SUN Hockey Pool

Krueger no ordinary Joe

Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger speaks to the media at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, Alta.,...

Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger speaks to the media at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, Alta., June, 26, 2012. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:24 PM ET

EDMONTON - Mr. Dithers took forever to hire the fourth head coach during his tenure and the 11th in Edmonton Oilers history.

Tentative Tambellini waited 80 days and 80 nights to end up hiring somebody under his nose, Tom Renney's associate coach here for the last two years.

And then when he made the announcement ...

“I'm so proud to have Joe, uh, Ralph join us as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers,” he began.

Unbelievable. He's a study, Steve Tambellini.

Remarkably the much-maligned GM actually ended up being quite convincing after his wobbly start to the 9 a.m. press conference at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.

And the approval rating of giving the job to Ralph Krueger, the Winnipeg native and long-term Swiss national coach, at the end of the day, should end up very high with Edmonton's knowledgeable hockey fans.

“Everyone can come up with different type of tactics but it's the person they want to play for,” said Tambellini.

“Ralph Krueger has a reputation. People will play for him. And want to win for him. He's someone who can match the energy of what this group has now. He's someone who can communicate and motivate and inspire.

“We wanted to make sure we had the right person for this time. The leadership of this group is so important right now. They need the right message on a daily basis, one that is instructive, inspiring and motivating. And I can't think of a better person to do that. Ralph Kruger is the right man to bring us to the next level.”

Tambellini said two experiences were indelible.

First was as a member of Wayne Gretzky's management team at the 2006 Torino Olympics, he watched Krueger coach Switzerland to a 2-0 win over Canada.

“First, the Olympics, playing against Team Canada and Ralph controlling and motivating a group to install a belief that they could beat Team Canada was quite a feat in itself. For hockey, that was an incredible moment.

“I know why that happened. When you speak to people around who have worked with Ralph and the people who have played for him, they talk about leadership, they talk about clarity, they talk about motivation.”

The closer was what he did taking over the Oilers' power play last year.

“Yes, we had talent. But we had structure in place that the players believed in. You have to present structure to players in order that they believe they can have success. Ralph led a group to use their assets.

“They believed it was going to work. Obviously it did. It went from a 29th the year prior to, for a lot of the year, being No. 1 in the league. That's an accomplishment.”

Job 1, says Krueger, will be to “build a winning culture.”

Which is easy to say. But he convinces you he can cure the lack of belief in being able to win which certainly showed itself in stretches last season.

“We are not going to be focused on winning, winning, winning to the point that it suffocates us and we squeeze our sticks. We have skill in our room that's so exciting. I need to find ways that their instincts can play freely, that we don't block them in the coaching processes and that their natural ability leads us to winning.

“We will want to attack on a very aggressive basis and we have the tools to do that. When you have skill it can work together and free flow. With team defence, the players here have bought in together already.

“I'm a very open communicator who is quick in the communication. I'm out for respect at the end, not popularity. It's going to take a lot of work ethic here to get us to the next level. The winning will be a byproduct of that work, of that high-quality focus that I'll be demanding from the players.

“Looking at the team, we can go right to work. There's a foundation there of trust and of understanding that allows us, from the first minute, to work together to that next level.

“After 23 years of growth as a coach I'm ready for the situation. I can not imagine a better city – this is a premier hockey city in the world – to lead a team onto the ice than this city. I plan to coach a team that Edmonton, with its fabulous fans and its passionate history and love for the game, can totally embrace.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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