Human nature being what it is, we are often more comfortable relying on people we know and trust rather than the unknown in all walks of life. That includes hiring people for jobs in the NHL.

Fans of the Edmonton Oilers have witnessed first-hand that’s not always a good idea as the team owned by the EIG and then Daryl Katz has stocked its management and coaching staff with people whose most notable credentials, in many cases, were that they had previously played for the Oilers. 

That said, I won’t be a bit surprised if we see more of it — hopefully with considerably more success than in recent seasons – in coming weeks when new head coach Todd McLellan fills out his coaching staff. We’ve already had foreshadowing on that from McLellan, who has said he plans to bring former San Jose assistant Jay Woodcroft into the fold.

While I’m still hoping Todd Nelson, who has been given permission by the Oilers to look around and check his options after doing a good job as the interim head coach here, might stick around in some capacity, the name I’m coming up with to join McLellan’s staff is Jim Johnson. Who?



Johnson, 52, a journeyman defenseman who played 829 games in the NHL, spent the past three seasons on McLellan’s staff in San Jose, starting with the 2012-13 season. Johnson was let go by GM Doug Wilson at the same time as McLellan and Woodcroft.

Johnson isn’t a marquee name, but that often doesn’t count as much as familiarity, which, all other things being equal, tends to trump the unknown. We saw that a couple of seasons ago when new hire Dallas Eakins brought Keith Acton along with him, leaning on the coaching relationship they built in Toronto, to go along with incumbents Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger.

While Eakins got his comfort coach in Acton, my thought is he kept Smith and Buchberger around at the prompting of management, at least in part, because he wasn’t at all familiar with the players here or with many in the Western Conference, period. That’s not an issue now. Quite the opposite.

McLellan knows the conference and the players in it, including most of the players who’ll be on Edmonton’s roster, like the back of his hand after seven seasons in San Jose. So do Woodcroft and Johnson, which, familiarity with each other aside, has me thinking Johnson could be his guy. It makes sense on a couple of levels. We’ll see.



  • I wrote a week or so ago there’s little or no chance Acton returns on Edmonton’s staff with Eakins out and nothing has changed for me. I’m still not sure about Craig Ramsay. Can’t see him taking the fourth spot. Maybe Rocky Thompson will stick in that position.
  • If Jeff Blashill is promoted from Grand Rapids of the AHL to take over from Mike Babcock, as expected, Nelson could be in the running to join his staff. That, or to be the head coach with the Griffins. They know each other. The other possible landing spot for Nelson is with Carolina, which interviewed him last summer.
  • Woodguy is doing some good work, lately on potential UFA goaltenders and those who might be acquired via trade, at his blog. You can read his bit on the stoppers here. It’s an in-depth look at who might fit the bill for the Oilers. While I don’t see anybody really succeeding in the crease here until Peter Chiarelli addresses his blue line, it’s worth a read.
  • I’m really enjoying watching Leon Draisaitl tear it up at the Memorial Cup with the Kelowna Rockets. It’s not a stretch in the least to think Draisaitl will earn a roster spot with the Oilers — as opposed to being handed one as he was to start last season — for 2015-16. Looks like a man among boys right now. 

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

  • I’ll never understand the people that want to trade Draisaitl because the Oilers now have the chance to draft McDavid (yes, this is actually happening). Since when has too many awesome options at centre ever been a bad thing?


      • Dirtski

        Trashes? sigh..Some people just don’t understand sarcastic impersonation.

        bm + Jeanshorts = ahead of their time.

        Ya but dat guy dere eee really finks we kans get dat suuban guy fer dat dare hocky o’eere – when he all da way o dare.
        Ow’ he spose terr make err all da way o ere from all da way o dare?
        Fly a croissant??
        Flying croissants?!?!
        Dey turk err jurbz!!!!

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Our fans always do that. If someone comes in, they want to throw someone else out even if we barely have any depth.

      Having a centre play the wing is nice to have. If nuge or McDavid go down, we have no one to replace them who can actually be effective in the top 6 besides draisaitl and we still don’t know how he will do next year in the show.

