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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?

  • Holycow

    Oilers fans need to look in the mirror. Why is it 90% of the players brought into this city fall off a cliff and seem to lose any motivation. This is a tough city to play in.
    Edmonton is the smallest city in the NHL and has a rabid fanbase.
    Fans are constantly told how “smart” we are, how we understand the game. It is simply not true. I listen to the call in shows and listen to the hokey hillbillies calling in:
    “hi there, how ya doing”..awkward pause..”ya it’s its brad from Beaumont here” “listen, I think we need to trade Brodziak for Ovechkin, I really think this would help the team”
    These kids can’t go enjoy themselves because inevitably they will run into drunk Darren from Devon who’s on steroids but really just looks fat while he is wearing an affliction T-shirt he bought from baby Gap as it is 3 sizes too small. “Hey! Benning! you suck! I played Junior B and I could play D better than you!”
    If a married guy comes to play here, his wife is in perpetual hell as its too cold to leave the house most days. “Hey Betty, wanna go to the mall?” “Again”
    Rogers place is a mausoleum on a cold Tuesday night in January. “Hey usher! that guy just leaned forward and I’m pretty sure he just yelled something” Usher: “Sir, you will need to calm down”
    This is a tough place to play and the fans don’t make it any easier. More than management and players need to change. We as fans need to change the way we treat these guys. They are human beings. Ask yourselves how easy it is to get up in the morning and go to work in December to February, its dark and cold and its hard to get motivated, your tired every day for no reason. Players are the same and each year we can bank on a late December to early February swoon. EVERY YEAR. And the fans just jump these guys. Trade him and fire him. Gutless. Edmonton is on the verge of losing this hockey team and fans are not helping. We are almost at the point of mercy trading McDavid. The kid deserves so, so much better than this.

    • ed from edmonton

      Winnipeg is definitely smaller than Edmonton and so is Pittsburgh proper (although metro area is larger). Columbus is about the same size, but again a bigger metro area.

      However I agree with your comments about the rabid, nasty and for the most part not all that well informed fan base. But after the last 13 years not many places would even have a fan base. Like your charactures of ignorant fans, their are plenty of them.

    • HockeyRooster

      Holycow is right. There are d-bags everywhere and you hear and see them because they are the loudest (kind of a d-bag character trait). I get you don’t like Brad’s trade suggestion but just because the only call in show you listen to is in Edmonton does not mean that the Brad’s of the world don’t make stupid trade suggestions in every other city.
      Edmonton is cold. So are a lot of places where hockey players come from…crazy coincidence I guess. (I wonder if there is a correlation between warm places and baseball players…hmmm)
      I’m not buying this teams problem is the fans. And your comment about how hard it is to play hockey in Edmonton is way out of line. I pay $750 a year to play hockey (very poorly) at 11 pm on a Tuesday and then I get up and go to work the next day. If league minimum pay (which almost none of these guys make), being waited on every minute they’re with the team and flying on chartered jets to name a few isn’t enough for these guys guys to put in a solid effort, I don’t know what is.
      The problem here is management, full stop.
      About the only thing we can agree on is that Connor deserves better…from Katz and management. I think the vast majority of Edmontonians and Oilers fans know Connor is a gift from the gords and treat him accordingly.

  • 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.

  • toprightcorner

    For me, the most interesting part of the presser was when Bob spoke about character and that if guys don’t want it play for each other or don’t believe in each other that they need to go. McDavud said the same thing. It would be interesting to find out who those players are as it seems to be a huge issue.

    I would be curious as to when these players were added and if it was in the past 18 months when Chia started getting desperate.

    I think the summer will dictate who these guys are.

    My guess: Spooner, Reider, Benning, Cagguila(traded) and Manning and are the most likely to fit the bill. I also want to say Lucic, but I dont see that being in his DNA.

    • Axe

      Same.. I found that part really intriguing.. I am not drinking the Kool aid that they are a playoff team but I do feel the effort and chemistry can be much improved

  • EVILTED

    Too little to late for me, I am no longer an Oiler fan and will never again support this organization. With the best person possible for the roll (which they wont get) this is 4 years minimum from being a regular playoff team. I’m not financially supporting these clowns with one more cent. I’ll always follow and cheer McDavid and that’s it. Good luck and best wishes.

