It’s absolutely no surprise that former Edmonton Oilers’ winger Mike Grier landed a job as a coach in the NHL, joining the New Jersey Devils as an assistant this week. If anything, the surprise is it took the big winger from Detroit this long to end up behind the bench after retiring at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Oilers’ fans will remember Grier, who played six seasons here in Edmonton, as a burly, third-line forward who chugged up and down the right wing like a locomotive, running over everything in his way — most notably on a terrific line with Todd Marchant and either Rem Murray or Ethan Moreau. And, of course, for playing through countless shoulder dislocations. Tough dude.
More than that, Grier, who is now 43, was a smart dude and a consummate pro who studied the game, defined exactly what it was he needed to do and made sure he was prepared to do it, to stay in the NHL – something he did for 1,060 regular season games with the Oilers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks. Simply put, Grier was one of those mid-roster players who had all the attributes it takes to become a successful coach.
STUDENT OF THE GAME
Grier could play. Aside from being a hellacious body-checker, penalty killer and a 200-foot player before the term even came into vogue, Grier had pretty good mitts for a banger. He scored 20 goals twice for the Oilers and scored 10-20 goals seven times in 14 seasons, so it’s not like he was a journeyman. He also did what a lot of former players who end up behind the bench tend to do – he paid attention and never cut corners on preparation.
Grier joins John Hynes’ staff in New Jersey after spending four seasons as a pro scout with the Chicago Blackhawks. Grier also coached with St. Sebastian’s High School, where he played in 1992-93, and with the BU Junior Terriers. “He was a highly-respected teammate and had the ability to relate to all players with his personality, demeanor and experience,” Hynes said. “These attributes will be valuable in communicating and developing our players, as we continue to build a strong culture.”
Grier joins a sizeable fraternity of former Oilers who are coaching around the NHL. Todd Reirden, who had a 17-game cup of coffee with the Oilers in 1998-99, took over from Barry Trotz as head coach with the Capitals this off-season. Martin Gelinas (Calgary), Steve Smith (Buffalo), Charlie Huddy (Winnipeg) and Luke Richardson (Montreal) are assistants. Dwayne Roloson (Anaheim), Bob Essensa (Boston) and Bill Ranford (L.A.) are goaltending coaches. Grier’s former linemate, Marchant, has been director of player development in Anaheim since 2011.
When you own the team you call the shots, but that doesn’t make the news today that Carolina’s Hurricanes’ radio play-by-play man Chuck Kaiton is out of a job after 39 years behind the microphone easier to take. Kaiton, the radio voice of the team dating back to 1979 with the Hartford Whalers, declined a low-ball offer, a salary cut, from the team, now owned by Texas billionaire Tom Dundon.
Kaiton, 66, who never missed a game in 39 years, and the radio broadcast will likely be replaced by the feed of a TV simulcast next season as Dundon puts in place efficiencies to improve the bottom line. “Radio is not a prudent financial decision,” GM Don Waddell told The Raleigh News & Observer in May. “It’s important, I think, to have it for the people that still want to listen to it, but it’s something from a business standpoint that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Carolina joins Dallas and Buffalo as teams running TV simulcasts on radio. Aside from Kaiton being a terrific guy and a member of the broadcasters wing of the HHOF (he was inducted in 2004), it’s a crappy trend — I wonder how many other teams might follow suit in coming years to cut costs and pad the bottom line? There are far too many people who are really good at what they do losing jobs as the media landscape changes.