Is there ever a good time to fire someone? Is there a time, day or date that makes the sting of a dismissal -- a firing -- less painful?
In the beginning stages of a brewing sea change in Edmonton, general manager Craig MacTavish took a non-traditional approach to relieving Ralph Krueger. He requested his friendship on the video conferencing service Skype and told Krueger in a new age, pseudo face-to-face conversation that he was no longer needed to coach the Edmonton Oilers.
The textbook way to fire Krueger would have been to call him on the phone to tell him that they needed to speak in person at his office. This would seemingly require Krueger to drive to MacTavish's place of business, sit down for an explanation and then drive home.
Instead, Krueger was likely in his home (he probably didn't have to go to a library to access a computer) and was probably given an explanation for why he no longer had a job. After the conference call was over, he likely closed the video window and was able to do whatever he wanted, whether it was talk to his significant other or call up some friends to come over for a drink.
In terms of the timing, it was the best time to announce a firing that you don't want to talk about. News began to leak late Saturday afternoon, a few hours before an elimination game in a conference final. While the news is significant, it's not going to be the dominating lead story. Instead, it's a noteworthy development. Even better, the name of the successor had already been released, so the first piece of Oilers news on Monday was going to be the press conference of the new head coach, not the aftershock of firing one.
From a speculatory perspective, it wouldn't be surprising if the Oilers had planned to fire Krueger for sometime. The team's search to hire an associate coach was well publicized. MacTavish detailed in his press conference that newly appointed head coach Dallas Eakins was so impressive in his interview that he realized Eakins wasn't an associate coach, but rather an individual ready to lead an NHL team. While that could be the case, it could also be an instance of a team finding a delicate way to begin looking for a new coach and a gentle way to fire the old one.
Regardless of the actual circumstance, the final result is a seminal moment for the NHL's newest GM.
MacTavish stated that he was going to take an aggressive approach to team building and that his actions were going to speak louder than his words. He spoke several words on Edmonton radio last week that didn't support that claim. However, the decision to move away from Krueger is the first legitimate step in his tenure as Edmonton general manager. With Eakins' demonstrative assertions about player fitness and culture change, the new regime's attempt at developing the promise of the Oilers begins.
With it comes the earnest beginning of MacTavish's responsibility for the franchise's future.