OMG IT'S THE OEG

Robin Brownlee
June 13 2014 06:53PM

BobNicholson

Bob Nicholson is a gifted administrator with a long record of success who should be welcomed into the fold as the just-unveiled vice-chairman of the newly formed Oilers Entertainment Group.

Nicholson is somebody I first met 30 years ago under the most difficult of circumstances – the death of a player named Jeffrey Butler from a skate cut to the neck while playing for the Abbotsford Falcons – and there's been a lot of water pass under the bridge since then, most notably his long tenure with Hockey Canada.

With owner Daryl Katz looking to expand the reach of what we're now calling the OEG beyond interests in the Oilers, WHL Oil Kings, AHL OKC Barons the ECHL Bakersfield Condors and the dormant Edmonton Capitals, Nicholson is a first-rate hire. He'll lean far more heavily to the business side of the operation than the hockey-ops end, where pal Kevin Lowe and GM Craig MacTavish run the show. Makes sense. Adding a skilled manager always does.

All the above, of course, is drawing a collective shrug in some corners of the fan base for obvious reasons – Lowe still has his POHO title and while the Oilers look better on paper in the front office and coaching staff, there hasn't been anything done, nada, player personnel wise – save for the signing of Steve Pinizzotto. Besides, how can anybody who has sat through the, ahem, music played at Rexall Place have great faith a new entertainment group is worth getting excited about?

BIGGER PICTURE

BigPicture

I get fan indifference toward today's addition of Nicholson. What about adding some real NHL defensemen (first pairing guys, please)? What does MacTavish have on the go with the free agent season approaching? Will Derek Laxdal be promoted from head coach of the Oil Kings to the fourth assistant under Dallas Eakins? What about Todd Nelson?

Who does Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff have pegged for the third pick in the Entry Draft? How, pray tell, is the team going to be anything other than also-ran fodder yet again if MacTavish doesn't get a move-on and make a half-dozen roster changes? All legit questions, most of which have let to be answered. The OEG addresses none of those.

Save for the hiring of assistant Craig Ramsay, the Oilers have given fans precious little meat to chew on. Today's announcement was big picture stuff, It's about running and booking more dates at the new arena. It's about adding business IQ and management skills as Katz expands his empire under the OEG umbrella. I'm all for it.

I won't be the least bit surprised if the OEG pursues the acquisition of another junior team, perhaps in the OHL or QMJHL, maybe both. Will the OEG look to purchase the Edmonton Rush? Might we get pro baseball out of mothballs? What about the Edmonton Eskimos? There's a lot of stuff on the go here, and adding Nicholson to oversee the operation works for me.

THE P-WORD

PWord

I'd like to think that if the Oilers and the OEG continue weeding out the weaklings and adding people with proven resumes in their field of expertise, like Ramsay and Nicholson, insistence on raising the bar will eventually filter down to the product that matters most – the Oilers.

Patience is a tough sell in a town that hasn't seen the NHL playoffs in eight seasons, but every move like the additions of Ramsay and Nicholson and every deletion of those not getting it done makes the overall organization stronger. Assembling the best possible management group is an absolute must as part of the business plan with that big, new rink on the way.

While Lowe remains and we've yet to see the playlist for the next game at the rink while we wait for MacTavish to get busy and make the HOCKEY TEAM better, the Oilers are a stronger organization today than they were yesterday. I have no doubt about that.

You've got to walk before you can run.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Zarny
June 14 2014, 12:06AM
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RexHolez wrote:

Did they keep a straight face when they said "Oilers Entertainment Group"? The name must be an oxymoron! When was the last time the oilers entertained anyone?

If I was a fan of Ana, LA, SJ or StL I'd be thoroughly entertained every time they played the Oilers.

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#52 Dan 1919
June 14 2014, 12:22AM
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ed in edmonton wrote:

When rumours started flying a couple of days ago, I had hoped this was the start of the end of the Lowe reign of error. Nicholson would come in as some sort of grand pooh bah that would take effective control away from Lowe. Over time Lowe would have a title, but with no influence within the organization.

Color me dissapointed.

I just realized the new hierarchy structure... maybe it’s already happened and we didn’t realize it.

