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Kelly Buchberger addresses the media at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Monday after the Oilers...

Kelly Buchberger addresses the media at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Monday after the Oilers announced him as the new head coach for their AHL farm team The Springfield Falcons. (Tim Smith/ Edmonton Sun)

DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

To Kevin Pendergast it was a no-brainer.

Once Geoff Ward stepped down as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate in Springfield, the logical successor was Kelly Buchberger.

Yesterday it became official as the former Oilers captain was named head coach of the Springfield Falcons.

"This was the first pick for (GM) Kevin (Lowe) when he called me and this was the first pick for me too," said Pendergast, the Oilers vice president of hockey operations. "The background speaks for himself and he's ready to do the job."

Buchberger was working as the Oilers development coach prior to getting the job with the Springfield Falcons. He also worked as an assistant coach under Ward with the Edmonton Roadrunners during the lockout season. This will be Buchberger's first head coaching job.

"I'm really honoured to have the opportunity to coach in Springfield," Buchberger said. "I talked to the owner there and he's really excited to have Edmonton as an affiliate and we're really excited to get our players there.

"I had the opportunity to work with all our young prospects throughout the last couple of years and I've watched how they train and we're really excited because we have a lot of good prospects."

For the first time since the Roadrunners were disbanded the Oilers have exclusive rights with an AHL affiliate.

Buchberger will be working with Jeff Truit, who was hired as the Falcons assistant coach in June.

Taking Buchberger's place as development coach will be Bob Mancini, who was a former member of the scouting staff before leaving to become the head coach and general manager of the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.

"Bob certainly has a great background in U.S. college hockey and now has a good background with the Canadian Hockey League," Pendergast said.

"We think our organization is in great hands with these two guys and we wish him all the best."

Ward was originally hired to coach the Falcons this year, but stepped down earlier this week to take an assistant coaching position with the Boston Bruins.

After the Bruins hired Claude Julien to be their head coach, the Oilers knew there was a possibility they would lose Ward. Julien and Ward had worked together in the past.

"I told Kevin at the draft that we'd better be prepared for something to happen," Pendergast said. "At that point Geoff said he was going to talk to Claude and we left it on the backburner for the time being.

"But in the back of our minds we were prepared that this was going to happen and from that point we knew that if this did happen we certainly had an adequate replacement in Kelly."

Buchberger began his NHL career with the Oilers in 1987 making his debut in the Stanley Cup final against the Philadelphia Flyers.

He would go on to play another 12 seasons with the Oilers before moving on to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Pittsburgh.

During his tenure with the Oilers, Buchberger served as captain for four seasons starting in 1995. He currently ranks 15th on the team's all-time scoring list with 240 points and is penalty-minute leader with 1,747.

"It's going to be a learning experience, there is no question," Buchberger said. "I'll have a good staff there with Jeff Truit, he's a very organized guy and a very technical guy, so obviously I'll learn a lot from him.

"We all want to win, but the biggest thing is that we're going to have to try and develop those players as quick as possible so they can come play for the Oilers. But we do want to win and compete for the Calder Cup."

Buchberger will stay in Edmonton for the Oilers rookie camp before leaving for Springfield to prepare for that team's main camp on Sept. 21.

He has not been in Springfield since playing there over 23 years ago.

"When they approached me I didn't hesitate to go," Buchberger said. "It was a little bit surprising at the start, but it all sank in and I'm ready for the challenge."


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