    • It’s never a bad thing BM. But the reality is we have arguably the worst Defensive lineup in the league and that needs to turnaround. As you know proven top flight blue liners do not come cheap and we can’t afford much more time without a competitive lineup. I love Leon and am not advocating for a trade, but hard decisions are going to be made for certain. I think his Mem cup run is going to bring a lot of interest and if Peter can pull the trigger on a Kessel or Seguin, you can bet he’d entertain offers on the Dangler.

      • A-Mc

        For the reasons you mention, i think Marincin gets moved out w/ that 2nd first round pick.

        For his first off season as Oilers GM i dont see Chiarelli doing too many subtractions, especially high end young talent like Draisaitl.

        • Ready to Win

          What fruit do you think the Market will return for Marincin and that 33rd overall? I hope it’s enough to turn the that blue line North but I’m skeptical. Throw that 16th overall in a deal and now we’re talking something very real leaving Leon an Oiler. It’ll be interesting to find out what transpired and was offered after the fact. Hopefully we hear about it.

    • A-Mc

      We should be getting more centres, not less. Sign Sodoberg I say. Gordon won’t last forever, and Purcell will be gone by the end of next year at the latest. Injuries always happen and Hall hates playing centre even though his face off wins percentage is ridiculous.

      Also, just for a moment, can we stop and imagine an injury scenario that sees Draisaitl, Sodoberg, and Yakimov all on the same line. I think that would be the biggest line in hockey.

      While I’m on the subject of Yakimov, can we also for a minute imagine a scenario where Edmonton rights a wrong and grabs Tkachev late in the upcoming draft, allowing the second line in Bakersfield to be an all Russian dynamo line of Shlepyshev, Yakimov, and Tkachev.

      Pleas hockey Jesus, let that line be a thing.

        • A-Mc

          Agreed, which is why I said injury scenario. I watched the young stars tournament pretty intently last year, and of course went to the Bears / Oiler Prospects game. What I noticed was that Yakimov had some incredibly soft hands for such a big guy. He was an odd mix of power forward and pass first. Though not as quick top end, his skating seemed a lot smoother than Draisaitl. But make no mistake, he is a giant. I liked that he relied on his dangling more than his size to keep the puck away from defenders. But most important was Tkachev. Yakimov got more points opening up ice by driving the puck and dishing off to Tkachev than he did with just himself.

          Point being, I think Yakimov goes as his line mates go. You put him with some skill, he’ll do some impressive things. You put him with grinders, I don;t think he will have a lot of success.

          It is great we have depth at the position, I really hope Yakimov keeps developing and earns a spot somewhere in the NHL line up one day.

      • Ready to Win

        I suspect the Oiler’s interest in Tkachev died with the change in management; Tkachev is pretty much the anti-thesis of what Chiarelli has said he wants on the team.

        • BobbyCanuck

          Considering Shlepyshev and Chase represent our two most highly skilled wingers in Bakersfield next year, I really don’t think new management would mind grabbing a highly skilled player who already has shown chemistry with many of our prospects, late in an already stacked draft.

          But again, I’m only hoping, not expecting. As I told A-Mac, I think Yakimov plays better with skilled wingers, and right now I’m not sure that’s what he has.

          Also, Tkatchev is by no means big, but watching him through the young stars and at the Bears game, he was very hard to separate from the puck. Though it pains me to say it, I compare him to the likes of Gaudreau. Maybe he’s not going to be in the same level, but that’s the style of game he plays.

      • A-Mc

        We don’t have an unlimited supply of money (cap issues come to those who succeed) and trade bait. The Oil were worst goals against in the league by far at a humbling 276 (avg. for playoff teams was 204!); 11th worst in Avg. Shots Against/game at 30; and the worst save percentage in the league (by a wide margin) at 88.8%. We can’t keep the puck out of our damn net. We are about to sign a generational offensive talent that fills a position we had a hole at all year. Use our limited resources to help improve the worst Defence and Goaltending in the league.

        • I agree they will have to give up an asset eventually to shore up the terrible defence and goal. But I also do not believe our defence is as bad as it looks. Half the year we had Eakins, the other half we had injuries.

