WWYDW: It’s Good (?) to be the King (of the Oilers)

Daryl Katz

Generally in our ‘What Would You Do Wednesday?’ segments we place our readers in the shoes of the general manager or the head coach, since those are the two people with the most direct impact on hockey operations. Today we’re going to do something a little bit different, instead looking at ownership.

The best owners in hockey tend to be the ones who provide stable financial backing for their teams, employ an expert or experts in the top hockey operations job(s), give them a mandate and then stay out of the way. The question today is two-fold: Who should be in that top job or jobs, and what should their mandate be?

The Hierarchy

Craig MacTavish7

Different NHL teams use varying managerial structures to run their clubs, and the model the Oilers are using is increasingly common, with a long-time hockey guy with general manager experience at the top of the food chain as President, a designated general manager handling the day-to-day operations of the team and then an assortment of other top executives reporting to the G.M. The top end of Edmonton’s current structure looks like this:

  • President, Hockey Operations: Kevin Lowe
  • General Manager: Craig MacTavish

The WWYDW question here is two-fold. First, what kind of structure should the team have? Should it have a president acting as a buffer and sounding board for both ownership and the G.M. or should the team simply have a general manager and cut out the middle man? Second, should Lowe and MacTavish retain their current positions or should they be replaced – and if the latter, who should replace them?

The Mandate


The other, related part of this exercise is exactly what the mandate should be for the general manager. I’m stealing a little from commenter BlazingSaitls’ point this morning, but the options basically look like this:

  • Work hard to upgrade the Oilers immediately (radical). This involves making trades to add help on defence and centre and wherever else it’s needed. We aren’t asking for a specific plan here, just whether the manager(s) hired should focus on revamping the team right now even at the cost of futures, possibly including things like the team’s 2015 first round pick.
  • Work hard to upgrade the Oilers immediately (moderate). As with the first option, this involves making trades to add help on defence and centre and wherever else it’s needed. The difference here is that there’s a readiness to be patient, to allow the manager(s) to make tweaks while still hanging on to prospects and draft picks because as much as it’s important to make advancement now it’s also going to be a few years before this team is in its prime.
  • Controlled rebuild. Given that the Oilers aren’t going to contend this year, it makes no sense to burn futures to address the present. Instead, the focus should primarily be on next season, which means mostly staying the course except when moves can be made to improve for 2015-16.
  • Tank. Hey, who doesn’t love Connor McDavid? 

This is where we turn things over to the comments section: As owner of the Oilers, what would our readers do about the current management group, and what mission would they assign to their new/returning managers?


  • pkam


    “It’s Good (?) to be the King (of the Oilers)”

    All my asset, including our house and all my retirement savings, never in any time exceeds $1M.

    Is it good to be the King of the Oilers? You bet, I’ll be laughing even if I only own 1% of the Oilers.

  • chickenStew

    I would hire Serious Gord as GM and New Age Sys as coach.

    Gord could watch the games perched up in his seat with his own personal rain cloud perpetualy hovering over him, fielding calls from player agents and asking them incredulously why they would ever want to play in such a hell hole of a city.

    N.A.S. could revolutionize the game with simple dynamic integrated thrust vectored angle zone inplementation system recovery attack priciples, which he would diagram during time outs on an 8 x 4ft. white board.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If I were in Katz’ shoes, I’d do nothing. What more needs to be done to a fanbase that continuously lines up at the trough to support anything wearing an Oiler jersey. They continue to choose to support failure.

    A fool and their money soon do part.

    How else must this look outside of Edmonton?

  • Zarny

    In some ways a difficult question. The answer I want to pick is clean house after last season (if not sooner).

    I don’t think November is when you turf everyone from the POHO on down. It’s certainly an admission the owner got it wrong 4-6 months ago. Most, if not all, of the candidates you will be interested in won’t be able to talk until the end of April since they are already under contract. It will leave the franchise in disarray for the remaining 66 games. The term “lost season” is thrown around too frequently here, but that would be the result. It’s not the right way to run a franchise.

    The management structure is fine. Hockey operations continue to become more complex. A President to oversee everything and handle the “business” portion frees up the GM to focus exclusively on improving the team day-to-day so I wouldn’t change the structure.

    For now, my mandate to MacT would fit somewhere between “radical” and “moderate”. The holes in the roster need to be addressed. The last thing this team needs is more draft picks. Any kid drafted this year not named McDavid, Eichel or Hanifin won’t be ready for primetime for 3-4 years. The 2015 1st round pick would be in play, but the return would have to be huge.

    If the Oilers aren’t in the top 2/3 of the league by the end of the season I would clean house because that is when you do it. Bob Nicholson would lead the search for a new POHO. Wayne Gretzky would be on my list of candidates despite his Boys on the Bus status. The candidates for GM would include many currently working as Assistant GM’s. It’s unlikely Eakins would survive a regime change and since this is make believe I’ll use my pretend billions to make Mike Babcock the highest paid coach in the history of the NHL.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Welcome to, The Sky is falling society Zarny.

      You certainly are a patient fellow. How can you not have seen this at this time last season, when the rest of us were wetting our pants? As you so aptly called it. Tell us you also have purchased your first package of Depends.

      • BlazingSaitls

        “The blue pill would allow him to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix, therefore living the “ignorance of illusion”, while the red pill would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the real world, therefore living the “truth of reality” even though it is a harsher, more difficult life.”

