Ralph Krueger is an interesting cat. A man who played with both Bryan Lefley and Uwe Krupp must have a mountain of stories.

Krueger was born in Steinbach, Manitoba in August 1959. He played in Germany in 77-78 for Duisburger as a teenager and then played Canadian major junior in the WHL for Calgary and New Westminster. Krueger then had a long and successful playing career for Düsseldorfer EG. He gained international recognition as Switzerland’s head coach for various world championships and the 2010 Olympics. Jonathan Willis has a serious look at Krueger here

Krueger in a Düsseldorfer EG uniform

Based on what we read and are fed, Krueger certainly appears to be in the conversation for the head coaching job in Edmonton. I’d rank him just behind Brent Sutter in this horse race from what I’ve read and heard. I also think we should at least allow for the possibility of the Oilers repeating their own history and doing another Quinn/Renney with Sutter/Krueger.

I’m not certain Ralph Krueger is the best choice for the head coaching job. I understand he’s familiar with the team and do agree that he did a fine job in his interim run when Renney was convalescing. However, is that a strong enough resume? Is that seriously a better bet than an extension for Tom Renney?

I’m not certain Brent Sutter is the best choice for the head coaching job. I understand he’s highly thought of in many circles and got NJD to the playoffs, but his resume also includes an unimpressive run in Calgary. In speaking to Nations overlord Kent Wilson on Nation Radio this past weekend, I asked him for a thumbnail sketch of his coaching style. Kent’s description (power v power, traditional, rides veterans, not a huge group of young players developed) made me wonder just what the Oilers see in this coach. Where is the evidence that shows Sutter is a better option for the Oilers job than Renney? I don’t see it.

My basic point is this: the requirement for the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers should be a superior resume than the one Tom Renney possesses. Is this true of either coach? Really?

I welcome your input.

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30 Responses to "Coach"

  1. spoiler says:

    LT said….

    My basic point is this: the requirement for the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers should be a superior resume than the one Tom Renney possesses.

    I think I agree with this, but I’m not sure. Does this exclude a young coach like the fella from the Marlies, because NHL head coaching success is not on his CV? That’s excluding plenty of people who might come in and do a better job, like Nelson.

    I don’t think they have to hire someone with a better resumé than Renney, I think they need to hire a better head coach than Renney (otherwise what was the point of firing him, which I think is what you’re saying in the excerpt above).

    That said, I’m not convinced either option is better than Renney. However, with coaches it is tough to tell. So much is dependent on the horses they’ve been given. Plenty of coaches have failed with one team and succeeded with another. How do you figure out who has the goods?

  2. blackdog says:

    Kreuger is Canadian? Weird, why didn’t I know that?

    There are a handful of great/very good coaches, a handful of shitty coaches (although they don’t last long) and then the vast in between imo. I can’t really think of a great/very good coach who is not under contract – Hitchcock, Bylsma, Darryl Sutter, Babcock are all guys I rate, obviously your mileage may vary.

    So they need to either gamble on a young unproven guy – so they could end up with DeBoer or with some guy who lasts forty games. I don’t see Tambo doing that. If he blows this he’ll never manage again.

    So it will be a veteran guy. Personally I think Sutter is on the wrong side of average but honestly I couldn’t tell you who is available who would be any better. Ron Wilson? Sutter reminds me of Craig Hartsburg. Great junior coach, not much in the pros.

    Why does Lowe like him? Western Canadian, pedigree, ties to hockey Canada. That’s the big three the Oilers seem to look for these days.

    I’ve said it before though. Toe Blake could come down from heaven above and he wouldn’t be able to get this gang of mutts into the playoffs. Add a couple of top four Dmen, a quality goalie and a couple of big forwards who can play and check and some good health all around and suddenly, suddenly, whomever is coach will be a good coach.

    Funny how that works.

