Photo by Steven Christy
With one year remaining on his current contract (assumed), Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson has signed a three-year extension to helm the ship of positivity within the Edmonton Oilers organization.
Rumored to be “in the mix” on a few head coaching spots in the NHL, Nelson did the right thing here. Whether it was the Carolina Hurricanes or any other qualified suitor, the timing just wasn’t right for Todd Nelson despite his increased value over a four year span. It was the right thing for many reasons.
First, he gets job security. He earned it, after all, being the shiny penny of the Edmonton Oilers organization in four seasons as the head coach. Very few AHL teams, historically speaking, have ever accomplished four straight postseason opportunities, and Nelson is now part of an exclusive group. He is arguably one of the best coaches in the minors, and will remain a top candidate for NHL head coaching jobs. For now, he will wait, earn a pay check, and hopefully keep churning out solid teams.
Second, the Oilers get job security. Whether he’s steering the farm team ship towards betterment or simply becoming a back-up plan for the Eakins downfall, Nelson fits well within the current Oilers org-wide plan. The Oilers know that they still have work to do, and in his second season as head coach, Dallas Eakins and company are going to need to move the team up about five notches…or else. Having been through at least three coaches (Renney, Kreuger, now Eakins), Todd Nelson could be available in a pinch, and thus saving the Oilers bacon. Fans like Nelson, even those that aren’t privy to his nightly wizardry behind the bench, and “giving the people what they want” has a tendency to soften the blow of turrbleness. It’s a pipe dream – that Nelson would be the immediate replacement for Eakins – but it isn’t completely ridiculous.
Third, there is value in AHL head coaching jobs. “Atlanta Thrashers Assistant from 08-10” isn’t quite the resume eye catcher it once was, but in the end Nelson chooses AHL head coaching likely over NHL assistant coaching. That speaks volumes about the league that directly feeds into the NHL. For some, including Todd, the opportunities are greater in the back of the theater. There is something admirable about the horse in the Derby that hangs in the back for the majority of the race only to surge on the final quarter leg. That thoroughbred is Todd Nelson. For the moment he sees value in the protective nature of minor league hockey, letting his work speak for himself. I like that, you should too.
I’ve not been more excited (or semi-surprised) by Oklahoma City Barons news in quite some time. With a three-year contract there is wiggle room for the coach we have come to love. He will likely earn his stripes a bit this season, then take the summer to again explore his options. Standard AHL head coaching extensions have “NHL OUT” clauses in them, and don’t think for a moment that this one is any different. Now that he’s been through the offseason coaching vacancy carousel he can better understand the joys of this endeavor with each passing year. I’m surprised he is still in the AHL, and I think we can just sit back, and enjoy another season of good Nelson-sized hockey. Here today, gone tomorrow.