The Next GM

They did it. The Edmonton Oilers fired President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli late Tuesday night following their loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The heat had been on the organization to fire Chiarelli for quite some time now, and there hasn’t really been a known short-list of names to replace him. Fans just wanted him out and then they would go from there.

Well, it’s now time to ‘go from there’. Who should be the next GM of the Edmonton Oilers? Who should be tasked with taking this below average, top-heavy team and turning them into the Stanley Cup Contender they should be with Connor McDavid?

I’ll preface this by saying that I am not an Insider, and you should know that. I will not pretend to have any behind the scenes knowledge, this is simply a list of people working in hockey who have been talked about as future General Managers and who would make sense here in Edmonton. Let’s get started.

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There are three ways the Oilers could go about doing this:

HIRING FROM WITHIN: This would end with the fan base being even angrier than it currently is if you can believe that. They have a few former GM’s sitting in-house like Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, but that can’t be the answer. It simply cannot. But it might. This could also mean Keith Gretzky taking over as General Manager, but to really bring back the fan base, the organization needs to start fresh with a new regime. Still, the possibility of them doing the ‘classic Oilers’ thing and promoting from within still exists.

GET A GOOD HOCKEY MAN: There are plenty of former GM’s who are currently without jobs but have connections to organizations like Hockey Canada, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when someone gets the job based purely on connections and not merit, you should be concerned. I’m not saying that hiring someone with experience or who has worked with Hockey Canada is a bad thing, there are plenty of good candidates that could come from there. I just worry a little bit about someone like Dean Lombardi becoming the next GM because they “know how to win”. The Oilers need to avoid hiring the next Peter Chiarelli, and there are names out there who could be exactly that.

GET AHEAD OF THE CURVE: I’m not saying you need to go out and hire the next John Chayka or Kyle Dubas but the Oilers should be considering some names that are considered “up and comers” in the NHL world. Find a fresh name, someone who won’t follow old trends and make the same mistakes that Chiarelli did. That doesn’t mean go find someone inexperienced, but find someone who can be an impactful GM and knows the direction of the new NHL.

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The problem with going this route is that a lot of these names currently work for other organizations, so hiring them mid-season would require the Oilers to get permission from their current clubs before interviewing them. That could be a problem and could mean that it’s best to wait until after the season to fully begin the interview process.

With all of that being said, here are some names that I think could be in the running for the next GM of the Edmonton Oilers:

KEITH GRETZKY (EDM): Generally considered to be Peter Chiarelli’s right-hand man, Gretzky is considered to be a very good scout. He’s a big reason why the organization has slowly started to see some talent build up at the AHL level. Out of all the internal candidates that will be thrown around (Lowe, MacTavish), Gretzky is the only one who makes a shred of sense. I still think it’s unlikely.

STEVE YZERMAN (N/A): I had to put him in here because everyone will be asking, but I cannot see him coming to Edmonton. He left the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018 because he wanted to be closer to his family and just step away for a bit. I don’t think he’ll be willing to move to Edmonton less than a year after making that decision. Many believe he will be the next GM of the Detroit Red Wings.

KEN HOLLAND (DET): He has held the position of GM of the Detroit Red Wings for over 20 years, but I believe his time there may be coming to an end. If Steve Yzerman eventually takes over as GM in Detroit, then Holland may be out. He has obvious ties to Bob Nicholson and Hockey Canada as well. Expect to hear his name talked about a lot.

KELLY McCRIMMON (VGK): He’s currently the Assistant GM of the Vegas Golden Knights and he gets a lot of credit for how well they were built through the expansion draft. He has been linked to the new Seattle franchise as well.

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RON FRANCIS (Hockey Canada): He was fired from his role as President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes last year because he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Owner Tom Dundon. He made some bad moves in Carolina (Scott Darling) and some great moves (Teuvo Teravainen). He recently co-general managed Canada’s Spengler Cup team with Sean Burke, so that gives him the Hockey Canada connection.

SEAN BURKE (Hockey Canada): He’s spent time with both the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens on the scouting/development side of things. He’s considered a bright, young, up and coming mind in the hockey world. He built the 2018 Canadian Men’s Olympic team and also teamed up with Ron Francis to help build this year’s Spengler Cup team.

MARK HUNTER (London Knights): He’s currently the GM of the London Knights of the OHL, but there was a time that many believed he would be the next GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They went with Kyle Dubas instead and Hunter left the organization. I have no doubts he will be a GM of an NHL franchise one day.

BILL ZITO (CBJ): He started his hockey management career as an agent and then moved into the management side of things. He currently serves as an assistant GM in Columbus and also oversees their AHL affiliate. He’s one of the names on this list that has seemingly been linked to every open GM job over the past two years. Expect that to happen again with the Oilers job.

