Fleming natural fit with Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

The immediate buzz when the Oilers announced that they'd hired Wayne Fleming to be an assistant is that their newest coach is Jaromir Jagr's old coach.

In adding Fleming to the staff, the Oilers are now employing Jaromir Jagr's last two bench bosses: Tom Renney with the New York Rangers and now Fleming, who spent last season with Avangard Omsk in the KHL.

It makes for a pretty compelling conspiracy theory, if not a comfortable landing area should Jagr ever consider coming to Edmonton, but Fleming says he isn't part of a package deal that will soon include No. 68.

"He's really committed to fulfilling the last year of his contract in Russia," said Fleming. "But at the completion of that contract I think he'll come back to North America."

That could come before the NHL trade deadline, if Omsk is out of the Russian league playoffs. And at that point, if he can exert any influence, Fleming will be happy to oblige.

"By all means," he laughed, adding Jagr is looking very sharp for a 37-year-old.

"His fitness is outstanding. After practice he'd be out there for another 35-40 minutes just working on skating and passing and shooting. Then he's into the gym on nights we weren't playing. I was very, very impressed."

In Fleming, the Oilers bring an experienced and well-rounded assistant to round out their staff.

He's worked previously in Calgary, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Long Island as well as being deeply involved with Hockey Canada, coaching in World Cups, World Championships and Olympics.

And he'll fit like a glove in Edmonton.

"Obviously, having worked with Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe and Tom Renny before, it was a pretty easy choice," he said.

"Not only are they outstanding hockey men, they're outstanding people, too, and that's very important in this business."

He still isn't sure about his exact duties with the club, as he and the rest of the coaches are still in the process of breaking down the team.

"We're in Pentiction going through coaches meetings and we've spent a lot of time the last two days on our technical game, tweaking a few things," said Fleming.

From what he's seen of the meetings so far, look for the Oilers to be a more up-tempo, puck-possession team.

"You want to play to your strengths and the strength of the Oilers is a very good puck-moving defence, plus some very gifted, skilled forwards. So you want to play that way, but you also want to play a complete game.

"Entertainment is important, but so is winning."


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