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Bob Nicholson talks Chiarelli firing and the plan moving forward

After news broke last night that Peter Chiarelli was fired as GM and POHO, I was very interested to see what Bob Nicholson would have to say about the move only 10 months after sitting in that same room and selling Pete’s plan to the world. Needless to say, he had some explaining to do.

Less than a year after doubling down on Peter Chiarelli’s plan that’s led the Oilers into the bottom half of the league again, I was really curious to see how Bob Nicholson was going to navigate the waters… that he would later blame, but we’ll get to that. Not only did I want to know how he was going to explain what the hell is happening, but I also wanted to hear what the plan is going to be moving forward. But before we could move forward, we needed a debrief on what exactly happened with Peter Chiarelli and what finally pushed the organization over the edge.

ON PETER CHIARELLI

As expected, the press conference started with Nicholson thanking Peter Chiarelli for his time with the organization and offering a brief explanation as to why this decision was made. No surprises here.

With the parting gifts and Hallmark cards out of the way, Nicholson got down to business, advising the gathered media that Keith Gretzky would be assuming many of the general manager jobs on an interim basis. Again, nothing here is overly surprising as many of us expected this to be the case, or at least guessed that it would be.

Nicholson was later asked if this interim tag meant Gretzky had the authority to make trades on his own or if that meant a group effort until a new GM is found. Again, nothing overly surprising here but I promise you that it gets funnier.

Everyone still with me? Good. Because this is where things started to get a little bit weird. When asked for a timeline on the decision to remove Chiarelli from his post, Nicholson jumped around a little bit.

Oh, okay, so they must have just been waiting for the break to officially announce the move then, right? If the decision was made a few days ago then they must have surely let Peter know at that time.

Wait, what? If the call to get rid of him was made a few days ago then why was he in the building up until the second period? What was he doing exactly? Packing his things? Grabbing as many office supplies as he could fit in his pockets? I don’t get it. I mean, I appreciate the humanity of letting the guy walk out on his own terms but I don’t really understand why they didn’t just rip the band-aid off when the decision was made? Wouldn’t it have been easier to tell him not to show up? That just seems weird to me. Meh, whatever.

But you just told us it was a few days ago? I’m confused here, Bob, and I’m starting to doubt that you know how calendars work. Regardless, I doubt we’ll ever get a straight answer on what exactly happened so we’ll just move on, shall we?

Wouldn’t it have been great to be a fly on the wall in that meeting? How honest were the boys with their feelings on how things are going? What did Connor say? What did Nuge say? For a guy that’s only been in the league for seven years, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has seen more mayhem in his career than anyone else in the league and I would love to know what’s going on in his head as these things happen. Anyway…

Bob, finding out how to make the team better is a question we’ve been asking for more than a decade now and the fact that we’re not any closer to an answer is maddening. This is a team that has allowed its varying managers/buddies to crowbar in their terrible ideas and we’ve spent the last 12 of 13 years paying for it. How are we supposed to believe that you guys know how to get us out of this hole? Not to mention, didn’t you do an forensic audit a little while ago that was supposed to figure all of this stuff out?

Some of the moves haven’t worked? How about every single swing that you allowed Peter Chiarelli to take over the last 18 months? The guy has spent more money and assets to build a flawed team than anyone could have ever imagined! But, you know what, I’m going to let that go. Today is a new day and a new era and I’m not going to focus on all the weird transactions Chiarelli made in his time here. I’m going to focus on the future. Let’s get back to Peter Chiarelli and his reaction when you finally told him the news.

Narrator: He did let the organization down. What else?

Much like the organization itself, Peter Chiarelli was stuck in a mindset that worked almost a decade ago and he didn’t do anything to adapt to what’s happening in the new NHL. He wanted to get heavier while the rest of the league was getting faster, and it cost them dearly. Then again, maybe he was the perfect fit for an organization that is forever stuck in the past. Speaking of which, Nicholson was asked about the Old Boys Club and whether or not it makes sense to fire the GM when everything else is still the same.