          Secondly, Draisaitl is not the asset I would trade for that piece on Defence. If you’re trading for defence and using Draisaitl in the package, then that better be a damn big name coming back, preferably right side. Of the names that might be available that would suite our number one D desperate needs, well you are looking at Bieksa, Seabrook, or Burns.

          Though I have been high on Seabrook, I do not think he will be worth the contract on a team like Edmonton where he doesn’t have a Duncan Keith beside him, a Corey Crawford behind him, and a Toews in front of him. Also, his points over the last three years are comparable to Pahnuef. Not saying, just saying, that’s a fact.

          Burns I would consider, however I would look at trading either Yak or Eberle for the very reason you mentioned: cap.

          Given Draisaitl’s not so great performance in his first year, and the fact he may even start next year in the AHL, there is no way he end up with a big 6 mill contract after his rookie one is done. So by getting rid of Eberle, you save cap, and save a big centre who will cost less for longer.

          As for Bieksa, also not worth Draisaitl. If you know of a right side top line D who would consider coming here in a trade, and a team would consider trading him for Draisaitl, I would like to know who it is.

          • I agree with most of your comments. We need 2XD (top 2 pairing) and much better G. We have lots of draft picks in a deep year that will carry value. Package it up with in a good player with a low cost and out they go to a cap problem team. They replace their great D (who they can’t afford) with an OK but soon future great D (perhaps Marincin) and Draft pick and we get a great defenceman. I would not trade anyone who is in a position to contibute substantially in the next 2 years. Eberle, for e.g. is just approaching his high producing years. I think it is possible to wrap a draft pick with a “futures” type of player and get someone back who has an immediate impact from a team that has a substantial cap issue – win/win. Drai is not the guy as unproven. Marincin has a proven NHL player (particularly if you team him with some other D stud) with lots of potential.

            Our D is as bad as it looks. Who is good enough to be top 2 pairings on most playoff teams? Their stats show they weren’t bad, they were the worst in the league and they lost their best D to Montreal so the remaining D will be even worse than the worst. I just pray Peter C. doesn’t bring in more bottom tier D/rookies like Ference, Nikitin, Aulie and Schultz.

          • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

            I am a bit worried you are right that our D is in fact as bad as it looks. I am really holding out hope there was a big Eakins factor making it much much worse. I mean, he did run Schultz and Hunt out for 23 + min a night sometimes. He kept Marincin down on the farm, even kept Klefbom down for a while.

            And then in the last half when Nelson took over, he lost Petry, and then lost Nikitin and Ference to injury, giving the team pretty much a big AHL squad, that seemed to do better than in the first half.

            So, my hope is, if you combine our D, with a better coach, hopefully one or two better players, and average goal tending, the group as a whole ends up being much better. Fingers crossed.

          • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

            HAHAHA…….did I just read Bieksa in the same sentence as Seabrook and Burns?

            The spirit of Hedberg lives in all of us. Bravo sir, bravo.

    • It’s never been a bad option to have too many good centres, especially when they can play on the wing like Lander and Draisaitl. Fixing the G and D is the top concern IMO – fixing the goalie coach position should be addressed really quickly, getting top notch and trusted assistant coaches and culling the dead wood not far behind. Unfortunately heads have AND will continue to roll – from my point of view I can’t wait to see what our roster/coaching staff list looks like in a few weeks. I respect Ramsey, but he had no-one to work with, and while that’s not a good reason to let him go, we need younger blood, people who TM is happy with and trusts. Unless he and PC are allowed to do the job THEIR way, not much will change. The days of sentimentality are over, the new brooms will sweep clean. Nepotism is not a word in the Oilers’ dictionary any longer – hopefully.

  • Draisaitl does look like a man among boys at the junior level, but definitely looked like a boy among men when he dressed for the Oilers at the start of 2014-2015. I think he will be best served by spending a season in the AHL. For far too long, and for far too many players, Oilers management tried to rush their development, which in effect stunted their development due to a loss of confidence when they were being beat routinely on assignments. Being thrown into the NHL before they have a chance to develop a work ethic that is needed for success at the NHL level, a lesson has to be learned at some point.

