The Six Pack

As current NHL General Managers, and Bob Nicholson, gather in Boca Raton we are starting to get an idea of where the Oilers may be heading in their search for a new GM.

It was reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger on Monday that Nicholson has a list with close to 10 names on it. The list includes Keith Gretzky, Kelly McCrimmon, Sean Burke, Mike Futa, Mark Hunter and for some reason, Dave Nonis.

Here are a few thoughts on the six names Dreger confirmed are still in the mix.


Keith Gretzky did not even attend the GM meetings in Florida. Nicholson represented the Oilers instead with the sole purpose of narrowing down his list of candidates for a job that I’m not sure Gretzky has a good chance at getting, or wanting for that matter.

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The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta posted this on Tuesday.

Now Pagnotta isn’t a big name in the “Insider” game but he does have a solid pulse on the beat and has broken a few pieces of news in the past.

Nothing against Keith, but if he ends up becoming the next GM of the Oilers what has the organization really accomplished?

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I tend to agree with something that TSN’s Frank Seravalli said on the smash hit Nielson Show on Tuesday morning. Kelly McCrimmon would be a perfect guy for the job in Seattle but may not have the experience required to take on a job like the one here in Edmonton. It’s a very valid point.

The only experience McCrimmon has in an NHL front office is helping build the expansion Golden Knights. He obviously did a very good job in doing so, and that’s important experience to have, but is it the right experience you need to be the next GM of the Oilers?

McCrimmon wouldn’t get to come to Edmonton and hold a bunch of teams over the fire to get sweetheart deals so they can keep other players in their system. He wouldn’t be starting with a cap hit of ZERO.

I’m not sitting here and saying he would be a bad hire I’m just pointing out that he might not be the best fit for the Oilers current situation. It’s not unlike Bob Nicholson when he was first hired by the Oilers. Nicholson had loads of experience in the hockey world but he had zero experience running an NHL organization. Like McCrimmon, lots of experience but not the right experience.


Like McCrimmon, Hunter had a lot of success in the Canadian Hockey League before joining an NHL club. He started as the director of player personnel for the Leafs and then shared the title of co-interim GM with Kyle Dubas prior to Lou Lamoriello taking over. The Leafs groomed the boy wonder to take over the main gig when Lou left and that has left Hunter hanging in the wind.

It may be an unpopular opinion right now but I think Hunter is better suited to be the Oilers next GM than McCrimmon.

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Mike Futa is the new Paul Fenton. Fenton’s name popped up in pretty much every single GM search until he landed the job he has now in Minnesota. Futa’s name has often been mentioned in the same breath as Fenton.

Futa, like McCrimmon and Hunter, put in his time in the CHL. He worked with Toronto, Oshawa and Owen Sound of the OHL before joining the Los Angeles Kings 11 years ago.

He spent five years as the Kings director of amateur scouting landing the likes of Drew Doughty (1st), Slava Voynov (2nd), Brayden Schenn (1st), Kyle Clifford (2nd), Jordan Nolan (7th), Nic Dowd (7th), Tyler Toffoli (2nd), Kevin Gravel (5th), Tanner Pearson (1st) and Colin Miller (5th ).

From 2014-2017 Futa was the Director of Player Personnel and V.P. of Hockey Ops for the Kings. When Rob Blake was named GM of the Kings Futa was handed the dual role of assistant GM in LA and GM of their AHL affiliate.


I had a chance to broadcast the Spengler Cup for TSN this past Christmas and Sean Burke was the co-gm of that team alongside Ron Francis. I really enjoyed chatting with Burke in Davos so I’ll quickly admit that I’m most certainly a little bias.

Burke spent close to a decade with the Coyotes as goaltending coach and assistant General Manager. He’s been a pro scout in the West for the Canadiens for the past three seasons while also playing a huge part of Hockey Canada’s management group.

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I have no idea why he would be on Nicholson’s list. He’s basically been doing odd jobs and assignments for the Ducks for the past four seasons. His existence on the list makes me completely doubt the entire list. I have no idea what’s going on here.


As far as these six candidates go, I think I’d probably rank them like this.

