Paul Coffey likes to help out. Last week, he was one of the celebrities at a charity bubble hockey tournament that raised $290,000 for Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto. It was a cause he believed in and, even though the ask came at the last minute, he was more than happy to show up and help.
The Hall of Fame defenseman was also in the news recently when the Edmonton Oilers announced that the four-time Stanley Cup winner would be helping out the troubled franchise as a skills consultant. That might have been a bigger ask than the charity work, but Coffey is excited about the opportunity.
“It’s been a tough year for the Oil,” he said. “But they’ll get it back. They’ve got a great 1-2 punch down the middle with Connor (McDavid) and Leon (Draisaitl), so that’s a great starting point. We’ll build around that. We’re going to be OK.”
Coffey, who lives in Toronto, is coaching bantam hockey for the vaunted Toronto Marlboros program and he still has a Kia car dealership outside of town. But he’ll be visiting Edmonton and the Oilers’ AHL squad in Bakersfield to give his input and, with the Condors, help young defensive prospects such as Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Ryan Mantha.
“They’ve hooked me up with iPads,” Coffey said. “I can see shift-by-shift all the kids – power play, penalty kill, regular shifts – I get next day action from the Oilers and Bakersfield, so it’s been really good.”
As one of the best-skating defensemen of all-time, Coffey is a pretty good mentor when it comes to bringing skill from the back end and he’s happy to see the current NHL product that relies so much on mobile defenders for team success.
“I love the speed,” Coffey said. “I love when the game is played the way it is most nights now. It’s enjoyable to watch and I’m happy to be back and a part of it.”
The gold standard for defense corps right now is Nashville, where the Predators consistently trot out high-level puckmovers to aid their attack. Edmonton may not have a P.K. Subban or Roman Josi at its disposal, but the style philosophy is sound.
“Your game starts on the back end,” Coffey said. “You’ve got to have solid goaltending and defensemen that can head-man the puck and move it up. The teams that are most successful have those guys. The Oilers have a good defensive corps, maybe a little gun-shy, but they’re going to get better and they’ll be a team to be reckoned with.”
Edmonton’s blueline hasn’t been bad when it comes to controlled zone exits this season and the Oilers are actually one of the better teams in the NHL when it comes to shots against. But goaltending and offense have crippled the team’s playoff hopes and it’s been a long year for Edmonton fans that thought the franchise would be building off last year’s playoff run, not wading around in the draft lottery waters again.
Coffey now reunites with several other retired Oilers from the halcyon days of the 1980s, with Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish all holding permanent positions with the franchise. Some folks are wary of that “old boys club,” but Coffey was up-front about the fact this team is still run by GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd MacLellan.
“As former players you can only do so much,” he said. “Anything we can do to add, we’re there to help; we’re not there to step on anyone’s toes. But at some point, some old-school mentality is good, too.”