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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?



  • Oilers_1978

    PC was dab…no doubt…

    but the shadow management of Lowe, Wayne, MacT, Howeson should go…as long as these (good players but) bad bad managers are around nothing will change…

  • Ol_OneNut

    This season’s toast and probably the next one too. Playoffs in 2021 maybe. By then McDavid will be in his seventh season.
    What a joke of an organization

  • TruthHurts98

    Nicholson is just as big of ‘The Problem’ as PC was and will be for years to come. Time to clean house of KLowe, MacT, Howson, goalie coach Swartz etc. Until then this team will never make the playoffs let alone really be taken seriously. They might actually finish dead last this year with Connor.

    • BM took a humorous approach to this article. This doorknob actually thinks this is going to appease the paying customers? Again softballs lobbed by the MSM. All should have been in attack mode. I could be wrong, but I dont think they are going to be able to hoodwink the paying public yet again, never mind attracting players and managers here. Those who were the problem are still here and have probably been given more authority. Surprised he kept a straight face , telling that bold faced outright lie.

      • TruthHurts98

        He’s stubborn and probably actually still believes things can change. But everyone outside of Edmonton knows otherwise. I for one can’t stand him and think he’s just as big of a problem as PC and the Good Ole Boys Club.

        • Randomfan

          Him saying they believe they can still make the playoffs was the turning point for me. This team is not even close to playoff ready. I doubt he even watches any games? There is no playoffs for atleast 2 more years. Book it.

  • CMG30

    Who was the guy who kept commenting from day 1 of the hire of PC that he was ‘an incompetent’? Whoever you were, you were dead on. I was in the camp of give this guy a chance. He had succeded elsewhere… It was the return for Hall that drilled it home for me that this guy was poison.

    Of course, he made so many obviously poor decisions that, after a certain point, isn’t it really more the fault of the clowns signing off on those moves?

    • TruthHurts98

      I was one of the few that did not like the hiring, he stripped down Boston badly and it took them a while to recover. He’s done far more damage here and the Oilers are screwed for next season and beyond too. There was more than one that hated the hiring, I thought maybe he could learn from past mistakes but it was more of a hope than anything.

    • CityofWhat

      I mentioned it numerous times Chiarelli was a bad hire and was scared outta my mind when he was hired he would do damage and I knew it would start with Hall and I have hated him for it and will forever hate him for it and never forgive him for it. What a clown.

    • Derzie

      When Chia was hired, TSN did a video profile/interview of each Canadian GM. I watched the Treliving one & the Chia one. My only thought was that there’s no way this boob can compete with GMs like Treliving. Polar opposite impressions. Maybe those videos are out there. Give them a watch and see what I mean.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • toprightcorner

    Firing Chiarelli last night actually makes sense. If the did it a day or 2 earlier, the players would be stuck answering media questions where they would undoubtedly say it was their fault for not performing. They don’t need that a second time this season. Let them go on their break and come back with a clear mind. The media focus is now not in the players but on management and hopefully this will out them in a better position to come back strong in Feb.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      The timing was good for a mid-season GM firing. But it should have been done at the end of last season. It will take considerable time to replace the 6-7 big/slow/heavy Bruinized players on this team and find suitable replacements that are fast, skilled, and good passers. Peter Chiarelli Brutal-ized this team and has spent near the salary cap. It will take some time.

  • Datsyukian

    “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?”
    I don’t doubt for a moment that both Connor and Nuge just said all the right platitudes that players (or any employee in a similar situation) always say – like “It is a good decision”, “We have to work harder”, etc. I don’t think that was an interesting or eventful meeting at all (unless you have insider information to the contrary, which would surprise me a lot). Add to that the fact that Connor and Nuge are among of the politest, most respectful and politically correct players in the whole league (which sometimes probably works to their disadvantage).

  • 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…

  • toprightcorner

    Hire Ralph Kruger and let him fire MacT over Skype.

    Seriously, Ralph is very intelligent, is the epitome of quality character, has a great eye for talent, great with young players and is a positive influence on anyone around him.

    Ralph would be my first call.

  • 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.

  • BR

    So doe this mean they’ll be sending Puljujarvi down to the AHL and keeping him, Yama, Bear, Jones etc down there for rest of year? Because they need it.

    Let Hitch attempt to coach the rest as best he can through this season.

    Still see them trying to offload Talbot and some other pieces – Load up on picks/prospects and hopefully use them to bring in some more pieces at the draft to build a faster team with more skill.

    Still can’t believe they let it get this bad.

  • bazmagoo

    The one thing that stood out for me was Nicholson admitting the organization still rushes players.

    This is why the old boys club needs to go! They have been trying to recreate the early 80’s for 30 years now. It was a miracle that all that talent came into the league at the same time in the early 80’s, it’s not going to happen again.

  • Wesley41

    So Koskanin was a group decision, but the Kevin Lowes and MAC-T’S of the world aren’t involved in decision making huh? So I have major doubts no matter who the full time gm will be if anything can change with who is still in management of this team!

  • 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

  • After the Oilers fix their water supply they have to address the teams lack of leadership on and off the ice, improve their horrible defense, keep their young players in the minors until they have learned what it takes to play in the NHL, trade for players with toughness, leadership and skill from teams with WINNING records and attitudes. Its time to trade 2 or 3 of their so called top 7 players to bring in players with the qualities and chemistry that this team needs. The Oilers are a mess and they know it but are trying to spin things that they are close, when they aren’t.

  • 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.

  • Axe

    The only thing I got out of that press conference is that we should all be thankful for the third Detroit goal because I bet u anything if we had won yesterday they were gonna hold on to PC for time being.. I call BS on the claim they decided to fire him before the game.. Esp if they are implying decision was made before yesterday…eithee way good riddance and hopefully a strong competent and independent GM can be found.. One who will push back against OBC… Cuz let’s be honest katz buddies are not going anywhere…

  • 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..
    ?