Ken Holland probably feels like a juggler trying to keep so many balls in the air.
The Edmonton Oilers general manager is talking to his pro scouting people, his amateur scouts about the upcoming draft and his team’s medical staff about the injured players, all with his head coaching search wedged into the full picture.
Holland, who has been on the job for 10 days, has started the process of finding his first head coach, but whether it’s Seattle expansion team front man Dave Tippett, Dallas assistant Todd Nelson, Oilers assistant Glen Gulutzan, Columbus assistant Brad Shaw, Oilers farm coach Jay Woodcroft, or anybody else on his extensive list, it’s not happening tomorrow.
There are no age considerations. It could be somebody close to 60. It might be somebody 45. All he wants is somebody with a strong presence, somebody who commands a dressing room and a players bench.
“I believe in that very much,” said Holland, sounding a lot like his former coach with the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, Part 2. “I’ve got a list of 12 to 14 people with a resume I would consider talking to. I’m not meeting them all but I am calling around to gather information to see if I want to spend some time with them.
“I’ve talked to lots of people in the industry, I’m formulating my thoughts and I have talked to a couple of (candidates). I’ll talk to a couple more.
“I’ve leaned on (outgoing Oilers coach) Ken Hitchcock for names because he’s coached against these guys and if he hasn’t, he can pick up the phone and call somebody who’s worked with them,” said Holland. “Ken Hitchcock’s one of the most successful coaches in NHL history and he moves in the coaching circles. I respect his thoughts.”
“I don’t have time to interview 12 to 14 people and I don’t think it’s necessary to talk to that many, but I wanted a long list so I could pare it down. From a time frame, I’d like to think in the next couple of weeks we’ll name a coach, if not sooner.”
Tippett’s name has been front and centre because he’s coached over 1,100 games in Dallas and Arizona. He leads the experience parade in the Pacific Division with Pete DeBoer (San Jose), Gerard Gallant (Vegas), Todd McLellan (L.A.) and Bill Peters (Calgary) the Oilers may need that match wits with those guys, but not necessarily.
Holland’s also said he wants a coach he can grow with, so maybe that’s somebody younger, like Nelson, who is on that 12-14 man list. Holland knows Nelson, the interim coach here after Dallas Eakins was fired late in 2014, from when he coached Detroit’s farm team in Grand Rapids for three years.
But whether he makes the final cut, who knows?
Holland feels farm coach Jay Woodcroft, who also worked with the Red Wings for several years as one of Mike Babcock’s assistants, did a bang-up job in Bakersfield. But, his elevation to NHL head coach after just one year as a one in the AHL, may be a tad premature.
“I’m really impressed and proud at the development, the growth of Jay,” said Holland. “I saw it when Mike Babcock hired him out of college to be the Detroit video coach. He had a little job, now 12 years later he’s the head coach of our American League team and he did a fabulous job in creating a great culture, a positive feeling.
“As the head coach Jay had a massive influence on all of that happening. It’s so important to have a good minor-league program with a competitive environment where you put kids in with older players and they learn how to win. The playoffs for Bakersfield were great for that. I watched (Evan) Bouchard and (Tyler) Benson and some of the young defenceman.
“Jay’s developed from a video coach to an NHL assistant coach to a head coach in the American League. He’s got a ton of experience and he’s a top-notch AHL coach.”
Is he a top-notch NHL head coach?
“He might be but at the end of the day he’s only coached one year,” said Holland. “The more experience you can get at whatever job you have in life, the better you’ll be. Whether you’re a player or a coach you have to build a resume so when you walk in … that resume says lots. Jay is in the process of building a very good one.”
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