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Three Thoughts: Coffey Time

Anytime the Edmonton Oilers make or even contemplate a hire that involves bringing back a former player, aka dipping into the Old Boys Club, there should be a healthy dose of skepticism. If you’ve been paying attention for more than 15 minutes or so and seen what we’ve seen around here, that’s a given.

It’s no surprise, then, there was plenty of that as word leaked out yesterday former Oiler and HHOF blueliner Paul Coffey is on his way back to Edmonton in an organizational coaching capacity — officially, he’ll be a skills development coach. We’ll hear more today from Coffey, who was at Rogers Place to watch a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks last night and was on the ice with the team this morning. We’ll hear more from GM Pete Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan. No matter how it’s framed, doubters will doubt. As they should.

Most of this well-earned cynicism is a product of the Decade of Darkness — the oh-so-painful and forgettable 10 years of losing and ineptitude that followed the Oilers appearance in the 2006 Stanley Cup final. It pre-dates that, of course, to Glen Sather handing off his chair to Kevin Lowe, who was fast-tracked from retirement to coach to GM. The in-house dominos fell from there and, well, you know how that played out.

That said, I’m not convinced bringing Coffey in as a skills coach who will work with blueliners at all levels is akin to handing him the keys to the whole outfit, which was the case when Lowe took over from Sather. The hiring of familiar faces began in earnest after that. Lowe and Craig MacTavish assembled rosters and coached teams. They put together front office, coaching and scouting staffs. I’d argue this, like the return of Wayne Gretzky to the OEG, is not that.

All that matters for me is that Coffey performs within the job description he’s given. Might a player who is second in career scoring to Ray Bourque among NHL blueliners make a good skills coach for players within the organization even if he has barely a lick of coaching experience on his resume? He might. If Coffey does so, terrific. If he doesn’t, then thanks for coming. Results, please. That’s the only measuring stick for me. Just get the job done. That’ll be something that plays out over time.

JESSE FEELING IT

Jan 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his second period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s got to be a pizza chain out there smart enough to make a sponsorship deal with Oilers’ rubber-faced winger Jesse Puljujarvi. The way it looks from where I sit, the lanky Finnish forward isn’t just one of the most likeable players this team has had in recent years, he is going to be a very good NHL player for a long, long time.

Puljujarvi, 19, fresh from taking a twirl with some local kids at an outdoor rink during the bye-week for the Oilers, had easily the best game of his young career in that win over the Canucks. He finished with a goal and two assists — both terrific set-ups on goals by Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl. All that topped off by his smiling mug in post-game interviews.

Held without even a point in his last eight games going into the break, Puljujarvi had it going on Saturday. Playing on a line with Draisaitl at centre and Milan Lucic on the left side, Puljujarvi was in the middle of the action virtually every shift. He had six shots on goal and his first three-point night while playing 13:29, including 1:29 on the power play.

LIVING LARGE

Dec 21, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) celebrates with center Leon Draisaitl (29) after scoring a power play goal as Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) looks on during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s not very often a trio sticks together for very long these days, I sure liked the look of Draisaitl, Lucic and Puljujarvi. For Saturday, at least, they looked awfully good together. They were hard on pucks, pressed the action and were simply too big and too busy for the Canucks to deal with, combining for seven points (Draisaitl had 1-1-2 and Lucic was 0-2-2).

Draisaitl and Puljujarvi move very well for big men and Lucic shows up with bad intentions when he finally does arrive. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out for up to six weeks with cracked ribs, we’ll no doubt get a look at this trio again, and why not? As an aside, this is as physically big a line as the Oilers have thrown over the boards in a long time.

PIZZA PIE IN THE SKY

Connor McDavid had his say on Puljujarvi after the game. If it wasn’t an eye-opening endorsement, I don’t know what is. “The sky is as tall as he wants it to be,” McDavid said. “He’s big, skates well, is confident, has a great shot and is good with the puck. But I think it all goes back to his size. He’s six-four, still young, trying to (grow) into his body. He’ll be that solid-on-his feet, puck battle guy. Good in front of the net. The sky’s the limit for him.”

