On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers unveiled former Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson as the new CEO of the Oilers Entertainment Group. Nicholson left no room for doubt as to his authority, telling assembled media that everyone in the organization now reports to him.
Less clear was precisely what he plans to do with his new authority.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 20, 2015
Nicholson’s opening press conference, and a subsequent interview with 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer – who, Nicholson explained, also now reports to him – were long on enthusiasm for the new downtown arena and the outcome of the weekend’s NHL Draft Lottery. They were short on his plans for the organization.
Our own Jason Gregor asked repeated, pointed questions on the future of hockey operations. Nicholson’s answers are worth reviewing:
As of today, everyone in the organization reports to myself.
As I said, my main focus was looking at all parts of the organization and coming
back to Daryl and giving him a recommendation on how OEG should work in the
future and we’ll be rolling that out. I’m certainly not going to put a timeline
on it; the quicker we can do it the better but I want to make sure we’re doing
Asked specifically about what changes we’d see and when we’d see them on the hockey operations side, Nicholson stuck firmly to the non-specific:
The timelines, I’d like to do it right away but I’m certainly not going to state that. We’re going to do it when the time is right; there are a lot of playoff games going on and we’re going to look at the hockey [side].
The nice thing about vague answers is that it leaves Nicholson with lots of room to operate. We can read practically anything into his comments. Does the organization plan to fire Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish and start fresh with new people from teams currently in the postseason? That’s certainly possible. Does the team plan to leave everybody currently in place in their respective positions? That’s certainly possible, too.
Nicholson made a point of emphasizing loyalty, trust and teamwork. Does that mean the Oilers’ organization will continue to employ people like Lowe, who have long ties to the club? That’s possible. Does it mean that Nicholson needs to bring in people he can trust to do the top jobs in the organization? That’s possible too; as he told Bob Stauffer the first step in a successful organization is “to get the right people in the executive level and move forward.” He didn’t offer an opinion on whether the Oilers currently employed the right people.
There was a lot of hokey stuff in the opening press conference about lucky socks, lucky loonies and lucky Bill Scott, but there wasn’t much substantive on Nicholson’s plans for the group and it’s hard to think that wasn’t by design. We know he’s a well-regarded professional, we know that he isn’t beholden to anyone in the current hockey operations group and we know that he’s spent the last few months forming an opinion of the way the organization operates.
We’re still waiting to see exactly what that opinion is. It is perhaps telling that Nicholson didn’t mention how he was looking forward to working with Lowe and MacTavish, but then again perhaps it isn’t.