Signs point to Krueger as Oilers head coach
Ralph Krueger says he's comfortable with the way the Oilers search for a head coach is evolving. (Amber Bracken/QMI Agency/Files)
Ralph Krueger is positioned to become the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
And not just physically.
Krueger is no longer at his home in Davos, Switzerland, but a 20-minute boat trip and two-hour drive to Winnipeg, then a two-hour flight away.
And there's every evidence and indication the job is going to be his, that Krueger will be making the trip here from his family summer home outside of Kenora, Ont., to be hired and press conferenced as the 10th head coach in Oilers NHL history.
Krueger isn't saying it. But there's more than enough in what he does say -- and in what Brent Sutter says -- to believe there is only one candidate in the running for the position.
Put it all together and it's virtually impossible not to come to the conclusion that the Winnipeg native and long-time coach of the Swiss national team, who was Tom Renney's associate coach here the last two years, is going to be given the job when Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish return from the NHL draft next week.
Sutter says he still hasn't had communication in any way, shape or form from the Oilers.
Krueger admits he has.
"I agreed to be part of the process the way it's evolving," were the carefully chosen words from the man who took over coaching the Oilers power play last year and moved it from near worst to near first. The Oilers ended up third at 20.6% after being 27th at 14.5% the year before.
"I'm completely comfortable with the way it's evolving," he said of the Oilers coaching search which appears to involve no actual searching at all.
"I've been comfortable to let it develop naturally.
"I believe I'm in play.
"All I've wanted to do is put my best foot forward and accept the results accordingly. I'm still very motivated by the idea and am expecting thing to evolve toward something concrete."
Asked to what extent he thinks he's in play, as he put it, Krueger said "I believe I'm very much in play."
He said he only has one iron in his fire and it's got the Oilers brand at the end of it.
"I have never danced to two weddings at a time," he said of making himself a candidate for any other job on either side of the ocean in hockey. Krueger has coached for 22 consecutive years and the Oilers associate coaching job was only his third stop.
Krueger said he's excited about the potential opportunity.
"Even forgetting the fact I spent the last two years in Edmonton, if I had my pick of all 30 teams in which to be head coach, the one I'd pick is Edmonton.
"Edmonton would be the one."
Krueger has had the place outside of Kenora for 15 years, bringing his family home for a few weeks each year from Davos, where his children were raised, "to get the feel of what Canada is like in the summer."
This year, he says, there's another feel involved.
"Mike Richards is from here and there is so much excitement about bringing the Stanley Cup back here. A lot of people probably aren't aware that the Kenora Thistles won the Stanley Cup in 1907. It's a great place, right now, to get the feel of what the Stanley Cup means."
There's lots and lots of smoke there and a real fire in Krueger to take on the job if, indeed, it is his.
At Sutter's Sylvan Lake farm and his WHL Red Deer Rebels office, there is no smoke, no communication and no indication of anything that's about to put Sutter in play next week.
"No news," he said Wednesday.
"I haven't talked to the Oilers at all. I haven't had any conversation. They might have no interest in myself," said the former coach of the Calgary Flames who was believed to be the leading candidate when Kevin Lowe, as GM of Team Canada for the world hockey championships, chose Sutter to coach that team at the world hockey championship. Sutter followed Ken Hitchcock and Craig MacTavish as the third straight Team Canada coach to lose in the quarter-final at the tournament.
Sutter said his situation hasn't changed since he left the Flames by mutual agreement and he's proceeding as if it isn't going to change.
"I came back to Red Deer prepared to spend the year working on the Rebels and the farm," he said.