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Bob Nicholson speaks, nothing changes

First it was Todd McLellan, then Peter Chiarelli, and today it was Bob Nicholson’s turn to speak to the media and try to make sense of another lost season. Just kidding, he barely answered questions. Let’s break it down. 

When I found out that Bob Nicholson was going to speak today it was hard to temper my excitement that something significant was going to happen. At least, that was my hope until I remembered that I’m an Oilers fan and realized that all we were going to hear was generic commentary, question dodging, and confirmation that they have a “plan” in place. As expected, that’s exactly what happened.

ON PETER CHIARELLI

To start the press conference, Nicholson got things started by confirming that Peter Chiarelli will return for another season as both POHO and General Manager.

Shit. But why, though?

You know what… I’d love to have a peek at that plan because I’m not sure it’s a thing that actually exists. To take that a step further, does part of that plan include completely dismantling the roster, trading away talent and then wondering why things went wrong. Apparently so. Amazingly, the Oilers are buying it and, since that’s the case, I’m headed down to head office as soon as this is posted with a bridge to sell.

Again, I have to ask why they think that Peter Chiarelli is the man that can successfully navigate these waters considering he’s the one that landed them here. Also, why does he get to avoid conversations with Daryl Katz and hide behind you? Back in the EIG days, Chiarelli would have had to answer to those shareholders and I want to know why he gets to avoid speaking to the people signing his cheques.

Does he really, though? He literally admitted yesterday that he wanted a do-over on something as simple as bringing in a veteran defender to replace Sekera when we all knew he was going to miss months of game action. That was literally one of the easiest choices to make last summer and he screwed that up, but now we’re supposed to expect him to have his bases covered? Not to mention, Chiarelli went through this season with all kinds of cap space and did absolutely nothing with it, but we’re expected to believe he’s seeing all the angles? Please.

Yeah, no shit. I assume when news came out that Chiarelli was staying that all 30 of the other GMs did a fist pump in their office and tried calling him with trade options immediately. I mean, why wouldn’t they love him? The guy has lost most of the trades he’s made as Oilers GM (Talbot, Kassian, and Maroon acquisitions were wins) and still has a job so of course he has a good relationship with the other managers. If I was running another team I would be calling him every hour on the hour with a new boat anchor to throw at him because history suggests that he’ll fall for it sooner or later. How tone deaf can this organization be? Good Gord.

Wait… first you said he had a plan and now you’re saying that you believe he has a plan? Which one is it? Chiarelli probably walks around the office with a folder that says “plan” on it to try and make sure that everyone thinks he knows what he’s doing. Frankly, I’m not even convinced that Bob Nicholson watched any Oilers games this year because none of this makes sense. Actually, I’d love to know how he’s evaluating the GM here.

If it starts with wins and losses then you’d think that missing the playoffs in two of the three years he’s been here would be enough to find a new GM, no? Guess not. I guess he meant wins and losses in playoff seasons only.

ON THE COACHING STAFF

While Nicholson didn’t say much about the coaching staff, I didn’t walk away with the feeling that the same guys will be back behind the bench next year. Again, Nicholson talked about evaluation and blah blah blah.

I’d love to see the logic behind keeping Peter Chiarelli, the man that built the team, and firing Todd McLellan if that’s what does end up happening. Firing a coach that was given a flawed roster is like getting mad when your house collapses after the only building materials used were jelly beans.

When asked if Mclellan would be back, Nicholson tapdanced and didn’t give an answer but it certainly looks like Todd (or his staff) will be the fall guy(s) for this season.

Sorry, Todd, Peter, by his own admission, traded away a bunch of vets and lost trades all over the place but you’re fired because you and only you couldn’t get more out of the group. Got it? Cool.

When asked about why Paul Coffey was brought in mid-season, Nicholson dodged that question too.

Probably because he didn’t really do much right, Bob? But since he’s a former Oiler, I’m expecting him to be back next year in some capacity, right?

Oh, right. The review. Thank Gord they’re doing a review because I was worried that the forensic audit was all for not. Maybe they can do a forensic audit on the review just to make sure that everything really gets covered. So, Bob, who’s conducting this review anyway?

Oh good. Happy day.

THIS AND THAT…

On the fan experience…

If you’ve been to Rogers Place during the regular season then you probably know how little the Oilers do to make the experience fun outside of what happens on the ice… unless, of course, you love 50 crowd shots per night. When Gregor asked about improving the fan experience, Nicholson seemed content with the lacklustre environment that hundreds of dollars worth of tickets will get you.

Yeah, Vegas fans have more fun at the games than Oilers fans do — that is different. But seriously, though, what makes Oilers fans so different aside from geography? Does he really believe that we don’t want to have fun at games that we’re spending a fortune on, especially when the team is horrible? One thing we’ve heard many times here at the Nation is that fans are actually told to sit down and not get overly rowdy by Rogers Place workers, and when asked about it, Nicholson dodged again before seeming content with the bare minimum.