1) Chairman - Katz

2) Vice Chairman - Nicholson, Vice Chairman - KLowe

3) COO - LaForge

4) MacT

5) Taylor Hall

From the Oilers’ website, “In addition to the business side of things, Nicholson will be a voice in every facet of the organization including hockey operations with the Oilers...”

KLowe officially has himself an equal in Nicholson and is no longer looked at as the sole head above MacT and below Katz. He is now just a part of upper management.

I’m going to call today the best success we can expect out of this fire KLowe request... better than nothing.

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#53 Zarny
June 14 2014, 01:03AM
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Bob Nicholson is a certainly a positive addition to the Oilers brand. His job isn't to find the Oilers a top pairing D; it`s to administer all of the OEG entities and ensure their success. Gifted administrators typically succeed by hiring good people below them and he was very successful with Hockey Canada.

His connections will be the primary asset for the Oilers. He has a personal relationship with some very good players, coaches and GMs. It`s never a bad thing to know people.

The heavy lifting to improve the Oilers remains MacT`s responsibility. They need better players.

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#54 Serious Gord
June 14 2014, 03:20AM
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Zarny wrote:

Bob Nicholson is a certainly a positive addition to the Oilers brand. His job isn't to find the Oilers a top pairing D; it`s to administer all of the OEG entities and ensure their success. Gifted administrators typically succeed by hiring good people below them and he was very successful with Hockey Canada.

His connections will be the primary asset for the Oilers. He has a personal relationship with some very good players, coaches and GMs. It`s never a bad thing to know people.

The heavy lifting to improve the Oilers remains MacT`s responsibility. They need better players.

There seems to a bit of collective amnesia regarding what Nicholson did at hockey canada and what he will be able to do at oeg.

He was brought into HC to CLEAN HOUSE after the failure of the men's team to win gold at Nagano. HC was in crisis and he fired pretty much everyone attached to that failure and replaced them with KLOWE and gretz and others.

Coming on board with oeg he will do essentially the opposite - backing instead of releasing the perpetrators of the disaster...

Thus What he did to be successful at HC he will not be able to do at OEG.

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#55 Cutterov
June 14 2014, 07:01AM
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Was he that successful at hockey Canada, someone sure made a questionable hire when they hired pindergast as head scout of the national junior team, we all know how well that worked for the junior team and the oil.

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#56 -30-
June 14 2014, 07:56AM
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I listened to the OEG press conference on CFRN Thursday night.

What I came away with was how the OEG would have the world beating a path to our door. Really? Did Pittsburgh change the world when their state of the art arena was built? Did Winnipeg all of a sudden become a "world class" city when they re-claimed an NHL team? Hardly.

The OEG press conference was a lesson in marketing and circle jerking.

The number of times Nicholson praised Kevin Lowe and mentioned Daryl Katz vision was a perfect example of ass kissing. There I said it. Sychophants and nepotism. The OEG and Oilers are full of it.

Until the on ice product changes and the cronyism is gone from the Oilers they will be anything but world class. They remain a plaything for a guy with too much money and not enough brains to use it wisely.

-30-

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#57 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
June 14 2014, 08:33AM
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Robin- can we expect another Radio Ga-Ga blog shortly? sounds like the times they are a changin'......

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#58 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
June 14 2014, 09:38AM
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Why does it always have to be about the depressing Oilers. Why wouldn't they call it the Edmonton Entertainment Group since it's the taxpayers who supplied the funding for this place?

What a Gong Show. They need a couple centers along with a couple top pairing blue liners, and they bring in another administrator....wtf. Major announcement my arse.

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#59 VK63
June 14 2014, 10:57AM
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I kinda had to laugh at the new groups name. Oilers and Entertainment on a shingle.

I have been more entertained by Wanye's humour than the actual Oilers for years…. and its not even close.

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#60 Spydyr
June 14 2014, 11:04AM
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I sure hope Katz does not buy the Esks.He would run that team into the ground too.Introducing the new Eskimo coach Ryan Smyth.

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#61 Zarny
June 14 2014, 11:11AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

There seems to a bit of collective amnesia regarding what Nicholson did at hockey canada and what he will be able to do at oeg.

