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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Thoughts on the new coaching staff

Welcome, my friends, to another edition of the Monday Mailbag, where we take your questions about the Oilers, or life in general, and dish out some fresh wisdom for you as you start your week. This week, we’re talking a lot about the new Oilers coaches and what they bring to the table, and also some advice for a young man entering the world of dealing with in-laws. If you have a question, and I’m always looking for some, you can always email me or hit me up on Twitter. From there I will slot you in as quickly as possible. Until then, enjoy the free learning.

Mar 20, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan looks up from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 7-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1) Darren asks – Now that we know how the coaching staff has filled out with Yawney, Gulutzan and Viveiros, what are your first thoughts on the new group?

Jason Gregor:

I like it. They have two coaches who have a lot of NHL experience. Yawney has been an AHL HC for eight years, and NHL assistant for eight years and NHL HC for two. He has worked with Duncan Keith, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Brandon Montour, Sami Vatanen and other solid NHL D-men in the AHL and NHL. Glen Gulutzun has been a HC in ECHL, AHL and NHL and an NHL assistant. He has a lot of experience. Maybe he is better suited as NHL AC, we will see, but I wrote an article a few years back about good teams having a coaching staff where one assistant was a former NHL HC and it has advantages. These guys have more HC experience and coaching experience than Woodcroft and Johnson, so I think they will offer different insights. Viveiros is a very smart coach and is has a reputation as an excellent communicator. Often a team needs one AC who is great at talking with and providing positive, upbeat messaging to the players. Viveiros will offer this as well as a good base of Xs and Os.

Robin Brownlee:

Very solid group. McLellan has relationships and history with Yawney and Gulutzan, who bring lots of NHL head coaching experience to the mix. Gulutzan also made it pretty clear when we spoke Friday that there’s going to be room for debate and honesty in assessing what needs to be done. McLellan doesn’t need yes-men. He needs different perspectives and he’s going to get that. Getting any two of three would have been really solid work. This is better than that.

Dustin Nielson:

I like the experience that has been added to the bench and I think there is some potential in Viveiros to make an immediate impact as well.

Matt Henderson:

My first thought is that the coaching staff is a clear upgrade over McLellan’s old group. All three of the new assistants are qualified to be head coaches somewhere else so McLellan had better hope he can lead the team to success or there will be other people available to take over at a moments notice.

Cam Lewis:

I’m really not sure if the issue with last year’s team was the assistant coaches or the roster, but, objectively speaking, this is a damn strong looking group they’ve put together. Yawney has great pedigree in developing defencemen and Viveiros’ power play was ridiculously good in the WHL. It should help the team rebound, at the very least, on special teams.

Christian Pagnani:

Yawney is an interesting addition. He’s had a lot of success in Anaheim and their younger defencemen. I still think assistants only have so much impact so the most change ultimately lands with Todd McLellan and his tactics.

Chris the Intern:

I’m digging the new coaching staff. They will provide fresh thoughts and a different look on the game, and for the most part they all have great aspects about their coaching skill. Looking forward to seeing what they can do!

Baggedmilk:

I like it! The Oilers added two guys with head coaching experience (Yawney, Gulutzan) while also bringing in an up-and-comer that’s known for his offensive ideas. What’s not to like?

Jan 9, 2018; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2) Greg asks – I’d like to ask the panel whether they think the new coaching hires give Todd McLellan confidence or adds a little heat to his seat?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t believe the hires were made to make McLellan “be better.” He was the one who hired them. He wants a good staff. Smart people hire good people. He didn’t do it solely for the purpose the Oilers have a backup coaching plan in case they struggle. He is thinking about winning, not getting fired, and believes these hires will make this staff better and ultimately help the players perform better.

Robin Brownlee:

Why would it give him anything but confidence? It’s a loser’s approach to worry about your job because there are other qualified people around. Winners surround themselves with the best people possible. That’s what has happened here.

Dustin Nielson:

I’m not sure confidence is the right word. I think it gives him a refreshing new look. I don’t think these additions make his seat any hotter. Neither Yawney or Gulutzan have had much success as a head coach.

Matt Henderson:

I guess it adds some heat. However, if he can get everyone pulling in the same direction then he’s got a lot of experience to work with.

