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Borgford reunites with Nelson to help develop Oilers prospects

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

Good friends become co-workers once again.

Tony Borgford will join Todd Nelson in Oklahoma City as an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers affiliate. The Oilers announced the hiring of Borgford as Assistant Coach and Manager of Hockey Operations for the Barons in the American Hockey League and he joins Nelson, with whom he already has a strong relationship with.

Borgford, 39, served as Video Coordinator for the Atlanta Thrashers for eight seasons, before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2010. He has filled the role of Video Coordinator/Coach for the Jets the past three seasons.

Photo by Getty Images.

Borgford and Nelson were in Atlanta’s organization together at the same time for multiple years. Nelson was the Assistant Coach of the Chicago Wolves from 2006-2007 before joining the Thrashers under the same title from 2008-2010. Now after some time apart, Borgford rejoins with Nelson to fill the vacated role previously held by Rocky Thompson, who was promoted to the Oilers.

“We had a lot of time to get to know each other,” Borgford said. “We had a lot in common, we had a lot of the same hockey philosophies and we hit it off. We’ve kept in contact ever since over the last four years that he’s been down here and obviously I’ve been up in Winnipeg. We’ve stayed in close contact over the years. He’s a good friend but I’m really looking forward to learning from him as a head coach. I hear nothing but fantastic things about him from players and staff alike. I’m really excited about the opportunity.”

Nelson is ecstatic that the Oilers were able to fill Thompson’s spot with a qualified coach who knows the responsibilities of the position like the back of his hand.

“Him and I worked together in Atlanta and we have a really strong relationship,” Nelson said. “I wanted someone to be able to come in and run the video portion of what Rocky did and he fits the bill. He does this basically in his sleep. He has a very good, educated eye. He’s going to radio down and help us out with tactics. He wanted to get into coaching at the pro level and this is a good opportunity for him. To have a guy that’s worked in the NHL is going to be a tremendous help. I wanted someone who was current with systems and Tony provides that.”

Borgford’s past responsibilities included putting together video clips for the coaching staffs and preparing presentations for meetings. He was also heavily involved in pre-scouting opponents, which is something he will continue to do in his new role with the Barons. Borgford will also coach on the ice at practice and the bench for portions of the game. He will radio down adjustments and observations from the press box for the majority of the time on game nights, much like Thompson used to do.

Where Borgford’s responsibilities differ are with his role in hockey operations. Borgford will handle administrative duties such as player immigration, travel and per diems. Those responsibilities were previously handled by Bill Scott, who served as the Barons General Manager before being promoted to the role of Assistant General Manager of the Oilers.

But it is Borgford's responsibilities teaching the players and helping them grow as individuals that will be most important to the Oilers organization. Borgford has good hockey knowledge and the ability to show the players what they need to improve on, utilizing video to get the point across.

“I think nowadays it’s been engrained in them from such a young age,” Borgford said. “They need to see video. I think that’s something they are all familiar with. They’re used to that and they’re very visual kids today. They like to see themselves. They don’t really associate as well when you just put it up as Xs and Os on the board. They need to see that stuff and see where they made a mistake to be able correct it. This generation nowadays is very visual and the video is a huge part of being able to teach and develop.”

Borgford added, “Now I will be transitioning into an assistant coaching role where I will have to give a lot more instruction and help develop the players for Edmonton. I’m actually looking forward to that aspect of the job. I think that’s going to be a lot of fun to help develop these guys and see what they become a couple of years down the road and see what happens. I am looking forward to the development aspect of this job.”

This role is very important to the development of Oilers prospects, which is why the Edmonton brass all came together for his hiring.

“It’s vital,” Nelson said of Borgford’s position. “It’s vital to our player development, it’s vital to the Oilers organization and this was a hire that was through the organization that we all talked about right from Craig MacTavish to Scott Howson to myself and Bill Scott. We feel that we have the right guy in place and it’s so important to have a person with his knowledge of the game but also with the kind of character and person that he is. I think that’s huge because Gerry (Fleming), Rocky and myself had excellent chemistry as a group and that was very important to me and Tony is a guy that can fit that bill. I feel very happy about the hire and I know Tony is very excited to come down and get started.”

With the Oilers having a more promising prospect pool than in recent memory, Borgford is certain to play a significant role in their development starting in just a couple of months.

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