EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oil Kings are getting close.
Having fired their head coach, Steve Pleau, following a disappointing season, the Western Hockey League club expects to hire a replacement within a couple of weeks.
General manager Bob Green has been busy going through an extensive list of candidates interested in the position.
“It’s going well, we’re going through the process of interviewing right now,” Green said. “The end is in sight and hopefully soon we’ll be able to offer the position to somebody.”
Pleau led the Oil Kings through their first three years of expansion.
After a understandably tough inaugural season, the club qualified for the playoffs in their second year, raising the bar heading into last season.
After a disappointing campaign where the Oil Kings finished last in their conference standings, Pleau was fired and the team went searching for a successor.
“I think whoever it is has to be the type of person who can take this team to the next level,” Green said. “We feel we have a team that’s on the verge of winning a lot of hockey games and we want to challenge for a playoff spot and championships in the next couple of years. Whoever it is has to take this team and help them grow into that.”
Along with Pleau, the Oil Kings also relieved assistant coach Rocky Thompson of his position following the season. Once a head coach is in place they’ll work on replacing Thompson.
“We’ve gotten so much interest in both jobs,” Green said. “But, the head coaching position is the one we’re dealing with now and I’m sure when that’s dealt with, well look for an assistant. I’m sure whoever is hired as head coach will have some ideas and names that he’ll want to take a look at. We’ll exchange information with the names that I have and go from there.”
Green was originally hoping to have a coach in place by the end of the month, but the number of qualified applicants has push that date back.
“I expected to get a lot of interest and we certainly did,” said Green, who didnt' name names. “It was good that way and there were a lot of terrific names that stepped forward so it was good.
“The end of May was kind of a goal, but I think we’re close enough where early June we’ll have it then.”
Despite not having a coach in place, this weekend the Oil Kings will still hold an orientation session for their draft picks from the past two seasons.
The club will have a couple of on-ice sessions with the group chosen in this year’s and last season’s WHL Bantam Draft.
“It’s an orientation to introduce the kids to the franchise,” Green said.
“It gives us a chance to take a look at them and see where they’re at physically and see what changes have occurred in a year. We also want to see where their fitness level is at.”
For some of the players, the orientation camp will be their first opportunity to familiarize themselves with the club. More importantly, it’ll give their parents a chance to get to know the management staff.
“It gives us an opportunity to develop a relationship with the player and his family,” Green said. “There has to be an element of trust for them as a family because often we’re taking their teenage kids away. They have to feel like the situation is going to be good for them. We have to provide that information for them as well and it gives them a glance of who is going to be taking care of their son.
“It’s important to get to know each other from each side.”