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Monday Mailbag – Thoughts on Bob Nicholson’s press conference?

Hello, hello! Welcome, my friends, to yet another edition of the Monday mailbag, the weekly column where we take your questions and turn them into a little bit of free Oilers education. This week, we look at Bob Nicholson’s press conference, Chiarelli’s replacement, and what to expect from the final 30 games. If you want in on next week’s mailbag, just fire me an email at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, I encourage you to sit back, relax, and waste a few minutes of company time. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Chander asks – Do you have any ideas on who would be a good replacement to take over as GM from Chiarelli now that he’s (FINALLY) gone?

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Robin Brownlee:

While I generally favor experience, that doesn’t guarantee success, as we’ve just seen with Chiarelli. I like Kelly McCrimmon and Bill Guerin for what they’ve done as assistant GM’s but I want somebody who insists on running the show without interference and I’m not sure they would feel comfortable demanding that. I’m thinking Mark Hunter or Ron Hextall might be the best bets.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think they should hire a more experienced hockey person to be the President of Hockey Operations and then go get a young, up and coming GM. Someone who has been sitting as an AGM with a good franchise or someone who has been putting in time in the junior ranks. I don’t want them to hire someone like Dean Lombardi to be their GM. That would feel like Chiarelli 2.0 to me. I’m looking at names like Kelly McCrimmon, Mark Hunter, or Laurence Gillman.

Cam Lewis:

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Hopefully, somebody who’s trying to win the 2019 and 2020 Stanley Cup rather than the 2011 Stanley Cup. The league has changed and a lot of teams are getting left behind because they don’t have new voices in their front offices. The Oilers need to do what the Leafs did and get a good mix of old and new school voices in the mix. They need people who know how to navigate the intricacies of the game, finding leadership, dealing with egos, and wheeling and dealing, and they need creative people who can find under-the-radar players with high-quality and effective data. I think it goes beyond just having a good GM. The Oilers have a lot of bad voices in their office right now. Like, think about that comedically-bad Griffin Reinhart deal Chiarelli made. Some idiot told him to do that without having watched Reinhart in the AHL. Why employ people like that? This isn’t a country club.

Christian Pagnani:

Last season I thought then Lightning AGM Julien Brisebois or Nashville AGM Paul Fenton would be good bets to take over. They’re general managers now so they’re off the table. I’m unsure. There’s so much talk about Kelly McCrimmon but hasn’t been in the league long, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s been with an expansion franchise which doesn’t seem like the ideal fit for the Oilers. Their ability to evaluate and acquire talent should be key, but I’m not sure how you judge that with a franchise that’s existed for 1.5 seasons. I’d look at Craig Heisinger from Winnipeg, Pat Verbeek from Tampa Bay, and Bill Guerin from Pittsburgh.

Chris the Intern:

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My first pick would obviously be Yzerman but I don’t think that’s happening. There are currently a lot of guys to choose from and in my opinion, I wouldn’t mind seeing a guy like Kelly McCrimmon coming in from Vegas. I feel like he’ll have some different insights to bring to the old boys club.

Baggedmilk:

Honestly, I don’t know enough to give an accurate guess or prediction. All I really hope for is that the Oilers actually do a thorough search to find this person and not just settle for the first person they talked to, as was the case with Peter Chiarelli.

2) Leslie asks – What were your thoughts after hearing Bob Nicholson’s press conference? I felt like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog’s Day because it seems like we’ve seen all of these sentiments from this group before.

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Robin Brownlee:

I think Nicholson might be part of the problem — Chiarelli was his hire. I can only assume Nicholson was in on the group decision to allow Chiarelli to make that Koskinen deal right before he was dismissed and that’s just awful managing.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I was hoping to hear him come out and say that they need to bring in fresh voices and that the current group didn’t do a good enough job. Instead, he basically just talked about how they need more character and people who get the Oilers way of doing things. I thought the media asked some really good questions and Nicholson did an alright job of answering what he could, but I’m not sure if there’s a rock solid plan in place and that concerns me. All in all, I’m going to judge Nicholson based on what he does in the coming months, not on what he said while behind the podium. The water quote was an incredible gift though.

