EDMONTON — Glen Gulutzan coached against Todd McLellan for seven seasons in the NHL, including the last two with the Calgary Flames.
Now, he’ll coach alongside him on the other side of the Battle of Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers after being named to McLellan’s staff as an assistant coach with Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros on Friday.
“Your sanity hinged on whether you beat the Oilers or not and now it’s gone the other way,” Gulutzan said. “You’ve joined the Oilers, so it’s obviously quite a big flip-flop. It’s a privilege to be in the league and to work for these two organizations is pretty neat.
“I’m really happy to be coming into Edmonton. One, it really works for my family. Two, I’ve known Todd and Trent for a long time and the opportunity to work for them was obviously a draw.
“Then, the most important thing is you always want to go where you feel you can win. Your goal as any coach is to win a championship and you want to go to a place where you think you have that opportunity. That’s a big drawing card.”
Gulutzan and Yawney both have NHL experience as head coaches, while Viveiros just led the Swift Current Broncos to the Memorial Cup tournament as coach and GM. They replace Jay Woodcroft, who has taken the job as head coach with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif., Jim Johnson, who was not retained, and Ian Herbers, who returned to the University of Alberta after three seasons with the Oilers.
“Glen Gulutzan has a variety of experiences at the NHL level as well as the minor league level,” McLellan said. “He understands what it’s like to be a head coach, especially in Canada, western Canada and, in particular, Alberta, so that’s a strong asset for us to have. He brings an upbeat personality and a good hockey mind and I’m going to use him in all situations.”
Gulutzan, 46, led the Flames to the playoffs in 2016-17 and had an overall record of 82-68-24 as head coach. Gulutzan also spent two seasons as head coach with the Dallas Stars from 2011 to 2013. He had a three-year run as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks after that.
“We’ve known each other for 20 or 25 years,” Gulutzan said of McLellan. “I do consider him a friend. You compete against each other. You see it in business all the time — you end up joining the guy you competed against. You trust that guy. You know they’ve been around and you respect what they’ve done. I think that’s the case here.”
In the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy in April, McLellan and Gulutzan travelled to Saskatoon together to visit players in the hospital.
“I would consider us friends,” McLellan said. “If we all hired our friends in this business, we’d have large staffs and it doesn’t work that way, but I would consider him a friend. He’s originally from Saskatchewan, he played junior in Saskatoon after me, so I never played with him, but a lot of my former teammates know him well. They know his character.
“I think once you get into the coaching world, there’s a lot of coaches, but it is a small world. You tend to meet and form relationships with individuals and he is one that I’ve been able to do that with over the years and I feel comfortable with him.”
Yawney, 52, played junior with McLellan in Saskatoon and spent three years as an assistant under McLellan in San Jose from 2008 to 2011, after two years as head coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. Most recently, Yawney spent four seasons as an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks.
“When I look at Trent Yawney, he’s a coach that I’ve worked with in the past, so I understand him well and he understands my personality well,” McLellan said. “He’s done a tremendous job with the penalty-kill units in San Jose, Anaheim and anywhere else he’s coached in the minor-league system.
“Perhaps, most importantly, (is) his ability to develop young defencemen. His track record speaks for itself when you look at Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and some of the defencemen that came through the Chicago organization during his time. Of course, the young defencemen Anaheim possesses at this point. He’s had his fingerprints on their development.”
Viveiros, 52, who was drafted 106th overall by the Oilers in 1985 and was named WHL player of the year in 1985-86, has spent the last two seasons as the head coach and GM of the Broncos. Viveiros also has extensive coaching experience in Europe.
“Emmanuel Viveiros is an up-and-coming coach,” McLellan said. “He’s a mature individual in his 50s, but he’s an up-and-coming coach. He has a talent-level that hasn’t been tapped yet. He’s got a very strong European background, a very offensive defenceman when he played. Very strong power-play sense and results with his European teams as well as his junior teams.”
McLellan said the Oilers will start next season with a three-man bench, while Viveiros will primarily work upstairs for the first two periods of each game.