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?
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
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.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
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.