  3. stevezie says:

    I’m leaning toward Dallas Eakins as my fantasy, assume-they-come-here pick. I’d prefer a more offensive and experienced coach, but his players seem to adore him beyond reason and he sure is looking successful right now. With this group of players I think that finding a way to get the most out of them as individuals is as important as what you do with the team, and one-on-one work seems to be Eakins’ specialty.
    I think the right assistants could cover the experience.

  4. Lowetide says:

    spOILer: I’d be more comfortable with Nelson or Eakins. imo their resumes–while they lack NHL experience–suggest they will bring innovation and modern thinking with them. Eakins for instance has built a solid resume and is probably among the top two or three head coaching prospects in the game.

    Krueger may well be as qualified, but I don’t think his resume is the classic “building toward head coaching job” that Nelson or Eakins possess. Maybe Krueger’s the man, maybe they catch lightning in a bottle?

    But what are the indicators?

  5. spoiler says:

    Very good analysis of the situation, Pat.

    LT, thanks. I wasn’t sure, but didn’t think you were excluding the non-NHL candidates. Eakins definitely looks like a good option.

    I wonder if there is some restriction on the next coach to play “Oiiler Hockey” or whether they would just avoid a Hitchcock type? Or is a Sutter under consideration because they think he CAN teach the young forwards how to play defense?

    We don’t really know the issues with Renney nor the wants for the new skipper. I suspect an ability to motivate is part of it. But that’s just my reading of the tea leaves. Who knows what these yahoos are really up to?

  6. buddydan says:

    How about Marc Crawford? He is probably the fish with the most experience. Although he historically does not have a good coaching record, he did string together a couple productive seasons with the nucks.

    Only issue is i am not sure the Oilers would want to pick him up because he is still tangled in legal issues with the whole Bertuzzi/Moore mess.

  7. Traktor says:

    Winning %

    Brent Sutter .584
    Tom Renney .458

    Calgary didn’t exactly have a good roster either. Most of their veterans are past their prime and they have the worst prospect pipeline in the league.

    No 1st round pick or 2nd round pick in 2010

    No 2nd round pick in 2009 and Tim Erixon didn’t want to play in Calgary

    2008 1st rounder and 2nd rounders look like busts Mitch Wahl and Greg Nemisz

    No 2nd round pick in 2007, 1st rounder on Backlund

    No 2nd round pick in 2006, 1st rounder wasted on Leland Irving

    No 2nd round pick in 2005, 1st rounder wasted on Matt Pelech

    No 2nd round pick in 2004, 1st rounder wasted on Kris Chucko

    In 7 seasons Calgary’s best draft pick was Brandon Prust.

    Calgary traded 6 out of 7 2nd round picks from 2004-2010.

    I’m not sure how Sutter was supposed to develop young players in Calgary.

    The Flames are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

  8. gcw_rocks says:

    If they hire Krueger its because they saw something behind the scenes we can’t see because we aren’t there. Krueger’s work with the PP shows some real hockey smarts and some innovation, I think, and that is a potential indicator.

    Looks like MTL will hire Hartley, if the rumours are true, so that takes one veteran coach off the board who should have been considered if they want a vet. Hartley even got Atlanta into the playoffs, which was amazing in and of itself. But that together with championships at every other level he has coached and he has plenty of quals that exceed Sutter, other than being from Alberta. Hartley’s resume in aggregate is better than Crawford’s I think.

    It will be interesting to watch Cooper and Eakins go head to head in the AHL finals. Two real up and coming coaches. To the winner goes the Oilers coaching gig?

  9. Bar_Qu says:


    I think we can even the winning percentage between Sutter and Renney simply in the difference between playing Kiprusoff 60-70 games and Khabi/Dubnyk 60-70 games.

    This is why I don’t like Sutter for the Oilers. He did nothing with an average defense, stellar goaltending and average scoring. Ottawa did more with less. Renney is superior to Sutter in every category considerable. I think GMs feel Brent has some of Darryl’s magical ability or something.

