Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.
No surprises Wednesday morning when the Oilers named Ralph Krueger as the new head coach of their hockey squad. What was a surprise is how long it took to make the announcement, and how Todd Nelson seemingly doesn’t fit into the NHL equation — at least for now.
Following two successful years as the bench boss for the Oklahoma City Barons including a Western Conference Finals appearance, it appeared that Nelson was one of three likely candidates for the position. Without any major league head coaching jobs on his resume it was highly unlikely that he’d take over a young team in the midst of a rebuild/retool of a wrecked Oilers team. The future is in the youthfulness of its forwards and coaching needed a heavy dose of veteran attention in the locker room, off the ice, and on game day. Thus Krueger is the proven leader. Better than Renney? Patiently wait for evaluation. But the due diligence with which the Oilers handled Nelson proves his worth within the organization. So much so that the Oilers will likely keep him on the farm in the near future.
At the press conference, it was also announced that the Oil would retain both Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger as assistant coaches. The name not present on the list is, of course, Todd Nelson.
While answering questions regarding the hiring process, recent draft pick Yakupov, development camp, and Justin Schultz, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini sung the praises of both Todd Nelson and the Barons organization. He referred to Nelson as a “future NHL coach”, and also proudly touted the connection between the Oilers and the minor league farm in Oklahoma City. He briefly continued to mention the role of development on the farm, and that the continued strength of the AHL team is important.
I’ll read between the lines a bit and assume that we hear of Coach Nelson earning a contract extension in the next 24 hours. After trips to the NHL Draft, and a rumored attendance at today’s Oilers Development Camp, it really is just a matter of time.