Rubber Stamp

“I’m the rubber stamp. I have the sign-off.”

Of everything he said Tuesday, that snippet from Edmonton Oilers’ GM and POHO Ken Holland, in conversation with Bob Stauffer and Reid Wilkins of 630 CHED, about trusting new coaching hire Dave Tippett to select his own coaching staff without interference sticks with me.

Big picture, it speaks to hiring the very best people you can, then turning them loose and letting them do the things that made you want to hire them in the first place. Whether it’s running an NHL team or any other business, the successful outfits figure that out and insist on it from the top down. I think Oilers’ fans would agree we need to see more of that around here.

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First, owner Daryl Katz and CEO Bob Nicholson brought in Holland, who insisted he be given the latitude to make any and all moves he deemed necessary. Now, Holland brings in Tippett and insists he won’t get in the way of letting him hire his assistant coaches. Maybe that includes one of the holdovers from a staff that served under Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock – Trent Yawney, Manny Viveiros or Glen Gulutzan. Maybe not.

Hire the best people. Let them do what they do. While that doesn’t guarantee success because the game is played on the ice and not in the front office, it’s a start and it damn sure increases your chances. Managers manage. Coaches coach. Then, add accountability up and down the food chain in hockey ops with results trumping all and you’ve got a chance to get right.


“My philosophy is the head coach has to pick the people he wants,” Holland said. “They’re in the trenches every day and he has to select the people that he believes are going to complement one another. I’m the rubber stamp. I have the sign-off.

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“I went through the process with Mike Babcock. He had lots of assistant coaches. Mike would say to me, ‘I’m going to step outside. I’m going to get Jeff Blashill, who’s coaching a college team.’ We’d talk about the process. The head coach does it. I’m going to sign off on it. I’m going to go through the process, we’re going to talk.

“He needs to be in that coach’s room on an everyday basis with people that he’s hired. They know he’s their boss. I’m the boss above them. They need to have chemistry. I’m big on chemistry, not only on the ice but off the ice. We have to do things to build chemistry, so I’m going to work with Dave, but, ultimately, he’s going to have the final decision putting his staff together.”

There’s nothing ground-breaking in what Holland said, but putting it into action instead of just talking about it would be a welcome approach. Holland’ job as GM and POHO is to bolster a roster that simply isn’t good enough so that Tippett can do his job deploying the personnel he has to work with. Both can consult with whoever they choose and trust, but my sense is that everybody else better stay out of the way. They both know the gig.


Like many of you, I thought we’d get what I’m talking about here when Peter Chiarelli came aboard and brought in McLellan. Both had experience and solid track records but it became evident as time went by they weren’t on the same page. Fans got one good year out of that deal before Chiarelli’s knack for bleeding talent in trades sent things sideways and got both of them fired. I didn’t see it playing out that way when they took over, but it did.

That hasn’t soured me on the kind of experience Holland and Tippett bring to the table. Could a couple of up-and-comers still needing NHL training wheels have come in and managed to get things right? I don’t think so, given the make-up of this team and its roster shortcomings, but, for better or worse, that’s not where we are today.

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Holland has been there and done that. He has a vision for this floundering franchise and he didn’t leave Detroit to come here to do his thing with strings attached like a puppet. He knows what his job is. He’ll do it. Likewise, Tippett. That’s as good a start as this team and its long-suffering fans can hope for.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • TKB2677

    I would think that it would be a good idea to at least have one of the assistants last year for some continuity for the players but Holland is 100% correct that it should be up to Tippet. He has to work everyday with these guys so he should be able to choose people he Is comfortable with.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I vote we don’t mention or put up any more pictures of Peter Chiarelli. We are trying our damnest to stay positive here… I was comfortably reading away, when I scroll down and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Like someone scratched a black-board… Please.

  • ed from edmonton

    One coach is not much different than the next. Team success can be broken down by goaltending at 50 the rest of the players 40 and coaching 10. So I don’t get too excited about coaches. It is interesting however that Tippet is reportedly bring paid substanially less than Kruger with his 48 games of NHL head coaching experience. That Kruger must be a great negotiator.

    Having said all that it was hard not to be impressed with how Tippet’s Yotes dominated the Oil. He did seem to be able to get his few highly skilled players (like OEL) to play within a system. That and having a goaltender that only had to be better than Khabinulin, Dubnyk (before his rebirth)’ Lebarara, Fasth, or Scrivens added up to a lot of wins.

    • Spaceman Spiff

      I’m thinking that Kruger will be considered overpaid in a year or two. He’s quite a talker and I imagine that when he met with Sabres brass, he wowed them with a Pecha Kucha presentation on PowerPoint and a slick speech with accompanying transcripts. Think Tom Renney circa 2009, only with more soccer anecdotes.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Definitely making the right moves so far. For me, however, it’ll ultimately come down to two things based on player procurement.

