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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?



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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

      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.

  • 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,

  • 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

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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

  • 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……

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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..
    ?