Craig Ramsay’s name didn’t draw much reaction from fans around here when I mentioned him as a top candidate to be added to the coaching staff of the Edmonton Oilers Feb. 6. Ramsay will get considerably more attention from here on out after being named as an assistant to Dallas Eakins today.

“If the Oilers are looking to add a coach to their staff in support of Eakins between now and next season — they are — they should be taking a long look at Craig Ramsay, who was sacked by the Florida Panthers last November when head coach Kevin Dineen was let go.

“Ramsay, 62, who has made coaching stops with Florida, Ottawa, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2004, is the kind of teacher and technical coach who’d be a fit here.”

The item containing my assessment of Ramsay drew 135 comments. None of them, not one, contained a response about Ramsay. Not sure why. Older coach. A bit under the radar for many, I guess. Not a sexy hire. Besides, fans were justifiably skeptical that a FOK like Kelly Buchberger would be moved aside for a proven coach and teacher like Ramsay.



Today, here he is. Jonathan Willis wrote about Ramsay’s hire earlier today, so I won’t go over his resume again. What I will second is that Ramsay, who will work with the defensemen and the power play units, is exactly the kind of hire – experienced, technically sound and a teacher of the game – the Oilers needed to complement Eakins and associate Keith Acton.

I spent about 20 minutes one afternoon chatting with Ramsay in Tampa Bay not long after he was hired in 2001. I remembered him as a player. I’d read the stats. I knew what he’d accomplished as a coach, but I’d never spoken to him. The 20 minutes we talked that day, shooting the breeze talking hockey, was time well-spent. I’ve seldom been more impressed by a hockey man.

Ramsay’s a soft-spoken type. He doesn’t beat his chest to get his point across. He’s a communicator and a teacher. Back when we chatted, a young Vincent Lecavalier, just 20 or 21 at the time, talked at length about Ramsay’s ability to teach, to impart knowledge, especially with the younger players.

That impression stuck enough that with the Oilers struggling mightily again last season and debate raging about what changes were needed, including to the coaching staff, Ramsay came immediately to mind, even if it seemed like a long shot he’d ever end up here. The Oilers got it right.



With Buchberger out, Ramsay in the fold and destined to join Eakins and Acton on the bench, we’re waiting to see what happens with Steve Smith, who can either accept being bumped upstairs into the press box as an eye in the sky or seek employment elsewhere.

If Smith chooses to move on rather than accept the new gig, Eakins will be in the market for a coach to fill that role. That would open the door for Derek Laxdal, who, as everybody knows, led the Edmonton Oil Kings to the 2014 Memorial Cup and now has three 50-win seasons on his resume.

Yes, as many people have pointed out, Todd Nelson is also a deserving candidate based on the work he’s done in Oklahoma City. No question about it. That said, my best guess is Nelson will remain on the AHL farm as head coach rather than take a job as an assistant here. He sees himself as a head coach and he’s already had a gig as an NHL assistant.

From an organizational standpoint, it makes more sense to me to promote Laxdal to the Oiler staff as an assistant, promote Oil Kings assistant Steve Hamilton to head coach and have Nelson in OKC continuing the fine developmental work he’s been doing for the time being. We’ll see soon enough if it shakes out that way.

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

  • Dockstaff

    We have plenty of rookies and AHL level ‘prospects.’ I like the Ramsay deal, and I’d like to see another proven veteran behind the bench.

    Rookies make mistakes. I like Eakins, but he was a rookie on a rookie team, and they made A LOT of mistakes. Perhaps Brent Sutter or Adam Oates. I know Oates wants to be a head coach, but he will Likely have to do some more time as an assistant.

  • paul wodehouse

    What if the coaching-go-round is not the only problem that needs a major repair job. What if the so-called talent players are so deep into lazy and selfish play they are almost un-coachable?

    How do the Oiler coaches deal with players like Eberle, Hall, Newjie and Justin Schultz. These guys gave up how many goals against while on the PP? How many thousand fingers and toes would be required to count turn-overs in just the D zone? I really hope coaching is the required fix and not the players hockey IQ’s and lack of compete.

    Here’s hoping.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    am i the only one who had “oh no you di-dant girlfriennnnd” pop into my head when i saw that first picture in the article?


  • paul wodehouse

    “…On an unrelated note I’m starting to have this terrible feeling that Draisaitl will go to Florida or Buffalo with the 1 or 2 pick…”

    Hush Oilbaron…that can’t happen…all the mouthbreathers will get their Ekblad and the oilers will get to wait a couple more years for him to find his NHL legs while playing 8 minutes a game…OR maybe oilers end up with Bennett and we can get a pool together to find out when he does his first pullup on the Hall & Ebs radio show!

    …keep thinking draft Draisaitl OR DIE!!!


        Not always. For years The Vancouver Canucks have lacked toughness, and had total crap goaltending. Their forwards became wilting lilies whenever they faced adversity. Totally “un-champion”.

        You got to have a complete team from top to bottom with size and toughness.That’s why they will never be more than bridesmaids in my view.

  • paul wodehouse

    Oilers looking at going to the 1st pick. One was to wonder if they would be looking at acquiring it out right instead of moving up. Moving up from third doesn’t really make much sense.

    Would Yak + Defense prospect + 2015 3rd rounder get you the 1st overall????

