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?
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.
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.