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Friedman: Canucks interested in Ralph Krueger for vacant Head Coaching job

The Canucks search for a new head coach just got a bit more interesting.

It’s interesting to hear Ralph Kruger’s name get mentioned as the former Oilers coach has been serving as the director and the chairman of the Primer League Soccer team Southhampton F.C.

But despite Krueger’s newfound profession, it’s hard to ignore the work he’s done in his almost 20 years of hockey coaching.

For example, Krueger’s one year of NHL coaching experience was with the Oilers during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. The Oilers finished 10 pts away from a playoff spot, and while that’s no accomplishment, it was a step in the right direction for an Oilers team that finished with the second-worst record in the entire league the year prior. Despite the progression Krueger and the Oilers displayed, Edmonton decided to dismiss Kruger, which made headlines due to the dismissal taking place over Skype.

Krueger’s latest success story was this past fall at the World Cup of Hockey. Krueger was the mastermind behind Team Europe finishing second in the tournament. Many analysts pegged Team Europe finishing near the bottom of the standings, yet Europe played spoiler throughout the tournament, which many credit Krueger for.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone called him,” Team Europe forward Frans Nielsen told USA today back in September. “I think they should. He showed how smart he is. He sees what kind of players and potential he has on his team and he builds his system around that. I’m sure he would play a little differently if he was coaching Canada.”

Barring any major transactions this offseason, the Canucks likely project to finish no higher or lower than they did this season. Despite this, Canucks management continues to push for instant results, rather than a patient rebuilding approach. With that in mind, if the Canucks are looking for someone that can elevate an underdog team;

Krueger could be that guy.

  • The_Blueline

    In his 12 year tenure with the Swiss team, he brought them back to respectivity. As with Team Europe last year he seemed to be able to compete with stronger teams regularly. Unforgotton the upset of Canada at the 2006 Olympics.

    He had the reputation of being a great motivator, thou rather playing a controlled system. But that might have been more a consequence of teaching underdogs than personal preference.

    Generally, I think he is a great hockey/sports mind l. And I would be thrilled if he joins the Canucks in whatever capacity.

  • LTFan

    Never mind all the speculation, Travis Green should be the next Coach of the Vancouver Canucks. He knows most of the players who are on the team and in the minors. Anyone else would not make sense.

    • Bud Poile

      Benning needs an infusion of a peer’s experience/maturity onto his immediate staff.
      Linden has not that experience,Desjardins was not and neither is Green.
      Krueger would assist Benning,protect Linden in his figurehead capacity and tutor Green as an associate.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I’m sure you didn’t ask for the perspective of an Oilers fan right now, but I thought I’d offer it up now that I’ve got a bit of time between Games 3-4.
    Here’s the thing about Ralph Krueger: He’s a geek. He’s a nice guy, with good hockey knowledge, and world-class sports administration skills (how many hockey guys do you know could run a soccer club in Europe?). More than anything, however, he’s a big-time motivational speaker who plays the “folksy” card to the 12th degree. That means all kinds of speeches and motivational techniques and exercises to work the players’ minds and spirits. Any dressing room with Krueger in it is going to have a large injection of “golly, gee-whiz.”
    Think Tom Renney, only with less Hockey-Canada-Geek and more Hockey-in-Europe-Geek on his resume.
    The problem with guys like Krueger and Renney (and Dave King, another example of a coach/administrator with a decent international resume with so-so NHL results) is that they say and do all of the right things in the minds of NHL GMs but few of the right things in the minds of a lot of NHL players.
    Yes, the Oilers were (slightly) less of a mess after a lockout-shortened season with Krueger, but the word around town was that his folksy, nice-guy routine didn’t work as well as it probably could or should have in the Oilers dressing room. If he’d have lasted into 2013-14, there’s little indication that it would have been any less of a disaster.
    That likely wasn’t Krueger’s fault. The Oilers “braintrust” at the time couldn’t be braintrusted to find any actual NHL players outside the first round of the draft. There wasn’t much Krueger could spin his magic with.
    But that’s my point.
    I think Krueger will only work in situations where you’ve got the right mix of players who will respond to his Tony-Robbins-style of coaching. I don’t know what that mix is, but the Canucks need to make sure that it wasn’t what the Oilers were mixing back then.
    The Oilers of 2012-13 were a noxious blend of a few highly-skilled first-rounders, burned-out pseudo-legend Ryan Smyth, some worn-out malcontents named Whitney and Belanger and a whole bunch of guys named Peckham and Petrell and Potter. They were terrible and, by all outward appearances, completely unmoved by moving speeches. They would have easily led the league in “Eye Rolls Behind the Coach’s Back” that year.
    I’ve always given the Oilers credit for recognizing that and moving Krueger out, though I obviously can’t defending firing him via Skype … or replacing him with the darling of the Toronto media, Dallas Eakins (who quickly drew eye-rolls himself). But I guess that’s how we ended up with McDavid… so live and learn.
    Coaches like Krueger always look good, from afar, with a limited sample size, but don’t always turn out that good in practice. Ignore the four-week World Cup of Hockey “success story.” Your team needs to determine how he’ll do with “rebuild-level” players, not all-stars hand-picked for an international best-on-best tournament.
    In Edmonton, he did poorly. Fair warning.

