News broke earlier this morning that former Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger is officially leaving his post as Chairman of Southampton FC. Krueger served as Edmonton’s coach for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, then was unceremoniously fired via Skype by Craig MacTavish.
Outside of a brief run of magic with Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Krueger has been out of the game and fully immersed in soccer. Multiple NHL teams have expressed interest in Krueger as a coaching option over the last two summers, but he was never truly willing to leave Southampton. Obviously that has changed.
However, and this was reported by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, don’t expect Krueger to jump back behind the bench anytime soon. Is a return to the NHL out of the question? Far from it, in fact a number of people believe Krueger’s return is inevitable. That said, it would be in a management role, not as a coach.
Ralph Krueger, President of Hockey Operations. Is that in his future? It certainly feels like that is his plan. Could he return to Edmonton to lead the way in Hockey Ops? Unlikely, based on the history between the sides, but not impossible.
Bob Nicholson, on Monday, told the media that hiring a President of Hockey Operations is not currently in his plans. He is focused on finding a General Manager, who will be tasked with finding a head coach and determining who stays and who goes in management. Plans change, however, and how fitting would it be for Krueger to be the man that changes those plans.
After all, Krueger was never supposed to be fired in 2013. No, MacTavish went to market looking for an experienced assistant coach for Krueger, but was so blown away by Dallas Eakins that he ended up making him head coach. Six years later, could Krueger return in a similar fashion, a result of changes to the plan on the fly?
If Krueger expresses an interest in returning to Edmonton, then I wouldn’t rule it out. Why? I don’t think Nicholson is long for the Oilers. The pressure on him right now is unlike anything he has ever felt in his career, and one has to think that if a job with, say, the IIHF opens up then Nicholson would be willing to jump ship.
Krueger also fits in with the ‘culture’ of the Oilers as a Western Canadian and someone known for building and leading underdogs like the Swiss National Team and Team Europe. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous but for some reason it is important to this organization and a portion of the fanbase.
The big reason why I’m onside with a Krueger return? I think he’s smart and that he is willing to try new things. Clearly, the way the Oilers do business simply isn’t working. Incorporating new things like analytics and sports science (Even though they aren’t new but…Oilers) will only help this club moving forward.
Krueger, based on the verbal in the LeBrun article at The Athletic (linked above), seems willing to try new things and make the club he joins a more progressive organization.
I can’t help but think Krueger is a perfect fit with the Ottawa Senators, who are badly in need of someone with a good personality that can handle the media and bring change to an organization. That’s what Krueger is.
Vancouver is also hunting for a POHO, and one wonders if there is change in other organizations (Winnipeg?) should they fall short in this postseason. Edmonton claims they aren’t looking to hire a POHO, and we have no reason to doubt them at this time.
Odds are, a reunion is not in the cards for Krueger and the Oilers. I’m not saying he is a guy they HAVE to have, but I think it would be disappointing if they didn’t at least investigate the possibility.
I can’t help but think a friendly face with the media like Krueger would take a lot of pressure off the new GM, who could focus more on day-to-day operations. Krueger and Mike Gillis or Krueger and Billy Guerin? Count me in.