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?
WHO YOU KNOW
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.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- 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.