He was brought into HC to CLEAN HOUSE after the failure of the men's team to win gold at Nagano. HC was in crisis and he fired pretty much everyone attached to that failure and replaced them with KLOWE and gretz and others.

Coming on board with oeg he will do essentially the opposite - backing instead of releasing the perpetrators of the disaster...

Thus What he did to be successful at HC he will not be able to do at OEG.

That`s utterly ridiculous. He wasn`t brought into HC to clean house; he was brought in to administer the program. If he chose to clean house that tells you what he thought of the status quo.

There isn`t one path to success. He has to do what is required to make OEG successful not Hockey Canada. It`s not a cookie cutter solution.

For the record, I have no problem with the concept of firing Kevin Lowe. He`s had his fingers in the pie a long time. Everyone makes mistakes and one Stanley Cup appearance is offset by enough stank to justify a fresh start.

However the future success or failure of the Oilers does not hinge on Kevin Lowe. It`s not his job to find Edmonton a top pairing D or 2C. He isn`t the one trying to move up to #1 right now. That hasn`t been his job for almost 6 years.

He passed off to Tambellini a team that finished 9th in the West and 19th overall with 88 pts; tied with Chicago and Vancouver. This year that was Nashville and NJ. No one is planning a parade but not exactly armageddon.

His job for the last 6 years was to oversee hockey operations. OKC is doing well. Amateur scouting and drafting seems to have improved. Pro scouting not so much and the guy he hired as GM turned out to be a sh*t duck who literally failed to acquire a single player for the rebuild.

You could justify firing Lowe for his bad hire of Tambo, but it`s a dubious argument that it was Lowe holding Tambo back from pulling the trigger. As a GM, Lowe was active and aggressive. So he suddenly got cold feet and poo pooed all those trades Tambo had lined up? Unlikely.

The problem with the Oilers is the roster isn't good enough. That job description is MacT's responsibility not the POHO. Time will tell; he's had some mixed results but he certainly isn't afraid to pull the trigger. So did Lowe all of sudden flop back to being active? More likely the problem was Tambellini.

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#62 Dan 1919
June 14 2014, 11:27AM
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Zarny wrote:

Bob Nicholson is a certainly a positive addition to the Oilers brand. His job isn't to find the Oilers a top pairing D; it`s to administer all of the OEG entities and ensure their success. Gifted administrators typically succeed by hiring good people below them and he was very successful with Hockey Canada.

His connections will be the primary asset for the Oilers. He has a personal relationship with some very good players, coaches and GMs. It`s never a bad thing to know people.

The heavy lifting to improve the Oilers remains MacT`s responsibility. They need better players.

There seems to be a lot of speculating and assuming that Nicholson is here primarily as a business guy.

In their interviews, Nicholson and Lowe both alluded to the fact that improving the Oilers (OEG’s biggest asset) is the number one priority.

Nicholson will be a vice Chairman for the entire OEG having a voice over everything, but he is officially KLowes equal; and guaranteed will be involved in Oiler Hockey decisions along with KLowe and MacT.

I’m cautiously optimistic because even Tambi could put together a good Team Canada.

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#64 RexHolez
June 14 2014, 12:45PM
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@Robin Brownlee

That wasn't the original RexHolez. Message received

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#66 Oiler Al
June 14 2014, 01:44PM
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I would assume that OEG, has much many more ambitions than Oilers or even hockey over all for that matter.

They will be operating a $600 mil. complex that needs to have the lights on 300 + days a year!. They will probably have their own concert/events promotion/production company within OEG,and could promote events in other arenas around America.

There is a good reason why " entertainment " is in their namesake. Owning other teams/franchise, and buldings could be part of the plan as well.

If you can be a half billion dollar company , why not one or two billion .

This is big picture stuff.

PS. Don't think that Katz would not want to drive Northlands out of the Ent. business.

