They have a president, senior vice president and director of hockey operations. They have a general manager and an assistant general manager. On top of that, there is a director and senior director of player development, a head scout, and a farm team with its own general manager.
Is there a fear of too many cooks in the Oilers’ front office kitchen?
Judging by other teams in the division, the Oilers are actually decidedly average in terms of the number of people making hockey-related decisions.
Colorado’s model is the one most closely related to Edmonton’s. Like the Oilers, they have a separate president who was ‘promoted’ out of the G.M. assignment – Pierre Lacroix. Under Lacroix is general manager Greg Sherman. Sherman has a number of high-profiles helpers – a pair of vice presidents (former players Craig Billington and Eric Lacroix), an executive advisor (and alternate governor) in Joe Sakic, as well as a director of player personnel and a director of amateur scouting. The titles are different but the personnel count is basically the same.
It’s remarkable that there’s actually very little difference between clubs in terms of the number of people in hockey operations: in the Northwest Division, there’s virtually always a half-dozen listed as senior members of the department. Beyond the guy in charge of day to day operations being titled general manager there’s not a lot of uniformity in the names of the various jobs, and different teams put emphasis in different areas, but manpower is consistent.
Most teams seem to employ a general manager and 2-3 top-level lieutenants. Vancouver has two vice presidents/assistant general managers and a senior advisor, Colorado has two vice presidents and an executive advisor, Calgary has a senior vice president, an assistant general manager and a special assistant to the general manager, while Minnesota opts for a single assistant general manager and an assistant to the general manager.
The unique thing about Edmonton’s structure is the emphasis on player development. The team’s website makes a point of highlighting Rick Carriere, the Senior Director of Player Development and Mike Sillinger, the Director of Player Development, on its main hockey operations page, and the fact that they have both a director and a senior director is outside the norm; most teams have just one guy specifically assigned to the job.
The other semi-unique thing is Kevin Lowe’s role as president of hockey operations, as distinct from the more business-oriented role that the title usually entails. Other teams have people in similar positions – we’ve considered Pierre Lacroix already – but typically they’re handed a title like ‘senior vice president’ like Bob Clarke in Philadelphia and Jim Devellano in Detroit.
Overall, though, the Oilers management structure is very comparable to that of other NHL teams. In Lowe, Steve Tambellini, Craig MacTavish and Rick Olczyk, the Oilers have a quartet of executives with some hand in making decisions for the team. That’s more or less the norm across the league these days.