To be fair, Bob, you have to understand why the fans and world, in general, think this way. The Oilers are notorious for bringing their buddies into the mix whether it makes sense or not, and I don’t think that’s going to change until an overhaul is done at every level. To put it another way, there are a lot of guys that have been promoted into jobs that may or may not actually exist and there lies the rub.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, because I have a hard time believing that those former players don’t have any say in what’s going on in the hockey side of the business. You can tell me that Kevin Lowe is focused on community development or whatever it is that he does and that Craig MacTavish is scouting from the road something, but I don’t buy it. I’d like to, but I don’t.

ON FINDING A NEW GM

Obviously, with Peter Chiarelli out of a job the Oilers are in need of a new GM, and I was happy to hear Nicholson say that they’re going to take their time. Will they stick to that plan? Time will tell, but at least he said all the right things in regards to finding a new guy.

I don’t know what that means for the trade deadline and the weeks leading up to that eventual hire, we’ll go through that together, but I would really appreciate if he could stick to his word and actually put in the time needed to get this right. I just wish I knew what getting it right actually means. When asked about what kind of GM he’d be looking for, Nicholson admitted that it’s still too early in the process to make that call.

Did anyone else burst out laughing at the “assess talent” line he dropped because it was clear that this was not a priority when they hired the last guy. Just me? Either way, I have some major concerns that talent assessment came up in this presser because that’s been an issue in almost every trade that Peter Chiarelli has made. To me, that tells me that there are more problems with this team than the one they just removed.

After laughing at Bob’s talent assessment line, I certainly didn’t expect to be cracking up again only a few moments later when Nicholson dropped my favourite line from the press conference and one that inspired a new shirt and countless jokes on Twitter. Something in the water, huh? Classic.

ON KOSKINEN’S NEW DEAL

One thing that was on everybody’s mind as a part of this firing was the new Mikko Koskinen contract that was signed on Monday and why the team would let a GM they were about to fire make that decision. Nicholson cleared that up by pointing to more crowdsourced decision making.

ON PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

Another important item that came up in the question period was when Bob was asked if the team would finally be changing their approach to player development. His answer actually gave me some hope.

I don’t know how many times this team has tried to force players into roles before they were ready but that’s a major issue that’s been going on for years. Going forward, if they change anything at all then I really hope it’s this one. I really hope they stick to the idea of allowing players to develop properly and not pushing them into the deep end before they’re able to swim. This change in thinking alone would make a monumental difference and I really hope they stick to it.

THE WRAP…

As I was listening to Bob Nicholson’s press conference, I often found myself drifting back to his season-ending presser where spoke at length about trusting Peter Chiarelli’s plan and how he deeply believed in it. He tried to sell us on the idea that Peter Chiarelli was a deep mind that “thinks through everything he does” and that his “very good relationship” with the other GMs was going to allow him to make the trades needed to turn things around, and none of that happened at all. As it turns out, Bob was wrong about every single thing that came out of his mouth back in April and I was very interested to see how he was going to talk himself out of this one.

As happy as I was to hear that the Oilers will be taking their time in the search for a new GM, I still have concerns that the people hiring this new GM are the same ones that brought in the previous regime and allowed it to cause a ruckus for three and a half seasons. The good news is that the pressure on management is as high as it will ever get, and I hope that they can use it to improve the way they make their choices because the old way was not working. At the end of the day, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I can’t help but feel hopeful with the start of this new era. Then again, it’s fair to say that we’ve all been fooled before.

What did you guys think?

  • TKB2677

    What I find a bit funny is the reaction of Oilers fans to the presser and how pissed off fans are.

    Nicholson came out and said they think they can make the playoffs which pissed off the fans. The Oilers are 3 points out so they have chance. The goal of EVERY TEAM is to make the playoffs. So the fact he said that shouldn’t piss anyone off. That’s supposed to be the goal every year.

    Nicholson said the team needs work, they need to improve but he didn’t go and trash the team. So people are pissed. What exactly did anyone expect? Did fans seriously think he was going to come out and say “We have Conner, Leon, Nuge and the rest are absolutely useless”.

    I get people are pissed, I am pissed off too but the fans of this team are at times just ridiculous.

    • Derian Hatcher

      I expected someone to ask why this took so long when the evidence of Chiarelli’s poor decisions have been on display for months if not years.

      I expected someone to ask, when nearly every team was going with speed and quickness, Pete went with heavy. How did most other GM’s in the league figure out the trend and the Oilers didn’t? The league didn’t just shift to speed, Peter and the rest of the executive totally misread things. Is it not the GM’s job to have vision?