Cam Lewis:

I think he just brought in people he thought were good. Gulutzan and Yawney were made available as they were fired by their clubs and I imagine he just saw a chance to strengthen the group.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think it adds heat but there are two former NHL head coaches beside him if the Oilers start slow and want to replace him.

Chris the Intern:

I think McLellan should feel revitalized with his new coaching staff. He’s beginning on a fresh slate this season and i’m sure he’s excited to improve on last year.

Baggedmilk:

I think probably a little bit of both. Having more experienced coaches around him should make him trust in their ideas. On the other hand, if things go off the rails then the Oilers already have a built in interim head coaching situation.

The Vegas Golden Knights beat the Winnipeg Jets and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

3) Clarison asks – In the wake of the Golden Knights making the SCF which team has sellers remorse the most?

a) Florida (R.Smith and J.Marchessault)
b) CBJ (Karlsson)
c) Pitts (Fleury)
d) Other

Jason Gregor:

Florida knew what they were giving up. Marchessault had scored 30 goals and Smith had potted 25 and 50 points, yet they felt protecting four D-men was more important. Pittsburgh has Matt Murray, who had won two Stanley Cups and is much younger, and prior to this year Fleury’s career playoff sv% was .909. Columbus could have the most remorse because they might be thinking they gave up on Karlsson too early. The challenge is knowing if he was capable of producing like this while in Columbus. He didn’t get the ice time he is in Vegas, but would he have been ready and able in Columbus? We will never know, and I’d guess Columbus might have some regret that way.

Robin Brownlee:

Right now it has to be Pittsburgh. Fleury has the Golden Knights four wins from the Stanley Cup. He’s been the backbone of this team, especially to this point in the playoffs. Barring a total collapse in the final, he’s the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Dustin Nielson:

I’ve gotta go with Florida. They got creative just to keep an extra d-man around…not wise.

Matt Henderson:

It’s still Florida for me. They KNEW what Smith and Marchessault were when they lost them. Or at least they should have known. With Karlsson this came out of nowhere so I feel like it should hurt less. Tallon is fully responsible for his incompetence.

Cam Lewis:

Florida looks stupid here but Dale Tallon is still fond of saying “defence wins championships” in defense of that move. It was horrendous at the time and it’s even worse looking now. The Blue Jackets one is rough too but nobody saw Karlsson doing what he did and they at the very least dumped a bad contract. Fleury I don’t think is a regret for the Penguins as Matt Murray was their guy of the future. It’s got to be Florida.

Christian Pagnani:

Florida. No one saw Karlsson scoring 40 goals and almost anyone would have taken Murray over Fleury long term. Florida gave up two top six players because they didn’t like Smith’s cap hit?

Chris the Intern:

I”m going with Florida. Their strategy for this expansion draft was pretty questionable. And now they’re watching Smith and Marchessault play for the Stanley Cup while they’re in mid season golf form.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t understand what Florida was doing with their asset management here. Really weird. They paid to get rid of good players which is really odd.

May 13, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates with goaltender Louis Domingue (70) after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of game two of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

4) Oil or Bust asks – Stanley Cup prediction and one word to describe each team?

Jason Gregor:

Capitals in six. Washington — Determined. Vegas Passionate.

Robin Brownlee:

Las Vegas wins in six. Washington driven. Vegas destiny.

Dustin Nielson:

Capitals in six. Vegas Opportunistic Capitals Unbreakable

Matt Henderson:

I’ll take the Knights. Destiny vs Heartache

Cam Lewis:

Golden Knights in seven. I think “destiny” describes both teams in different ways.

Christian Pagnani:

Vegas in 5. Vegas expansion? Washington Ovechkin

Chris the Intern:

Capitals in six. Vegas misfits,  Capitals motivated

Baggedmilk:

How can I bet against the Golden Knights at this point? I’m going Vegas in six.

Golden Knights Whaaaaa? Capitals Finally.

5) Mark asks – I’m having a BBQ to meet my girlfriend’s parents for the first time coming up next weekend. Any advice on what to grill and what to do so I don’t make myself look dumb? Thanks in advance.

Jason Gregor:

I’d BBQ some chicken and steak. Give them options. Also be sure to grill up some veggies. Healthy eating is wise, plus BBQ veggies are excellent with proper spices.

