Quinn shuffling his deck

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

If you're an Oilers fan who thinks there's been no real changes made in the roster from last year, that head coach Pat Quinn is trying to put lipstick on a pig, then this is a column about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you see the change in coaching staff with a new goalie, a few new faces, a few old faces in new places, a new philosophy, new line structures, drills, etc., then this is a column about a great new game of musical chairs.

The Oilers came to work for the first time as a regular-season hockey club yesterday, and found Quinn had everybody but Tom Gilbert sitting in a new spot in the dressing room.

Quinn, who had veterans sitting in auxiliary dressing rooms down the back hall off the main dressing room during training camp and in different places around the main room on preseason game days, produced an interesting new set of seat assignments for the season.

He broke up the old boys club at the back of the room where all the veterans sat together last season.

He gave dressing room stalls on one end of the room to all the forwards and placed the defence, goaltenders and role players like Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre at the other end.

While Quinn was paying attention to detail in a dressing room where the Oilers haven't made the playoffs in three years, new Calgary coach Brent Sutter was doing the same thing in Calgary, where the Flames haven't won a playoff series in even longer.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla showed up and found somebody else was sitting in the stall he'd occupied for the last 10 years and that he'd been moved to the other side of the room.

Sutter did the same thing with the forwards and defencemen.

"Fresh start," said Sutter.

"It's what I said from the start. It's a whole new coaching staff and we want things done differently. If you're going to do it, why do it half way?"

So what is this, a new twist on the Alberta Advantage?

Quinn said it's not meaningless cosmetic surgery.

But if you're waiting for another skate to drop, stop.

Did the new coach give any thought to changing his captain or alternates?

"No," said Quinn. "We trust the people that have been named in the past. We as coaches are not going to bring that up. We haven't seen any reason to make changes yet or at all."

As for the dressing room changes, Gilbert has no idea why he was the only one spared.

"Random luck? I think he wanted to get the defence over here and I was already here. I like it. I think lots of guys like it," said Gilbert.

If there's one concession to compatibility it's the placing of Czech Ladislav Smid with Slovak Lubomir Visnovsky.

Maybe Quinn was just thinking he'd put the two 'Czecho-Slovakians' together, but the Czech Republic and Slovakia are two different countries again and they've always had two distinct languages.

"The main swear words are the same," said Smid.

Andrew Cogliano likes the new look. "Before, a lot of the older guys were together at this end of the room and the younger guys spread around the rest of the room," he said.

Quinn figures he's being proactive.

"I want tutors," he said of flanking vets with kids. "It can't be the coach walking in and talking to them all the time."

More than anything, like his counterpart in Calgary, you have to figure Quinn mostly wants to remind players every day when they come into the room that it's a fresh new start and a brand new deal -- even if he's mostly playing with the same deck.

"That's what I like about it," said veteran Steve Staios. "Everything feels new and fresh. It's like all the new drills at practice."

Heck, it's like the "fresh" quotes from Quinn, which are actually older than he is.

These guys have been called a lot of names before but not "cream puffs" or "morning glories."

"I've heard 'pansies' a lot," said Staios.

After Sunday's final exhibition game, Quinn said one of his defencemen "looked like Barbara Ann Scott out there."

See, that's the advantage of this new dressing room set-up. A young guy like Gilbert can now look at an older guy like Staios sitting beside him and ask the question.

"Who is Barbara Ann Scott?"

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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