TOM FITZGERALD (NJD): He won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins as Director of Player Management and was eventually named their assistant GM. In 2017, he left the Penguins to become the assistant GM in New Jersey, where he is still currently employed.

MIKE FUTA (LAK): Since being named assistant GM of the LA Kings back in 2017, Futa has been linked to pretty much every GM job. Like Paul Fenton, who got his first GM gig with the Wild in 2018, it’s only a matter of time before Futa gets his chance to run a team. He has a strong player personnel background.

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LAURENCE GILLMAN (TOR): Currently an executive with the Leafs, he’s previously spent time with the Vancouver Canucks as their assistant GM. Before that, he spent 13 years with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise serving as their assistant GM for a time and also as GM of their AHL affiliate.

RON HEXTALL (PHI): He lost his job as GM of the Flyers earlier this year for “philosophical differences” Basically, he was too patient. You should hear his name mentioned a lot over the next few months. Not sure if he is a perfect fit here in Edmonton though.

DEAN LOMBARDI (PHI): Built a two-time Stanley Cup winner in LA, but I think his days as an NHL GM are over. It might be enticing to hire a guy like Lombardi who has done it before and won, but that’s exactly what they did with Chiarelli. I fear Lombardi would just be Chiarelli 2.0.

DAVE NONIS (ANA): He’s worked in some tough markets, serving as GM of both the Canucks and Leafs in the past. He could handle the pressures of being a GM in a Canadian city, but I don’t think he’s the right guy to build a team in the new NHL. He would be a “good hockey man” hiring.

BRIAN BURKE (Sportsnet): Nope, not a chance. He would be an awful hiring. He’s stuck in his ways and is obsessed with ‘heavy hockey’ and doing things his own way. The NHL is getting faster and more analytics-based. That’s what works. Burke wouldn’t work. I hate that I even had to put him on this list.

That’s 15 names, and I know I probably missed some. Either way, we are in for a very entertaining few months around Oilersnation.

  • Soccer Steve


    A good man like Todd was sacrificed. Chiarelli was finally jettisoned. Yet the men who hired these two failures – what else could they be? – are still here. The men who are the architects of 13 years of losing are still here. The men who treat their fan base like an easy slam dunk are still here. The men who are too pathetic to go down with the ship are constantly jumping on the only lifeboat while the rest of the crew drowns.

    Until these characters are gone, nothing will change. This was proven in the final weeks leading to Pete’s firing; the clown car is still full, they’ve just kicked one passenger out.

    That enough metaphors for everyone?

      • HockeyRooster

        Agreed about Manning and the ‘stamper’-send them somewhere together! I rarely focus on one player but last night every time a Dman was beat or a there was a D zone turn over, I saw #26. He’s terrible and he’s ours for another year. At least we didn’t trade scoring depth to get him…oh wait…

    • ricardo2000

      Let the firing process continue until it reaches the top. I do mean Darryl Katz. Just because he got a billion dollar business gifted to him by the corrupt Tories (UCP) doesn’t make him an astute businessman. Putting his son in the spotlight doesn’t make him a leader. Hanging around with the old Oilers doesn’t make him a hockey executive. His choices for coach and GM over the years have proven this decisively.
      His incompetence won’t be obvious to Edmontonians until McD, Draisiatl and the rest demand trades to competently run teams.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    NOTHING is going to change folks. Did you hear what Bobby Burger said, “We will look for somebody who fits into the oiler culture.” What culture would that be BOB? Culture of Losing? I am so pi$$ed off with that press conference I could puke. That whole upper management group has to go. The spineless weasels let Chia sign Koskinin before they decide to fire him, then they can blame him when the signing doesn’t turn out. Chia was brutal and had to, but there is another 6 that need to be shown the door as well. Media guys, you better start asking the tough questions. I don’t care who they bring in, with the strings being pulled from above the GM is just a scapegoat for the total incompetence. Once again NOTHING is going to change.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Katz ought to be taking the Oiles mangement and shaking them up like an Etch A Sketch and starting the whole thing over fom scratch… lots of house cleaning to do yet start with Lowe MacT Howson and Schwartz and lets go from there

    And someone please explain to me how the Oiler Goalie Coach Dustin Schwartz still has a job? The guy should have been gone after last season! Are the Oilers waiting to see if the goaltending gets any worse before they fire him?

  • Hemmercules

    I don’t think it matters much. The puppet masters in charge are no better than Chia. They will hire another idiot and control him or let him run wild like Chia did at first. The Oilers won’t be good until the old boys and Bobby Nicks retire. By then Keagan Lowe will probably be the president of hockey operations and Katz kid will be in charge.