Cam Lewis:

It was exactly what anybody reasonably should have expected. He came out and spouted a bunch of vague nonsense that appeases the dumb, casual fan. Buzzphrases like CHARACTER IN THE ROOM will get a good chunk of Oilers fans fired up and it’ll distract from the overall problem of having a bunch of incompetent people on the payroll who are years behind in terms of understanding how to be successful in this league.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think it was great. There was too much talk about character and vague things instead of ownership of the situation, but it’s also unrealistic to expect Nicholson to present exactly what they’re thinking. I think an acknowledgement of the mistake they made in valuing size and toughness over skilled players would have been good and shown they know the problem. Can you say with certainty that the Oilers have absolutely learned what’s wrong after firing Peter Chiarelli? Nicholson’s press conference didn’t suggest that to me.

Chris the Intern:

I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the presser and with that, I left not feeling any worse. The best part about it was the amazing line about there being something in the water that Nicholson left us with. My favourite part about the pressers is picking apart every individual line Bob has to say and making them into memes.

Baggedmilk:

My first thought, and you can ask anyone at Nation HQ about it, was that we should come out with a shirt that has fun with his “there must be something in the water” quote… and we did.

Edmonton Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli speaks at year end Press Conference

3) Gerry asks – Peter Chiarelli was let go immediately before this All-Star break and I’m wondering if getting away from things for a while helps or hurts the Oilers?

Robin Brownlee:

It allows the management group some time to breathe and format a plan and it also allows Oscar Klefbom more time to get ready for his return without missing games. The rest, specifically the bye week, will help Connor McDavid.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think it will allow them to sort of reset things and start fresh come February. Given their recent struggles, some time away will be a good thing. Their star players have been logging a lot of minutes so for those guys, the long break is probably much needed. They’ll also have Oscar Klefbom back so that’s a massive boost as well. Now, combining the All-Star Break with their bye-week does create a rather long time between games so hopefully, they’re more rested than rusted when the puck drops Saturday in Philadelphia.

Cam Lewis:

Yes. This is as close to a one-man team you can have in this league. Connor McDavid needs all the rest he can get so he can drag this mess kicking and screaming into the playoffs.

Christian Pagnani:

Absolutely. That can’t hurt and the cloud of the general manager isn’t hanging over their heads anymore.

Chris the Intern:

I think it was a good decision. The whole team now has a week to think about the season / or not think about the season – and regroup themselves. I’m hoping that everyone will come in fresh and revitalized after the break ready to kick ass.

Baggedmilk:

I think it was good in the sense that it gave everyone, Connor and Leon aside, a chance to get away from the heat for a little while. By the time they come back, the anger will have subsided enough.

4) Blake asks – Now that Peter Chiarelli’s reign has officially ended, I’m curious what everyone thinks has been his best and worst move as Oilers’ GM?

Robin Brownlee:

Turning Jordan Eberle into nothing, including cap space that was never used, is the worst because he had a couple cracks at the same deal — Eberle-Strome-Spooner — and never did get it right.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think his best move was actually going out and getting Cam Talbot. While he’s struggled over the past 18 months, he was a massive reason why they almost made the conference finals in the 2016-17 season. Chiarelli got this team a legit number one goalie, even if it was only for one year, without giving up anything from his roster. I liked that move. For his worst move, you could make an argument for the Hall deal or the Lucic signing, but I’m actually going to go with the Reinhart deal. He gave up two high draft picks in a very deep draft and now, just four years later, the team has nothing to show for it. I know that there was organizational pressure to make that deal, but Chiarelli still signed off on it.

Cam Lewis:

The sequence of dealing two top picks for Reinhart, which was a waste of assets that could have helped shore up the blueline. That led to having to deal Hall for Larsson, which robbed the Oilers of having their Crosby-Malkin one-two punch. His best? Uhhhhh. Finding Maroon or Chiasson, guys who could gel with McDavid nicely, I guess? I don’t know. It was a pretty miserable tenure. I’m not sure if you can find much worse in NHL history.

Christian Pagnani:

Best move is signing Connor McDavid to an eight-year extension when so many elite players have opted for five-year deals coming out of their entry-level contracts. Worst move? Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. That’s a move that set the franchise back years.

Chris the Intern:

I want to say his best move was trading draft picks for Cam Talbot. He was crucial in our 2016-17 playoff run and was a great addition to this city. To feel confident in my answer, I need to see what the Oilers will be trading for him in this coming deadline. His worst move was by far trading the two first round picks for a Griffin Reinhart, no question.

Baggedmilk:

Best move would probably be the original Pat Maroon trade. He moved a fourth rounder and Martin Gernat for Pat Maroon and it worked out beautifully for most of the time he was here. Worst… man, there are some horrible ones. The Eberle trade train is horrible, the Hall for Larsson trade wasn’t enough, the Griffin Reinhart deal was a disaster, the Brandon Manning trade was bad, and we could be here for a while.

