Perhaps the NHL's worst kept coaching secret this side of Barry Melrose, the Oilers formally introduced former captain Kelly Buchberger as an assistant coach with the team earlier today. Having previously worked as the team's development coach and as both an assistant and head coach in the American Hockey League, this is Buchberger's first NHL coaching job.
"Once an Oiler, always an Oiler," Buchberger told a media conference call this morning. "Ever since the first time I set foot in Oiler-land in 1985 I've fallen in love with the Oilers. The first guy I ever met was Craig MacTavish and we've kept that friendship for many years."
In the summer of 2007 when Craig Simpson left the Oilers to join Hockey Night in Canada, Craig MacTavish devised a one year plan and put it into action. Rob Daum would be hired after being let go by the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League but would be told straight up that the job was only for 1 year. Buchberger would be assigned to coach the Springfield Falcons in the American Hockey League with Jeff Truitt, formerly of the Kelowna Rockets, as one of his assistants. At the end of the season, Buchberger would get promoted to the NHL and Truitt would get promoted to head coach in Springfield.
"Going into the year, we had an opening in the coaching staff and I felt at that time that Kelly would be benefited by running his own team at the American League level," says Craig MacTavish. "I was very clear with Rob that it was a position that we were going to fill the following year with Kelly and that it was a 1 year position."
"It made sense at that time and it makes sense today. It's not to discount the job that Rob did, either. He did a very good job for us but we had a plan in mind and this is just the fruition of the plan. Everybody was benefited from it. Rob got the experience of working with an NHL team, Kelly got the experience and Jeff Truitt got the experience down in the American League."
MacTavish felt it important to lay out his plan as concisely as possible today to avoid any speculation that Daum was let go due in any way to inferior work. "I think there's a perception out there that negatively reflects on the job that Rob did," explained MacTavish. "That shouldn't be the perception at all; I thought Rob did a good job."
Daum has accepted a position as pro scout within the Oilers organization with a focus on video. This is a brand new position that was created by General Manager Kevin Lowe. He'll build a video library on players around the league so that when the team looks at trading for or signing a player, Daum will be able to present information about that player.
As for Buchberger, MacT feels that he's ready for the NHL without question. "He certainly understands all the traits and characteristics that are important to our organization. Leadership, work ethic, toughness, team play; he understands those characteristics and demonstrates those characteristics every day."
"The thing that's as important to me as anything is the culture of our organization. Largely that culture is dictated by the coaching staff. Any time you have a chance to bring in a player that understands so well the culture that we hold in such high esteem it's a great opportunity for us."
For his part, Buchberger couldn't be happier. He gets to remain with the organization that he loves and he takes one step closer to his ultimate goal of being a head coach in the NHL. If there's any pressure on him this year, he certainly isn't letting on. "I think I'm ready, there's no question," Buchberger states emphatically. "Throughout the years you sure learn a lot. Even when I played my last couple years I really took in what the coaches were doing."Dan's Dish:
The final job description for Buchberger is yet to be finalized but Craig MacTavish says he'll likely take over a large part of the opposition pre-scouting duties that were performed last season by Rob Daum. Daum didn't see any time behind the bench last season, watching games from the press box; MacTavish says Buchberger will almost certainly get some bench experience next season. You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 8 to 11 on 630 CHED.