  • Bob Stauffer interviewed Ken Holland (DET) yesterday and gave him praises over his patience with player development, then rattled off all their skilled players (some who scored last night) who first spent 3-4 years in the AHL with Grand Rapids.

    Just think if Puljujarvi and Yamamoto played in the AHL for 3-4 years before being brought up how much better adjusted they would be. I’d mention other 1st rounders from 2015, but well, you know.

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    Don’t kid yourself, no GM with any kind of pedigree will want to come here and attempt to clean up the catastrophe that Chia left behind with next to no cap space to work with….. on top of that, I’m absolutely convinced that some of the disaster trades/signings have fingerprints of Lowe, MacT or Howson on them too….but those guys can NEVER take any blame since all their crap is done behind curtains and someone else can always be made into a sacrificial lamb…. there is no way the Koskinen extension was just Chia, I just think they did it prior to canning Chia so that if (when) that signing also turns bad they can blame it on a guy no longer employed and to no ones surprise the OBC “had nothing to do with it”.
    So anyone in their right mind coming in from the outside has to consider being the new GM means: fixing this mess with no cap room, still having the OBC in your ear (but you take all the blame), and your reputation to get any future NHL employment depends on your success here…… so unless they do the unthinkable and actually remove the nimrods up top, to assure a new GM will not have to deal with them, its going to be more of the same circus in oil country

    • Glencontrolurstik

      To your point, did anyone watch Hometown Hockey a few weeks ago with McTavish as the guest? When asked about the state of the Oilers, he seemed oblivious to the condition of the team. And totally clueless that the fanbase knew any different. He was still saying the same old, “we ahave an exciting team, they have great chemistry, blah, blah, blah… I guess in his eyes, if the games are selling out, he is a hero in the eyes of his boss… It’s a really sad situation.

      • Dapper Dan 3099

        yup absolutely, its so blatantly obvious (despite what bob wants to tell us) these idiots still have their roots deep within how this franchise is run….. the incompetent decisions go well before Chia’s hiring, so its obvious that the problem is the excessive arrogance up top that still, despite the last 12 years, believe they know about “winning” and run a franchise……

        • Glencontrolurstik

          as I said, it’s a sad situation. And really we should all be really embarrassed to be so gullible as to even continue to follow this team.
          At times, I compare us all to a bunch of “Justin Beiber (or whoever) groupies”. Let’s all just suck it up & find another team & save face?
          There are plenty of great, well run NHL teams out there…

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Trainwreck, as I said above, the Oilers Management are oblivious, but you already know that.
          The ones I feel bad for are Hitchcock & McDavid… They know full well what’s going on (or not going on) and they are the only ones that are thrown out to the sharks to be the spokesmen… One day, they are going to snap? And I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

  • vetinari

    The Oilers are easily 6 months late with this firing. The only good trades I see from Chiarelli’s time… trading for Maroon using spare parts and that’s about it. I will credit him with improving the farm team and getting some depth from the college ranks but that was a low bar to raise given how bad drafting and development was for the Oilers during the Howson/MacT years. Almost all Chiarelli trades have set us back in some way and almost all of his signings were overpays leaving us in cap hell and for added measure, his NMC’s handcuffs his successor on most of the main offenders (Lucic). The new GM will need two-three years just to clear out the bad contracts or let buyouts come off the books. Not good. This decision needs to get it right… and I do not have confidence that Katz can pull it off with his current advisors. In fact, I would be ecstatic to learn that Katz decided to sell the team and concentrate on his movie business…

    • Justino

      Agreed, the time to fire Chiarelli was the end of last season. Between then and now he’s done so much more damage that it’ll take atleast 3 years to ice a cup contender team. We may squeak into the playoffs once in the next couple years but it’ll all be on the back of McDavid.

  • CMG30

    The biggest issue now is that the same forces that hired Chirelli are still in place and will guide the selection process. This is the root of the issues in Edmonton. The OBC are basically dinosaurs rooted in the game the way they imagine it was in the 80’s. I can only cross my fingers and hope that I’m wrong but I very much feel like the hunt has already narrowed to Chirelli v2.0.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Kelly McKrimmon gets my pick. Building hockey teams is in that family’s DNA. I believe that he was the biggest reason for VGK’s success in putting that talent together.

    • IRONman

      Cap hell can be fixed. 2 years time. Seattle May take bad contracts hint hint. The Oilers still have McDavid and Leon and Nuge. Larsson and Klefbom with Bouchard, Jones ect. The team has talent. Young talent