5) Tristan asks – The Oilers have 32 games left until the end of the season. What is your prediction on what their record will be during that time? Will it be enough to grab a wildcard spot?

Robin Brownlee:

They’ll need at least 40 wins and 85 points to get in. Not sure it takes 90 points this year.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If the return of Oscar Klefbom sparks them and brings Mikko Koskinen’s save percentage back up to around 0.925 or 0.930 then I could honestly see the Oilers pushing for the final wild-card spot. It will probably take a record of 21-11, or something around that, to make it. I won’t say it’s likely, but they have the best player in the world and if they get some solid goaltending, I think anything is possible.

Cam Lewis:

They’ll get a big boost having Klefbom back and McDavid is going to go into legend mode. They’ll go 18-12-2 and it’ll be enough to slide them into eighth in the West.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think so. They’ll make it close but ultimately fall short. 15-15-3.

Chris the Intern:

My positivity and inner-Oiler fan is kicking in here and I’m going to say they WILL sneak into a wild-card spot with a 20-10-2 finishing record purely based on momentum after Chia’s firing. DONT @ ME

Baggedmilk:

With a motivated Connor McDavid, I believe anything is possible so I’m going to say that they go 18-12-2 down the stretch.

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  • hockeyartist

    No way this team goes 21-11 down the stretch. If that what it takes might as well sell and tank. Start again with a high draft pick and a new GM that refuses to let Katzs kid on the draft stage.

  • camdog

    It’s going to be hard to find a good GM that “gets the Oilers way of doing things”. That quote from Nicholson said a lot to me. It’s the number 1 reason both PC and Tambellini got their jobs in the first place.

  • Smuckers

    I’ve said before and will keep saying it until it happens but whoever is hired as GM had best fire Howson, MacT and Green and anyone else involved in the poor decision making. If not, the next GM will again be providing cover fire for the incompetent work provided to him by these clowns and we go through it all over again in 3 years… minus a McDavid because he’s not going to stand for this much longer.

    I’d like to see Nicholson fire them ahead of a new GM hire as a show of good faith to the fans and to demonstrate to any new GM hire that he is in control of who he wants supporting him.

    • Oilerz4life

      Ya right Katz will NEVER let that happen, EVER. The only time you will see the OBC move on is when the Oilers are sold. The problem goes right to the top of the pyramid with Katz and the problem of him and the OBC is not going anywhere. As long as he owns the team some version of the Oilers issues is always going to resurface.

    • Odanada

      Sideshow Bob was hired because he was a safe bet to group hug with the OBC. These guys all think their past experience gives them some kind of magic insight into “winning” – not at all taking into consideration that the game and the management of it has evolved – while they have not.

    • camdog

      Going all in with jacks and tens before the flop is Koskinen. At 4.5 million per season, there’s likely no cap room for a really good back up. It might still work, Koskinen might be the real deal, he might be capable of 60+ games. If they could have gotten him for less, likely equals better back up. Regardless, it’s still a gamble, a gamble that well determine the fate of the Oilers for years to come.

    • Free Bird

      With the long list of bad trades that Chia made, it’s easy to add the Eberle-Strome deal into the mix, but without Tavares centering him Eberle has been negative value this year and is a UFA this summer (i.e. a short-term asset that is overpaid). If Chia had kept Strome, he would have had a competent third line center hitting RFA status in summer 2020 (i.e. a long-term asset with some cost control). The Eberle-for-Strome deal was ok, but it was the Strome-for-Spooner deal that was awful.

  • Gravis82

    Stop with the Bill Guerin nonsense!

    The man is 45 and has only had a real job since when, 2011? We have all gone mad if we think he is the one to turn it around.

  • Mc.Rib

    Why is this loser TheGreatWW from FN allowed tcome to our site, bring his trolling friends and make comments like “Edmonton is drup just like its oil, and Women??
    He also bashes our fans, team and city and nobody does anything about it

      • Goaltender Interference

        Trolls look for a reaction and get fed when you give it to them. Best to just ignore them.

        Banning them just reinforces their imagined feeling of superiority plus it makes us look like a bunch of wimps. Not exactly a recipe for stopping the trolling.

        Don’t give them the attention they crave and see how fast their attention fades.

        Plus, and I hate to say it but it’s true, when the Flames don’t do that well the Oilers fans often return the favour over at FN… Given the way our team has been managed the past decade or so, some good-natured ribbing is kind of justified. Blame Katz.