    OT. I dated a girl from Steinbach once. As in, met her a summer camp as a 14 yr old, wrote her two letters and never saw or talked to her again. Don’t even remember her name. But I remember she was from Steinbach (a good Mennonite town).

  10. oilersfan says:

    Just now on Tencer Dan and his guest commentator were raving about how wonderful the Red Wings are and how Ryan Suter will undoubtedly go there if he doesn;’t sign in Nashville.

    I would like to argue they are more lucky than good. And if Lidstrom isn’t on the team, they are barely in the playoffs.

    However, I don’t know how to find the following stat: In the last three years, what is the Red Wings’ won-loss record with and without Nik Lidstrom in the lineup.

    Would any of you stats experts be so kind as to oblige me with this information? thanks in advance.

  11. Ice Rink Eschatologists says:

    I like Krueger a lot, and his hiring last year was a real move away from some of the ol’ timey attitudes that have been pervasive with the Oilers for a long time and were promised to end under Tambo (you have to have to played in the NHL to be near the team, having won a Stanley Cup as a player is more important than being able to manage people if you want to be an executive or coach, training should include doughnuts and cigarettes, etc.).

    Willis has done a great profile of Kreuger and I don’t need to repeat it. But suffice to say, I think if we’re looking at an ‘innovative’ coach for the position, Kreuger has to be near the top of the list. He’s written a book on motivation in a team environment (I don’t care about that, but I heard Tambellini is trying to decide if he should read it). He took a non-competitive national program and made it dangerous and effective in every tournament for 12 years. His work on the PP this year was more than just RNH taking over for Hemsky as the distributor. And his system while Renney was out was visibly different and more effective than Renney’s (understanding it’s a subjective analysis, small sample size, and no one had video on it).

    Much like Mac-T was the man to make players out of all the Horcoff’s, Pisani’s, Winchester’s, Reddox’s, and Stortini’s by creating a system that involved constant board-work, I think Kreuger is the man to make players out of high-end skaters like Paajarvi, Hall, RNH, and to a lesser extent Gagner (really improving his footwork), Omark (if he stays, and not a space-eating skater), Eager, etc. This team is built to use skating as its weapon and we’re out of roster spots for the Brian Boyle’s for which fans seem to clamour. Either we re-make the team (again) so that Sutter/Other Traditional or Defensive Coach can use it properly (okay, it needs help anyway), or we need a coach that can use skating as a viable game plan – And that’s the Swiss system invented by Kreuger.

    Hire the man.

  12. Woodguy says:

    Is that seriously a better bet than an extension for Tom Renney?

    I know Tom Renney is a nice guy who coached a shitty team, but he still deployed the roster sub-optimally.

    Too much Khabby
    Too much TOI for Smyth and Horcoff and ran them ragged.
    Too little Omark, especially at the end of the season where they could only help his trade value
    Too much Lander. Seriously, WTF was he doing in the NHL after 10-15 games.
    Too many sideburns on MPS.
    Other crap too.

    Krueger deployed the roster better than Renney did in his short stint.

    That’s a leg up on him.

    Being an ok coach and a nice guy, shouldn’t be enough in the NHL.

    There are 30 NHL coaching jobs and you should be ruthless as a manager to get the best you can find.

    Toe Blake wouldn’t have made them a playoff team, but I doubt they finish 29th either.

    Will Sutter be better than Renney in his use of the roster?

    I have no clue. I hope Lowe asks the right questions in the interview.

  13. Lowetide says:

    WG: I agree, but is that enough? Are we seriously watching a team hire a coach–maybe the most important coaching hiring since Sather–on such a short stretch? I’m hopeful there’s more evidence. Has he mentioned any advanced stats? All I can see from Oil Change is that he teased Laddy about playing right point.

    Cool and funny, but I’d be thrilled to know he had some kind of background in actually being innovative aside from that one little stretch. Because that’s not enough.

  14. DSF says:

    Pat has this right.

