EDMONTON, Alberta – The Edmonton Oilers have promoted assistant Ralph Krueger to head coach.
Krueger spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Tom Renney, whose contract was not renewed after the Oilers finished 29th in the NHL last season at 32-40-10.
"It's been a natural, healthy 23 years of growth as a coach and I'm ready for this situation," Krueger said Wednesday at a press conference to announce his hiring.
The Oilers gave a three-year contract to the 52-year-old Krueger, who played and coached in Europe and was coach of the Swiss national team from 1997-2010. He coached the Swiss team in 12 world championships and three Olympics.
Edmonton is hoping to turn around its fortunes after having the top draft pick the last three years. The Oilers selected speedy Russian forward Nail Yakupov with the top pick in last week's draft after picking forwards Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the previous two years.
"We are not going to be focusing on winning, winning, winning to the point that it suffocates us and we squeeze our sticks," Krueger said.
"We have skill in our room that's so exciting and I need to find ways that their instincts can play freely. We want to be known as a hard-working team on and off the ice, a very disciplined team. And then, naturally, the winning will come as a byproduct of that."
General manager Steve Tambellini said he was impressed by Krueger's work on the Oilers' power play last season — taking it from 27th to third in the league — and Krueger's transformation of the Swiss hockey program. Under Krueger, the Swiss rose from 15th to seventh in the world rankings and posted a 2-0 win over Team Canada at the 2006 Turin Games.
"For hockey that was an incredible moment, but I know why that happened," said Tambellini. "When you speak to the people that work with Ralph, when you speak to the players who have played with him, they talk about leadership, they talk about clarity, they talk about motivation."