Vernon’s Dave Oliver will be working on Broadway next NHL season.
Oliver, 47, has left the Colorado Avalanche after four years as Director of Player Development to become an assistant coach with the New York Rangers.
A seventh-round draft choice of the Edmonton Oilers in 1991, Oliver joined the Avs in the 2007-08 season as GM of its American Hockey League affiliate in Lake Erie. Over the next decade-plus, he held various developmental titles within the organization, including as Lake Erie’s Director of Hockey Operations and as an assistant coach for one season under current Rangers head coach David Quinn.
“I’ve been working with young kids in the Avalanche system for the last eight years. The Rangers have a youth movement going on and it just fit,” Oliver told NYRangers.com. “I coached with David Quinn in the past and enjoyed every second of it. To do that with an Original Six (team) in New York City is an outstanding opportunity.”
Oliver played a big role in the development of many of Colorado’s players during his tenure, including Kevin Shattenkirk. Oliver said seeing the success of his former players like Shattenkirk at the NHL level is something that brings great satisfaction.
Shattenkirk said Oliver is one of the first individuals he thinks of when looking back on the early stages of his career after he was drafted in the first round of the 2007 NHL Draft, as he taught Shattenkirk and other prospects right from the start what being a professional hockey player is all about.
“I got to really develop a relationship with him. He was kind of the guy we always answered to as prospects,” Shattenkirk recalled. “He, from a very early age for me, kind of drilled in what it was like to be a pro and what it took — diet, lifestyle and all that stuff. He’s a very intense guy but in a good way. He cares a lot and I think that’s important. He loves the game of hockey and I think that’s the most important thing. For as intense as he can be it’s because he loves the game and he loves the team that he’s associated with, and he’s very passionate about it.”
Oliver and his fellow assistant coaches Lindy Ruff and Greg Brown, along with Quinn, are inheriting a young group of Rangers poised to form the foundation of a team building towards a championship contender down the road.
The Rangers saw several players get their first taste of the NHL last season, and now it’s up to Oliver and company to continue that progression beginning next season.
“I pride myself on working with these young kids and doing whatever I can to help them get to the NHL and stay there,” Oliver told NYRangers.com. “We’ve got a lot of young kids on this team and we’ve got some work to do.”
Oliver said after years of working together, the way he and Quinn “think the game and the way we coach the game is very similar.”
Quinn, meanwhile, said putting a staff together is “like a puzzle,” and that his trust and history with Oliver put him at the top of the list when he began looking at the pieces of his staff.
“He relates well to players. He’s very knowledgeable,” Quinn said of Oliver. “Players respect and like him and he puts in a lot of effort with them, which led to his development role in Colorado.”
Experience was certainly a factor, but Quinn also said the decision to hire Oliver — as well as Greg Brown — was based on merit, not friendship. “Ideally you want [familiarity] as a coach, but that being said you’re not just hiring your buddies,” he said. “I have a great personal relationship with them but also have immense professional respect for them. It really was a home run in all those areas.”
Oliver, who lives in Lavington with his wife and two sons, helped the Vernon Lakers win the 1990 Centennial Cup (Junior A nationals) on home ice before a fabulous four-year NCAA career with the Michigan Wolverines.
He amassed 49 goals and 98 points in 233 NHL games. He was runner-up to Peter Forsberg of the Quebec Nordiques for the NHL’s Calder Trophy (top rookie) while with Edmonton in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.