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • KevCantDance

    Former fan here. I say former, because if this ridiculous franchise figures myself, and likely many others, are going to watch another 10 years of ineptitude, then they’re nuts. They’ve already wasted 2 of 3 years of McDavid’s entry contract, just like everyone said they would. Now they are willfully moving backwards, for no other reason other than they don’t know what else to do. F*** this team.

  • Consultant

    I know the old boys club get rained on but I for one don’t mind so much. I love KLowe’s passion for the team, even in the darkest times I felt like I could still trust his decision making, I don’t feel that way with Chia. I think we might need to relax with the simple idea that old Oilers are bad, there will be a day ahead when Wayne will be either president or GM or both and I wouldn’t be surprised if Messier comes on board at some point too. I know its not cool but I love them all and am glad they aren’t lining up for jobs with the Rangers or something like that. This guys do know the game and like it or not they also know something about winning.

  • WillyWonka

    It’s nice that the owner can buy all his old time hockey hero’s and pay them to be his friend. It’s his money, who cares if the team is bad as long as the guy spending the money is happy

    • Primo

      Agree Willy. This owner has a net worth in excess of $4B inherited from his old man. This Oiler thing for him is a hobby. He fantasizes about the old Oilers and he has made them all his buddies by filling their pockets with cash. Kevin Lowe & Gretzky are classic examples. They are paid millions for limited effort. I love this as the focus is not on the hockey operations but rather on the relationship building of the old boys club…..

      • Butters

        He didn’t inherit billions from his father.

        Katz was buddies with the Oilers when he was in law school in the 80s, they already were, and are friends.

    • Mc🙏

      Said for almost every owner/team out there that have ex players in all types of positions throughout the organization…… there are #2 reasons this is a thing

      1. because we have seen what Lowe and McT did ( but in a way larger role )
      2. because the guys that they do bring back are hall of famers…. that’s just how good those oilers of the 80’s were

      One of the greatest skilled defenseman of all time is going to be our D specialty coach…… how is that not worth a shot??
      Now if they gave him the GM role, than ya we have a problem

          • OTOF2

            Even if it wasn’t against the rules I’m sure the NHL board of governors would not allow Katz to buy another team. He is already embarrassing the league enough with how he runs the one he currently owns. I would bet not one other owner respects Katz.

          • SSB1963

            @OTOF2 you maybe need to check the history of the league. See Harold ballard when he owned the Maple Leafs. Never tried to improve the team, could have put an AHL team in and the the place would have sold out. So don’t talk about Katz embarrassing the league.

        • CMG30

          Nobody is moving. For a team to move a majority of owners have to OK it. Expansion fees are what? 600M now? Split between the rest of the ownership. Relocations fees are significantly less. Owners are not going to pass on millions and take a prime expansion location off the board if there’s any other choice.

          • SSB1963

            Not only that but the Canadian teams are all running at or above 85% seating capacity. Have enough trouble already with Dallas, Florida, Tampa and Carolina not to mention Phoenix

  • DaNangVet65/66

    Can everyone answer me one question honestly with no snark or smart mouth horse 💩? Writers and posters;
    If all you do, day after day is b$tch and complain about the team, management and how the owner chooses to do his business…
    Why don’t you just stop followIng them? Find a new franchise to cheer for. Do something more productive with your time maybe? For example… take up knitting perhaps? Or, start polishing your resumes so y’all can apply for a GM’s position or when a coaching gig opens up in the League.
    There is a vast difference in being a FAN and being a whiny jam tart.

    And where the hell would Oilersnation be if it wasn’t for the Edmonton Oilers?
    Seems to me, instead of crapping on the organization day after day, second guessing them time after time, y’all should be making an attempt to make a better atmosphere than kicking them when times are tough.