    Coaching might get you another 3-5 wins or 3-5 losses a season but as long as the team has below average centre depth, below average defense and below average goaltending, it won’t make a huge difference.

    If you look at a team like STL, which was obviously underachieving considering their personnel, a new coach can certainly suss out extra wins.

    And then you ask which made a bigger difference in LA…Sutter or Carter?

    My money would be on Carter…the Kings took off as soon as he arrived since that move allowed Kopitar, Brown and Williams to excel.

    As has been stated, the best coach gets off the bus with the best players.

    Tambellini may be clinging to his job for another season or two now that he gets to choose his third coach but it’s his ass on the line…or at least it should be.

  15. danny says:

    Didn’t Kreuger get a lot of press over his work with the Swiss national program? They became a respectable hockey nation under his tutelage. That must count for something in the experience department.

    I don’t dislike Renney per se, but I can’t come to a level understanding of why he did certain things. Im not a coach, but I don’t feel Renney was putting the teams best foot forward in a lot of situations. He was trending towards Bad Goal Salo territory IMO.

    I’m happy he’s gone, I have too many gray hairs for a 36 year old.

  16. Lowetide says:

    Danny: He famously had his charges play a defensive style when they were outmanned. I don’t think the Oilers will adopt that style, but if that’s the plan then I can understand the thinking.

  17. spoiler says:

    This might not be apropos for a mathy blog, but I want a coach who is going to teach these guys how to win. Killer instinct. Learning how to make the other team lose. Forcing errors, not making them.

    Obviously better net minding alone would take a coach half way there. But then there’s the other half. This was a team that started a lot of important matches flat. Unmotivated? Lacking confidence? And then they lost a lot of one goal games too with HUA 3rd period play.

    I like Krueger, but I think maybe the top systems guy should be placed in the advisory, specialist roles. A Pearn-type. Now maybe I’m wrong, if his reputation as a motivator is untrue, and there are other unknown qualities, but I would like to see more winning in his resumé. It’s hard to imagine Tambo taking a risk with his next choice, and Krueger must be a risk from the CV standpoint. On the other hand they’re definitely familiar with him and what he can bring. And hiring Krueger would mean less turnover for the kids.

    I would imagine it’s either head coach or he’s gone, though.

  18. Lowetide says:

    Well, since we’re not being mathy I’ll tell you what I want from a coach. I want what I thought Pat Quinn would be–a coach who comes in and says ‘look you yokels I need a fucking goalie and three guys who know how to keep themselves between the puck and the net.’

    Is Sutter that guy?

  19. DSF says:

    Well, since we’re not being mathy I’ll tell you what I want from a coach. I want what I thought Pat Quinn would be–a coach who comes in and says ‘look you yokels I need a fucking goalie and three guys who know how to keep themselves between the puck and the net.’

    Is Sutter that guy?

    Which goalie and which three guys?

    Not much else matters.

  20. Lowetide says:

    DSF: Which goalie and which three guys?

    Not much else matters.

    Which is my point. Why replace Renney with someone who isn’t a clear upgrade? Weird. Like the Gilbert trade. It’s just a weird time for this organization.

  21. DSF says:

    Lowetide: Which is my point. Why replace Renney with someone who isn’t a clear upgrade? Weird. Like the Gilbert trade. It’s just a weird time for this organization.

    They’re just buying time for themselves.

    Gassing Renney is at best a lateral move.

    Gilbert needed to be traded for lifestyle concerns.

  22. stevezie says:

    Strongly agree that it only makes sense to fire Renney if there is a better guy out there, and I don’t think any of the obvious candidates fit that bill. For me there are two wild cards, Kreuger and Eakins, because they both have specialties. Kreuger appears to be aces at systems, and Eakins is some kind of genius at communication and getting the most out of his players.

    These two are much better than Renney at specific things, or so it appears. Seems to me if Tambo wanted to be safe, he would have just kept Renney, non?

