and get experience in there that will help him.

    At the end of the day if Eakins’ fires the old boys club he’ll be on thin ice as far as keeping his job. He will basically have to be showing all around improvement to stay Oilers’ bench boss. But really he’s on thin ice now anyway, MacT will have no choice but to fire him half way through the season if they tank again (very likely), even with Bucky and Smith still there.

    So all Eakins’ horses are in the game now, might as well bring his own ponies and go all in, not some old wore out never have been donkeys that MacT and Lowe gave him when he got the job.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Eakins is proof that a good coach in juniors or minors does not necessarily translate to the bigs, laxdal does deserve a promotion unless he is happy where he is at.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As difficult as it may be to fathom, the Oilers would actually be much better off/improve next season if Laxdal was the head coach, and Eakins fired.

    There aren’t many coaches responsible for setting the bar as low as Eakins did. What a Gong Show we witnessed last season was.

  • Dan 1919

    Ya know??? I found it very refreshing to read that Mclellan told Leonsis (owner of the Capitals) how it really was with problems and wrongs from the lowest level of management to the ownership these past years…and then he got hired.

    Thats what Eakins or another good person should be telling to the Oilers management and ownership so as to finally get this good ole boys club outa the way.

    Smith, Bucky, Acton, and Chabot have not done anything to merit being at the same jobs these years.

    Chabot has hurt the goalie situation these last years (Deslauriers, Dubnyk, Bunz…etc), Smith has not revamped nor progressed with the defence corps (be it as bad as the talent has been for some time), Bucky doesnt do anything that I am aware of (nor many many other fans as well) thaqt warrants his staying on as an asst coach, and Acton has not produced progress with centres nor PK that well either.

    Laxdal going to the AHL now for Edmonton and the Barons makes it extremely valuable, wise and prudent for the Oilers system when based on his work with the now WHL (twice in 3 yrs) and Memorial Cup champions Edmonton Oil Kings.

    Nelson has the evidence support and ethics from being in the AHL so as to be a great new asst coach with Edmonton.

    There is not an Oilers draft pick or prospect who hasnt improved with either of these two guys….Laxdal and Nelson..

    Laxdal coming in for coaching the new kids joining up with the Barons would be a very good transition as Brossoit, Ewanyk, Kelssy, Moroz, Musil, Gernat, etc, played for him and became WINNERS in the last 3 yrs. Others such as Khaira, Chase, Houck, Bunz, Davidson, Miller, Marco Roy, Simpson, even Lander, etc, would benefit greatly.

    Nelson would do the very same with the young ones and vets on the Oilers now as well.

    Come on MacT and Eakins,… tell it like it is against the regime and make changes the right way and now, cause too late is just around the corner….AGAIN.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i find it down right insulting that Bucky has been here since the ’09 season and outlasted no less than 4 !! coaches. he’s a freeloader in my opinion.

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    Does anyone else find it troubling that MacT has passed the buck to Eakins when it comes to the assistant coaches?

    In in other markets (recently Toronto, Washington, & Nashville), management performs an assessment and decides who stays and who goes. That’s why they’re mangement. Coaches coach and managers manage. Obviously they exchange information in the process, but they should be doing what they’re hired for.

    I really don’t like the message that MacT delivered which was essentially “I don’t want to fire my friends” (alternatively: “my owner/boss won’t let me fire my friends so I’ll force someone else do it if he really thinks its necessary”).

    To me this is one symptom indicating that the Oilers process is fundamentally flawed.

  • If there has been a plan all along – then transitioning the coaches along with the players would have been part of that plan.

    so if Todd Nelson would consider an assistant job (he would be a candidate for head coach in the NHL right now too) – if Todd decides that is what he wants his next step to be then the Oilers should add Nelson. Taylor Hall became a point a game player after spending 6 months in the AHL with Todd Nelson. He would immediately have a voice in the room as he has been the coach for half the roster now when they where in the AHL.

    Laxdal should then be offered the head coaching job in Oklahoma. He would inherit some of his Oil Kings boys at the next level.

    if they still believe in Buchburger then he needs to show it – give him the head coaching job with the Condors.

    Eakins – Action – Nelson would be a good trio behind the bench of the Oilers. Steve Smith can watch upstairs if they want to keep him. Goalie coach its a given they need a new one – all you have to look at is Dubnyk.