  1. Mark Hunter
  2. Mike Futa
  3. Kelly McCrimmon
  4. Keith Gretzky
  5. Sean Burke
  6. Dave Nonis


A few weeks back I was told the Oilers were hoping to at least have a chat with Bill Guerin in Pittsburgh. I’m not sure if that has happened and he’s been eliminated from contention or if they are just keeping it quiet.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • TKB2677

    On one hand, I get why Gretzky wouldn’t get hired and why fans don’t want him because of his name. The Oilers have WAY too many old Oilers on staff and they need to purge a bunch of them. Even though until he took the job with the Oilers, he has ZERO ties to the Oilers. Never played for them, wasn’t in their system, never coached, never scouted, nothing. He did all his work in other organizations. But he has the wrong last name and Oilers fans are sick of it. I get that.

    But at the same time, it bothers me a bit that a guys last name would automatically disqualify him in the minds of a lot of people in Edmonton. I don’t know if Gretzky or anyone on that list can do the job but a guys last name SHOULD NOT be a factor. I want them to get the best possible guy who ever that happens to be. I hope fans can realize that.

    • Serious Gord

      He was hired by his brother in AZ stayed there until the league sold the team (presumably to save face. Then he was hired by chia as a favour to WG – they were part of team Canada org with BN?

      While he had no DIRECT connections to the oil he absolutely had connections to the OBC and Katz.

      • TKB2677

        This is the EXACT attitude I fear will play into the decision and eliminate potential quality guys strictly because of a guys name. I am not advocating for Gretzky but let’s be real here, the NHL is not that big of a league in the grand scheme of things. When you are high up, you know a lot of people. If you are so concerned with not hiring anyone that has ANY ties to any former Oiler or any Hockey Canada people, then shouldn’t you be scratching Yzerman off the list as well? Yzerman is everyone’s dream guy yet he has had significant involvement with Hockey Canada who Nicholson was significantly involved in. So let’s say by some miracle, Yzerman would consider coming to the Oilers, how could you accept him? He’s a Nicholson buddy.

  • OilersBro

    I honestly think Katz owes it to the fans to call up Steve Y and offer him double fair market value. Make him an outrageous offer he can’t refuse. It’s not just a “we deserve it thing” but imagine what your revenues would be if you had the best player of all time playing on a high performing team making deep playoff runs in a hockey obsessed city with no other major sports league (CFL aside).

    $1000 playoff tickets and insane amounts of merch sales consistently during Connor’s prime? Hey Daryl, if you’re reading this, give me a shout and I’ll whip up a business case as to why this ROI will be positive. Now is NOT the time to be cheap.

  • Total Points

    First things first. The Oilers need to deal with the OBC first, then hire a GM.

    The GM needs to know what responsibility and authority he has before taking the job. This will reflect on the candidates who will want the job. The next GM needs to know if he must retain MacTavish, Gretzky, Howeson, etc

  • The verbiage from Nicholson is “looking for the next GM”. What happened to the President of Hockey Ops? Will we only have a GM? Will the next GM be the President as well? The structure is unclear. My preference would be to have a GM and President. Two minds are better than one.

  • That's My Point

    1. Hire Nicholson’s replacement.
    2. Let the NEW HIRE Yzerman clean house.
    3. Wait 5 years and see the depth the Oilers will have on the farm, in juniors, overseas and the big club actually competing for the Stanley Cup.
    4. Have a debate on where the Stanley Cup parade should be: Whyte Ave or Jasper Ave?
    5. Or hire one of the six mentioned and wait another 5 years and then fire them to get someone who’s PROVEN to win hockey games and compete every year.

    • TKB2677

      I wish people would stop saying Yzerman. He’s not coming here. My hope for the Oilers is they hire a President of Hockey Ops who has some experience and then hire someone else for the GM’s job.

      The Oilers made 2 mistakes with Chia. First they made the mistake and shockingly, Nicholson admitted it, they didn’t interview anyone, they just jumped on Chia. You need to interview multiple people for that type of high profile job even if you like someone a lot. The second mistake was giving Chia the PHO job AND the GM’s job. That’s too much power for one guy and you are putting basically ALL the hockey decisions in the hands of one guy. Based on what has been talked about since Chia was let go, while I am sure whoever you wanted to list off in the organization may have given Chia their input, it sure sounds like Chia was 100% the hammer. Whatever he ultimately decided, that’s what happened no matter what. It didn’t even sound like the coaches were on board a lot of times. Supposedly McLellan wanted no part of trading Strome yet Chia did it anyway. That’s a problem. So I just wonder if Chia wasn’t the PHO as well as the GM, would some of the stupid decisions maybe not have happened.

