WHAT WILL MCLELLAN’S STAFF LOOK LIKE?

Unless everybody has it absolutely wrong, Todd McLellan will be (or already is) the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers and his hiring could be made official as early as Tuesday. What I’m wondering is what his coaching staff will look like.

Virtually every report we’ve read since the World Championships started is the Oilers targeted McLellan as the man they wanted for the job, even with Mike Babcock hovering as the biggest available name in the coaching free agent game. That’s a course of action I hoped GM Peter Chiarelli would take, preferably in tandem with finding a way to keep Todd Nelson as well.

First things first, however, as we await official word from Oiler HQ that McLellan has been hired and we’re told when and where to show up to duly document the deed. That, according to widespread speculation by those generally in-the-know, is a mere formality, a matter of getting the ink done.


THE NEW GANG

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So, it’s McLellan. That means, based on what McLellan himself has already said, that he’ll be bringing former San Jose assistant coach Jay Woodcroft, who was also on the bench with him as the World Championships, with him.

“Jay, if I get the opportunity to move on, will be part of my staff. I believe in him that much,” he told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun. “I think it’s really important when you find a guy that you can trust and who can keep you organized and prepared and works his butt off. It’s essential. And that’s the plan for me as I move forward.”

After that, we don’t know. What we do know is CEO Bob Nicholson has spoken to Nelson, who wore the tag of interim head coach after taking over from Dallas Eakins, about his role moving forward.

Is Nelson, who did a very good job working with what he had in the second half of the season, interested in staying on with McLellan and Woodcroft? Nelson has two years remaining on his contract, but he was passed over in favor of Eakins for the head coaching job. Now, McLellan will get the shot.

Just as important, does McLellan want him to stay on? I can only assume that Chiarelli or Nicholson talked to McLellan about Nelson, but they can’t make that call for the new head coach. He has to want Nelson, assuming he’s interested in an assistant/associate role here.

If McLellan wants Nelson and he wants to stay, that’s three positions on the coaching staff filled. If that’s indeed the case – McLellan might well have somebody from outside the organization in mind — that leaves incumbents Keith Acton, Craig Ramsay and Rocky Thompson for, what, one position?

THE WAY I SEE IT

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Outside of keeping Woodcroft as his man riding shotgun, McLellan hasn’t telegraphed anything about what his staff would look like. My guess, and maybe it’s as much my hope as a guess, is that Nelson sees fit to stay on – the Two Todds thing. Nelson could just as easily say, “No thanks.”

I don’t think there’s much chance that Acton, who was brought in by Eakins, is retained. Likewise Thompson, who was the fourth man on the staff last season as the eye in the sky up in the press box. I can see Thompson staying in the organization as a coach in the minors.

Ramsay’s the interesting one in this bunch. I’m not sure McLellan is in need of an elder statesman-type on his staff, and I can’t see Ramsay taking a role up in the press box like Thompson did, but there’s value in his experience. How, or if, McLellan chooses to put that experience to use is the question.

My sense is Chiarelli and Nicholson have their ducks in a row and that if McLellan is unveiled tomorrow, as I expect he will be, it’ll be only a matter of days until we know what the rest of the staff will look like.

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