      I expected honesty (I know – asking a lot). If “The decision was made before last night” as Bob Nicks said, why was Koskinen signed to such a poorly-timed, high priced contract with such a small sample size of games?

      Let’s be honest here…the intelligent commenters and bloggers on this site have pointed out the bad trades, poor talent evaluation, and horrible management for years. And they paid Pete millions and watched as he made poor decision after poor decision, inflating the teams cap with no accountability until last night?

      The Griffin Reinhart deal ALONE was enough evidence that he (or whoever convinced him to do it) was so far out to lunch regarding evaluation of talent. It’s was as bad as drafting Alex Plante FF$.

      And now when Bobby Burger stands in front of a mic and says they are going to take their time and hire the right guy we are supposed to buy that BS? he has proven he CAN”T hire the right guy. He just sat back and watched Chia dig deeper. The circus is staying it appears.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      I think that even if McDavid can put the team on his back, they go on a hot streak, and squeak into the playoffs, it’s clear to everyone that this team doesn’t have the depth to win a round (unless they get some Dwayne Roloson-esque goaltending).

      The fans are frustrated that they’ve only been able to enjoy 1 good year out of the past 13, and apart from 3 players (who the GM inherited), the team is hot garbage AND they’re capped out. But Bobby Nicks, MacT, Howson, and K Lowe all have jobs. So that’s cool…

    • Ben918

      I think the fans were more than patient. I think if this happened to any team, they would have had enough. Imagine you have been rebuilding since 2007, you finally get a key player like McDavid and the GM trades all your old talent. Then overpays for a whole bunch of players that might be better suited to the AHL. Then years go by and we still support them. Oiler fans are loyal and this was unprecedented stupidity. What else can we do other than complain? The Oilers aren’t far off a playoff spot because of three players. Imagine if they had a real GM earlier? Even a week would have saved them the Koskinen signing. This was way overdue and the fact that they claim to be listening to the fans is a slap in the face. The fans have been upset for years. They did it now because Bob is useless.

  • Mr.Snrub

    “Keith is going to be the key point person for it but it will be a (group effort)”

    Who’s part of the group Burger Bob?

    “I’m into three and a half years into my role and I hear it all the time. It’s the old guard and the Oilers of the 80s that are making the decisions and that’s not true at all.”

    Craig MacTavish is the Senior VP Of Hockey Operations,Scott Howson is Vice president of player development,Kevin Lowe is God Emperor of the Katz Group and none of them are involved?

    “We’re going to look at every aspect of this organization. There’s something in the water here that is not right”

    Maybe you should start at the guys who have been here for a decade plus and have had exactly one successful season.

    Somehow i’m even more pessimistic about the future of the club this afternoon than i’ve ever been. Decade of Darkness 2.0 is officially here.

  • Thunderboy

    I’m still shocked that they gave a extension to Koskinen, I mean he’s all right and all but for 4.5 million? just a bonehead GM we had. I just hope we find a decent/good GM, but its the Oilers(“Oilers will be Oilers”
    ) and they should just fire the pro scouts too. They allowed this singing ps Im sorry I just BLOWN away by this……

  • Goaltender Interference

    In other news a press event was given today about a burnt down house by a soot-covered guy holding two leaky jugs of gasoline and an empty book of matches.

    Nothing to see here.

  • OTOF2

    Apologies if this had already been stated, I haven’t read all the comments yet…
    The worst part was when Bobby Burger said he needs to find someone who fits the culture. Say what??? The culture is the problem!!!! Don’t hire someone who fits the culture (re: OBC), he needs to find someone who can change the culture!!!! This organization has been unhealthy for years and unless the culture is changed things wont get any better. How can he not see this???

  • BabyBoomer

    Let’s bring back – to the forefront Lowe & McTavish, at least we’ll have total transparency. Hiring another outsider is a complete waste of time, money and hope.

