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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Revamp their Coaching Staff and Chiarelli Trade Talk

Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan announced three new assistant coaches today, and this trio could arguably be the most experienced assistant coaching staff the Oilers have had in three decades.

Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Emmanuel (Manny) Viveiros have 44 years of coaching experience between them.

Yawney, 52 years of age, has 18 seasons of coaching experience. He started as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999/2000, and then became the head coach of their AHL team, Norfolk Admirals, for five years, where they made the playoffs every year. He was promoted to head coach of the Blackhawks, after the lockout, in 2005/2006, but was fired midway through his second season.

He was out of hockey for one year, before he was hired by the San Jose Sharks in 2008/2009, where he worked with Todd McLellan. After three years with the Sharks, he left and the next season was hired as HC for the Anaheim Ducks AHL team in Syracuse. He spent three seasons as their head coach before he became an assistant coach with the Ducks for the past four seasons.

He’s been an NHL head coach for a year and a half, an NHL assistant coach for eight years and an AHL head coach for eight years. He has 1,353 game of NHL/AHL coaching experience.

Glen Gulutzan, 46, has been coaching for 15 seasons. He was a player/assistant coach in his final two seasons in the WCHL with the Fresno Falcons, when he produced 108 points in 105 games, while learning to coach.

In 2003/2004, he became the head coach (the start of his 15 years in coaching) of the Las Vegas Wranglers in the ECHL when he was 32 years young. He coached the Wranglers for six seasons, before being hired by the Dallas Stars to be the head coach of their AHL team in Texas. He spent two seasons in Texas, and was then hired to be the head coach of the Dallas Stars in 2011/2012. After two years he was let go, but the Vancouver Canucks hired him right away as an assistant coach. He spent three years in Vancouver, before the Calgary Flames hired him in the summer of 2016. He spent the past two seasons as the Flames head coach.

Gulutzan has been a head coach for 12 years and an assistant coach for three. He’s been on the bench in pro hockey for 1,132 games.

Manny Viveiros, 52, played in Europe until he was 41 years old. He then became a coach the next year, 2007/2008, for Klagenfurter AC, the team he played on for the previous seven years, in the EBEL (Austrian Hockey League). Viveiros coached Klagenfurter for five years, and then became the head coach for Austria’s National team from 2011-2014, and coached at 2014 Olympics. He then moved to ERC Ingolstadt in the German hockey league (DEL) for two seasons. The past two seasons he has been the head coach and director of Player Personnel (GM essentially) for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL.

He won two league titles with Klagenfurter and won the WHL title with Swift Current this year. He has 11 years of coaching experience and brings offensive coaching flair with a lot of powerplay success to the Oilers organization.

Peter Chiarelli explained why he felt a change was needed.

“We felt, much like you can change your roster, I looked at it the same way. This was an area we felt we could improve. We looked at some areas we felt we were deficient, and by no means am I targeting individuals who were replaced, but we felt it was an area we could improve, and an area Todd felt we could improve and it was why we started with this,” said Chiarelli.

He also added it doesn’t mean the Oilers are done making changes, alluding to the roster.

WHY MCLELLAN HIRED THEM

Nov 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan reacts to a referee against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

“Yawney is a coach I’ve worked with in the past. I understand him well and he knows my personality,” began McLellan. “He has done a tremendous job with the penalty kill in Anaheim, San Jose and other places in the minors. Perhaps, most importantly, his ability to develop young defenceman like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and some D-men who were in Chicago, and of course the young D-men in Anaheim.

“Glen Gulutzan has a variety of experiences at the National Hockey League level as well as the minor league level. He understands what it is like to be a head coach, especially in Canada, so that is a strong asset for us to have. He has a very upbeat personality and a good hockey mind. I will use him in all situations.

“Manny Vivieros is an up-and-coming coach. He is a mature individual, but an up-and-coming coach who has a talent level that hasn’t been tapped yet. What I mean by that is, he has a very strong European background. He was a very offensive defenceman when he played, and he has a very strong powerplay sets and results from his European teams and in junior. We will obviously lean to use him in that direction,” explained McLellan.

