EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers will likely introduce Ralph Krueger as their new head coach early this week.
With the entry draft over, a news conference to announce Krueger as the Oilers new bench boss should happen before July 1 when the free-agent marketplace opens for business.
The 52-year-old Krueger knows the Oilers players better than any other coach out there after the team opted not to renew Tom Renney’s contract last month. He was head coach of the Swiss national team for more than a decade, including coaching the team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Krueger, who grew up in Manitoba, would not have been on an NHL coaching roster without Renney hiring him as his associate coach.
As he has often said, Krueger left the Swiss national team and planned on kicking back for a year to recharge his batteries when Renney called him. They had known each other from competing in various international tournaments.
However, Krueger wasn’t Renney’s first choice. He wanted to hire longtime friend Don Hay, head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants, but Hay didn’t want to leave the WHL club. Krueger was a very good second pick.
At his final meet-the-media gathering at Rexall Place, Renney said Krueger “absolutely” could be an NHL head coach.
Other potential candidates for the Oilers head coaching opening included former Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter, who rei terated on Friday that he had not been contacted by the Oilers. This seems strange, considering Sutter’s availability and his experience coaching against the Oilers for three seasons in the Battle of Alberta.
Sutter also coached Team Canada at the world hockey championship in Finland and Sweden last month, with Kevin Lowe, Oilers president of hockey operations, serving as the team’s general manager.
And you can’t forget Jon Cooper, head coach of the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, a rising star after his team won the Calder Cup this spring.
Cooper did speak to either Oilers GM Steve Tambellini or Lowe, but whether he had an in-person interview is not certain.
A lawyer by trade, Cooper grew up in Prince George, B.C., and reportedly is also on the short list in Washington for the head coaching job after Dale Hunter quit following his team’s elimination from the playoffs.