So, Glenn Healy. What do you think Paul Coffey was REALLY brought in to Edmonton for?
“To be the head coach,” Healy, the executive director of the NHL Alumni Association, said on the Jeff Blair Show in Toronto on Wednesday morning.
“I think that in a short period of time you would potentially see a Paul Coffey coaching the team,” Healy said. “They need some help, clearly, and maybe some of his championship pedigree will rub off.
“If this ship doesn’t get turned around, the coach knows what’s going to happen. There’ll be a casualty, and he’s going to be the casualty.”
“The coach” is Todd McLellan, in our opinion an excellent, top tier National Hockey League coach who guided this Oilers team into the playoffs for the first time in a decade last season.
This week in Edmonton, however, a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately hockey town has fused with the ever-powerful Oilers Old Boys Club. Then that reaction was fuelled with the energy of a 5-0 home-ice loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
It was, incredibly, the Oilers’ third 5-0 loss in their last five home games, and came on the same day the team released a season ticket holders survey asking what kind of price hike customers would accept for next season?
On Wednesday morning, CEO Bob Nicholson and GM Peter Chiarelli were booked to speak at a season ticket holders breakfast. No word on which exec chose the cigarette, and which one opted for the blindfold.
Yes, the town that finally figured out hockey is back in the glue again not a year later. Deep, deep in the glue, with a losing team, the worst special teams in the league, a possible coup d’etat, and a coaching staff and GM whose chairs are en fuego.
We’ve seen a few of these along the way, and there was a palpable turn in the tone Wednesday. Across Canada, the Healys were openly questioning whether McLellan and his staff would survive the All-Star break, while here in Edmonton the question “What’s wrong with the special teams?” morphed into “Why can’t this coaching staff figure out the special teams?”
Question: “When do you ask, is it the coaches or the players?”
McLellan: “Every day.”
Question: “And the answer?”
McLellan then expanded on his thoughts: “The mistake we can make is separating our (coaching) group from the players. We’re in it with them. It’s our job to come up with solutions to problems. To try and fix things. To encourage them to bring a better game to the rink.”
“When we try and analyze our game, we open up the hood of the car and try and fix it,” McLellan said. “There are results at times that show it is happening, and there are other days when the engine just falls apart. (Tuesday) was that night.”
On Sunday, when Coffey was announced as a Skills Development Coach, the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m not here to take anyone’s job.”
McLellan welcomed him with open arms, but if that were genuine he would be the first head coach in the history of head coaches who liked the fact his bosses had foisted an assistant coach on him — especially with nepotistic bent this franchise has shown over the years.
Chiarelli stood in front of the cameras and said he’d been looking to hire a guy like Coffey for two years, and settled on him all by himself. What a coincidence, that he’d search the hockey world from shore to shore and find a former Oilers great to be the best candidate.
Chiarelli had better be telling the truth. Because if he’s not, then it’s a sure sign the Oilers have returned to a time when former players like Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, and now Coffey, have owner Daryl Katz’s ear ahead of the GM.
We’re not saying we know that to be true. We only suspect it. So far only McLellan and Chiarelli have been exposed to speak to a hire I don’t think either of them made.
But if McLellan does not survive this season — and it says here that the worst thing the Oilers can do is return to the days when they fired a coach every time something goes wrong — his exit music should be an old favourite from Thin Lizzy.
The (Old) Boys are Back in Town.