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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?



  • CMG30

    As far as timing it should have happened years ago. Hindsight being what it is, last off season was a no-brainer. He’s leaving one giant mess.. up at the cap, bled of talent for years. A few gems in the farm system but most have been rushed and flushed…

  • 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.

  • Danger Pay

    I just read this quote prior to reading the article “Don’t blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.”

  • 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!

  • 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

  • camdog

    With Bob it’s always “We in management – “we” “We” PC was part of the “We”. The “plan” hasn’t changed, that’s the beauty. Hitch likes the same type of players PC liked. Organisation makes moves like this to sell tickets not to win hockey games.

  • 50 Flex

    Every year, one NHL team is going to win the Stanley Cup. On the flip side, at least one team is about to enter a Stanley Cup drought that will last 30 years. Pretty sure the Oilers are in that latter group.

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    What an embarrassment. He answers one question by saying the old boys club aren’t making any decisions and they only keep K. Lowe around for his leadership, then he answers another question about interim trades by saying decisions will be a group effort. I’ve always thought I’d feel better when they finally got rid of Chia, but I actually feel worse now that it seems clear that everyone involved has no idea what they’re doing.

    “There’s something in the water here that’s just not right”… but they’ve only kicked out one of the guys who’s been farting in the hot tub for years.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Loil

    When will this organization stop sweeping the dirt under the rug and just clean house!? After how many coaches, assistant coaches, GM’s and the same Old Boys Club are still in office plotting, planning, thinking of better ways to screw this club over and make a mockery of the fans.
    I’m not buying it for one second that they aren’t involved in the decision making, that’s BS and i’m calling it!

  • Skylardog

    I thought it was bad this morning, and knew a clean out of everyone between chia and Katz was in order, but this info just makes it even worse. Keith Gretzky,

  • btrain

    Mostly lip service. What I would love to see happen is the forming of a hiring committee. Bob is the politician in charge of a system he doesn’t know enough about and shouldn’t trust himself or the current folks around him to figure things out. Therefore, although there is 0 chance Yzerman is going to return to a GM job, let alone in Edmonton, maybe he would be willing to chair a hiring committee? Maybe Bryan Burke would be willing to join that committee, and maybe you can find an analytics driven mind like Jonathan Willis to round out the group? Such an approach would have an experienced, successful, forward thinking and balanced group hand selecting the next person to handle Connor McDavid’s career.

    They absolutely need to get this right and I think a hiring committee takes out a lot of bias (i.e. heavy hockey) that has plagued this organization.

  • Spoils

    Chia created a team built for size. the league is about speed and skill now. we need to add a GM that is building for today…

    NOPE

    we need to add a GM that understands the speed and skill of today and has a hell of a hypothesis about where “today” is going. we need a GM that will lead us to be dominant in 2-4 years…

  • Oiler Al

    ‘why the second period”.. My guess is that Katz was watching the game back in LA, while hiding under the kitchen table, said ” I want this guy gone, before this game is over”..dont want to see him in the press box for the third period.

  • Hemmercules

    So Bob says that Chia was GM and made the decisions and then says Koski was a group effort in their meetings. I like how he tries to deflect that the OBC has nothing to do with anything and then calls that contract a group effort. I feel like he’s lying to some degree on the OBC’s involvement. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong for the sake of this teams future.

  • Spydyr

    One minute old Burger Bob says

    “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. Peter Chiarelli was the GM and POHO.” -Nicholson on the OBC reputation #Oilers

    Then minutes later Burger Bob says

    “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.” -Nicholson on the Koskinen deal #Oilers

    They cannot even lie to the fans without putting their foot into there mouths.

    Clean house.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      While the idea of a house-cleaning is good and I love a good conspiracy… The more parsimonious way to think of the “group” Koskinen decision is that PC has his GM pants taken away and needed a group green light for the signing. This being a group decision does not mean that every decision was/is.

      • btrain

        Exactly! Its 100% reasonable to question the same old voices at the table from the OBC. However, I think its important to ask if the overpays, the lopsided trades, the poor cap management, the NMC sweeteners happen without Chiarelli? For me, I don’t think so. He has a reputation that existed pre-Oilers. The approach he took in Boston was the same approach he took in Edmonton. Like Johnny Cash’s voice, Chiarelli’s entire body of work is distinct and immediately recognizable. I don’t like the OBC and the giant distraction that they are either, but to a competent GM that is all they would amount to, a minor distraction. If Chia required the group to make the decision on Koskinen, he is not a competent GM.

  • usetobewise

    If Bob Nicholson et al aren’t gone by May at the very latest this franchise is doomed. They are an organization of inept hockey people that operate with waaaaay too much arrogance. #draintheswamp

  • tkfisher

    SO, there is more people to blame for the latest contract. Explain to me how other people who contributed to knee capping this team with more of the same BS can be trusted to fix things with more of the same BS Bob?