    • You can call your former coach names all you want, but you say little about his skill and understanding of hockey. His resume speaks for itself.

      Oilers management is to blame for the decade of failure in Edmonton. Bad decision making. After MacT fired Krueger, he rushed in to hire Eakins without due diligence. MacT heard Van was interviewing Eakins and hired him on the spot. Eakins turned out to be the wrong fit. The right fit is and was a veteran voice to guide a young inexperienced team. Also, I think any coach would have struggled in Edmonton with their management team. Given all that, I thought Krueger did a good a job in Edmonton.

    • You can call your former coach names all you want, but you say little about his skill and understanding of hockey. His resume speaks for itself.

      Oilers management is to blame for the decade of failure in Edmonton. Bad decision making. After MacT fired Krueger, he rushed in to hire Eakins without due diligence. MacT heard Van was interviewing Eakins and hired him on the spot. Eakins turned out to be the wrong fit. The right fit is and was a veteran voice to guide a young inexperienced team. Also, I think any coach would have struggled in Edmonton with their management team. Given all that, I thought Krueger did a good job in Edmonton.

      • Spaceman Spiff

        Yes, I believe I noted all of the things you’ve noted. Krueger is/was a skilled guy who understands hockey. Oilers management was bad. They did rush to run out and hire Eakins, who was the Flavour-of-the-Month in mid-2013 (I didn’t know the Canucks had been interviewing Eakins, but consider yourself lucky they didn’t get him). And yes, Krueger’s resume does speak for itself.

        All I’m saying is beware of what it doesn’t speak of. For 48 games in 2013, it speaks of a guy with superior motivational skills and a relaxed, folksy manner who could motivate a truly dysfunctional group of talented young-guys, fair-to-middling veterans and guys who shouldn’t have had NHL jobs.

        That last part is my warning to the …uh… Canucks Army. If your GM is going to hire Ralph Krueger as the team’s coach, you need to hope that the team he’s coaching is better than the one that he coached in 2012-13. That team had three No. 1 overall picks, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Justin Schultz on it. Will the Canucks be better than that this fall?

        • Neil B

          As you say, the tape will tell the tale. The Oil in 2012-13 were on a 77-point pace over 82 games; my estimate, subject to major roster changes, is that the Canucks land somewhere in the 75-point range, so it is within their reach to out-perform your Oilers, with a bit of puck luck. Obviously they won’t have as good a top-end for talent, but they may be a more cohesive unit, and out-perform their talent level. We’ve kinda got a history for doing that, actually.

          • Spaceman Spiff

            And that’s fair enough. Again – I’m not sure what the “right” mix is for Krueger, but I do know that the mix that he had in Edmonton for 48 games wasn’t the right one (One side note: to this day, there’s never been a coach who’s been able to coax the kind of season out of Nail Yakupov that he had in his rookie year under Krueger). Linden and Co., may very well provide that for Krueger (or whomever they hire) over the summer. I’m sure they’ll do a better job than MacT did, that’s for sure.

    • Jabs

      I thought the biggest problem with Kreuger in Edmonton was that he ruined their perfect run of first overall draft picks and they ended up having to draft Nurse.

    • apr

      You make good points, and I think that your warnings and assessments are fair. I understand that the Tim Robbins motivational component can be grating, especially to veterans. I can see how this grate and old boy group in Edmonton (led by Lowe); but I am more concerned on how he developed the youth on the ice. I would like a coach who can successfully transition the Sedins to the Horvats, as well as how Crawford transitioned the Naslunds to the Sedins, the Ohlunds to the Bieksas, etc.. The Canucks should not be forced to hire Green because “he deserves a chance”, nor Kruegar or Nelson because “they deserve another chance”. They need a coach who can find that elusive balance of being competitive/committed to playing youth who are committed/tough love to youth who still need to learn. I don’t know who that is, but I saw Crawford roll out the Sedins time and time again, no matter what behind the Morrison line, whilst many in this city were writing them off and calling them sisters.

      That said, I am a huge advocate of bringing in another strong voice as part of the management team, and I think Kruegar would do well in that role. I’m a firm believer that Aquilini and Trevor Linden had that earmarked for Pat Quinn from the onset before his unfortunate and early passing.

    • Roy

      What do you think the word “folksy” means? Also Team Europe had a lot of good players but it also included none other than Sbisa, one of our (LOL) rebuilding keystones.

    • Bud Poile

      Discussions already underway.
      He has three years of NHL associate coaching and scouting with Carolina experiences,a Euoropean championship,was an advisor toBabcok/Team Canada during Sochi and many years of pro coaching in Germany,Austria and Switzerland under his belt.
      Benning needs an experienced hand to help him with his massive task.
      He doesn’t need more rookie head coaches or presidents.
      If the hierarchy can manage to convince Green to assist Krueger it’s a win-win scenario.

  • wojohowitz

    Krueger on Southampton;

    “They don’t need sudden changes of direction right now. My strengths are sport-specific on the hockey team-building side, but other strengths are on the leadership side. We need to take the whole leadership side to a different level.”

  • Fred-65

    The first question to be asked is WHY would a Director and CEO of an English Premiership team want to move on to a riskier position By comparison the NHL is a small Provincial league. English Premier League is likely bigger than the NFL in most countries around the world