June 4, 2012
Krueger an 'Alpha-animal'
By Terry Jones, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Who is Ralph Krueger?
Despite the fact he spent the last two years as Tom Renney’s associate coach, Edmonton Oiler fans know him mostly as either the guy who took over behind the bench during Renney’s absences to attend the funeral of his father and to recover from his concussion.
But ask respected long-time Swiss scribe Klaus Zaugg for his perspective and you get some interesting observations.
“Ralph was the smartest and most charismatic coach in Europe for the previous 15 years,” he insists. “He is not only hockey-smart, but life-smart. He wrote a book Team Life about how to handle problems in life and it was a bestseller. He made $30,000 for a two-hour-motivation speech in front of high-profile managers. He can fill every room with his presence.
“He traveled to Europe after this season with Steve Tambellini. I saw the two of them in Zurich and Berne watching the Swiss finals (SC Bern vs. ZSC Lions with Tambellini’s son Jeff) — and I was sure: when Ralph is on the road with Edmonton’s GM for a week or so — he will transform this GM into his biggest fan.
“Ralph is a great motivator and positive thinker. He may transform a blues party into a samba festival.”
While Krueger has a reputation of being a defensive coach from his time with the Swiss national team, Zaugg said you have to look deeper.
“Ralph is not a defensve-minded coach at all. That’s a legend. As a coach for the Swiss national team, he had to play defensive-defensive hockey to survive. But before that, he coached Feldkirch in Austria, he won five or six championships and in 1998 — for one season (1997-98), he was part-ime coach for Switzerland and Feldkirch — with Feldkirch he won the European Cup, crunching Dynamo Moscow. With the Feldkirch team, Ralph played some kind of fire-wagon hockey.
“Ralph is a great communicator, too, and I am sure he could have made a great career in politics. He can explain everything. He sells his team and his players extremely well to the media and the public.
“He is a pure ‘Alpha-animal’ and I was surprised to see him as an assistant in Edmonton — but after all, I think, it was Ralph’s strategy to become the head coach in the Oilers organization from the day he joined the Oilers.
“But he is too smart to play mind games. He is honest but he has, like all charismatic people, a kind of paranoia and controlling-mania. He is an excellent organizer and that’s also why his teams always played the their style very disciplined.
“I think he fits perfectly in the North American system.”