    On the other hand I guess we all have specialties. Which coach to hire will never be something I’m passionate about because I just don’t think I know enough about potential hires. I’ve got the guy I like (Eakins, who I suspect would be more offensive with these Oilers than his Marlies), but I am more than willing to defer to management’s research.

    They’re the ones with their job riding on getting it right, afterall. At least they better be, because if they don’t find someone better than Renney, what the hell as the point?

  23. admiralmark says:

    Renney was unceremoniously dumped by Tambi. So that he had a scapegoat for last year. Bad call. Renney deserved at least half next season to make some HAy. At the very least give him a time when the teams goal was winning games and not developing the talent. I have next to zero faith in Tambellini after that move. The man is a poor communicator, poor negotiator, a poor eye for talent… outside of the AHL revamp which he deserves full marks for.. I just don’t see it? What was the reason he was brought here for? Strong untapped GM’er potential? Somebody sold Katz a bill of goods here. Perplexing is he bought it AGAIN?!

  24. Dave Casselman says:

    When Sather was first hired as coach it was an off the beaten path selection. Lots of former head coaches out there at the time to choose from yet the owner, may the rest of his life be a living hell, decided to go with the piss and vinegar local boy who’s CV didn’t include head coaching experience. (If it did, I missed it.) At the time, it was considered to be a radical departure from the norm.

    Lots of qualified guys out there, some of them previous cup winners as coaches. Are the Hartleys or Crawfords the answer? Are the up and comers the answer, guys like Eakins, Cooper and Nelson? Or does the answer lie with a guy who gets paid for motivational speaking, revolutionized the Swiss national hockey program, and who’s most recent contribution was in turning, (although admittedly not single-handedly,) the PK and PP into something extremely respectable, all in the space of 2 short years?

    Tough one. I’m Tambellini, (thank the good lord I’m not,) I ask my young charges what they really think of Rralph. If he comes away thinking they’ll play for him, I hire him, simple as that.

    I’m not concerned about Ralph’s ability to be a hard-ass, (He can be, ask former Swiss National players.) I’m not concerned that his style wouldn’t incorporate ‘Oilers Hockey.’ (It would, iff he has the horses.) I think the guy is innovative, not afraid to take chances, and would incorporate a ‘whatever-it- takes-to-win’ style of hockey, regardless of what the pundits might choose to categorize it as. (And it won’t be a ‘trap,’ style, he’ll have too much offensive talent.)

    I’m sure the old boys, the Imlach’s, Irvine’s, Clancy’s and Smythe’s would be rolling in their graves about the degree of player input that oft’ goes into the modern head coaching hiring decision. The new touchy-feely, softer, kinder and more gentle NHL style of management would be as foreign to them as the man on the moon. Such is progress I guess. . .

    Anyway. If management concludes the lads will play for Ralph, hire him in a heartbeat. Oh, and lest I forget. Draft the Yak.

  25. Magnus says:

    My take on this is as follows: The team brought in Renney because he had a reputation as being a teacher-type who was calm and even-keeled in the dressing room, and they figured it would be a good match for a young team. However, in the time Renney was coach, they identified some things they didn’t like. Woodguy did a good job of pointing some of these out… he played the vets too much, to the detriment of the team. Khabibulin kept being played well past the time everyone in the world was aware Dubnyk was the better option. Smyth and Horcoff played more than they should have. Lander kept getting games even though it was clear he wasn’t treading water. Yet MPS and Omark, who were both better players, were not given a chance to succeed. Belanger kept playing on the powerplay well beyond the limits of sanity. But, I think the biggest blow to Renney in management’s eyes was that he refused to push back when the young stars were being targeted.