Ah yes, the t-shirt guy. I mean, sure that dude is fun to watch and you always want to grab a free shirt when you can get one but do they really think bringing a guy in every few games is really doing enough, especially when they’re going to jack up ticket prices again? I don’t think that’s a $10 cab ride away from being good enough. I just think they don’t care. It’s my opinion that the OEG knows that Oilers fans will show up no matter what and that means they don’t have to do anything to make the experience better. The building is always full so why go above and beyond and make sure that the people that spend big money on tickets are happy? What a concept.

THE WRAP…

What a waste of time. Much like Chiarelli’s chat from yesterday, Nicholson didn’t say much apart from confirming that Chiarelli will be back and then rattling off a bunch of cliched answers and macro level statements that don’t really mean anything. Like I said before, I was hoping that Bob would swing through with some sweeping changes at various levels of team management, but those hopes were quickly dashed by more rhetoric and promises of a brighter future. For a lifelong fan of the Edmonton Oilers, this press conference was a complete waste of time, another sad chapter in the organization not caring about accountability and a slap in the face to anyone that spends money on this hockey team.

At the end of the day, this press conference was more annoying than any of the others and probably could have been handled with a press release. Nicholson didn’t say jack squat and his condescending tone and avoidance of real concerns was a kick to the pills of Oilers fans everywhere. It’s almost like we’re all here to serve these guys rather than the other way around and I felt like they couldn’t care less about what anyone outside of their little bubble has to say. To hear Nicholson dismiss or sidestep almost every question he was asked was hard to listen to and left me expecting even more disappointment in years to come.

For a guy that had a sparkling reputation coming into this job, Nicholson hasn’t done anything to make me feel like he’s steering this ship in the right direction. Then again, I guess running an NHL team isn’t as easy as picking 23 of the best players on the planet to play for Team Canada every four years. What did you guys think?

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  • OilerForLife

    Oilersnation is the Red Orange. Their still Oiler fans, but they are angry.

    Chiarelli made some bad moves early. Reinhart and everything around it until he tricked Vegas into taking him instead of Jujhar. Lucic signing, although it looked like one of the main catalysts(McDavid aside) that finally got us to the Big Show. NMC and term for Russell in hindsight has probably the worst move since.

    He has made a lot of good deals since. Klefbom signing total steal and I expect a return to form now that the shoulder situation has been dealt with( Not a serious prob moving forward). Talbot trade, Petry trade,Maroon how he was acquired and released, 2 A in the AHL already for Marody. Davidson – how he was traded for a playoff asset , required for nothing and flipped for a third. McDavid long, long term signing that will look like a real steal down the road. Ty Rattie signing, development to the NHL, nice piece of work.

    Oilers drafting and prospect trades have vastly improved under Peters watch, and is key to the future because it’s way cheaper than signing a free agent. Safin, Maksimov, Marody, Samorukov, Benson, and Skinner…they are coming. Patience is required it not a sprint, it’s a marathon that will get the team to consistent success.

    It’s not there yet – I get that. Some coaching needs to be changed. I’m totally excited to see what develops from now until the puck drops for real. Oilers may be underestimated now and not overconfident, which is not a bad thing.

  • Bob the Fraud

    Nicholson does come off as a very disingenuous, cynical fellow, doesn’t he? What were Bob’s great accomplishments as head of Hockey Canada? In minor hockey, enrollment rates dropped steadily, year after year. Attrition rates climbed. Lawsuits. Parents deciding hockey was too dangerous, or populated by the wrong kind of people. All Bob was ever good at was kissing someone’s a** and monetizing everything involved with, and attached to, the sport so that Hockey Canada could make windfall profits and then shovel those profits back to senior executives in the form of very healthy bonuses and salaries. Nicholson, Pascall, Salmond – they did nothing for the game. And Bob’s 2014 farewell address as he left HC is instructive: he bragged about how HC grew from just over 20 full-time staff when he arrived, to approximately 120 staff by the time he departed. He bragged about HC’s revenues (not nearly enough of which found their way back into grassroots development). He bragged about winning 2 Olympic gold medals, even though Steve Yzerman built those teams, and volunteer coaches, parents taking their kids to practice at 6 AM on cold, winter mornings, and the players themselves built those players. Al Arbour used to be chided for never taking credit for something his teams did; Nicholson loves to take credit for everything else everyone else did. Nicholson refused to address accessibility issues, the rising challenge posed by Excited States hockey, poor international results, poor NHL entry drafts for Canadian athletes, and growing concerns about violence and bullying in Canadian minor hockey. The only talents he’s ever shown his whole career are taking credit for other people’s work, and ingratiating himself with hockey “celebrities” and NHL management types in an effort to feather his own nest post-Hockey Canada.

    For such a smart man, Darryl Katz sure does hire dumb. But, then again, this is just a tax write-off, isn’t it?

    Bob Nicholson is the antithesis of everything you want a senior executive to be.

  • Bob the Fraud

    Why was my earlier comment about Bob’s terrible work at Hockey Canada ignored and quickly deleted? The guy was the bureau-hack most responsible for the mess we have now in Canadian hockey. Oh, well: why should we care, and spend the money, if the people being over-paid to care simply don’t?