    Been a fan of this franchise for a long time, playoffs or not. But the attitude that’s surrounded the so called fans lately is absolutely pathetic and uncalled for.
    Seems evident, there is a SHORTAGE of fans now but an OVERWHELMING amount of fickle, loudmouth keyboard warriors.

    • Spydyr

      You know what is ” absolutely pathetic and uncalled for” missing the playoffs for a decade. Making them for a season then missing them again.

      Some of us that understand hockey have very little use for the owner and the management team he has assembled.

      It does not mean we do not love the Oilers any less. It just hurts that much more to see a once great team fall under the nepotism and inept leadership provided by the teams owner.

      We are not fickle we are awake to the incompetence displayed under Katz’s reign of failure.

    • corky

      This is part of the fun of following a sports team. Its monday morning quarterbacking. What are people supposed to talk about at work? Work? Heaven forbid I have to give 100% of my home time to my wife. Why are you on this site? We all have our reasons. Of course a majority of traffic on these sites arent qualified GMs. But its fun to pretend.

    • D

      @DaNangVet65/66 – the fans in Edmonton don’t have the leverage of the fans in say, Manhattan or Chicago. In the big markets, the fans can stop following the team and the arena can be half empty – the NHL will do everything it can to stay. For a non-national-TV market like Edmonton, the minute the fans stay away and the franchise loses money, the team is gone. So the fans can really only voice their displeasure through negative comments, not through any actions that massively impact the team’s bottom line.

    • Mc🙏

      just a question, but I wonder if every other teams fan bases say this about their owner when ex players are hired? Seems almost every team hires ex players

      • When teams hire former players to re-join the organization and those teams have success, it’s called “tradition.” When teams bring back former players and don’t have success, it’s called an “old boys club.” What we’ve seen here is the latter. Until there’s success going that route, that won’t change.

        • Old school

          Robin your observation isn’t strictly true .. your “ old boys” club went to game 7 of the cup final and you and everyone else knows if they hadn’t lost their MVP starting goaltender they would have won it .. l for one am tired of people ragging on Lowe and MacT ..lots of bad calls but none more than the GM in charge right now

        • nijames

          No other team in history has hired so many “old boys club” as the Oilers. Problem is they were good players but horrendous in a management role. McT was an average coach who rode Chris Pronger to a final. Only one they should have kept was Charlie Huddy, he was a great defense coach and is showing that in Winnipeg. Paul; coffey was a fabulous player for many organizations but no coaching history. Katz does it again.

  • ScottV

    On Coffey – no, not a fan of another boys on the bus deal. Retaining Lowe, retaining MacT, adding Gretzky, adding the Gretzky, and now Coffey? Geez – does Katz not see what this does to fragment and blur leadership? Who are PC and McL when you got these legends around? That’s how the players will view it.
    On Puljujarvi – one of the dumbest things done this year, was wasting time with a 150 lb kid, when we could of got Puljujarvi going much quicker. Excellent player evaluation – should be able to see though these things. Geez – even I can see world class, even if its sputtering a bit. So what – Yamamoto makes a bit of a splash in camp. OMG.
    On the big line – let them play with a nice balance of big man hockey in their deal and we got a line that maybe McL can leave alone for awhile. Let them throw in some wide drives, puck protection, cycles, point passes etc, before needlessly throwing the puck at the net.
    Did I mention that McL is mass over rated?

    • LAKID

      So true So true. Yamo will not be a Nhler period and another bad pick by the Oilers. Yamo should have fallen to the second round and Chia should have passed. This scouting staff looks poor once again. On Puljujavi it looks like the time at bakersfield has helped him even though they wasted his pre season on Yamo. I also must say I was wrong about saying the Lucic -Drai_ lines was to slow, looks like Jesse runs that line!

        • LAKID

          He is to small just to small and i don’t care about the comparisons of Jhonny hoggy who should not be going to the allstar game, as the only reason the flames are in a playoff position is because of their goaltender.

          • Mc🙏

            As much as I hate the Flames, JG is a really good hockey player, also I am pretty sure it is to early to call a guy a bust, especially in a league where things are moving towards speed and skill over size and grit….. just look at some of the players on our team.

