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FEATURE: Untapped potential

Oilers Assistant Coach Manny Viveiros contains 'untapped potential' in his new role with the Oilers

by Cait MacPhail /

EDMONTON, AB - Born and raised in St. Albert, AB, originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round in 1984 and now, 34 years later, one of the club's assistant coaches.

If you're a fan of full-circle stories, Manny Viveiros' journey through the ranks of the hockey world that has seen him land back within the Oilers organization is one to take note of.

Despite never suiting up for the Oilers in the NHL, Viveiros feels fortunate his path has guided him back to his hometown, a place his heart has never really left.

"It really is a homecoming, to say the least," said the Alberta native.

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Viveiros and his family have spent large chunks of time overseas spanning 20 years as his playing and coaching career saw him make stops in Germany, Austria and for a short time, Italy. But they always kept an eye on home.

"When my family and I have been abroad, we always tuned in to watch the Oilers as much as possible. We've always kept our place in St. Albert and we're really looking forward to this opportunity."

The Edmonton Oilers announced Friday that they would be adding three assistant coaches to work with Head Coach Todd McLellan, hiring Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Viveiros.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli commented on the announcement, saying that the unique and varying skill-sets of each individual helped guide the decision to hire the trio.

"We targeted these three individuals for their specific talents, experience and compatible personalities. We went at this methodically and we were happy to get these three guys," said Chiarelli. 

For Viveiros, specifically, the theme of untapped NHL potential drew the eyes of the Oilers organization when vetting assistant coach candidates to round out their staff. While Gulutzan and Yawney have each spent a number of years behind an NHL bench, Viveiros will be getting his first look.

"He's an up-and-coming coach. He's a mature individual… but an up-and-coming coach. He has a talent level that hasn't been tapped yet," said Todd McLellan, referring to Viveiros' successes at varying levels of hockey.

The Oilers felt more than comfortable offering him his first opportunity to bring his skills to the NHL.

The Alberta native brings 11 years of experience with him. Most recently with the Swift Current Broncos, as he guided the group to a 2018 WHL Championship and subsequent trip to the Memorial Cup. The Broncos battled their way to a 48-17-7 regular-season record, finishing second in the Eastern Conference and boasted a League-best 29.4 power play percentage.

On the technical side, it was the historic special teams prowess, specifically the power play, of teams under Viveiros' guidance that the Oilers took note of. It's an area the club was undoubtedly looking to improve after their power play and penalty kill numbers saw a significant drop-off in 2017-18, with a power play ranking last in the League and a penalty kill that finished 26th.

"He's got a very strong power play sense and results with his European teams as well as his junior teams. We'll obviously lean in that direction with his skill-set," said McLellan.

While acknowledging that each new hire had areas of strength the Oilers hope to tap into, McLellan made a point of noting that addressing areas of need will be a group effort by the new contingent.

"From a coaching perspective, we will approach the special teams as a group. It won't be single ownership. Trent Yawney will not singularly own the penalty kill. Emanuel Viveiros and Glen Gulutzan won't singularly own the power play," said McLellan.

"We approach it as a group, we always have. The success or the failure of it lies at all of our feet."

Viveiros knows he'll be part of the brain trust when it comes to power play work, but is well aware that some ingratiating into an NHL setting will be involved to start.

McLellan mentioned that the coaching staff will opt for a three-man bench with himself, Gulutzan and Yawney manning things at ice level with Viveiros viewing from the press box and joining the bench for the third period to start the season. McLellan added the possibility of a four-man bench remains an option down the road.

Viveiros sees it as an ideal way to get his feet wet.

"I'm a rookie. It's an opportunity to get acclimatized to the NHL. I'm going to rely heavily on the other coaches, absorb everything and ask a million questions," said Viveiros.

Despite the news of Viveiros' addition to the Oilers coming on the heels of the Swift Current Broncos failing to move on to the Memorial Cup semifinals, Viveiros could not be prouder of the group that got there.

"The wear and tear the kids had with such a long journey in the WHL playoffs, it's amazing how strong and resilient they were."

Of particular interest to Oilers fans, Viveiros didn't fail to acknowledge the stellar play of goaltending prospect Stuart Skinner. The 2017 Oilers draft pick was traded to the Broncos from the Lethbridge Hurricanes mid-season and was instrumental in their journey to the WHL Championship.

"He was good in net, he was a good leader and he fit in really well. He has a great personality and is a lot of fun. He enjoys the game and he was outstanding for our group," said Viveiros.

The three new hires offer the Oilers what they feel is a wide breadth of experience, varying skill-sets and unique intangibles. Viveiros may be the "rookie" of the bunch, but he knows both the challenge and opportunity that lies ahead with helping guide the group.

"I truly believe that last year was a bump in the road, so to speak, and a lot of things went wrong for that team. But what really sold me on coming to Edmonton, is that this team truly is close. I believe that." 

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