The Edmonton Oilers made the decision to dismiss head coach Ralph Krueger on Saturday, just one season after he was hired by the team. Krueger coached the Oilers to a 19-22-7 record during the 2012-13 campaign, and they did not qualify for the playoffs.
The team's official Twitter account broke the news:
#Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish announces Ralph Krueger has been relieved of his duties as Head Coach.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 8, 2013
Check the Ticker then fired off this post when chatter about the move began to circulate, noting that management hasn't had a good run with head coaches in franchise history:
If reports are correct. Ralph Krueger would become the 5th coach in #Oilers NHL history to last 1 season or less— Check The Ticker (@ChecktheTicker) June 8, 2013
Krueger was the 11th head coach of the franchise since it moved from the WHA to the NHL in the 1979-80 season. His predecessor, Tom Renney, lasted two years with Edmonton before he was fired last summer.
Darren Dreger of TSN is reporting that Dallas Eakins will be named as Krueger's replacement on Monday.
Dallas Eakins will be introduced as the Oilers Head Coach tomorrow. #TSN— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 9, 2013
Renney was fired by then-general manager Steve Tambellini, who was canned in April and blamed for many of the team's personnel struggles—including those on the bench, according to Dan Rosen of NHL.com. Tambellini was behind the hiring of Krueger, but new GM Craig MacTavish's job is not to cater to the old regime.
The news comes just days after Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports reported that former player Mark Messier, and not Krueger, was management's first choice for head coach. According to this "30 Thoughts" piece, Messier was actually offered the job:
Last year, the Edmonton Oilers considered Messier, Brent Sutter, Todd Nelson and Ralph Krueger (who got the job) to replace head coach Tom Renney. There may have been more, but that's who I can pin down. At some point, Messier was offered it. Oilers president Kevin Lowe declined a request to comment, so exact details are sketchy. But Messier considered it, took a little bit of time and said "no" for family reasons.
If that was indeed the case, it wasn't a surprise that management decided to bite the bullet and give Krueger, who had two years of experience with the franchise before being hired, a chance to make Edmonton look good in a season when no one really knew what to expect prior to the lockout.
As noted by Jack Michaels, the Oilers' play-by-play announcer, lockout-shortened seasons have not been kind to head coaches over the years in Edmonton:
Lockouts unkind to Oiler head coaches. George Burnett 12-20-3 in 35 games in 1995, Ralph Krueger 19-22-7 in 48 games in 2013.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) June 8, 2013
Opinions that Edmonton's management has dropped the ball on this head coaching saga have been swirling since Krueger's dismissal became official, and broadcaster Stan Fischler was among those who weighed in on what the real gaffe was:
Krueger came to fame as a coach after his playing days in the WHL and Bundesliga came to an end, most notably with the Swiss national team. He joined the team in 2010 as an assistant coach on Renney's staff and was offered the job last summer after the dismissal of his former boss.
At the time of his hiring in 2010, the team was confident that the move would pay off, as noted by Jim Matheson of Postmedia News (h/t National Post). The 53-year-old called the hiring a "dream" when he was offered the job last June.
Now that Krueger and Edmonton are no longer synonymous, which move was the bigger mistake?
The Oilers finished third in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference during the 2012-13 campaign, totaling 45 points. They were well behind pace-setters Minnesota and Vancouver in the division and ended up finishing 12th in the West as the playoffs commenced.
That 2005-06 team was coached by MacTavish, who is now going to captain the search for a new head coach in the coming weeks. Edmonton fans will hope that this one can have a longer tenure than the men dismissed before him.