Some have asked if the Oilers hired Gulutzan so they have a fall back plan incase the Oilers struggle again and they can fire McLellan. I don’t believe that was the thought process at all. If Chiarelli felt McLellan wasn’t good enough, he’d let him go now, but more importantly, McLellan was heavily involved in the signings.

He wants to make his staff better, and if he hires better coaches, the chances the Oilers improve and have success increases. The Oilers made these hires to improve their team, and I don’t believe a “backup plan” was ever part of the hiring process.

I like these hires. They brought in experienced, proven coaches with different skill sets.

McLellan also added that Yawney will oversee the penalty kill and defence, while Vivieros and Gulutzan will work on the powerplay, and he will use Gulutzan in other roles. He also added no individual coach will be solely responsible for one special teams unit. “It will be a collaborative effort, like it always has been,” said Mclellan.

To start the season Viveiros will watch the first two periods from upstairs, as an eye in the sky, and then be on the bench for the third period. McLellan isn’t adverse to having four coaches on the bench, but he wants to see how it goes before committing one way or the other.

Jason Strudwick told me the one concern with four coaches on the bench, is you can have too many voices in the ear of the players. You don’t coaches talking too much to the players during the game and oversaturating them with information or critiques. A player plays best when they are reacting and not overthinking. Too much information can be a negative during the games. It is best to point out more things in video when the player has time to absorb them better.

McLellan essentially said the same thing, because he doesn’t know how vocal the coaches are in games. You want some chatter, but too much can become an issue, so he will try both to start and see how it goes.

Also, Paul Coffey will remain in his role as a roving organizational skills coach. I have no issue with that. He has a skill set specific for that role, and despite what many believed when he was hired last year, he was only hired for that role and wasn’t going to be taking on a bigger coaching role with the organization. I do expect him to be in Bakersfield and Edmonton more this year.

TRADE TIDBITS

Chiarelli has been quite active the past three summers, mainly in June, and I asked him if he feels this summer is more about small moves, than major ones.

“I’m not apt to make a major change. We are looking at some tweaks to the bottom half (forwards) and possible tweaks to our defence corps in general. I like this roster, for the most part. There is a strong critical mass. I’m not ruling out anything, but I think we are going to look more towards, I wouldn’t call them minor moves, but not major moves,” answered Chiarelli.

I followed up with asking if he would like to find or acquire a veteran right winger?

“That is a good point. We have looked at some veterans at various forward positions during our pro (scouting) meetings. We lost some leadership, experience, last year and it impacted our team, that is a valid point. We are looking at those types of players in the free agent market and trade market,” replied Chiarelli.

Today the Oilers RW depth chart consists of Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian, Pontus Aberg, Drake Caggiula and, if necessary, Kailer Yamamoto. I believe a veteran right winger is the main priority for the Chiarelli this summer. Sure, there are other areas they can improve, but a veteran right winger would be tops on my list.

Some UFA options include Thomas Vanek, David Perron, Michael Grabner, Drew Stafford, Tommy Wingels and Blake Comeau. Perron will be looking for a big contract and I’d shy away from signing him, despite his career-high 66 points last year.

Some left-shooting wingers include James Neal and James Van Riemsdyk (likely too pricey for the Oilers), Leo Komarov, Patrick Maroon, Antoine Roussel and Rick Nash. Nash is the most skilled, and he’s scored 21 and 23 goals the past two seasons, but I’ve always been leery of his consistency. If he’d sign a two-year deal close to $3 million I might consider it, because he can still skate and he has top-six NHL skill.

ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN

My eighth annual Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here again. On June 9th and 10th, I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.

Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will be the week of June 5th.