    Take Ekblad and LD, move Gags to the wing

    Perron – LD – Gags doesn’t look too bad, Yak would still look better.

    Interesting, wonder if anything will actually happen.

  • vetinari

    Buffalo and Florida both know that teams like Edmonton and Calgary would love to snag Ekblad so it’s in their interests to talk him up, hoping that someone flips picks with them, even if they would prefer to go with one of the centres. It’s called poker. But in this game, if the Oilers stand pat, they are still guaranteed a good centre or a future franchise defenceman.

  • S cottV

    The present state of Oiler player personnel calls for the best possible coaching staff. To think otherwise is to seriously underestimate the task at hand.

    Head Coaches like Babcock or Hitchcock would struggle with what the Oilers look like going into this coming season. While they would struggle, I am sure that they would find a path to lead this player group toward, that would generate reasonable best possible results.

    Eakins? – It’s gonna be painful once again, despite the positive addition of Ramsay.

    Don’t think too many free agents or good players with no trade clauses, are gonna be all that impressed with a coaching ticket that has Eakins in charge.

    Oilers cannot afford to be percieved as anything but one of the very top organizations in the NHL – from the top to the bottom, in all aspects including coaching.

    If the NHLPA conducted a survey of all players, ranking perceptions of each franchise, the Oilers would not want the results publicized.

  • vetinari

    My favourite thing about Ramsay is he’s not Buchberger. Hard to know whether Ramsay will have a significant positive impact on the team, but easy to know he’s way more qualified than the man he’s replacing.

    • Zarny

      Thank you Oilers management on picking an experienced coach to assist both the players and Eakins. I think this is a solid addition to the team.

      I agree; its now time for Smith to be moved and Laxdal would be an outstanding choice to compliment the team.

      I read on someone’s blog a while back about bringing in Cujo as the goalie coach?

      Now, that would be “bold moves” definitely in the right direction to becoming playoff contenders.


    “Once you make that first outlet pass and you see the rush going up ice, you’ve got to be a part of it. It’s not acceptable to say, ‘Hey, I’m a defenceman.’ You’re not just a checker, you’re not just a defenceman, you’re part of a team.”

    Most interesting quote I found from Ramsey’s interview. Sounds like he is definitely going to mimic Eakin’s philosophy as far as puck moving goes. I really hope he can help enforce that “part of a team” aspect we have been severely lacking in.

    I hope his idea of the team being part of the rush doesn’t include defensemen chipping in too deep, causing a shorthanded break away towards our net.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    On the downside, he failed twice in short stints as a head coach. And only two of the eight teams he worked for saw fit to keep him for more than three years.

    1986-87 Buffalo Sabres assistant coach.

    1992–93, Florida Panthers assistant coach.

    1995 Ottawa Senators assistant coach.

    1997–98 Philadelphia Flyers assistant coach. 2000 interim head coach.

    2001 Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach.

    2006–07 Boston Bruins assistant coach.

    2010 Atlanta Thrashers head coach.

    2011 Florida Panthers assistant coach.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Ramsay is the same age as me. On the day he was hired, I was fired from my job after many years, or “laid off” if you prefer. Later the same day I was offered another job, same profession, more money, less hours. I see that as a good omen, for me, for Ramsay AND the Oilers. Fingers crossed! Welcome to Edmonton Craig and family.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    On the upside, he brings experience, seems best suited to an assistants role, served as an assistant to many great coaches, is a defensive minded coach, and should be a significant, perhaps even a huge upgrade over Bucky and Smith.

    As for first impressions, it looks like a good hire.

  • Doctor Smashy

    Can we use that cover picture in a caption contest this season? What exactly is going on there? Was he complimenting someone on their new belt? See a mouse scurry across the floor of the players bench? Had he just finished telling someone to shove it and was about to add “and your mother…”?

    The possibilities could indeed be endless….

  • Zarny


    Other than nifty toe-drags the Oilers need more everything in the line-up.

    I suspect what Lowe meant was “we want to be a fast team”. And the Oilers are fast in the top 6 F but a bottom 6 of mostly AHL caliber players negates that.

  • Serious Gord

    Not quite as futile as rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking titanic but not far from it either in hockey terms – hiring Ramsay isn’t going to get this team as it’s currently – or likely to be – configured to position higher than 20th.

    Ramsay, as has been noted above, has been a bit of a suitcase smith of the coaching fraternity – being treated pretty much as a spare part by most of his employers it would seem – especially in recent years.

    And this may be a heralding of FOEs – friends of Eakins – Ramsay and he are very close.

    Which begs the question: how much of a search effort was done before offering Ramsay the job? Is this yet another rushed, hire a friend or the guy who talks a good line decision like all of the others over that last decade?

    And have any of the old boys ever actually been fired rather than moved around within the organization since Katz became owner? Just flat-out $hit-canning one of them would be a fresh of breath air rather than this rotten tripe of “we are all accountable”

    Finally, robin you write: “…is exactly the kind of hire – experienced, technically sound and a teacher of the game …”. Isn’t that what the oil should have looked for for the head coach position? To my eye the assistant has a better resume than the coach and the roles should have been reversed.

  • Harry2

    I am very concerned that Mac thought Edm had the right coaches in place before all this transpired.

    Seriously what the hell was he smoking when he said that?