        Be gentle. When one takes the red pill and opens their mind it can be very unsettling. Be kind.

      • Zarny

        The sky is not falling QSB.

        My comments at this time last year were simply that the team wasn’t as bad as their first 21 games. It was akin to a sprinter doing a face-plant out of the blocks. No matter how well they do after they get up their finish will seem horrendous.

        When MacT was hired, he said the organization would need to take on some semblance of risk to move forward. To date, I have not seen this.

        I am not a patient fellow. While I think the Oilers were better than their record last year, they were by no means good. I would have cleaned house as a result.

        The need at C was blatantly obvious this summer yet MacT chose to continue waiting for draft picks and relying on unproven players with virtually no NHL experience. The results are what you would expect.

        The Oilers are not 2-3 years away from contending. They are 2-3 players away from contending. You don’t have to empty the cupboards of picks and prospects to acquire 2-3 players. You simply have to move a couple of them and yes, take on some semblance of risk.

        Lowe and MacT may know something about winning; but so far they’ve haven’t shown they know how to take the risks required to acquire the players needed to win. So barring an imminent trade and the Oilers progressing to the top 2/3 of the league I would fire both at the end of this season.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      No one is talking about Womens Field Hockey Zarney , it is NHL hockey,I think you dialed the wrong number,no?

      It sounds like you must have run one hell of Lemonade Stand ,what last year or so?

      “The last thing this team needs is more Draft Picks”??That about sums up your knowledge of how an NHL Franchise is run,kinda like your Lemonade Stand huh Zarney?

      Keep em coming Zarney,some of this babble is priceless.

      • Zarny

        Oh no, if anyone should keep ’em coming it’s you. You are a special kind of stupid that can literally say nothing in 4000 words.

        Your catchphrases are meaningless drivel. You routinely make false statements like the Oilers started the lockout season slowly but came on strong at the end. Completely and utterly a** backwards to reality.

        You drivel about stats when you clearly don’t know what they mean. It’s comical that you cite LA and Chi as examples considering both use analytics extensively.

        No draft pick not named McDavid or Eichel or Hanifin will be NHL ready for 3-4 years from next year. So no, more draft picks are not what the Oilers need. Unless you don’t plan on contending until Hall’s contract is up.

        To top it off, you aren’t even smart enough to copy and paste my handle correctly. Yes, you are that stupid. Which isn’t surprising considering you capitalize lemonade stand. Clearly you are as ignorant about the English language as you are about math and hockey.

  • Zarny

    People will say its nearly impossible to fire everyone in one fell swoop and rebuild quickly. Well I disagree. The Habs have done it with the Gauthier regime, replacing more than half the front office. They made a real professional search process and came up with Marc Bregevin and it sure looks like it’s working.

    Now, I understand it doesn’t always work out that well. Florida seems to be unable to find success no matter who is in charge. But I sure would give it a try. A proud franchise like the Oilers can’t afford to be this bad for this long and not change the top of the structure. Do you think the Habs, Bruins, Flyers, Red Wings, Patriots, 49ers, Yankees etc would tolerate that for 9 years? The Leafs are a whole different story. They suck.

    Change the POHO please.

  • BlazingSaitls

    The Flames are not Oilers nemesis anymore.

    The Canucks are.

    The Canucks changed POHO and now sit atop the NHL’s standings.

    The Canucks have their goalies chumming around with fricken Luigi and Mario hats.

    The Canucks are all smiles and its not from weed, meditation, or granola. Its from change.

  • 2004Z06

    K is King of the Oilers.It might be said he is also King of the Road. (That may be an insult to the tune)
    Keep buying tickets as individuals.Keep buying tickets as Corporations.
    Is it really a good corporate plan to “give” Oiler tickets to a client? Will the Government totally take Corporate Oiler tickets off the list of partial business deductions?
    The Oilers always have been a property first deal.
    Indeed, King of the Road and as many Streets as possible! A “K” Toll Tax in the Arena area may be coming?

    • 2004Z06

      Roger Miller keeps returning.Check outsome of the lyrics for King of the Road.
      “I’m a man by no means,King of the Road.”
      Mr.K. keeps telling Edmonton of his personal good intentions.Keep believing!

  • Tikkanese

    Tank. Because it sort of worked for the L.A. Clippers?!

    Don’t make bold moves and fill the obvious holes with obvious answers. i.e. the 1a and 1b on D, and the 2C

    Keep acquiring and overpay in most cases 3rd liners(Pouliot, Purcell, Arcobello etc) and 3rd pairing D and worse(Nikitin, Larsen, Aulie, Belov, Grebeshkov etc) and hope they shine by playing much higher on the roster than ever before or should.

    Don’t acquire enough veterans to push the kids down to the farm or junior so they overripen. Namely Marincin, Klefbom, Nurse & Leon.

    Keep throwing fistfuls of darts at the dartboard and hope one hits the bullseye. For the record the Oilers need at least 3 bullseyes.

  • Hallsey4

    This is the way I see it. Everyone says that Eakins got to go witch I agree whole heartedly, but I think the real problem is in Kevin Lowe. I say fire him, hire Mactavish as coach and get a decent GM. Mactavish is the last coach to get the oilers in the playoffs. I don’t see why he can’t do it again.