Robin Brownlee:

Read off the parents. If they’re prim and proper, play it straight. If they’re half in the bag an hour into things, get shitfaced with the old man and have a dance with mom and hang around the fire. Either way, don’t be playing grab-ass with the girlfriend in front of them. Her dad will find a garden tool and beat you to death with it. As for grilling, get the dope from your girlfriend about their favorite meat. Buy it. You’re set.

Dustin Nielson:

Skip The Dishes, have them deliver to the back door then place the food on the BBQ to make everyone think you did it.

Matt Henderson:

Hey, no pressure, but there’s a decent chance that what you do here will be used to judge your competency as a partner for your girlfriend. Screw this up and you’ll be “That guy who couldn’t even make a hamburger right.” My advice would be to go back to doing something you are comfortable with. Is it steaks? Is it hotdogs and hamburgers? Whatever is in your wheelhouse. Do a test run for yourself this weekend to make sure you remember the grill’s hotspots and such so NEXT weekend goes smoothly. If it’s steaks then make sure you season with kosher salt about one hour before you grill. For burgers, if you’re making your own then making the patties the night before and chilling as much time as possible should help. Alright Mark, don’t screw it up.

Cam Lewis:

Christian Pagnani:

You can’t go wrong with steak or burgers and some sort of potatoes. Even the most inept cooks can look competent serving those.

Chris the Intern:

Do what you’re most comfortable with so you’re not second guessing it. Steak and potatoes are a classic. Throw some macaroni salad in their and you can’t go wrong.

Baggedmilk:

Alright, here’s what you do: Go down to a butcher and get some high-end hot dogs, and then go to the Italian Centre and pick up some fresh buns. That’s a BBQ meal that no one in their right mind should ever screw up. Add in a salad kit or something like that, a few beers, and you’re golden! Easy.

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  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. I love the new hires. On paper (and that’s most the important thing to remember right now) this is a solid coaching staff with lots of experience between them. I’m not sure who is going to do what, but I’m confident this will help us next season. I’m not saying Todd is to be blamed for EVERYTHING last season, but he did make some major coaching errors that probably cost us games. Having new faces and new voices will probably ensure new ideas or line combinations are tried. Plus the special teams could improve. Lots of positives, very few negatives.

    2. As all the writers said, I don’t think this add to the pressure that Todd is feeling. Again, we’ve put up with bad season after bad season for 10/12 years. We’re tired of this and quite frankly, all of management is on the hot-seat in my opinion. Or at least they WOULD be if we had a smarter owner who actually gave a damn about winning as opposed to how many more time he gets to spend with the 80’s team.

    3. Florida for sure. They fired Gallant when the team was 11-10-1 (not exactly a record worth firing over), and the way they handled it was so disrepectful and demeaning. Marchessault and Smith are two really good forwards that I’d LOVE to have on Edmonton, so Florida pissed away those two. If I’m a Panthers fan, I’m fuming at Tallon right now.

    4. Capitals in 6 or 7. Washington – determined, Vegas – what happens in Vegas, spreads through the entire NHL

    5. I don’t have a girlfriend or in-laws, but you can never go wrong with some good flame grilled meat.

    • PCL

      Yup I also think that Florida crapped the bed here. You just can’t give away a player as good as Marchassault just so Vegas can take an expensive Rielly Smith off your hands, just to watch him get 60 points and Marchassault get 75. With those 2 still in Florida, the Panthers make the playoffs easily!

      • DJ_44

        Smith was very poor in Florida the previous year, and the Panthers are in a cap crunch, which would have been worse if they didn’t trade Demers.

        Marchassault was not a good move, but given Smith’s performance, you cannot blame Tallon for giving up a $5M third line wing (which is what he was and still would be in Florida).

        The previous year set Florida back. They lost a very good coach and severely disrupted what Tallon had built. But ya, Marchassault looks bad. Less so Smith.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I almost think it’s some amends due to the Gallant firing?
        Was that Tallon’s doing? Or the owner?
        I don’t know, but letting Smith and Marchessault walk is just too dumb to not have anything else tied to it.

