Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish announced Saturday the team has fired coach Ralph Krueger. No replacement was immediately named.
"This was about me making a decision where I thought this was the best decision for the betterment of the club," said MacTavish, who added that the team was close to hiring a replacement for Krueger. "We're very close with a coaching candidate, but at this point we haven't formalized the deal."
In his lone season as Edmonton's coach, Krueger went 19-22-7 and the Oilers finished third in the Northwest Division and 12th in the Western Conference. They have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2006, when they reached the Final.
The new coach will be the Oilers' fourth since the start of the 2009 season (Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Krueger).
Krueger's firing marks one of the first major moves from MacTavish, who took over the club on April 15. On May 30, the team announced the signing of Russian defenseman Anton Belov, who spent the past five years playing for Omsk Avangard of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Krueger took over a team featuring a number of promising young players, including Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov. After opening the 2012-13 season with a 3-2 shootout victory at the Vancouver Canucks, the hopes around Edmonton were that the team might return to the playoffs for the first time since losing the Final to the Carolina Hurricanes.
But the young Oilers could not keep up with expectations, opening March with five straight losses before closing the season 3-9-0 and missing the playoffs by 10 points.
As he addressed the media, MacTavish admitted that the decision to fire Krueger had begun with an effort to add to the now-former coach's staff behind the bench. That admission hints that Edmonton may be very close to announcing Krueger's successor.
"Ralph and I at the end of the year spent the better part of a week discussing that we would add a veteran assistant coach or associate coach," said MacTavish, who coach the Oilers from 2000 to 2009. "During the process of me conducting those interviews, I recognized I was trying to add a coach that was more closely aligned with the way I wanted to run the team. It was at that point when I contemplated making the change if I found the ideal fit for our hockey club.
After serving as an associate coach with the Oilers for two seasons, Krueger was named the team's 11th coach last June. Prior to that, he served as coach and general manager of VEU Feidkirch in Austria's premier league from 1991 to 1998. He also served as a European consultant for the Carolina Hurricanes from 2005-10 and was coach of the Swiss national team from 1997-2010, participating in 12 IIHF World Championship tournaments and two Olympic Games.
(Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)