HELSINKI - Brent Sutter lost in the quarterfinals at the world hockey championships Thursday afternoon.
Nine hours later – at 1 a.m. in Helsinki – you have to figure he became the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Tom Renney’s contract, it was announced, was not going to be renewed.
What was never said was that Renney’s not going to be coming back because he didn’t do what he was asked to do in his term with the team. Renney isn’t coming back because he wasn’t viewed as a dynamic coach capable of the inspirational and motivational leadership to take the Edmonton Oilers to the future.
Brent Sutter was here for the past three weeks allegedly auditioning for the job as the next Oilers head coach. While he failed to get Team Canada to the medal round, Sutter illustrated those qualities in dealing with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Devan Dubnyk and the other young members of the team throughout the tournament.
In watching Sutter closely throughout the tournament I found a man motivated to prove his worth after his departure from the Calgary Flames, somebody who has a real fire in his belly to succeed and somebody who would bring an extra edge to that rivalry.
Brent Sutter is the right man to replace Renney as head coach of the Oilers.
Tambellini was in Helsinki for the round robin and had Oilers’ president of hockey operations and his boss Kevin Lowe on the inside as GM of Team Canada. If this was an audition for the job, despite the loss to Slovakia Thursday, you’d have to say he had a successful audition.
The bottom line is that Renney might have been the perfect coach to take the Oilers through the last two years, with the tremendous patience he showed in the development of Edmonton’s young stars.
“Tom is a thorough guy, a good man, a good coach and did a good job for us,” Tambellini told the press conference in Edmonton after meeting with Renney on his return from Finland.
So then why isn’t he going to be coming back?
All Tambellini had to do is say what the next coach has to bring to the job and that in management’s opinion Renney isn’t that guy.
I think in time Edmonton will look back and believe Renney was the right man for the job these past two years, that he did a wonderful job with Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and others in their training wheels seasons as NHLers.
But he was not the right man to take this team forward. That was the decision. And I believe Tambellini and Lowe had come to that conclusion before Lowe and the Hockey Canada brain trust offered the Team Canada job to Sutter the morning before he went in and by mutual agreement with Flames’ GM Jay Feaster concluded his own term as coach in Calgary.
Why Tambellini couldn’t just spit that out and show some dynamic leadership himself is a condemnation of him in his own role.
“We’re going into a phase with a different level of compete,” was Tambellini’s way of putting it.
The whole handling of Renney’s departure didn’t look good on Tambellini nor did it when came to letting Pat Quinn go well after the season.
It smacked of the brutal public relations which has been a constant throughout Tambellini’s time as general manager.
To wait more than a month after the season to make up his mind and then do the dirty deed with a 5 p.m. press conference the day Canada lost at the world hockey championship on the eve of the Edmonton Oil Kings opening game at the Memorial Cup was not unlike the political strategy of releasing unpopular news late Friday afternoon to minimize play during the news cycle.
With the next hire, it will be four coaches who have worked under Tambellini.
Technically Craig MacTavish resigned, Pat Quinn was removed and Renney wasn’t renewed. But no coach has lasted more than Renney’s two years in Tambellini’s time.
Tambelini hired Quinn and Renney as a tandem, explaining that he had worked with them both in the past and knew exactly what they would bring to the organization.
The next one better be the guy to take the Oilers into the playoffs and then deep into the playoffs or he’ll be Tambellini’s last one.
Of all the coaches available, it’s hard to see a more qualified coach to hire than Brent Sutter.