EDMONTON - In an impromptu media conference held at Oilers HQ Saturday afternoon, General Manager Craig MacTavish announced that Ralph Krueger had been relieved of his duties as head coach.
A replacement has not yet been named, but MacTavish did note that the Oilers are "very close" to coming to an agreement with one of the candidates.
"I want to acknowledge the tremendous commitment that Ralph had to our players, to our staff and organization through the three years that he's been with us," MacTavish said. "I fully understand the commitment necessary and Ralph, unquestionably, was 100 percent committed to the Oilers.
"I wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward in his very impressive career."
Krueger coached the Oilers to a 19-22-7 record in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Prior to becoming the 11th head coach in club history last summer, he served as an associate under Tom Renney from 2010 to 2012.
In regards to the future of assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, MacTavish said that he hopes they will be retained, but that the decision is the new head coach's to make.
MacTavish and Krueger met several times after the season ended, but those discussions eventually revealed a difference in philosophy. As they agreed, the plan was to add another coach (either an assistant or associate) to help support Krueger, Buchberger and Smith.
"During the process of me conducting those interviews, I recognized that I was trying to add a coach that was more closely aligned to the way that I wanted to run the team and less about supporting Ralph in the head coaching role," MacTavish said.
"It was at that point that I contemplated making the change if, in my opinion, I found the ideal fit for our hockey club.
"That's how we got to this point."
When he was appointed GM back on Apr. 14, MacTavish said the Oilers would evaluate the work of the coaching staff, but that the club needed to provide them with "better tools to compete" moving forward.
At the time, it seemed as though Krueger's future in Edmonton was safe.
"The circumstances changed," MacTavish said. "It wasn't an easy decision, it wasn't an obvious decision, but in my mind, at the time and faced with this set of circumstances, it was the right decision and I stand by it.
"This decision is for the betterment of our hockey club. We'll see if this is the right decision over time, but I stand by it. I have to do what's right for the team."
According to MacTavish, the new head coach will be given all the "latitude" to help turn the Oilers back into a contender.
"There will be many more decisions to be made throughout the summer," he said, "but on Sept. 15, I will hand over the keys over the coaching staff and over to the players to perform on the ice."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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