  • Serious Gord

    1. Friends hiring friends. Same as it ever was.

    What happens if the team is significantly below 500 at Xmas? Fire tmc and now put an assistant who is one of his friends as coach? What about the year after? Do you replace the temp coach and expect the new coach to keep tmcs friends on?

    The makings of yet another collosal mess…

    5. Go and buy the Weber big book of grilling and pick a recipe out of it. If you are a little brave do the brisket (contains Guinness) but it’s actually not that hard just requires a bit of planning. Both the dad and the mom will respect you forever after.

        • Derian Hatcher

          In fairness to Gord, he was one of the few who predicted a poor season this past year. I think he called it “regression to the mean” or something like that. He took some serious shade for it but turns out he was accurate. Also, in fairness, who is out there that would be better as a head coach? So hoping last year was a one-off. If not…I hate to think about it.

    • Hemmercules

      Always complaining and never a suggestion to be found. Who do you see as a better fit than the guys they hired?? How do you know they didn’t talk to other people?? Just because they know them doesn’t make them less qualified does it??

      And who buys cook books anymore? I thought the internet pretty much eliminates those.

    • Rock11

      Sometimes you are just an idiot. While the nepotism in this organization has run rampant for years this is not one of those situations. Generally when an Oiler coach or management type gets fired from the team that signals the end of their career as they were not qualified for the job they were given. This situation is vastly different. The Oilers have hired well respected coaches that have been hired by multiple organizations over the course of the last decade and a highly sought after up and coming junior coach. When these 3 guys get fired(and they will cause all coaches eventually get fired) they will be out of work for only as long as they want to be. That is how you know that you hired quality people.

      • Serious Gord

        As I pointed out elsewhere on this site this was clearly a friend hiring in ALL THREE CASES. all played in Saskatoon. All know each other all hired ASAP.

        There was no search unless you think the three very best coaches in the world were all from the Saskatoon blades alumni.

        • Hemmercules

          So just because they played together/against each other 30 years ago makes them unqualified?? Sound logic.

          I guess Yawney did coach with MCL a while back so there that I guess. The way I see it, you can hire a guy you never met before that is qualified or hire a guy you sorta know that is also just as qualified. Its not all that crazy to go with guys you know if they are qualified.

          I suppose the general knee jerk reaction for most Oiler fans is to assume that anything they do will sewer the team in the near future.

  • Little123

    I really like the hiring of Gulutzan, he coached against the oilers quiet a few times now and will be able to, as an excompetitor, be like this is where i took advatage of weak spots. And such.

  • Oiler GM

    My season prediction is that it will not take long for the fan base to sour on Gulutzan. Smartest man in the room, joining an organization of the smartest guys in the room. Will be an interesting dynamic.

  • Spydyr

    In the wake of the Golden Knights making the SCF which team has sellers remorse the most?

    The Oilers for giving up a first and a second round pick. Wait, they only Gave up Griffin Reinhart.

    • Oiler GM

      In some ways, the expansion draft makes that trade slightly easier to swallow. First and Second for Griffin Reinhart and some other player that Vegas would have taken…. Jujar? But for that trade and the Lucic signing, this team would actually be in pretty good shape. I really hope Lucic makes me eat crow this year and bounces back.

  • #5 – Your girlfriend should give you the lay of the land as far as her parents go. Follow her advice and leave the brewskis alone until after they leave. (Save the heavy drinking for your wedding day)

    I had serious doubts about Oilers making the playoffs. Not to be a buzz killer, but I do see this trend continue. Too many holes.

  • BlueHairedApe

    “I still think assistants only have so much impact so the most change ultimately lands with Todd McLellan and his tactics.” – Christian Pagnani. I tend to not agree with a few people who say the assistants don’t have much impact or that their contributions are minimal compared with the head coach. In many ways while I was playing they were as equally important depending on the situation. Different skill sets and personality types can make a big difference with coaching certain players because they may respond differently to each individual coach. I also had the opportunity to watch the Oilers practice a couple times and the importance of the assistants were very obvious. Not only did they have their own groups of players that they worked with but I remember when Steve Smith stayed out on the ice running drills with a small group of players for an extra half hour after everyone else had left the ice. The goalie coach is also a very influential person as well in my opinion and leaves me wondering if maybe the team should have made some changes in that department.