In like a lion, out like a Lamb?

The rumours are rampant.

Now that the Dave Tippett has been hired as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, the word is Prince George Cougars general manager Mark Lamb will soon be joining his longtime friend as an assistant coach.

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Now entering the second year of a four-year contract with the Cougars, Lamb would neither confirm nor deny whether he's about to be hired by the NHL team, but the stars appear to be aligned in that direction.

Lamb was an assistant coach for six seasons with the Dallas Stars from 2002-09 while Tippett served as head coach. Their relationship dates back to the '90s when Lamb was still playing as a centre and they were were Philadelphia Flyers teammates in 1993-94. Late in his playing career, Lamb played and coached with Tippett in the International Hockey League for three seasons and they won the Turner Cup title in 1999. When Tippett was head coach of the Arizona Coyotes in 2016-17, he brought Lamb in as head coach of the team's AHL affiliate in Tucson, Ariz.

They've been friends away from the rink for years and Saskatchewan-born Tippett is the godfather of Lamb's 19-year-old son Hunter.

"I've known Dave a long time," said Lamb, from his family home in Swift Current, Sask.

"I've been there before (coaching in the NHL) and I'm still working for Prince George. There's not a story on this right now. I've had a lot of people contact me about it, because everyone is putting two and two together, and that's where it's at. It's business as usual for me."

The Oilers announced May 28 they've hired Tippett to replace interim head coach Ken Hitchcock. Tippett had been working with the NHL expansion franchise in Seattle and was being groomed to coach the team when it joins the league in 2020.

Fort St. James native Jim Playfair could also be heading to the Oilers as an assistant coach. Lamb and Playfair, who coached most recently in 2016-17 as an associate with the Arizona Coyotes, are former Oiler players.

Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros, a former head coach of the Swift Current Broncos during Lamb's seven-year tenure as Broncos general manager from 2009-16, won't be back as Oiler assistant coaches. Assistant Glen Gulutzen will remain with the team.

For now, Lamb will continue to work on filling the Cougars' vacant head coaching position. He has made it clear to team ownership he doesn't want the job he took over on an interim basis Feb. 6 when the Cougars fired head coach Richard Matvichuk. The Cougars were at that time in the midst of a franchise-record 17-game losing streak and went on to finish last in the WHL's Western Conference with a 19-41-5-3 record, missing the playoffs for the second-straight season.

"I've interviewed quite a few guys, it's a long list and it's down now," said Lamb. "There's a lot of stuff that happens in hockey right up until the NHL draft. People know the situation and there really isn't much to say about it."

Don Nachbaur has been unemployed since Nov. 4, 2018 when he and head coach John Stevens and the rest of the coaching staff were fired by the Los Angeles Kings. Nachbaur, one of the winningest coaches in WHL history with Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane, played most of his minor hockey in Prince George and has applied for the Cougars' coaching job.

"He's one of the guys that has put his name in," said Lamb. "There's a lot of good guys that I've talked to and guys who haven't put their names in that I've talked to. It's basically everybody who doesn't have a job that would be in line."

Lamb will attend the NHL draft in Vancouver, June 21-22, where he'll have better access to coaches who would be suitable candidates to take over the Cougars' job. Whether that means a dual role as general manager/head coach remains to be seen. As evidenced by the Medicine Hat Tigers, who released Shaun Clouston and replaced him last week with Willie Desjardins after Desjardins was cut loose by the Dallas Stars, situations can change rapidly depending on who becomes available.

"There's still so much juggling around and because we didn't make the playoffs, there's been a lot of time in between," said Lamb. "But there was never a time when we were going to make a decision really quick. We have the (NHL) draft to get over with and we just have to be patient and do things the right way for the organization."

The CHL import draft will follow the NHL draft on Thursday, June 27.

The Cougars already have their quota of two imports with forwards Vladilslav Mikhalchuk, 20, and Matej Toman, 18, but Lamb said they might still pick another European in the draft. The rule which used to forbid major junior teams from trading their import picks within a year of drafting them no longer applies and that leaves the Cougars free to go after a third player. That rule was changed last year when import goaltenders were reinstated as CHL-draft eligible, after a four-year ban.

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