For NHL coaches, the possibility of getting fired is just another part of the job. Still, Ralph Krueger wasn’t quite prepared for the manner in which the Edmonton Oilers decided to let him go.
The Oilers fired Krueger on Saturday and used the Skype online video service to break the bad news. Needless to say, both the Skype conversation and its subject matter caught the 53-year-old coach by surprise.
“I'd never been fired in 24 years as a hockey coach, and it was the first time I'd had a conversation with [Oilers General Manager] Craig MacTavish by Skype," Krueger told the Ottawa Sun on Sunday. “I definitely did not see it coming.”
Krueger informed reporters that the conversation took place on Thursday while he was vacationing in Davos, Switzerland. MacTavish opted to break the news over Skype simply because it was the most efficient way of reaching Krueger. The coach had planned to return to Edmonton on June 21, but the Oilers general manager couldn’t wait that long.
“Philosophically, I differ somewhat with Ralph, and it doesn’t mean my strategy is right or Ralph’s strategy is right,” MacTavish told reporters. “But I’m the general manager, and it’s my job and my decision to make. That’s why I’ve made that decision.”
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While the use of Skype may have been questionable, the Oilers’ decision to fire Krueger was backed up by a good deal of statistical evidence. In Krueger’s first (and only) season on the bench, the venerable Western Conference team played to a dismal record of 19-22-7, missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
Krueger spent two seasons as an assistant coach in Edmonton before taking over as head coach when Tom Renney was fired in 2012. Previously, Krueger had served as head coach of the Swiss national team from 1997 to 2010, leading the squad to 12 world championship appearances and three Winter Olympics.