    Yakupov is the one player that was obviously out of his league, no pun intended, when he was given a roster spot in his rookie year. It could be successfully argued that he in fact regressed due to the push.

    That being said, if Draisaitl comes into camp and is an undeniable shoe-in for a spot on the Oilers roster, then great, I will be happy to watch him as an Oiler this coming season. The same can be said for Nurse and McDavid, as far as that goes.

    My hope is that we finally have a GM that will make the right decisions for the betterment of our up and coming players. Perhaps a year of AHL for our top prospects would mean we’re ready for a cup run in 2-3 years, rather than 4-5 years down the road.

    We just have to be willing to eat the pain for another year or two while these guys fill out and learn the pro game.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Robin I too watched the Kelowna Rockets game and saw LD as very good………..there was another guy that also caught my eye in Madison Bowey.

    Another big strong and mean defenceman we could use,……..what do you think it would take to get him?

  • A-Mc

    Its completely retarded that people mention trading Dr Drai. I literally cannot even fathom why we would even consider that. There is nothing wrong with a centerman playing the wing until another centerman gets injured and/or contracts dictate someone leaving.

    The only 100% NHL centermen we have are Nuge and Gordon. LD, AL, CM are all low in terms of NHL exp. There is no reason why a young centerman coming into the league cannot play the wing for a while until things sort themselves out.

    Not to mention, Gordon could have used a few nights off with how hard he has played for us. Having a Spare centerman so that lander can move into #4 for a few games, is an asset not a detriment.

  • Spoils

    LD is looking great in the Memorial Cup. His stats this year have been strong – especially gaining the zone on the rush.

    Unlikely we will get value for LD, YakCity, or Yakimov right now.

    Something has to give. Really interested to see how MGT addresses our D.


    why trade Eberle??

    come on now, he is proven 60 point player. 3 Times

    Leon is buster.

    McDavid and RNH need lots ice time

    we can run TWO lines

    RNH and Eberle

    McDavid and Hall

    oh ya. 70 mil cap. no cap sure keep everyone

    • Zarny

      I’m not saying the Oilers need him, but considering our depth at the wings down on the farm, I bet he would be a great addition in Bakersfield.

      Consider the centres developing down there and the type of winger they will play with when they get called up for injury: small skill wingers.

      Wouldn’t it make sense to play them with the same player type down on the farm so when / if they get called up the transition is a bit easier?

      Also, say Yak and Eberle go down, replacing one small skilled winger with another small skilled winger is not the end of the world. But replacing Eberle with a 4ht line plug, now that would suck.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      If he can play, he can play. I’m sure there’s 29 other teams looking for another Johnny Hockey/Johnson kid in Tampa. The game continues to change. Maybe you still haven’t noticed that big physical teams like the Bruins and the Kings who’ve previously had success, are now sitting on the side of the road during the hockey that matters part of the season. Didn’t even make the post season.

      Hey oldtimer…..time to trade in that ole Elvis hair do of yours, for the new WWII Brad Pitt special most guys are wearing this century.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    These rainbow and dancing unicorn types putting most of their eggs in the Draisaitl basket make me laugh. Sure the kid can appear elite when playing the kids version of the game. With the many gapping holes that remain on this yet to be competitive/NHL calibre team. If it lands Chiarelli the piece or 3 he needs now, any number of prospects/veterans will be shipped out. There’s fewer than 3 untouchables in this lineup. Needing a goaltender and a couple blue liners will come at a price, and the buyers remorse will quickly fade when these positions are filled.

    Chiarelli and McLellan will want nothing to do with anything that resembles a developmental year. They both I’m sure take pride working in the NHL, not the AHL. They’ll both act accordingly and shoot to be competitive right now I’m sure. They probably will want nothing to do with the free ride from the fans Lowe and MacTavish relied so heavily upon.


    Draisaitl basket make me laugh. Sure the kid can appear elite when playing the kids version of the game.


    What he said.
    McDavid changes everything.

  • The best d-man of the next generation will be Seth Jones. Everyone but McDavid, Hall and Nurse should be on the table. Eberle +16th? Draisaitl + 16th + Marincin?