  • nijames

    The whole organization is a joke. Bobby Nicholson should have been packing his stuff the same time PC was, he doesn’t have a clue what he is doing. Anyone could run hockey Canada successfully picking teams from the best players in Canada. The real world isn’t like that and he has proven he isn’t the guy to run an organization. Only way this gets fixed is no one in management roles in the Oilers organization should have a job now. Need to start fresh not with Keith Gretzky, next move bring back Keegan Lowe to be his assistant. What a bunch of clowns

  • Sorensenator

    So when the Oilers won 9 games in 11 under Hitch when he first came aboard that was all a fluke and teams felt bad for them? Don’t get me wrong I’m happy Chia is gone, he messed up big time, but I really think the Oilers recent play is not indicative of who they are as a team. They are not a contender of course not, but they are capable of playing much, much better and they have shown that in spurts throughout the season. Do they need better scoring wingers and shoring on defense? Of course they do, but as of now the team as a whole has to find a way to play a more competitive brand of hockey as they have in various points of the season and make a habit of it. They have been playing garbage hockey with no confidence.

  • Kenny The Rat

    I wonder what Katz reaction to “something in the water” would be if one of his retail CEOs said that about his stores? That statement alone tells me BN has no idea what he is doing.

    • Sorensenator

      Dude, it refers to all the losing the last decade in Edmonton. Don’t read into too much like many of the tin foil wearing hats here who think this is all a grand conspiracy.

  • FlamesFan27

    So if it was a “group” decision to give Koskinin that contract, what in the group changes with a new GM, other than one voice? Won’t the new GM still have to work with the “group”, whoever that is?

  • Darcy yaceyko

    So if the ole boys club is not part of hockey ops, who is in the leadership group. The people that own and are in charge of this organization just keep reaching all time lows. Very in professional and nothing but liars!!!!

  • everton fc

    Flames fan here, who has never hated the Oilers. A few thoughts;

    1. Buyout Lucic after the season ends.
    2. Hold onto Nugent-Hopkins.
    3. Dump Rieder, Rattie.
    4. See what you can get, for Puljujarvi. Or send him to Bakersfield for a full season.
    5. See what you can get for Talbot; grab a young goalie w/NHL experience. Dump cap.
    6. Move or buyout Manning. Real bad move.
    7. Leave Yamamoto in Bakersfield.
    8. Resign Chiasson – as a Flames fan, I always thought he might break out. He’s a good 3rd/4th line option, regardless.
    9. Consider a buyout on Russell, who I like, but who is grossly overpaid.
    10. Give the kids in Bakersfield a chance. They could care less whether they play in Edmonton, Carolina, Florida, NY, Ottawa – these guys just want to play. Find out who really gives a damn, and get them into the lineup. Immediately, need be.
    11. Consider Hitchcock, as GM, after the season ends (still like Kelly McCrimmon, ultimately).
    12. Critical is the rebuild of the defence, and secondary scoring.
    13. Keep Kassian. He’s an affordable 4th line option.

    Stepping back… There’s hope in Edmonton. Strange as it may seem.

  • hagar

    Believing anything that comes out of this management groups mouth is like asking a group of fox where the chickens went.
    They are a bunch of self serving losers that are truly so dilusional to think they are correct in their plan, or they are a bunch of self serving losers that think we are the fool and not them.
    This mess isnt good intentions gone awry. It is horrible character in the least guilty version.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    I’m not certain there are any words that can satisfy the fans. The Oilers have been a train wreck for years yet have had the benefit of high draft selections forever.

    I have little faith in the management team to get this right.

  • MrBung

    All this confirms is many fans theory that problems run deeper and Bobbi Nicks is a big part of the problem. He hired Chianin the first place and let him damage the team for this season.

  • MrBung

    Bobbi Nicks statement about something in the water is not unlike Lowe’s comment that they were somehow cursed and now paying back for the years of 80s success. This clown college continues to astound.

  • The oilers will get next to nothing for talbot the entire league knows he isnt part of the oilers plan and on july 1 can get him without giving up any players. As PC once said trading is hard other teams dont want to help you

  • VK63

    Can you believe that this guy is Katz chosen “operator”? What a farce.
    Gee….I wonder why this franchise is in chaos?
    Really Bob?
    How about, you, as a leader, actually convey confidence, competence and some measure of astute leadership.

    Absolutely and utterly mind boggling.

  • Darcy yaceyko

    I’m sure the oiler brass have the season ticket holders, the average fan that van barely afford to go to a game and the oiler fans everywhere when the go to palm springs or Florida to have meetings. Living the high life at our expense.