I believe the Edmonton Oilers got it right with the hiring of assistant coaches Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros. That said, it’s always bothered me they managed to get it so wrong with Todd Nelson, who the organization basically whiffed on three times before he ended up as the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s AHL farm team.
It’s good to see, then, indications are that the Dallas Stars are today closing in on a deal — as of noon nothing had been confirmed or announced — to bring Nelson in as an assistant coach under new head coaching hire Jim Montgomery. After three years back in the AHL, a stint that included winning the 2017 Calder Cup, it looks like Nelson is on his way back to The Show, where he belongs.
Nelson, now 49, did get a shot as the interim coach of the Oilers during the 2014-15 season, leading the Oilers to 17-25-9 record, after Dallas Eakins was fired. When new GM Pete Chiarelli hired the more experienced Todd McLellan as his head coach, Nelson went to Grand Rapids. Previously, Steve Tambellini looked at Nelson as a head coach when he was behind the bench in Oklahoma City, but opted for Ralph Krueger. When new GM Craig MacTavish fired Krueger via Skype, he didn’t even bother to talk to Nelson and hired Eakins.
While the ship has clearly sailed on Nelson’s time in Edmonton, I’m glad to see him back in the NHL. He’s always been an honest coach with the ability to communicate — a must-have coaching tool today. Simply put, most players love playing for Nelson because he tells it straight and doesn’t leave them guessing. I would’ve liked to see what Nelson could have done with this group of players as opposed to the roster he had to work with during his tenure here, but it was not to be.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
The 2018 edition of the NHL combine is on this week in Buffalo and, as always, any results and conclusions drawn from the annual round of fitness testing need to be taken with a grain of salt. The exercise provides nothing more than a snapshot of where any given prospect sits right now in terms of their physical maturity and condition — nothing more, nothing less. History tells us that much.
At the 2015 combine in Buffalo, Jack Eichel showed way better than Connor McDavid in fitness testing. At the 2014 combine in Mississauga, a fair amount of fuss made in some corners when Sam Bennett failed to manage even a single pull-up. At the same combine, Leon Draisaitl didn’t finish in the top-10 in any of the categories that were tested.
Doing well in the testing is never going to be a negative, but that needs to be taken for what it is in the here and now. From where I sit, I see just as much value in NHL teams getting another chance to interview prospects as in the results of the testing. The complete list of the 104 players invited to the 2018 combine is here.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- If you haven’t yet seen the NHL Under Oath series running on TSN this week, there’s a trailer here and Part One is here. It’s videotaped sworn testimony from NHL officials, including commissioner Gary Bettman, team owners and officials related to the concussion lawsuit that was filed against the league more than four years ago. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty much a bunch of ass-covering across the board in response to the lawsuit by former players.
- If you like to swing the clubs, are looking for a fun day out of the office and want to support the ongoing battle against homelessness in Edmonton, consider joining us June 19 for the 16th annual Mustard Seed golf tournament at The Highlands. If you don’t want to embarrass yourself on the links, you can still donate via the link provided. We’ve again got Jason Strudwick hosting, so that’s worth the entry fee right there, no?
- Baggedmilk touched on the theft of Norm Lacombe’s Stanley Cup ring earlier today, but I just want to add a thought because this kind of opportunistic theft really pisses me off — I’ve had it happen to me. Yes, you should lock your car. Yes, it’s best not to leave valuables lying around. Failing or forgetting to do so, however, doesn’t give anybody the right to take what is not theirs. Do the right thing. Return the ring.