    We all know what happened to Stortini after his hug-a-thon with Krys Barch. Tambellini and Lowe were not impressed and he was sent packing the following week. The statement that was made clear was that they were not going to put up with gutless hockey. Renney was provided with players to protect the young guys. MacyIntyre was deemed not good enough a hockey player, so they went out and brought in Hordichuk and Eager. Along with Sutton, Peckham, Teubert and even Petrell, he had some players who could definitely offer some push-back if required. But it hardly ever happened. I remember Tambo being interviewed on TV after a game where one of the young guys was hurt, and he talked about how the team needs to respond to situations like that. Yet the team never would, and the comments Renney would make didn’t seem to share the same sentiments Tambellini had expressed. Even then I felt there seemed to be some disconnect between what the GM was saying and the coach was doing.

    So when Renney’s contract expired, management just felt they couldn’t go forward with the same coach doing the same things. I’m sure they were hoping one of the higher profile coaches they may have been interested in would be released after the playoffs, but that didn’t occur. So now they’re left with a cast of usual suspects to choose from, Brent Sutter and Krueger. Neither may have better qualifications than Renney, but Renney coached himself out of contention and Krueger would seem to be a better fit than Sutter.
    Of course, this is only my opinion and speculation.

  26. rickithebear says:

    Traktor: Brent Sutter .584
    Tom Renney .458

    last two years:

    Reeny record with
    Dubnyk 32-33-11 .494
    Dubnyk since JAn. (.920SV%) 16-11-3 .584%
    Khabibulin (.899) 22-52-11 .323

    Suter with
    Kiprosoff (.920) 35-22-11 .595
    Back-up (.905) 2-7-5 .321

    Renney was good soldier or an Idiot!

  27. bookje says:

    LT – I believe Pat Quinn is available.

  28. Master Lok says:

    Sorry LT, I think your assessment on Renney is overly positive. What did he really accomplish? to not piss of the kids?

    I think Renney is a big downgrade on MacT. And Quinn was even worse.

    Success stories under Renney include Hall, Eberle, RNH, Petry, Smid, Jones. any else? Wouldn’t these kids (specifically Hall, RNH and Eberle) have developed just as well under most coaches?

    Failures – Lander, Paajarvi, Omark, Horcoff, Khabibulin, Kurtis Foster, Colin Fraser, all these guys had terrible seasons under Renney. Renney hasn’t been able to develop the fourthline to any level of acceptable play. The third line has been overworked (Horcoff, Smyth). Khabibulin has played too much and has cost too many points and games.

    What on earth has convinced you that Renney is worth keeping? I’d fine with going with Krueger or Sutter.

    As for blaming Sutter on the lack of developing young players in Calgary… what young players does he have to develop? Backlund isn’t crap, and I think Sutter has done a decent job with Backlund. There hasn’t been too much youth for him to work with. And wasn’t he fired in Calgary because Sutter wanted more youth on the team and less Iginla?

  29. whale says:

    I know a lot of my passion for hockey is in the ‘feel’ as opposed to ‘statistical’ aspect and it’s usually pretty good regarding players. With coaches, maybe not so much. I have a feeling the Kreuger is a good choice for where we are right now. I “saw” what he did when Renney was out and I liked it. And to this day I fear playing the Swiss in and international game. Some of you do to.

  30. FastOil says:

    Well, since we’re not being mathy I’ll tell you what I want from a coach. I want what I thought Pat Quinn would be–a coach who comes in and says ‘look you yokels I need a fucking goalie and three guys who know how to keep themselves between the puck and the net.’

    Is Sutter that guy?

    The players are on the team already, or in the system already. Krueger showed that when he had the reigns, maybe on purpose, maybe he was lucky.

    The thing I think of is who is coming up in the system? The Canadian or NA players are no brainers or late round, low chance picks. The majority of the higher round (more likely to succeed) are Euro.

    As I see it, Krueger is the best candidate to guide these fellows along. He understands Europeans, has a track record and I am sure status with them, and will be far more likely to connect with them and help them succeed.

    I’ve said many times before, I would also hire Eakins to follow Krueger because of how he deals with players. It seems to me very appropriate for how young people are now.

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