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#67 max
June 14 2014, 02:09PM
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While the hierarchy of the organization doesn't bother me one way or the other, the thing that DOES bother me is how many more millions of dollars are going to be spent on fat salaries while we pay the perhaps highest price for game tickets in the NHL. A beer was $9.25 last season, a can of pop $5. We are being ripped off by the concessions, who in turn are probably being charged a fortune for the pleasure of serving us a pretty pathetic selection of food, and ripped off with the price of tickets. Perhaps Mr. New Top-Dog can explain this to someone who can barely afford a hot-dog at Rexall.

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#68 Zarny
June 14 2014, 03:08PM
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Dan 1919 wrote:

There seems to be a lot of speculating and assuming that Nicholson is here primarily as a business guy.

In their interviews, Nicholson and Lowe both alluded to the fact that improving the Oilers (OEG’s biggest asset) is the number one priority.

Nicholson will be a vice Chairman for the entire OEG having a voice over everything, but he is officially KLowes equal; and guaranteed will be involved in Oiler Hockey decisions along with KLowe and MacT.

I’m cautiously optimistic because even Tambi could put together a good Team Canada.

It's not really speculation or assumption. His job title and role is chief administrator.

He's not going to be phoning GM's to see who is available to make the Oilers better. Neither does Lowe. That's MacT's job. Day to day it is the GM who is tasked with improving the roster.

That said, Nicholson has a personal relationship with many top players, coaches and GMs. If MacT finds a trade opportunity I'm sure Lowe and now Nicholson are brought into the conversation with scouts and assistant GMs to voice their opinion and discuss options. He may be able to use his connections to gather intel on a player and I'm sure if the Oilers go after a UFA like Stastny Nicholson would be involved with selling the franchise and long term vision.

I'm sure improving the Oilers will be high on Nicholson priority list but he'll operate from 30,000 ft.

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#69 Serious Gord
June 14 2014, 10:39PM
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Zarny wrote:

That`s utterly ridiculous. He wasn`t brought into HC to clean house; he was brought in to administer the program. If he chose to clean house that tells you what he thought of the status quo.

There isn`t one path to success. He has to do what is required to make OEG successful not Hockey Canada. It`s not a cookie cutter solution.

For the record, I have no problem with the concept of firing Kevin Lowe. He`s had his fingers in the pie a long time. Everyone makes mistakes and one Stanley Cup appearance is offset by enough stank to justify a fresh start.

However the future success or failure of the Oilers does not hinge on Kevin Lowe. It`s not his job to find Edmonton a top pairing D or 2C. He isn`t the one trying to move up to #1 right now. That hasn`t been his job for almost 6 years.

He passed off to Tambellini a team that finished 9th in the West and 19th overall with 88 pts; tied with Chicago and Vancouver. This year that was Nashville and NJ. No one is planning a parade but not exactly armageddon.

His job for the last 6 years was to oversee hockey operations. OKC is doing well. Amateur scouting and drafting seems to have improved. Pro scouting not so much and the guy he hired as GM turned out to be a sh*t duck who literally failed to acquire a single player for the rebuild.

You could justify firing Lowe for his bad hire of Tambo, but it`s a dubious argument that it was Lowe holding Tambo back from pulling the trigger. As a GM, Lowe was active and aggressive. So he suddenly got cold feet and poo pooed all those trades Tambo had lined up? Unlikely.

The problem with the Oilers is the roster isn't good enough. That job description is MacT's responsibility not the POHO. Time will tell; he's had some mixed results but he certainly isn't afraid to pull the trigger. So did Lowe all of sudden flop back to being active? More likely the problem was Tambellini.

he did clean house - replacing all of the on ice management. That is a fact. he had no prior relationship with Bobby Clarke et al and no fanboy owner who did to deal with either. and those changes resulted in gold at salt lake.

At OEG the exact opposite is the case. And he made amply clear at the presser that he is very happy with the job the current management is doing.

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#70 Hockey fan
June 15 2014, 01:33AM
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Cripes, I hope the carpet-bagger doesn't buy the Eskies. Or we'll be paying for a new football stadium next.

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#71 RexHolez
June 19 2014, 04:49AM
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If anyone posts under someone else's name? Since when are user names on an anonymous blog comment section copywrited? Thanks again for keeping my original comment up via your reply Robin. It's funny how you're the only blogger with this power struggle.

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