This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $6,000.00

  1. The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
  3. A game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
  4. A signed Mike Reilly Eskimos jersey (you pick the size) courtesy of The Sports Closet.
  5. Twenty tickets, and a hot dog and beverage (non-alcoholic), to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Between November 1st and December 15th.)
  6. Ten tickets to the Rugby match Canada v. Scotland on Saturday, June 9th at Commonwealth presented by MB Events.
  7. A signed Matt Barzal jersey
  8. $500 GC at Match Eatery and Public House (either location).

We are already 33% sold out in less than a day, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.

You can make your donation here. (click Donate Now to the right of my picture).

Thank you and good luck.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • RexHolez

    Why does Coffey being a “roving skills coach” bug me so much? Probably because he’s just another ex Oiler, but also because it seemed like he took it as a part time job. Did he even work on skills with anyone last year? Is he working with anyone over the summer?

    • Hemmercules

      He DID take it as a part time job, I believe that was stated this past season when he joined up? I don’t think its that outlandish to have a guy help with certain areas in a smaller roll like that. Other teams have done it. I wish the Oilers had hired someone part time a few years ago to teach the young guys how to win face-offs but they just figured they would get it sooner or later.

  • “We are looking at some tweaks to the bottom half (forwards) and possible tweaks to our defence corps in general.”

    Interesting quote from Chiarelli here. Who goes from the defence if he’s looking to change up the D? Four of the six guys are locked in with term and Darryl and Benning should be signed at some point soon so who goes?

    • LAKID

      Yes the bottom half could be Kassian and I would not trade him unless Maroon is comming back and because we are stuck with Lucic. Chia will be trading Nurse or Klefbom it’s his only trade chips.

        • LAKID

          Chia would and has in the past. Chia is going to make a trade and what does he have? A 10th overall pick, an underperforming defenceman(both). Nurse has to be signed and right now he is not worth more the 3.75M. Nurse and Klefbom are Chia’s trading chips. What do you think?

    • Natejax97

      I am so torn…I want to give our current defense core a chance, but I also want an offensive guy brought in. Problem is moving out Matt Benning’s salary isn’t going to free up enough room to get the guy we need…

    • Not to mention, Seattle expansion is looming.. a couple years away. Sekera and Russell have NMCs, so they’ll need to be protected (or waive for expansion / trade), plus you wouldn’t want to lose Larsson, Klefbom or Nurse for free. They can go the 8 skaters route, but then you’re potentially robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • Quite refreshing for a change. I was expecting Coffey, Mess and maybe Esa Tikkanen to be the new coaching staff. Good start , but the three stooges still have to go for this franchise to go forward. Case in point, listing David Perron as a possible target, LOL. His response would be something along the lines of, not as long as MR 6 rings and his two cohorts are still involved. To what degree we do not know, but retaining them is still holding the franchise back because nobody knows for sure. As I recall he had the audacity to point out what they were doing wrong, and was sent packing shortly thereafter. Turns out Perron was correct. Fire them all, and remove all doubt, like most astute businesses would do.

    • Oiler GM

      I remember that…. He didn’t like losing and wanted to do something about it, and was shipped out. We are Screwed, trade McDavid to Vegas so I can officially switch teams.

          • Hemmercules

            Fair enough. I can’t quit the Oilers for some reason. I have been a fan too long I guess and could never fully cheer for another team. I’m actually starting to love hating the Oilers a little bit, everything they do is almost a joke it seems so why not laugh about it rather than get mad and stressed. I usually bet money on a couple teams that make the playoffs and that makes the second season somewhat enjoyable since the Oilers are never there.

            All that said, I don’t mind these hires at all. Call it nepotism or whatever you want but they have some good experienced guys back there to try an bring us back to the promise land. My expectations will still remain low. Right where they should be for a team with a track record of hitting ultimate lows when expectations are high.

  • Oiler GM

    I’m concerned there will be too much negativity around the boys this season. TMAC always seems angry and some posters on here say he was too hard on the players in the room, and Glen “Dallas Eakins 2.0” Gulutzan seems like a bit of a jerk himself tbh. I don’t really think “tough love” coaching styles work all that well anymore. Bring Back Ralph Kruger

    • Hemmercules

      What posters are you referring to that have been in the Oilers dressing room?? Comments like this are funny, taking facts from a bunch of dudes in the comments section of a hockey blog like its truth. Maybe they are tough in the room but how would anyone know that hasn’t been in there day in and day out??

