THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

Todd McLellan

The Edmonton Oilers have been guilty far too often of signing the wrong people for the wrong money in recent years, so it’s a welcome departure from the same old, same old to see them continue what’s been a ridiculous off-season roll by getting it right with coach Todd McLellan.

As we all know, new GM Peter Chiarelli and CEO Bob Nicholson focused in on McLellan after he was let go by the San Jose Sharks right from the hop rather than wait to see what would happen with Mike Babcock. The way I see it, the Oilers got a bargain.

It’s not as much about the money – McLellan signed on the dotted line for $15 million over five years while Babcock made waves yesterday by inking an eight-year deal worth $50 million with Toronto – as it is about coming to terms on a value contract, even if the money involved matters not in terms of the salary cap. It’s about doing smart business.

That’s something, given the too-long or too-rich contracts we’ve seen handed to the likes of Nikolai Khabibulin and Nikita Nikitin under Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish in recent years, there’s been far too little of for far too long. Is Babcock a better, more accomplished coach? Maybe. Is he $35 million better? I think not. Neither did Chiarelli and Nicholson.

IT’S ABOUT THE FIT

Mike Babcock

Babcock and McLellan are both terrific coaches. Babcock’s regular season point percentage in 950 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings is .627. In 540 games with San Jose, McLellan’s point percentage is marginally better at .637. In playoffs, Babcock has a winning percentage of .569 (82-62), McLellan is 30-32 for .484.

Babcock coached the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008. McLellan was an assistant coach on that team. He left the Red Wings to take over as head coach of the Sharks for 2008-09. McLellan, despite pushing the Sharks to 50 wins or more three times and 100 points or more four times, never once got the Sharks out of the Western Conference.

Edge to Babcock? Sure, but from where I sit, there’s not significant separation when you take NHL and international experience into account.

There’s not a huge difference in style, either. While Babcock is a stickler for details and McLellan is more of a communicator, both are demanding and have very distinct ideas about how to approach the game and how they want things done. Both have very good track records doing things their way.

Whatever the reason Chiarelli and Nicholson deemed McLellan the better fit right from the start, what I know of both coaches has me thinking the guys running hockey ops in Edmonton made a good bet, and they did it at a good price. How often have we been able to say that about decisions coming out of the front office in the last five years?

ON THE SIDE . . .

93-RNH-17

Neither Babcock nor McLellan are going to turn the fortunes of their teams around without the right players. When I look at the rosters and prospects on the horizon for Toronto and Edmonton in the context of how the next couple of seasons will likely shape up, I’ll take Edmonton’s personnel every day of the week. The Maple Leafs had 68 points this season, the Oilers 62. I bet the Oilers finish with more points than Toronto next season.

WHILE I’M AT IT

The Montreal Alouettes signed Michael Sam today, creating a bit of a buzz on Twitter, including tweets like this:

Every time I see a reference to “openly gay,” it makes my skin crawl. It’s 2015 and you’d think we’d be past the point where a person’s sexuality is referenced virtually every time they’re mentioned. Clearly, we’re not.

I don’t want to be preachy, but I was born in the late 1950s in a distinctly different time in a distinctly different society. If I long ago reached the point where I decided a person’s sexuality doesn’t matter – and, frankly, is none of my business – why can’t everybody get there?

Sam’s sexuality shouldn’t matter. It does not matter. Our society includes gay teachers, politicians, plumbers and professional athletes. I don’t care about who Sam sleeps with. I care about whether he’s good at football. Then, there’s stuff like this:

I think Kevin is trying to be supportive, but if he’s talking about critics who think, to use the term loosely, Sam can’t play because he’s gay, it’s a lost cause. Those folks are gonna hate no matter what. Sam will prove the critics that matter wrong if he sacks a bunch of quarterbacks and makes a lot of tackles. The Alouettes are betting he can.

THE BAD OLD DAYS

Then, there’s this item about Slava Fetisov, who seems to be trying to re-raise the Iron Curtain, at least as it pertains to Russian hockey players, in an effort to keep the KHL afloat.

Fetisov, now the chairman of the KHL’s board of directors, was one of the several players who pushed the Russian government for the right to play in the NHL in the late-1980s, the bad old days when getting to North America to play hockey meant defecting.

Originally drafted in 1978 by the Montreal Canadiens, Fetisov didn’t get to the NHL until 1989-90 after being re-drafted by New Jersey. He was among a wave of Soviet players including Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov who fought for, and eventually won, the right to play here.

Now, Fetisov wants to close the door he helped kick open so many years ago. If the survival of the KHL means trying to return to the archaic ways of the 1970s, then Fetisov and his board members can start digging the hole right now. It’s a bad idea and it won’t fly.

GARY, GARY, GARY . . .

Gary Bettman

So, Gary Bettman still doubts that repeated concussions contribute to CTE – or at least he says he does with, it so happens, the NHL facing lawsuits over the issue, notably from the family of Steve Montador.

Speaking to reporters in Chicago Thursday, Bettman said:

From a medical science standpoint, there is no evidence yet that one necessarily leads to the other. I know there are a lot of theories, but if you ask people who study it, they tell you there is no statistical correlation that can definitively make that conclusion.

Denial of the obvious at the highest level.

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

  • TSN channels should be free to viewers outside of the Toronto region. Unless they believe all of Canada is a Toronto region.?

    There is no way we should have to pay to hear this proTO crap day in and day out. It’s insulting and ridiculous.

    Jeff O’Neil is the biggest goof and Homer, and that’s just the beginning. Do they not hire non-Leaves fans? GTFOUH.!..

    Its 2015, if we have “openly gay” players, we should be able to have non-bias television programing: at least a little bit, at least when it comes to sports.

    F U TSN.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    Nice to see the two top free agents coaches come to Canada and try to turn two bad teams into contenders. As for Bettman, I still can’t believe the guy finds no evidence that concussions contribute to CTE. The game will be much better when he leaves.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I hope McLellan doesn’t mess with the top line. Oilers are much more dangerous with Hall on a separate line.

    Pouliot Hopkins Eberle

    Hall McDavid Yakupov

    Let Hall shelter McDavid and let Yak add some heaviness to the line.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Best wishes to Micheal Sam. The first guy through the wall always gets bloodied.

    Looking forward to seeing him play up here. Much the same anticipation as Vince Ferragammo and Mark Gastineau, only Sam isn’t anywhere near past his best.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    If the KHL folded? How many players would make NHL rosters? Not many…I suspect.

    It is the equivalent to the end of the WHA in the 70’s

    A few good men

  • tileguy

    I see Finland has called home all its reservists to guard that Russian border, I hope they bring their hockey sticks with them and give a few crosschecks into the teeth of Putin.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Actually they haven’t done that, they just sent out a letter to all reservists (which is pretty well most Finnish males between 18 and 60 as they have conscription) that “reminds” everyone of their potential duties. There are a few exceptions to who has to do military training, but it is most.

      Just perked my attention as I am also a Finnish Citizen (dual nationality) so I’ve been watching this stuff a bit closer than normal.

      Not going to get into a politics talk here, but just hope everything stays ok on all sides.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I believe McLellan should take a serious look at a string Graham Jame’s to his staff.. James had a stellar record before heading off to the pen.

    NELSON, JAMES, Rebylka and K. LOWE. suggestion as possible associate/assistant coaches