Craig Simpson spend three seasons as an assistant with the Oilers. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)
Craig Simpson should find a new job.
Like back behind the bench as an assistant coach or head coach.
He just articulates the finer points of the game so well, it’s almost a shame he doesn’t have a more direct influence on what happens on the ice.
As the color commentator and analyst for Hockey Night In Canada, Simpson takes that job to a new level. In my opinion, there isn’t anyone better in the business. It’s always a treat staying up for the late game on CBC so I can hear him and Jim Hughson work a verbal exchange the way Gretzky and Kurri used to work the puck.
Simpson, who was an assistant with the Oilers from 2003-07, is intelligent, insightful, articulate and super smooth on the delivery. It’s an education in 21st century hockey listening to him… and I used to think I knew the game pretty well. It’s uncanny the amount of times I’ll be watching a game, wonder about a certain incident, then seconds later hear him deliver an explanation, almost as if prompted.
It’s also refreshing to hear Simpson doesn’t hesitate pointing out mistakes players and referees make and isn’t afraid to call them out. From time to time, I’ll PVR a late game, then watch it the next morning zipping through the commercials and some of the intermission fluff. But I like to listen to Simpson provide his insight during stoppages in play.
That’s why I implore an NHL GM to hire Simpson as a coach. I don’t know if being a good TV analyst will always translate into being a good head coach, but I can’t imagine players not being able to learn from him.
He was the second overall pick in 1985 and played more than 600 games, winning two Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, before injuries forced him to retire at just 28.
Now 41, there’s still lots of time for him to make a stronger imprint on the game. Sources tell The Hockey News Simpson will give up the color commentary gig and return to the Oilers in some capacity next season. That’d be HNIC’s great loss, but the game’s gain.
Go for it Craig.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.