Last summer Edmonton Oilers’ General Manager Steve Tambellini needed to make a choice regarding who would be the next head coach of his hockey club.
Instead of going with possibly the best head coach available to him at the time, he decided to go with familiarity.
So, Pat Quinn became the Oilers’ head coach, and Tom Renney was named the associate coach.
While Quinn was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Tambellini was Vancouver’s director of public and media relations. The two reunited again at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Quinn was Canada’s Olympic Gold medal winning head coach, while Tambellini was Canada’s director of player personnel.
Tom Renney, was Quinn’s successor as the Canucks’ head coach in 1996, while Tambellini was the team’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations over that time.
When Tambellini made his choice last summer, I praised him. Quinn and Renney were top candidates, but I wondered in the back of my mind if they were the best candidates.
My choice was Peter Laviolette, the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, during their 2006 Stanley Cup run. He was available and doing some off and on commentary for TSN. I liked how he was able to get the most out of his younger players in Carolina, such as Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Andrew Ladd, who were instrumental for the Canes that spring.
Laviolette was fired on December 8, 2008, despite recording a terrific record of 167-122-34 as Carolina’s bench boss from 2003-08. After a slow start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers fired head coach John Stevens on December 4 and replaced him with Laviolette.
Laviolette has taken the Flyers, not just to the playoffs, but the Stanley Cup Finals as well. Not bad for a man who didn’t have a job in the NHL when the regular season began.
Laviolette was there for the taking. Tambellini decided to go in a different direction.