      The Jets have a tough love coach and they made the conference final this year. I think Tmac and Gully are middle ground kinda guys, tough when they have to be. Obviously Tmac sounded like a jerk all season, the team was in the basement.

  • belair

    Rick Nash would be an outstanding add but he’s likely to get well more than the $3m you mentioned. He’s also been rumored to be opposed to playing in Canada. But the speed, size and shot combination would make him a solid add.

    I think Jannik Hansen is another player who falls into that possible veteran RW role. He’s an ex-Gulutzan PK guy in Vancouver. He’s got speed to burn and a decent but under-utilized shot and he’ll probably come in at a pretty affordable cap hit considering the year he just had in San Jose. He’s probably a good bet at a bit of an offensive resurgence here, especially if he sees some PP time as a right shot trigger man.

    Another ex-Canuck that could make some sense is Shawn Matthias as well. Ex-PK guy, can play C or wing and is best suited in a fourth line role. Got buried by depth in Winnipeg last season and is looking poised at a substantial pay cut. But looking at his shooting percentages over the past several years prior to this one, he’s a guy who might score you a few goals in the bottom six.

    Also I think it’s probably a good bet Austin Czarnik is Oiler property come July 1st.

    • The Whispererer

      I don’t get the fascination with Czarnik. He is Yamamoto’s size, a PPG in the AHL but only 5 goals in 59 games with Boston makes him look like a classic tweener.

      • belair

        Small, speedy, skilled and right handed. Our team both in Edmonton and Bakersfield lacked depth last season. This is another player who can come into training camp and push for spots currently held by players with similar resumes. Before this season Ty Rattie was a guy who scored 4 goals in 35 games split between two organizations. It would be a similar type signing.

        Czarnik is a also guy who’s cut his teeth at center and would likely be poised to centering one of the top two lines in Bakersfield should he not make the big team.

        It’s not a fascination, just a move that makes sense in a lot of ways.

  • OnDaWagon

    Will let’s see if this “sell job” works.

    I’m not getting excited unless these hires become the answer needed. They still have a lot of slow people in a fast league.

  • Big Nuggets

    Winnipeg has numerous RFAs to sign and many young players ready for NHL ice time. They could be willing to part with someone to save their cap situation. Most people will think of Trouba but I doubt that will happen. More realistically I wouldn’t mind snagging Armia from them. He can already play a good 3rd line game. If paired with Drai or McNuge he might get a nice bump in goalscoring. And might be had for cheap.

  • ed from edmonton

    Interesting that PC is suggesting no big moves this summer. I think he has put out feelers for what the 10 pick would get and hasn’t been impressed.

  • Hockeysense9393

    So the rest of the staff takes an ex Flames head coach, ex Flames defenceman, and a WHL head coach that was made to look good because of a Flames prospect (WHL MVP)?? Sounds about right?? Hahaha

  • Hockeysense9393

    Actually, even as a Flames fan…I say good on them. That’s some good leadership and hockey minds to bring in to help McLellan. I can actually talk about how good GG is, now that he’s an assistant and not the front man.

  • Unhealthy Scratches

    I know you got an article and most of a 4 hour show out of these “trade quotes” but do you think its in his best interest to reveal all of his off season plans to you. Come on.

  • Big Nuggets

    Unless Chia makes a real trade blunder this offseason I am predicting playoff next year. I think it is realistic to expect bounce back seasons from at least 2 of Talbot, Sekera and Klefbom. The new coaches should ensure that whatever was screwing over the PP and PK will be changed. I see both Drai and Nurse as players still on the rise, not to mention McDavid was really rolling at the end of last season and had great chemistry with Nuge. If Chia adds a few nice little pieces to the puzzle and everyone gets along in the locker room we should be good to go.