        • LAKID

          Okay I agree to disagree. Yamo is not above average this year and that will make him an AHL player at best. Yamo will get destroyed in the AHL. This is just my take on the player, smaller than JG and that is a bad sign as JG is not a 1st line player.

          • X Man

            Gaudreau has more points than McDavid, you know… He’d be on the first line of any team in the league… Saying dumb stuff like that make sound like an ignorant homer…

          • McDavid's Comet

            Hopefully his skill in the WHL will translate to the NHL and his size won’t be an issue. I think his biggest problem will be injuries that hinder his development.

          • Fire Woodcroft!

            I hate the Flames as much as anyone – and also think that Johnny Hockey is a little bit of a princess. But I sure as hell respect him as a good hockey player, despite his size. He’s one of the best things the Flames have going for them by far.

            Wouldn’t hurt the Oilers to have another player with that sort of spirit on the team. The Yam-Hammer’s gonna become a major cog on the ice for us at some point in the next couple years…

            But hey – don’t let me stop your tirade about how a young kid with no experience failed to rocket onto the team immediately top ten in the scoring race and able to drive a line all by himself…

    • Mc🙏

      Would the evidence of Pool Party playing some games in the AHL than getting the recall and doing good lean to the argument that maybe they did make the right decision?

      • ScottV

        No – you dont put young world class guys in the AHL, particularly at the expense of a 150 lb kid, that obviously was never gonna play this year – in the NHL.

        • Butters

          Yamamoto won the job out of camp. He earned the right to get a look in the NHL. JP did not have a good camp or pre-season and was sent down to straighten some things out. JP is showing flashes of brilliance(last night) but will still have to be consistent imho.

          • Hemi

            Nice to read a wee bit of common sense instead of the doom and gloomers on how the Oil handled both players. The armchair GM’s, Coaches and General Know it All’s on this site is overwhelming. So many great hockey minds on the one site! Everyone is disappointed thus far this season and rightfully so but come on you Chicken Littles, the sky is actually still there! The constant ragging on the Owner has gotten so old that most folks just pass over any comments made. Personally, Katz has been good for this city and for those who believe not, there is nothing available to change your minds. I liken the dislike for the Owner to pure Rich person jealousy. Move on already!

    • SSB1963

      Are you a total tool? For years we have been complaining that our players are rushed into the league. Look what happened when we sent Drai back to junior, seems to have worked and I think so far it seems to have worked for pool party (being sent to AHL for a stint).

  • bcoil

    I know we are all fast to jump on the band wagon about not bring back another old oiler. I think he will be helpful for the young defensemen I know Huddy would have been a great addition to help out the defencemen.

  • Connor McFly

    I think the Coffey move is a short-term hire at best. He is not going to pull up stakes and move back to E-town. He has a family who are long established in Toronto. What does concern is this on-going incestuous thing going on with guys who as talented as they are, are not exactly dues payed in full professional coaches. They were great Oilers…30 years ago. This shows a degree of desperation from ownership and senior management. I also think they are desperately trying to show fans they are doing something…anything. Do I hear a funeral dirge playing in the background for Chiarelli? Start hanging crepe because think the axe is going to fall come end o’ season.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Certain members of the fandom are falling all over themselves to label this another “boys-on-the-bus” hire, but I don’t think that’s fair.

    For one thing…it’s not as if Coffey’s going to help run things, he’s being brought in as a specialist. As you’ve noted, Robin, it’ll be about on-ice results.

    For another thing, it’s not as if Coffey’s been sitting at home since his retirement waiting for MacT and/or Lowe to call. He’s been busy in the game with other teams, at other levels.

    Plus – and I know our younger members in the fandom don’t like history lessons – Coffey wasn’t the “typical” Boy on the Bus. He got off the bus first, and he was persona-non-grata with this franchise for a long time. His Oiler years were obviously his best years, but he ended up playing for a ton of teams.

    I don’t see anything wrong with this hire.