  • Wesley41

    For the best interests of the fans,this team can’t sneak into the playoffs unfortunately they have too miss to hopefully push out some more out of touch voices in management who will be in the new GM’s ear if they hire another committee guy instead of a guy who will say it’s my job don’t hire me if I’m not the true boss and if you expect me to keep all the guys here in their current positions and not hire his own advisors!

  • Hemmercules

    I would hope the new GM will have the option of hiring his own assistant and such. The Oiler way of shoving these hasbeens into roles they aren’t qualified for is pretty tired. I can’t see how Keith should remain if he was involved in any of the roster decisions in Chias tenure. Howson has always been terrible from what I can tell, I don’t understand why that guy is here. Ditto Mact but I’m not sure of his level of involvement in what Chia did. I still feel like Mact and Howson sold chia on Reinhart and that alone is grounds for being let go. Two high picks for a guy that can’t even crack the NHL. I hope for a brighter future here but seems like Chia will probably be the only guy leaving and that just speaks to the incompetence of bobby nicks and Katz.

  • Axe

    Out of the names mentioned for a new GM (with the exception of Yzerman of course) I still prefer Mark Hunter because he was part of the team that dealt with a similar situation in Toronto. It’s not a secret that we have a few bad contracts to get rid of and how that’s done and at which price is gonna be important for the future of this club.. I would also prefer if we had a separate GM and President of Hockey operations. Just my two cents..

  • Rufio Barcoli

    The new GM will have to deal with the same handicap of all the previous ones-being a GM of the Edmonton Oilers.
    He won’t be able to find willing dance partners and he will more than likely lose any trade he makes.
    The rest of the GMs don’t care to deal with Edmonton, and the NHL as a whole don’t care to improve the Edmonton roster and/or market.
    If the Panthers had McDavid and Oilers had an all AHL roster, Edmonton would still sell more and be a bigger cash cow for the NHL than Florida.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Guerin I like, but the Oiles are far far too much of a mess for him to deal with, lots of bad contracts too many other people who have a say in what goes on and we need a GM that can make good hockey deals, and this isnt going to be dealing from a position of strength, this is going to be dealing from weakness with contracts that are going to be tough to move, the new GM is going to have to gut half the team and try to move players, term and money no one is going to want, it’s going to take someone with way way more experience than Guerin
    The next GM is going to need to work miracles to get things worked out and they are in for some real work because its going to be a nightmare, like Guerin but he is not the one to fix the mess the Oilers are in

  • btrain

    I suspect Chia’s latest deal could easily become one of his top 3 worst deals made as GM of the Oilers. Signing Koskinen to a starter salary with such a small sample size of success is beyond reason. Credit Koskinen for showing well for a while but his last 12 appearances combine for a .823 sv%. For a guy with just 32 NHL games to his name, that is a significant chunk of his NHL experience that looks pretty bad.
    What is further perplexing with this ridiculous contract is another goalie signing that occurred just 2 days before Koskinen’s. Casey DeSmith signed a 3 year extension at 1.25 mill per. He has played the exact same amount of games this year as Koskinen and owns a .917sv% to Koskinen’s .910sv%. Koskinen has 12 GP this season above .910 and DeSmith has 17. How does the guy with the poorer numbers and less NHL experience end up getting almost 4 times as much as the other?
    I hope Koskinen can live up to this contract, but no reason he shouldn’t have had to earn his reputation at a much lower cap hit first, especially in light of his recent struggles.
    As his 2.5 NMC was (and may still become) this year, I think his 4.5 NMC over the next 3 may very well represent the largest gamble of any Chiarelli signings to date. It’s more than concerning that Nicholson suggested this was a group decision.

    • Goaltender Interference

      Yeah it’s a head-scratcher. But the Koskinnen signing easily ranks fourth after Reinhardt, Eberle for nothing, and Manning for anything.

      • btrain

        As far as deals go, I completely agree there have been some other major head-scratchers above this one. However, on pure gamble, I have to put Koskinen up there, perhaps only trailing the Reinhart deal. The others you mention involved players with actual NHL experience to base decisions off of. I hated the Eberle deal and it has only got worse but Strome wasn’t a gamble at his price point and it opened up cap space even if it didn’t end up getting used. Manning has 242 games of 3rd pairing experience and since he was brought in to be a 3rd pairing defender, not so much a gamble as much as it is an example of awful asset/cap management.