  • hagar

    I would imagine whoever is most open to input and tampering from above will get the job. Perhaps your amazement of nonis on the list is because he is the only one willing to do so.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Nonis, I know I laughed and cringed a bit when I read that as well. The one good thing about Nonis (and I am totally being sarcastic) is that he’d probably bring Alain Vigneault along with him.

  • Harry2

    5-1-2 Since Sekera’s return. Upgrade Russell on the second pair. I love the possibility of a Sekera Bouchard 3rd pair next season. Or move Sekera up with Nurse and find a cheap vet to play with Bouchard. Add a top 6 winger and a vet backup.

    This team is not as far off as some may think

  • hammer313

    The unfortunate thing, is the Oilers seem to have missed the boat….again. Many of the Assistant GM’s from successfully franchises in the last decade have either been promoted to GM or already hired elsewhere. These would be Nashville and Tampa Bay. We are now picking the scraps, with a hope and a prayer, again. This new GM, will undoubtedly just be a flunky anyways for the genius trust in the ivory tower! You could say I have soured on the Oiler organization and their lack of hockey smarts to run a NHL team!

    • gr8haluschak

      Like who did the Oilers “miss the boat on”, Paul Fenton was just hired by the Wild and how well has his first few months gone? what Tampa executive was hired elsewhere in a GM role? what a stupid comment.

        • hagar

          Trainreck. Thats another valid point.
          With everything staying the same in the upper positions, the new gm would have to skirt the very real possibility taking this job is career suicide.
          Everyone around the league knows the problem with the oilers, going to be hard to find someone who wants to take an oilers position as a first option. Most likely will be someone who is running out of chances or doesnt have anything better to do.

    • hagar

      That has been a common theme for the last decade plus. The powers that be are extremely slow to react to issues. They identify a problem every year, doesnt matter if its before the season even starts, then they run the entire season out, and attempt to address it the next season. Fans see the problems months or years before the smartest people in the room do, and when they finally acknowledge the problem, they figure its a next year problem.
      The obc reminds me of a kid that never does his homework.. Always trying to do it on the bus ride to school.

      • That's My Point

        Did Chia find the right shot offensive dman yet??
        Fans knew this was an issue before the HIRING and now FIRING of Chia, STILL WAITING to get the dman.
        Maybe it will turn out to be Bouchard? About 8 years TOO LATE!!!

  • Billsbills

    I’m for Mark Hunter. He has done a great job with London and knows what it takes to draft and develop young players. He’s never had to manage a cap before so hopefully they will hire a great capologist that he can work with. I think his past also gives him a great deal of respect around the league.

  • CaptainCanada94

    I’d rather have Ryan Smyth than Dave Nonis. No discredit to Smytty, but cmon!!! Cap Management/ Assett Management needs to be priority 1.

    Any insight into the time crunch here the Oilers face to hire? My two cents is that we can wait until summer and there is little rush at this point, come summer the focus is to continue to off-load anchor contracts? Thoughts?

  • Derzie

    So…the same guys who picked/were every failed GM so far, are magically going to pick the right one this time. And the media glosses over the and goes straight to ranking the “shortlist”. This is certifiably desperate and insane behaviour. Enjoy the status quo. That’s what this is.

  • hagar

    Maybe everyone can take another run at it, i know i learn from my mistakes. Lowe as coach, Mact assistant with magic draft at gm. Then if that doesnt work lowe to gm and mact to coach, then if that doesnt work lowe to president of hockey operations and mact to gm, and if that doesnt work lowe to president of entertainment and mact to assistant gm.
    Almost sounds impossible any organization could do something like that doesnt it?

        • Rick Stroppel


          MacTavish was HC of the Edmonton Oilers for 8 years. The team missed the playoffs five times, went out in the first round two times. ONCE in 8 years the team went past the first round. They got lucky. Can you imagine any other coach in the NHL with such a crappy record with one team over such a long time?

          MacTavish never got another HC job in the NHL after the Oilers, not even close. Why? Because he wasn’t very smart, and intelligent hockey people knew this.

          BTW, do you think MacTavish’s record would make Connor McDavid happy? “Yeah man, stick with us…we might make the playoffs once in awhile…maybe one fluke run to the SC final in 8 years”. As Nicholson says, it’s the Oilers way, the Oilers culture. The culture of mediocrity, failure, and bragging for no good reason.