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.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Been reading a bit about Mccrimmon. He can clearly identify what types of players are needed to build a winning team. It’s one thing to pluck a player off of each team, it’s another to make trades and acquire them. That being said, the Oilers need someone who understands the need for players who work hard and behave like professionals, even when no one is watching. Since Yzerman seems unlikely, I think I’d be asking Vegas for permission to speak with Mccrimmon.

  • Gofucoffee

    Hey! The Raiders just hired long time analyst Mike Mayock as there new GM, anybody considered Mr. Bob McKenzie? He seems to totally understand salary cap era and implications, is a draft analyst every year and can’t remember ever disagreeing with any of his current player evaluations.

    Just thinking out loud.

    • Hemmercules

      Mckenzie has a pretty good gig. Why give that up to ruin your life as GM of a pathetic organization? The pay is good obviously but the stress of being GM in Oil county probably takes 10 years off your life.

      • LOL. Like they will talk to anyone on that list.
        A) The 80’s gang will be in charge and always have been.
        B) Everybody on that list is not so naive that they would not know they are the next sacrificial lamb. C)It is coming to a head, Anybody with NMC, the Oilers are on that list , and that is extending to management types as well. Until the OBC is completely gone, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Hemmercules

      Lots of people still have the blinders on. The team is capped with bad contracts and about 10 guys that would clear waivers in a heart beat. I almost want them to put Lowe and Mact back in there just to see the outrage it would cause.

  • Spoils

    here’s my interview question- solve for X in 2 years




    • Gravis82

      We can only pencil in those who have proved it. There is no guarantee any of these prospects work out until they work out. This is where we are now. Probably only 1 of the top 6F or top 4D open positions are free agents. The rest need to be drafted or traded for. But the trade has to be a 400% win in order to not be a lateral move. So essentially, you are trading for draft picks or prospects, which is the same thing as drafting essentially. Someone tell me how long it is going to take to fill these boxes with sure things at those positions? 3, 5 or 7 years.




  • Alberta Ice

    Hate to state the obvious: “Where would this organization be without McDavid?” and with a corollary obvious: “Where would this organization be without Chiarelli?”

  • Randomfan

    This is insane..how do this management believes they can make the playoffs this year with the group they have? No way they can get back into it. The team is so broken. I dont see them making the playoffs for the next 2 years. Our window will open 3 to 4 years from now when other teams go into remission. Until then just find a quiet corner and let the young guns develop. Screw the playoffs. Do this right for once.

  • 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.

  • President & General Manager

    Bob handled his last press conference wonderfully. He made it absolutely clear that the OBC has zero influence on hockey ops decisions. The buck stops at Bob and Bob only.

  • Kelly McCrimmon checks off alot of boxes.
    -Understands how to develop and work with young talent
    -Helped build a playoff contender in the pacific from scratch
    -Has a boatload of experience in management
    Him or Hunter is my guys

  • Ben918

    Some good choices. Obviously having Yzerman would be best but I might as well wish that NJ calls tomorrow and offers to trade Hall straight across for Larsson. I am sure there are others but I don’t think we need a new GM. We need someone that knows other GMs, that has built relationships with them and players agents. Someone who can use these contacts to open new doors for us on the trade front and maybe part with EVERYONE Chiarelli signed or traded for. Then we need to attract FA’s. I think a few listed could do it but I don’t think this is the time to gamble like we did with Eakins as coach.

  • Bob made the mistake of hiring Chiarelli, the guy known for putting teams into Cap Hell™ and known for trading superstar talent for peanuts. Chiarelli didn’t do anything new, he was being himself when he overpaid players and traded off young talent for nothing.

    Chiarelli then hired McLellan over Babcock (who was a coach that knew how to develop young talent). I see this as a cascade of errors.

    And I think just like how Chia was just being Chia, I think Bob is just being Bob. I don’t think he’ll find a good GM.

  • camdog

    Change in culture means they’ll start trading for forwards that can grind – Hitchcock type players instead of soft players like Spooner. The organisation believes a few more grinders well take them to the playoffs.

  • Rama Lama

    I predict that Keith Gretzky will be the next GM……….book it Dano!

    This is a giant “old boys club”, so that is where we will get the next GM from………..nothing will change. I think that having three guys reviewing trades is a step in the right direction, so the current set-up should help Keith Gretzky as he transitions.

  • toprightcorner

    The new GM cannot be anyone who won a cup it had great success as a GM in the past. All of those GMs know the old NHL and not the new fast/skill NHL. If this GMs are available, it us because they already proved they couldn’t change with the times.

    I would prefer someone that would be a first time GM, but has had quality experience in hockey operations as an assistant or similar, oreferably with an organization that has had solid success.

    I like Hunter, Zito or McCrimmon. They are all very intelligent, been part of teams with recent success and have been working for successful GMs that served as good mentirs and role models.

    I would also like to see Sean Burke as part if the staff as another assistant, maybe hockey development.

  • toprightcorner

    I would send Wayne Gretzky down to visit his buddy Stevie Y with a blank cheque. Tell him he can work from home and hire a VP of hockey ops to be his in town guy and another assistant GM of his choosing.

    Katz will send his private jet weekly for Yzerman so he can come to Edmonton for weekly staff meetings. He will also be provided a house of his choosing anytime he wanted to spend the night or bring his family.

    Give him the ability to fire anyone he wants. If he wants MacT gone, he is gone.

    $10 mill a year. Within 3 years the Katz will make way more than that because they are a perrenial cup contender.

  • RJ

    Im no insider either, but I doubt Chia made all of his trades 100% by himself. Who agreed with Spooner? Throw them out also. Who agreed with the Koskenin extension? Throw them out also.

    Then picking a GM who has a focus on player development, analytics etc.

    I’ve liked Mark Hunter for some time. I’d love to see what a GM would do for player development and trades.

  • toprightcorner

    Anyone in hockey operations who has been with the Oilers for linger than 5 years needs to be fired. If there is something still bad in the water from before Chiarelli, it is time to find a new water source and quarantine the existing well.