    One, recognizing what a competent NHL player looks like. Slats always said that’s the most important characteristic of any GM – being able to recognize what a useful NHL player looks like, regardless of whether they’re already in the NHL or an up-and-comer.

    And two, winning trades. Obviously, it’s connected to the first point. You can’t win very many trades if neither you, or your pro scouts, can recognize what a useful NHL player looks like.

    Chiarelli and his pro scouts didn’t have the ability to procure enough decent NHLers, through signings or trades. That was their downfall. That was the team’s downfall. If Holland and Co. can fix that, we’re in business.

  • Oilman99

    If Chiarelli had been able to make one or two smart hockey deals, there is every reason to believe McLellan would still be here, however incompetence and desperation on Chia’s part to save his ass spelt TMac’s demise.

    • Kool-Aid Man

      MacT demise should have been established when they demoted him. He should have been fired, had that happened, perhaps Chiarelli wouldn’t have to make stupid trades such as the Reinhard trade. Charelli was a fall-guy for the OBC, most of his worst trades reek of OBC influence.

      • Odanada

        Especially late deals like Manning and the Koskinen signing. They are all quick to blame Chia alone, but given the team’s disastrous collapse the year before, why wasn’t Chia on a short leash – even needing approval to make deals? Or maybe he was?

  • Fireball

    No one has done anything yet.. the answers will be on the ice in the fall. I’m optimistic overall. I bought in for another year. mainly on the premises that you can only get it wrong so many times before you get it right. Even. Broken clock is right twice a day. For every pro to our new Coach n GM there is a con. There’s a argument for and against each of these hirings. It’s easy to look back at the past now and say PC n TM were mistakes but the fan, and hockey world reaction at the time were every bit as positive than it is today. In the end it’s show me time.

    • Fireball

      I don’t need to see playoffs or a cup this year but overall improvement in consistency is where I want to see things change. This team had stretches where they could beat anyone only to blow / not show up for the easiest of games. Blame it on the roster blame it on the coaches blame it on the players blame it on the injury’s but I need to see consistency. Please !

  • Odanada

    “They need to have chemistry. I’m big on chemistry, not only on the ice but off the ice. We have to do things to build chemistry”

    I got branded as being “negative” for bringing this up in an earlier article, but I am wondering How Tippet feels about establishing lines and letting players build chemistry? While I understand McHitch were trying to find combinations that clicked, it seemed to me that game to game, most players were never together long enough to establish any sort of rhythm. While I will expect that early in DT’s tenure, will it become the rule that today’s game dictates that lines will be in a constant state of flux?

  • Ken McTippett

    This is all well and good, but the results on the ice in the form of wins and playoff action is what counts here. Colour me skeptical until that happens. I think that’s obvious.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Changes to the D will make Koskinen instantly better. Puck possession in the O-zone, with fewer turnovers will also make Koskinen a starting goalie… All these areas, defense, turnovers offensive zone puck possession were some of the very worst in the league… The season before we had an embarrassing PK stat of the worst in hockey history… When all these things lack, we are so hard on our goalies here in Edmonton… Fix those & we fix goaltending. I’m sick and tired of goalies leaving us to shine elsewhere.

    • cityofchampions

      1. McDavid 2 Drai 3. Nuge 4. New GM who has cleared deadwood/made decent value signings (Tippett, Gamby, Nyskard) in his first few weeks 5. New coach with a reputation of having his players play for him (when did that last take place in Edmonton?) 6. Lots of young talent getting better (Nurse, Bouchard, Jones, Bear, Benson) 7. Maybe we have a goalie? Koskinen played well in spurts last season, should do better if team ahead of him plays with structure. Honestly, all this constant negativity from a handful of posters says more about them than it does about the Oilers. Goodness knows I’ve been critical in the past, and will likely criticize in the future too, but always being negative is not healthy or helpful for you. Trainwreck, Gord, Alex and GK1980 should all take a break from this site and go get counselling.

        • cityofchampions

          Sorry, I shouldn’t have thrown you in with the defeatist trolls. I misread your comment. There is certainly a lot to be disappointed about in the last decade and a half, but I’m trying to be positive. If we aren’t positive in the offseason, we might not get a chance again when the puck drops lol.

  • hendo

    Robin you been around for a long time and have relationships with many people accross the nhl and oilers past and present. and to me to hear ken hitchcock helped with the process to find the new coach. knowing he finished last year with a desire to continue with what he started and being the person he is a desire to die trying to win and finish his contract with glory as any winner at any level is always driven to succeed. dont you think for him to stand behind a coach that he didnt believe in would be imposible? what i am saying is a person as respected as ken hitchock wouldnt let anyone use his name to give credibility as we saw in the past with obc. so if he willing to and also has insight to what kind of coach is needed from his time at the helm. shouldnt the fans get on board amd stop with the negativity. just tired of people looking to find flaws