Pat Quinn receives much-deserved second chance to coach in the NHL
DETROIT -- The knock on Pat Quinn when he was fired in Toronto three years ago was that he could no longer coach young players.
That was a load of horse manure then, just as it is today.
"Yeah, I had heard that and I disagreed with it," Bob Nicholson told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
The Hockey Canada president helped revive Quinn's coaching career by giving him the reigns to the Canadian under-18 team in April 2008, a team that won gold in Russia at the world under-18 championship. Eight months later, Quinn was back behind the bench for Canada at the world junior championship (under-20) on home soil in Ottawa. The result? Gold.
Can't coach kids? Puh-lease.
"We took him to the world under-18 because we really wanted leadership with that group," said Nicholson. "Even just last month, I was in Bern [Switzerland] talking with Russian people, including Vladislav Tretiak, and they couldn't believe how that under-18 team won in Russia.
"And then you look at how Pat kept the group together in Ottawa. There was a lot of intense pressure on those players and I thought he led them through the right way through a very high-profile situation in our country."
Credit Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini for giving Quinn another chance, especially on a team with so many young players. When Quinn arrived in Toronto in 1998, there were some young faces on the Maple Leafs' blue line, namely Tomas Kaberle and Danny Markov. That seemed to work out OK.
"He's a leader and he's fair with players," said Nicholson. "Those are a couple of things that the Oilers are looking for with their young players, and he's surrounded by excellent coaches."
Former Rangers coach Tom Renney and former AHL Oilers coach Kelly Buchberger will be at Quinn's side. Renney brought so much stability and structure to the Rangers and he'll do the same in Edmonton. He has a great hockey mind and that will be a nice blend with Quinn's emotional approach.
Interesting that after a long line of Oilers family hirings, Tambellini was allowed to go outside the box and bring in non-Oiler people. Locally, that had become a heavy criticism of team president Kevin Lowe. What Tambellini did, however, was hire within his comfort zone. He was part of the management group for Canada's Olympic teams in 2002 and 2006, when Quinn was coach, and the two men also worked together in Vancouver. Ditto for Renney and Tambellini with the Canucks. These are men Tambellini knows and trusts. Not a bad thing when it's your first coaching hires as Oilers GM.
The challenge for Quinn in Edmonton will be to bring together a dressing room that, from what I was told, was somewhat split this season between the young players and the veterans. Quinn needs to get everybody on the same page and pull them in the same direction.
The Quinn hiring, meanwhile, bucks a recent trend of younger coaches making the grade. From Corey Clouston in Ottawa to Todd McLellan in San Jose to Peter DeBoer in Florida to Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh, the new guys were mostly getting the call. But just like the young Los Angeles Kings adding a veteran coach in Terry Murray last summer, the Oilers also opted for experience.
Perhaps that's the kind of hiring that will allow for the return of other veteran coaches like Marc Crawford, Peter Laviolette and Bob Hartley.