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
“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.
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
- The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
- A game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
- A signed Mike Reilly Eskimos jersey (you pick the size) courtesy of The Sports Closet.
- 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.)
- Ten tickets to the Rugby match Canada v. Scotland on Saturday, June 9th at Commonwealth presented by MB Events.
- A signed Matt Barzal jersey
- $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.