Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Straight Talk

The teams have changed over the years, but Glen Gulutzan has spent seven NHL seasons as a coach, including the last two as the head coach of the Calgary Flames, trying to beat Todd McLellan. Today, Gulutzan jumped from one side of the Battle of Alberta to the other when he was named, along with Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros, as an assistant coach on McLellan’s staff with the Edmonton Oilers.

Between his two seasons down the road in Calgary, two more as the head coach of the Dallas Stars and three seasons as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Gulutzan’s spent a lot of time trying to get the better of McLellan during his stints with the San Jose Sharks and Oilers. They’ve been foes. They are friends. Now, they will stand side-by-side trying to get the Oilers straightened out.

I’ve long believed that relationships in hockey matter every bit as much as the X’s and O’s, so the clock started ticking for me on the hiring of Gulutzan in April when he and McLellan travelled to Saskatoon together in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. You don’t do that just because you’ve coached against each other. You don’t do that just because of roots in Saskatchewan. You do that when there’s a relationship, a friendship, respect.

All things being equal – I need to say I think Gulutzan stacks up favorably on his coaching credentials alone — that goes a long way when it comes to deciding who you want to work with. History, trust and respect, even if you’ve spent most of your coaching career trying to beat each other, matters. It can also help cut through the BS when it comes time to sit down and map out a plan, which McLellan, Gulutzan, Yawney and Viveiros are going to do as a coaching staff when they meet in July after the Entry Draft.

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“We have a big summit planned here with Todd,” said Gulutzan, who was in Edmonton last weekend. “One of the best things about being familiar with each other on a coaching staff is it doesn’t take you too long to start speaking your mind. We’ve been instructed by Todd to bring everything we can to the table to help make this team better. We’re going to sit down together and talk about it.

“It’s easier to do that when there’s some familiarity and respect amongst each other, right? You don’t have to hold tongue for too long. So, we’re instructed to do that by Todd and, ultimately, he’ll put his stamp on something, but we’ll come out of that summit with how we want to play, how speciality teams are going to look and who is going to do what. We’re going to get down to work.

“I think it works two-fold, really. One, you don’t hold tongue, like I said. You’re going to say what you feel. Two, because there’s a familiarity there, you’re going to be OK to debate. The third part of that is you’re not going to have your feelings hurt. There’s a little bit of that chemistry to how high-functioning groups work. They’re willing to debate and look at things and then come out unified.

“I think we’ve got the first couple parts down because Todd is instructing us to bring what we’ve got to the table. Then, we’re going to have our hands in everything on how this team is going to play and move forward . . . Todd and I have already had discussions about some of our five-on-five play and some of our speciality teams play. Without giving up too much, because I’d like to keep it a little bit, we have pulled some video and stuff about some little differences in the styles of play and I’ve talked about that with Trent as well.”

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Apr 5, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcom Subban (30) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

However coaching roles break down with this group, I’m guessing Gulutzan, at 46 the youngest member of the new staff, will provide a little levity between all the video work and preparation that obviously needs to be done. I lobbed Gulutzan a gag grenade today, asking him if everybody is in agreement that Connor McDavid is pretty good. After spending the last two years in Cowtown trying to keep McDavid under wraps, now Gulutzan’s got the best player on the planet in his line-up.

“That’s the one thing I’m still a little out on,” joked Gulutzan. “I’m just not quite sure whether he’s more of a second-line guy or . . . you can argue this is the best player in the world. That’s a big draw for any coach, too. Even talking with Trent, you have some really fantastic players. I can tell you he’s one really hard guy to prep against. He’s something special.”


  • Oiler GM

    Gully in Calgary reminded me of Eakins 2.0…. But then again, it’s easy to dislike everything Calgary. I would have leaned towards MacT as head coach for the change, but I hope this works out. GOilers.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    What I like about this management group is that when they do something, I think it will genuinely work out. In previous years, whenever the team made a move and pumped it up, I just rolled my eyes in disgust KNOWING that they were just selling us garbage. But when Peter Chiarelli was hired, I knew that I could take things seriously again, I could actually look at a move and go “this will work out”. And I know people harp on some of the moves he’s made, but I’m not of the mind that they’re all bad. The hiring of these three is one of Pete’s best moves as GM…at least on paper. We’ll have to see how the on-ice product works, but I’m genuinely excited about next season. Screw the SCF, bring on the draft!

    • MrBung

      The Plan is one of the biggest snow jobs on this fan base. It is whatever sets their narrative. The problem is primarily the roster and the cap. Assistant coaches much less so.

  • voom04

    Hopefully there’s some heated discussions on player usage, TY & GG should have a different perspective having played against these players, and all agree Jujhar is the 4th line C going forward (should be obvious in my unbiased opinion)

    • Big Nuggets

      I like Jujhar at center but I would still like to see a guy like Brodziak brought in for 4th line center. Jujhar looks like he has some poise with the puck, so depending on what kind of wingers we get this offseason I could see Jujhar as a 3rd line winger.

      • MrBung

        This should have got no down votes. It is true. Game has changed and Lucic was slow in LA. Zebra can’t change its stripes. Let’s face It, it is going to be the same next season. Unless the coaches are very careful and use him sparingly. Many like Craig Simpson said the Oil will regret the deal after the second year. Here we are.

    • Bringthetrashes 2.0

      If Glen sticks to his ways you will see Lucic on the first line power play and penalty kills just like Troy Brouwer was in Calgary. You may also see him every shift after the team begins to build momentum just to snuff out any hope.

  • Off the wall

    I ventured over here from FN just to get a feel for the recent Oilers Nation coaching acquisitions.
    BTF, or whatever he calls himself these days, is full of crap.

    He was GG’s biggest supporter and I’m here to tell you that.
    He’s the most prevalent whiner on FN, and we wish he would leave, but that’s asking too much. We’re sorry you have to put up with his incessant comments.

    GG wasn’t a great Head Coach, his decision making during games was frustrating to say the least. But he has a mind for analytics and could be a good fit with Todd and his experience.
    He is able to break down video very well and I must admit Yawney is a great addition to your staff.

    We don’t know where we’re headed either with our Head Coach Peters’ but we like his no nonsense style. We don’t have assistant coaches yet, so we have no idea who or what our coaching system will look like. Time will tell.

    But putting the rivalry aside (is there even one anymore) I hope we both have a competitive season..