As per Elliotte Friedman the Oilers have given Todd Nelson
permission to look elsewhere in pursuit of a Head Coaching opportunity.
It has long been rumoured that Nelson wants to be a Head
Coach, not someone’s assistant or associate coach. That is entirely
understandable and good for him that he knows what he wants for his career.
Friedman did say that the Oilers wanted Nelson to stay with the club in some
capacity and that they would circle back in a couple of weeks.
I would love for the Oilers to keep Nelson on their staff,
even if that means he’s the Head Coach in Bakersfield next year. I would even
be happy if he took a position on McLellan’s staff. I understand that the new
regime allows for fresh eyes, but certainly there’s room for somebody who knows
every single professional player in Edmonton’s system.
Todd Nelson might legitimately be the only reason Anton
Lander is going to be an NHL player next year. It was under him that Yakupov
started producing like a top 6 forward again. He got the most out of the
skaters after the club was already a broken mess. I have time for that and I
think so do the Oilers.
It’s not as if the team should feel bad for hiring the other
Todd, but even they know they screwed up when they hired their last coach and
Nelly’s an easy guy to cheer for. I think letting Nelson check out all his
other options is the only decent thing the team can do for him now.
One place that won’t be considering Nelson but really should
is Buffalo. Now look, they want a sexy pick and they’re going to find a
Name-Coach because that’s what they want and the Sabres always get what they
Money will buy them what they want but the truth is that Buffalo
is looking at a 2015-2016 that could feature a couple of rookie teenagers
playing Center next year. As great as Jack Eichel is I doubt he can take a team
that was one of the worst ever assembled and turn it into a playoff contender.
They should still be in transition and I believe Nelson is perfect for a club
in that position.
He has a solid track record with young and developing
players. He has already shown an ability to walk into a losing situation and
almost immediately change the culture of the team. And, Buffalo had the 30th
ranked Power Play last year, which is an area of the game that Todd Nelson has
excelled in as a coach.
They’re going to make an offer to Bylsma or Boucher but man
they could do a lot worse than giving Nelson the chance to turn things around
in Buffalo while they aren’t quite ready to take advantage of all that talent
they’ve acquired via the Draft.
And if not Buffalo then I hope Nelson lands anywhere else.
He’s done everything in his power to earn the chance and I hope he gets it.
I think back to the short time he had with the Oilers at the
NHL level and I can’t help but focus on one thing. He believed in his players.
Nelson empowered the Oilers to be competitive as a group and
he empowered the individuals who made up the team to be more than what they had
been up to that point. X’s and O’s are a part of the job, but being able to
help make people unlock their potential is special. Any idiot can preach a
system. Not everyone can get people to skate through a wall just because you
ask them to.
THAT DAMNED RULE
While we’re on the topic of coaching, let’s talk a bit about
that idiotic rule in the NHL where teams are required to now provide
compensation for coaches and executives even if they’ve been fired by their
The phenomenon that is demanding picks for the right to hire
fired coaches or managers adds a significant hurdle to the prospects of finding
meaningful employment for those who have been let go. There is absolutely no
way that the NHL intended for this rule to be applied to fired employees and
yet here we are. Edmonton hired a GM that was fired the week before and
apparently will need to give up a 2nd Round pick some time in the
next 3 years and they hired a coach whose previous team agreed to walk away
from and they will have to give up a 3rd Round pick for him.
I have a couple problems with the application of this
First, under the previous system the teams who had fired
their coach or executive were already receiving some form of benefit by having
their ex-employee get hired on with another team. Like player contracts,
Coaches and General Managers have guaranteed contracts. Using Oiler examples,
that means the 4 year deal that was given to Dallas Eakins is still being
honoured. He is being paid today as if he is still the Head Coach of the
Now, should Dallas Eakins be hired by another NHL club the
Oilers would be off the hook for the remaining two years. THAT is fantastic
compensation just for having someone hire a person you no longer want anywhere near
your hockey club. The Oilers want Dallas Eakins to get hired. Dallas Eakins wants
Dallas Eakins to get hired.
And that’s where my biggest problem with this stultifying
rule comes in. With coaches in particular the new system severely punishes
anyone who is employed under every circumstance. If an NHL team wants to hire
you from you role as an Assistant to be a Head Coach? They need to provide a pick.
Want to hire a fired Coach? Need to provide a pick. Want to hire a Coach like
Babcock who is effectively a Free Agent? Provide a pick.
There’s an argument to be made that a pick is a small
pittance but the facts are that Draft picks are the lifeblood of NHL Franchises
and teams value them quite highly. Teams (right or wrong) view 2nd
and 3rd Round picks as worthy compensation in exchange for actual
NHL players, never mind coaches who have been traditionally been treated as
disposable by NHL clubs. The truth is that there are going to be NHL clubs who
will weigh the benefit of taking a chance on an unestablished coach against
losing a pick and the pick will be deemed more important.
What’s more, when a player is no longer employed by their
team it is generally July 1st (barring buyouts or mutual termination
of contracts). That is also the day NHL teams can vie for their services, but
not before then. Teams can trade for players still under contract before July 1st
to get longer time to negotiate, but July 1st Free Agency is part of
NHL culture. It is regulated by the CBA and common practice.
For NHL coaches they have a completely different convention
for finding work. It is common practice to be fired shortly after the season is
over (whenever that may be) and May is generally the month when new Coaches are
hired. This May has seen several high profile openings get filled, as an
example. However, coaches have contracts like players that run right to the end
of June. Except, unlike players, it is not the NHL practice to wait until July
1 to hire coaches.
The way the new rules are being interpreted treats coaches
in particular as if they operate under the same conditions as the players and
this has never been the case. There is a mismatch in the way the rule works and
the way the NHL actually operates. As if it wasn’t hard enough to land 1 of only
30 jobs in the world now there are people who have to be so good that an NHL
team would have to not only want to hire them but pay their competitors in
Draft picks to do it.
In short, this is easily the stupidest thing the NHL has
done from the perspective of common sense since they hired Chris Pronger to the
Department of Player Safety.