The changing of the guard in Alberta this spring is a pivotal moment for the entire Western Conference, for two reasons.
One, the Oil have the talent to battle for playoffs, and now have the coaching to do a little damage.
And two, Calgary has the talent to be an elite team, and if they can live up to their potential under a new coach, they could wreck havoc on the top of the Western Conference standings.
At the same time, both could stay in the relative obscurity they find themselves right now.
Pat Quinn is an accomplished head coach, but he has always been known as a coach that needs assistants. With strong, experienced and intelligent assistant and associate coaches around him, he can excel.
When it's just Pat running a practice, there is a lot of him pointing and shouting, five guys skating around and everyone else standing and watching. He doesn't play a great game of X's and O's and he isn't known for his technical skills. What he is known for is being a fiery and passionate coach that has a love and knowledge of the game and a guy that demands respect from his players and returns that respect.
Quinn plays an open, offensive-minded game. He has shown much interest in working with youth and he is the guy that a team wants behind the bench to get the troops fired up.
Tom Renney, while not the exact opposite necessarily, is a great compliment to this. Renney is a very tactical coach, an experienced and defensively driven leader that prepares his team to play and to win. His lack of ego was a crucial part in getting this deal done, and his poise will be a help next to Quinn's fire.
The young Oilers team that underachieved this year may well become very very good very very quickly, simply due to the fact that young teams project upwards. If a few good players, such as Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner, have break out years to go along with some young players getting past their sophomore slumps, this team can and will improve on its own.
The new coaches might get this beyond 'just improving', and move the Oil to the next level. These moves were great additions by Steve Tambellini.
The Calgary Flames have a different problem. They are a very talented, mature, and prepared team, with great leadership in the room and—for the first time in a long time—good depth coming through the system. The problem is that the best candidate for the job doesn't really want the job.
Darryl Sutter does not want to be the next head coach of the Calgary Flames.
However, Darryl Sutter will be the next head coach of the Calgary Flames.
Understanding that the team respects him more than anyone they could bring in, although they may respect Brent Sutter just as much, and that they actually fear Darryl more than anyone out there, could be enough to get this team in line, in order and marching past the first round.
Sutter himself said that there are three coaches ahead of him on his list. One of them is Brent Sutter. The other two could be anybody, but realistically, they are going to be guys like Jim Playfair—guys that could and should be NHL coaches but are behind someone that is the understood coach. A hard ass, for sure, and someone that will not hesitate to do what is necessary to motivate this team.
Darryl Sutter fits the bill, Playfair fit the bill—but the team felt that the assistant was still the assistant, even though he had a bigger office than before—Keenan was supposed to fit the bill—but had calmed down too much to handle it—and chances are the team will not respond to a young guy built the same way. This pares the list down to two candidates that will not lose the room, and they both hail from Viking, Alberta.
If Brent can get out of his contract with New Jersey, he will be the new head coach. If not, it will be Darryl. Since it isn't looking like Brent will get out of the deal, Darryl will be the head coach for one year, and then hire Brent for the 2010-2011 season.
With any luck, Calgary will respond well to both coaches, and live up to the potential that they seem to show occasionally, but can never sustain.