A lot of things changed in the moment Edmonton’s luck reached its zenith. Since that moment, Oilers fans have been riding a roller coaster of emotions—another one this week when Todd McLellan was introduced as Edmonton’s coach.
THE LIST (nhl)
- Glen Sather (1979-89; 1993-94) 842GP, 464-268-110-0 (4 Stanley’s)
- Bryan Watson (1980-81) 18GP, 4-9-5-0
- John Muckler (1989-91) 160GP, 75-65-20 (1 Stanley)
- Ted Green (1991-94) 188GP, 65-102-21
- George Burnett (1994-95) 35GP, 12-20-3
- Ron Low (1994-99) 341GP, 139-162-40
- Kevin Lowe (1999-00) 82GP, 32-26-16-8
- Craig MacTavish (2001-09) 656GP, 301-252-47-56
- Pat Quinn (2009-10) 82GP, 27-47-0-8
- Tom Renney (2010-12) 164GP, 57-85-0-22
- Ralph Krueger (2012-13) 48GP, 19-22-0-7
- Dallas Eakins (2013-15) 113GP, 36-63-0-14
- Todd Nelson (2014-15) 51GP, 17-25-0-9
The unique thing about Edmonton’s coaches over the years? They’re connected by the Boys on the Bus, with several notable (and famous exceptions). It occurs to me that many of you wouldn’t be familiar with the coaches from last century, so let’s review them quickly.
Glen Sather had tremendous success as coach and GM of the Edmonton Oilers, the golden decade of the 1980’s rolled up four Stanley’s and countless records. By the early 1980’s, he had established a group of quality coaches (John Muckler, Ted Green, Billy Harris, Bugsy Watson all spent time) and talked often about handing over the job to one of his assistants, but didn’t do it until 1989.
(June 1989 Gainesville Sun)
When Slats stepped back (and he would return) the obvious (but not the only) choice was Muckler, a career coach who held the head job with the Minnesota North Stars back in the 1960’s. Muckler was a strong technical coach and of course the Oilers won their 5th Stanley with him at the helm. He wasn’t long for Edmonton because Buffalo (ahem) came calling!
June 1991, The Sumter Item
It was easy to replace Muckler, because Ted Green was in play when he was named. Although Green did the best he could, the number of impact players heading out of town during his period as coach was enormous and Green was eventually fired.
Spokesman-Review, November 1993
After a brief interlude, George Burnett—not a former Oiler player—was installed as coach. It did not go well, and most Oilers fans have erased their memory banks from that era. The newspaper item does offer some clues about how difficult this period was for the organization.
Kingman Daily Miner April 1995
LOW TO HIGH
- Peter Gzowski, Boys On the Bus: Remarkable among goalies, most of whom stand aloof from their teams, (Ron) Low is the leader of the Oilers, a tough old pro who has been rattling around various leagues for a decade.
Ron Low was one of the veteran’s on that young Oilers team right after they arived in the NHL and would have had significant say in what was a very young locker room. When he was named coach of the Oilers it was a very down time. Credit where due, the seasons he spent as Oilers coach included playoff series wins and fantastic hockey.
These years later I’ve forgiven him for the Satan debacle (“He could always score but he was a streaky scorer”) and the truth is his era was miles better than what has come afterward (for the most part).
THE NEXT CENTURY
After that came Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and you know the rest. Edmonton’s darkest days came in the early 1990’s or twenty years later and I’ll let you decide. Todd McLellan’s qualifications tower over most of these men and the world now is far different than the day George Burnett accepted the head coaching position.
The Edmonton Oilers kept hiring their coaches using the same system well into this century, everyone connected by someone and no one connected to success. Steve Tambellini got close with Tom Renney but he made a fatal error when firing him and never recovered.
The old boys network worked for a time and then it failed to work at all. Long after that, Edmonton kept doing it the same way, waving the magic wand and calling on former Oilers.
Breaking the wand was a long time coming.