Less than a month removed from the end of the 2013-14 season, the Tulsa Oilers are already putting key pieces in place for a run at a CHL championship in the 2014-15 campaign.
Wednesday, the Oilers announced a two-year contract extension for Head Coach Bruce Ramsay which runs through the end of the 2015-16 season. The Oilers also announced the re-signing of veteran defensemen Nathan Lutz (LOOTS) and Jake Obermeyer (OH-ber-my-er).
Ramsay, who just completed his fifth season behind the Oilers bench, holds the second-longest tenure of any head coach in franchise history and his 148 victories ranks second on the team's all-time win list. In 2013-14, Ramsay guided the Oilers to a 34-29-3 regular season record and a league-best 12-win improvement from the previous season. Under Ramsay's leadership, Tulsa qualified for the playoffs for the first time in three years and posted its second-highest win total of the last 11 seasons.
"I love this city and our fans, and I'm very thankful to our owners, the Steven brothers, for giving me the opportunity to continue to lead this team in the right direction," Ramsay said. "We took a huge step forward last season but we can't be satisfied with those achievements. We've got to keep pushing to get this organization back to the top of the Central Hockey League and I'm already excited about next season and the work that needs to be done."
After 11 seasons of playing minor pro hockey, Ramsay began his coaching career in 2002. In 690 career games, the Dryden, Ontario native has an overall record of 345-280-65 (.533). As the Oilers bench boss, Ramsay is 148-149-29 (.499) with two postseason appearances and seven playoff victories.
As Ramsay begins to construct his team for 2014-15, he already has a proven leader in the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Lutz. Last season, the 36-year old served as the Oilers captain while anchoring the blue line and providing a stabilizing presence on both the power play and the penalty kill. A native of Mistatim, Saskatchewan, Lutz is entering his 14th season of professional hockey and has played in 766 career games. In 2013-14, Lutz recorded 34 points (8 goals, 26 assists) and was one of four Oilers to appear in all 66 regular season contests.
"Nathan Lutz is one of the most revered and respected players in minor pro hockey and played a huge role in our success last season," remarked Ramsay. "He is a leader both on and off the ice and hockey players don't come any tougher than Nathan Lutz. He is always in the right position, he is never shy about sticking up for his teammates, and there is no one I trust more in our defensive zone. I know he made a tremendous impression on his teammates and our fans and having him back is a great way to start our preparations for next year."
Since turning pro in 2001, Lutz has played for 17 teams in seven leagues and five countries. The veteran defenseman has over 100 games of experience in the American Hockey League and Tulsa is Lutz's third stop in the CHL after suiting up for the Mississippi Riverkings (2010-11) and the Wichita Thunder (2012-13).
Obermeyer, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman, is on his way back to Tulsa for a second season after posting two goals and nine assists in 47 games during the 2013-14 campaign. A product of Chanhassen, Minnesota and Robert Morris University, Obermeyer quickly became a staple on the Oilers' penalty kill as he established himself as one of the best shot-blockers in the CHL. A reliable, physical defender, Obermeyer tied for third on the Oilers roster with a +14 rating.
"Jake is a smart, steady defenseman who is capable of shutting down the top forwards in our league and we feel fortunate to have him back on board for the upcoming season," Ramsay commented. "He is one of the most fearless players I've ever coached and it was incredible to watch how often he put his body on the line to block a shot. The guy is an absolute warrior who plays as hard as he can each and every night.
Lutz and Obermeyer become the first players officially signed to the Oilers 2014-15 roster and announcements of more player signings, schedule release, and special promotional nights will follow as the offseason continues.
The Oilers are entering their 23rd consecutive season in the Central Hockey League and their 7th straight season as the main tenant of the BOK Center. In 2013-14, the Oilers' average attendance rose to 4,986, a 20-percent increase over the previous season and the third-highest average in the Central Hockey League.