  • ed from edmonton

    A few observations about BN’s presser. Up front apologies to those who just want to see people venting their anger.
    The season is not over, this team can make the playoffs. Whether he believes this or not it’s something BN has to say. Although it would have been refreshing if he had said we have some outstanding players and some good players but about ½ our roster just isn’t good enough and that’s why PC is gone and why the team is dropping like a rock. I would strongly suggest that whoever they bring in as the next GM must be allowed to make his own assessment of the player talent. I sincerely hope BN doesn’t confuse the ‘spin’ with reality.

    Not rushing prospects. Does this mean Hitch is done by the end of the year? He has been quite confident that he can help develop young guys here. Seems like he is not on the same page as BN. Of course a new GM will want his own guy and it most likely won’t be Hitch.

    The big K signing being a group decision is both settling and disturbing. Settling from the point that the organization is not so dysfunctional that they would allow PC to do this on his own whilst knowing he would soon be fired. Disturbing that the management team would see a need to make this huge bet based on so little.

    His comment about the water suggests that he can’t grasp why things have gone so bad. He is well aware of the last 13 years record. But in the last two years, other than a few rare bright spots (Khaira, Chaisson and Koskinnen signing for this year for at least half a season) everything has turned to S—-t. Poster boy would have to be Brossoit, last year a disaster in Edmonton and average in the AHL, this year lights out in the Peg. In what reality would someone have predicted that? I have to believe the entire organization is feeling very unsettled about their ability to get things right.

  • 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.

  • TruthHurts98

    As long as the uniformed fan base keeps showing up to games and blowing their money on this hapless franchise, nothing will change. They will keep sucking and Katz will keep cashing checks. Wake up people! Connor’s agents will eventually pressure him into demanding a trade. Clock is ticking but management is too obtuse to figure much of anything out. Winning? What’s that?? Oh yeah more 1st overall picks!

  • Fakebobnick

    I have an idea. How about we hire Peter Dinklage for GM. 1) It can still be “Peter’s Plan” 2)The draft would be must watch TV on so many levels…

  • Lazarus

    Has anyone seen Train lately? The extolled and defender of MacLellan and Chiarelli? Haven’t seen him for ages..hope he’s okay.
    Ah the Oilers finish another Coach/GM cycle..in tatters. Now we move onto the unbridled hope of change phase..This team is much better than any soap opera could dream of being and I for one can’t get enough.
    Looking forward to the next cycle. Rebuild 3? Or is this 4? I only wish they’d have kept going with Oil Change..
    ?

  • Ron Burgundyz

    “Peter did not make that deal all by himself. This deal really started when we got together with our pro scouts in our meetings. We really believe in Mikko. We had to make a decision between him and Cam.”

    No you didn’t!! Not on January 22nd! This quote proves the problem goes beyond Chiarelli, and thus, that his firing changes nothing. Fire them all!

  • FutureGM

    I dont care if it is the OBC calling the shots. Or Katz’ kid. Or a Scotty Bowman. Or God themself. It is apparent that whomever is on the committee has helped make some very, very, very brutal hockey decisions for this club and need to go. Chia is a start, but until the decision makers go, no hope.
    Re Keith Gretzky, we draft better, but trade just as bad…keep him as a scout…unless he said Manning and Petrovic were any sort of answer

  • 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……

  • 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

      And even fix counts on the fact there is not a repeat and they get decent picks and minimal bad trades and contracts. Connor will likely want out though….

  • 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.

  • toprightcorner

    Chiarelli may have had a great plan, it may have been the right plan. The problem is he had no ability to implement the plan. Saying and doing are two different things.

  • Ready to Win

    I’m going to take a stab at the time line of things and guess that Nicholson decided a few days ago to fire Chiarelli but there were other people in the organization he wanted to talk to before pulling the trigger and those people were at the game last night.

  • puckle-head

    I don’t trust Nicholson at all. Remember how fast he was to use the Hitchcock 7 game hot streak to vouch for Chiarelli? Less than 2 months ago he was willing to stick with Chiarelli provided the oilers win the turtle derby for the wild card spot. Given how lousy the western wild card race is, we’re lucky that the oilers stunk enough to back Nicholson into the corner where he basically had no choice but to fire Chiarelli.

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    You know what’s in the water? The OBC mentality that they seem to promote for failing and convince the fan base isn’t even true of any hockey decisions…. you know what would speed up the rebuild, maybe another team hires chia and then we can trade with him