With five days still to go until the Edmonton Oilers win the NHL draft lottery Saturday and send the rest of the league into spasms of indignation, the hot topic around here continues to be the status of the Oilers’ coaching staff. Who leaves? Who stays? Who comes in? The questions about who will form Todd McLellan’s staff remain the same, even if there aren’t a lot of answers – yet.
There’s been plenty of speculation but not a lot of solid information as to how it’s going to play out. Since I wrote about the possibility of former Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan joining McLellan, in large part because the two of them have distinct ties to each other, Trent Yawney’s name has come up for the same reasons. Yawney, cut loose by the Anaheim Ducks, has even stronger connections to McLellan. More important, Yawney’s resume fits what the Oilers need.
From Bob Stauffer, the connected host of Oilers Now: “Trent Yawney has an excellent track record of developing young defenceman. My guess is that he will be a coach that multiple organizations look at. Yawney is a former teammate of Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan in Saskatoon, spent 3 years as AC with McLellan in SJ. Yawney has been an NHL and AHL HC and oversaw a Ducks PK unit that has been top 5 last 3 seasons. He checks off a lot off boxes here.” Dustin Nielson added his take on the situation, including Yawney, this morning here.
So, Yawney and McLellan are connected as former teammates and behind the bench in San Jose. On top of that, Yawney has a track record of developing D-men and he was in charge of Anaheim’s PK. Having enough talent to work with, of course, has every bit as much to do with success as coaching, but there’s no getting around the results Yawney has enjoyed. I can’t imagine anybody, even the most jaded Oilers’ fan, would have an issue with Yawney as a hire. One thing’s certain, he’ll be in demand.
My question as of today and until more candidates come open, is this: is there room for Gulutzan and Yawney on McLellan’s staff? Do they come in to replace Jim Johnson, the likeliest candidate to get sacked, and Jay Woodcroft? Woodcroft’s status is less certain. Or, does Johnson walk the plank while Ian Herbers returns to the University of Alberta as head coach while Woodcroft gets bumped down to a third assistant’s role?
Assuming McLellan wants Gulutzan and Yawney – that is an assumption on my part as opposed to solid information from any source – that last scenario makes the most sense to me. McLellan wanting them isn’t the only factor, of course. There will be other opportunities for Gulutzan and Yawney. While they’d be a fit for the Oilers, are the Oilers a fit for them? Stay tuned.
STOP RIGHT THERE
I’m not going to blow smoke up your bums and pretend I know anything about Finnish goaltender Mikko Koskinen aside from what his numbers in the KHL tell me. If the Oilers feel the need, as they’ve stated they do, to improve their backup goaltending, I suppose it makes sense to look at all the possibilities.
I’m just not putting much weight in the numbers Koskinen has posted. The KHL is, after all, a big step down from the NHL. One need only remember failed Oilers’ experiment Anton Belov being named the best blueliner in the KHL before he came over, or Anton Lander being named the best player in this year’s KHL playoffs with AK Bars Kazan to know that much.
I’m also wondering if the same people within hockey ops who thought bringing in Al Montoya was a good idea are now saying looking at Koskinen makes sense, even though Montoya has a year left on this contract? It’s not Montoya’s money that troubles me if the Oilers decide to bring in a new stopper, it’s the ability to assess talent by those making the decisions that has me wondering.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- I’m feeling truly grateful for the buy-in we’ve had in Edmonton for the 2018 edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless with the event fast approaching May 11 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre. I’m talking about the response from fans who have stepped up to donate, businesses, including Oilersnation, that have come aboard as sponsors or to help with fund-raising, and all the members of the Oilers’ alumni who have agreed to play in the games.
We’re going to have more teams and more pros and we’re going to raise more money than we have in the four previous editions of HHTH in support of the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre. Former Oiler coach Ron Low and his wife Linda have had a big hand in getting the alumni out, so has former equipment man Barrie Stafford. At a time when demand by so many worthy groups is at a high, people right across the board have responded to us. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised — people in this town have a habit of coming through when it matters. As an aside, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser agreed today to come on board. Fraser will emcee the hockey hot stove portion of our reception May 10 and then he’ll put on the stripes as one of our officials for games the next day.