The Oilers and Dallas Eakins finished tinkering with their coaching staff today with the promotion of Rocky Thompson from his role as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Barons to his new role as an assistant in Edmonton. This follows the team's earlier decision to relocate Kelly Buchberger to a role in player personnel, hiring Craig Ramsay to fill his spot; and Steve Smith's decision to take a job with the Hurricanes instead of transitioning into a different role with the Oilers.
For those keeping score at home the Oilers coaching staff will look like this:
Dallas Eakins - Head Coach
Keith Acton - Associate Coach
Craig Ramsay - Assistant Coach
Rocky Thompson - Assistant Coach
And no, I do not know what the difference between an associate and an assistant coach is.
Although never playing a game for the Oilers in the NHL, Thompson does have a history with the organization playing for the Oilers' AHL affiliate, then named the Roadrunners, in Toronto in 2003/04 and in Edmonton during the lockout in 2004/05. After retiring after the 2006/07 season Thompson joined the Oil Kings as an assistant in 2007, and stayed there until Steve Pleau was fired after the Oil Kings disappointing 2009/10 campaign. Thompson didn't miss a beat though and was back behind the bench that fall in Oklahoma City where he stayed until today.
Since hiring Ramsay, Eakins has talked about wanting just three guys behind the bench this season not four like last season. This means Thompson will be the "eye in the sky" so to speak, a role he is familiar with from Oklahoma City where he'd spend the first two periods of every game in the press box watching the game. It's a different role for the Oilers and perhaps a different vantage point will help Eakins make adjustments in game, it certainly couldn't hurt.
** Update **
Friend of the Copper and Blue, Neal Livingston, has a great write-up on Rocky Thompson on his site, Tend the Farm. The excerpt below is from that story, but I recommend clicking through to read the full post. It certainly seems that the player I remember bears little resemblance to the coach his is today.
Rocky likes the chess match of the game, and was thus a great fit for watching games from the rafters. He would feverishly mark, chop, cut, and patch game footage to use for a later date. Even when the NHL lockout was a thing he was honing the positional strategy of players like Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and Schultz. They should shake his hand. He would take the good, the bad, and the entirely awful, and use those things as teachable snippets of time. The learning curve was lessened as a result, and players actually got better.