    There is no overpay for Jones. He’s that good.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I would trade Yak or Eberle(for immediate help on D) before Draisaitl. These 2 positions (pivot,DEFENCE) are the main reasons why no progress the past 9 yrs. OK maybe Lowe,MacT,Eakins might had to do with it more!Even though they kept saying “WERE MAKING PROGRESS”

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      So……..You would trade established NHL players, one who is a two time 60 point producer and a 76 point producer and the other one who after 3 hard years is just starting to become what we thought he might be…….. For a prospect that couldn’t piss a drop last year?

      Right, Big, Tall, dominates in JR as an overaged player gets Oilers fans blind.

      I expect Draisaitl to be good; maybe not Eberle points good, but considering RNH hasn’t hit 60 points yet and he’s the Oilers number one center should be the first clue in how difficult being a center is in the NHL, the expectations for Draisaitl to be better is off the wall nuts.

      So trading established NHL point producer instead of a raw prospect is just full of crazy talk.

      For Draisaitl to be effective at center or wing it will take an additional 3 years before he becomes a regular producer and can handle his own end.

      The Oilers don’t have that kind of time, nor do they have room for two rookie centers.

      Dealing Draisaitl while his stock is high is the best thing for this club moving forward.

      • Draisaitl hasn’t proven anything but his stock is as high as it’s going to get?

        The Oilers don’t have time to wait for a prospect to develop?

        This season is not Draisaitl’s overage season. He turns 20 next October.

        An additional three years? You know this for certain how? Every player progresses as this own rate.

        They don’t have room for two rookie centres?

        You’re welcome to your opinion, but stating it as fact is likely a bit beyond your expertise, no?

        • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

          Thanks RB, appreciate the feedback.

          Let me clarify….

          First I never said this was factual? Only my opinion.

          What I meant by Draisaitl stock is he’s having a great WHL season and as a prospect his stock is high for the right team looking for that type of prospect.

          I honestly thought Draisaitl was older 19 turning 20. My bad.

          I’m not opposed to allowing players to develop in the AHL, where he should be next year in IMO but the Oilers never did that with Draisaitl, instead tried to develop him in the NHL and it turned out awful for him.

          I stand by my opinion the Oilers cant develop two centers next year just based on how bad it was last year.

          I believe even Gregor wrote about that.

          As far as development goes, I stand by my opinion

          On average how long do players take to become good at both ends of the ice?

          Hall, Eberle, etc have been in the NHL for 3+ years now and would you call them developed at both ends of the ice?

          Defensemen take about 5 years while forwards are around the 200 games is about where we start to see a good turn or a bad asset

          IMO No, the Oilers don’t have time to put two rookie centers in, the Oilers have to become competitive now, so leaving Draisaitl in the AHL or using him by trading him for proven defensemen helps brings the Oilers out of this rebuild

          I’m just going by some of the models for rebuild and player development I’ve read here, i never meant them to come off as hard fact.

      • YakCity1039

        I was thinking a Top 2 pairing D (a Seth Jones,Webber,Seabrook,Staal) I don’t think Draisaitl would land us anyone of them without starting with established NHL players. I totally agree, its time to start winning (9 yrs too long) Draisaitl can start on wing until he’s fully seasoned.

    • M22

      Pretty sure you just blew the minds of about one-third of the posters on this site, who cringe at the thought of trading anyone with significant talent or potential.

      It seems a sizable portion of this fan base sees a trade of talent as a loss, or probable loss – this is a loser mentality. Is it not possible to believe that maybe we come out ahead if, for example, we deal Draisaitl or Yakupov?

      Man, that Lowe era really did a number on Oiler fandom – we’ve become conditioned, unwittingly, to expect to lose. For those that were around in the Glory Years, losing never entered our minds – we expected to win, all the time: trades, games, Stanley Cups, anything.

      We are, now, no-less-than-then, products of our own environment.

    • This is true.

      However, we don’t have depth, in any position.

      That’s why Eberle is in every second trade proposal.

      If the Oilers trade anything that’s worth anything, they just create another hole to fill.

      The pitfalls of poor drafting…