        • Goaltender Interference

          The Manning trade was mind-numbingly bad on so many different levels. We are now all stupider for having watched Chiarelli make that move. Reading about that trade in the paper was when the last remaining hope for my team gave a pathetic little flutter in my heart and died.

  • Odanada

    Bob is a “company man” and as such, will always spew the party line, even if it means ignoring reality to do so.
    I don’t have much faith in “Buzzword Bob” – he seems more focused on damage control and less on objective assessment/problem solving.
    He’s a “yes man” and that won’t fix anything.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I think McCrimmon is our guy. He comes from generational of hockey blood.
    Keeping the Brandon Wheat Kings viable year after year when every year they lose top picks to the NHL is a feat in itself. It’s been a long long time since the Weatie’s have not contended in the WHL East. and every year they lose their star players. That’s if McPhee lets him go, as I believe that McCrimmon was most of the brains behind the VGK’s success to this point.
    McCrimmon’s my guy & I think his hiring would guarantee improvement. His DNA & track record support that.

  • Hemmercules

    The new guy just needs to have some experience, but it has to be positive experience. In other words, far more good/fair deals than bad ones. I can only hope he has some patience as well. I feel like Chia was under enormous pressure from day one to make bunch of moves just to make moves and change the face of the team. Let the new guy do it right without the OBC and Katz breathing down his neck for instant results.

    I don’t know much about Hextall but Philly doesn’t appear to be a very good team after his time there so I would pass on him. Maybe he was in an OBC situation himself but I think there are better candidates out there anyway.

    The more I hear about the Guerin the more I don’t mind he’s an ex Oiler. He seems to be respected and experienced if even if it’s just in a secondary role. Still rather have a guy thats been on the front lines and has zero ties to the team. That said, Chia had zero ties to the team and he was the worst GM they ever had. Thats says a lot when Lowe held that title for a bit.

    Time to dump some dead weight, maybe add some wing depth and go on a little run to try and make the show.

  • ellebee

    Since Hitchcock isn’t here, as it turns out, for a good time OR a long time, a consideration when choosing the next GM needs to be who he is likely to bring with him as the next head coach. Didn’t like that Nicholson kept stressing that they’re in no rush, as in probably not by deadline, and trades & acquisitions are going to be a group decision until they find the right guy. After allowing Chia the benefit of the doubt this season it’s not a group I trust to make the decisions that get this thing back on track.

  • Beer

    Consensus management doesn’t work in hockey or any other business, take city hall for example. Until the management culture of this organization changes, nothing will change.

  • DoubleDIon

    My question is why people think you need so many points to make the playoffs this year? The top 5 is probably set, but the bottom 3 spots are very attainable. Small moves could put the Coilers in the playoffs despite your marginal team. I wouldn’t move the 1st if I was KG, but a couple of third rounders for help in the bottom 6? I’d do that all day long.

  • WheatiesHockey

    Kelly McCrimmon would be not a bad choice. My personal preference would be John Paddock. He has a great work ethic and has years of experience being a player,coach,scout and GM. The next Oilers GM has to be prepared to take on a 24/7 job to make the Oilers a respectable organisation. A good GM is a cautious GM. The Oilers could use a GM in the same mold as the Jets Chevy.

  • June 2014: Bobby Nick gets hired as VP of OEG
    April 2015: Appointed as CEO of OEG and says he’s doing a top to bottom audit and hires Chiarelli as POHO/GM replacing Lowe and MacTavish.
    January 2019: Says there’s something not right in the water.

    If every pundit and fan knows what’s not right in the water and Bobby Nick doesn’t know, then Bobby needs to look in the mirror and give his face a splash.

  • Ted

    So the way I see it, the points they got in 50 games they will now have to get in 30 games! … Thousand cuts, hell freezes over, woman faster than McD, Lucic gets 10 goals, …. None of that is gonna happen! … Therefore we are OUT easily with this line up! Bobby Nick’s you are massive part on the blame tree! … Plus the presser was lame and was not soothing to anyone’s ears! … Your next move will be your last I’m sure of it! … Hitch I wish you the best! … McD I know you gonna do everything in your power to make this less painful for the fanbase BUT one man can’t be a team alone! … BOOM!

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Down the stretch…. Oilers go 14-17-2, my reasoning. Ken Hitchcock changes the lines and wingers around way too much on the top 2 lines.
    No consistency and no continuity inthe line up. Ken Hitchcock seem to like to play big forwards, over more skill players (like Caguilla).
    Edmonton makes too many defensive zone coverage mistakes.