April 21 2014 12:03PM
There aren’t a lot of busy news days for teams outside the playoff picture at this point, but for good and ill the Edmonton Oilers had one on Monday. Front office changes and a disgruntled player speaking out made for a very interesting morning in Oil country.
Bill Scott Promoted
Bill Scott, who has served as the general manager of the Oklahoma City Barons over the last four (very successful) seasons, has been promoted to the role of assistant general manager. The Oilers’ official release described his new duties this way:
As a member of the Oilers Hockey Management team, Scott's responsibilities will include player and staff contract negotiations, scheduling, salary arbitration, salary cap management and all day to day administrative duties. He is also the club's liaison to the NHL regarding matters pertaining to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
I had some interaction with Scott during my time in Oklahoma, and came away with the impression of an intelligent man who was diligent and professional. Talking to veteran players over the course of the season, one got the sense that from their perspective Oklahoma was a model NHL club; a lot of that certainly relates to the budget provided by ownership but it’s also hard to imagine it happening independent of a good general manager.
Just 33 years of age, Scott has climbed the organizational ladder in a hurry.
Ricky Olczyk Departs
In the same news release, the Oilers announced that former assistant general manager Ricky Olczyk had been offered another job within the organization, but had “respectfully declined.”
It’s extremely difficult for someone outside the organization to evaluate what Olczyk has done, and it would be foolish to try and suggest that any analysis from this vantage point is comprehensive. With that said, there have been some actions that suggest the Oilers have done a poor job under Olczyk of navigating the CBA and other key NHL agreements. From my spring 2012 profile of the man:
One of the interesting things to come out of the Dany Heatley boondoggle was the fact that apparently both the Oilers and Senators were confused about when Heatley’s bonus was payable, which reflects badly on Olczyk. Then there was the time the Oilers may have been confused by Gilbert Brule’s waiver eligibility. Then there was that time that someone high up in the organization didn’t know how long the team had to sign Teemu Hartikainen. Again, it needs to be emphasized that we’re constructing a picture based on glimpses, but those sorts of things look really bad. Also bad in glimpses? Olczyk’s player evaluation – he may have been toeing the company line, but calling Khabibulin the team’s MVP and talking about the “great job” done by J-F Jacques doesn’t inspire confidence.
Less than a month after that profile was written, the Oilers’ recall of Magnus Paajarvi was rejected by the NHL because Edmonton had already reached its maximum number of post-deadline recalls.
We don’t know what role Olczyk played in these blunders, and we don’t know how he performed in his other assignments. What we do know is that the team publicly designated him as their CBA expert and that over his time in Edmonton the Oilers repeatedly made embarrassing CBA-related gaffes.
A little more reading between the lines: It seems suggestive that the Oilers offered Olczyk another position within the organization. Edmonton’s management may not have wanted Olczyk to stay in his current job but obviously the team still saw value in him.
Anton Belov Speaks Out
Russian reporter Pavel Lysenkov caught up with Anton Belov this week and asked him why he returned to the KHL. Via Puck Daddy, this was Belov’s explanation:
There is no one reason that made it an abrupt change. It all was building up during the season, especially more so after the Olympics. And the hire of coach Bykov (by SKA) was also an influence. The other point is that I could have re-signed with Edmonton, but I didn’t want to stay with that coach [Dallas Eakins].
A few points:
- It seems the Oilers had interest in re-signing Belov, which is an encouraging sign.
- It’s important not to read too much into one man’s comments on Dallas Eakins. Personalities differ, we don’t know the particulars of the situation, and so on. Plenty of great NHL coaches have run afoul of individual players.
- With that said, this isn’t a good sign for Eakins. Belov’s not a franchise cornerstone, but he’s a player useful enough for the Oilers to seemingly want to bring back, and according to Belov his distaste for the coach was a primary reason the team won’t get that opportunity. Eakins had a line early on in his coaching tenure about the importance of coaching players on an individual level; by that metric this can only be regarded as one failure.
In short: it really isn’t a good sign, but it would be a mistake to read too much into it.