WWYDW: The next general manager

Apparently, the Oilers are in the third phase of their general manager search, which consisted of asking opponents around the league who they thought would be viable candidates for the gig. A few weeks from now, the Oilers will enter the fourth phase of their search, which will be interviewing the finalists they’ve selected as potential suitors for the position.

According to Darren Dreger, Bob Nicholson currently has a list with six names on it, but only six of those names are known. Those names are Keith Gretzky, Kelly McCrimmon, Mark Hunter, Mike Futa, Sean Burke, and Dave Nonis. Those are a lot of the names we expected to see on the list, but a handful of good candidates haven’t been listed. As I said above, though, there are a few mystery names out there we aren’t yet aware of.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Who do you want the Oilers to hire as their general manager? Are you happy with the names on the list? Are you hoping its somebody with some experience like Ron Hextall? Or do you want to see a new-age hire with different ideas?

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The names we know

Dusty Nielson talked about this earlier today, but I’ll reiterate…

  • Keith Gretzky: Edmonton’s current interim general manager has made some nice small moves to begin cleaning up Peter Chiarelli’s mess. There’s some talk that he isn’t actually in the running for the job, but you never know.
  • Kelly McCrimmon: The current assistant general manager in Vegas (who spent his entire career otherwise running the Brandon Wheat Kings) is poised to take control of his own NHL club given the incredible success of the Golden Knights right out of the gate.
  • Mark Hunter: A finalist for the general manager gig in Toronto last summer, Mark Hunter is back to managing the Loden Knights full-time after four years in the Maple Leafs organization. Hunter has turned the Knights into an NHL-calibre operation over the past few decades.
  • Mike Futa: Since Paul Fenton (the former assistant GM in Nashville) stepped into Minnesota’s open general manager role, Mike Futa has become the new next guy in line. This is because Futa’s fingerprints are all over the excellent L.A. Kings teams from the early 2010s.
  • Sean Burke: After retiring, Sean Burke stepped into a gig as the Arizona Coyotes’ DIrector of Player Development. He worked his way up to assistant GM but is now spending most of his time working with Hockey Canada.
  • Dave Nonis: The only guy on the list with actual NHL general manager experience, Dave Nonis has been working with the Anaheim Ducks since getting booted from the Leafs organization. Nonis has been the general manager of both the Leafs and Vancouver Canucks.
Oilersnation Pre Game Podcast – Game Four vs Chicago

Other names out there

As our old pal Jonathan Willis pointed out, these candidates mostly come from Bob Nicholson’s expected fishing hole of Hockey Canada. What other names could the Oilers be looking at? Also, which names would we want them to be considering?

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  • Steve Yzerman: This is likely a pipedream, but Yzerman stepped down from his role as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning before the season. Yzerman’s work in Tampa has been incredible as he built this Lightning squad that is likely the best team of the salary cap era.
  • Ron Francis: Yet another NHL legend with experience in the GM chair, the Carolina Hurricanes that Francis built are now enjoying a successful season. Francis was let go prior to the season but he has a history fo leading an organization through a patient rebuild.
  • Ron Hextall: The Flyers gave Hextall the axe this year as the team he built failed to take a step forward. Like Francis, Hextall was criticized for being too patient.
  • Bill Guerin: Would this count as an Old Boys Club hire if he wasn’t a part of an 80s team? Billy Guerin has worked his way up the Penguins organization since retiring and appears poised to get his own gig as an NHL general manager soon.
  • Brandon Pridham: Leading off the section of new-age, more unconventional hires is Brandon Pridham, the current assistant GM in Toronto. Gilman’s role with the Leafs is to manage the salary cap, something he knows very well as he helped draft the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Who better to help the Oilers work out of cap hell?
  • Bill Zito: A Yale man because our Harvard man struggled so much, Bill Zito’s resume includes putting together a deep Blue Jackets farm team and overseeing a Calder Cup Championship in the AHL, much like Kyle Dubas had in Toronto.
  • Mike Gillis: Since getting fired from the general manager gig in Vancouver, the former player, player agent, and executive has been running a team in the Swiss Elite League. He came close to winning it all with the Canucks.
What to expect from Mikko Koskinen this summer

What say you, Nation? Who do you think the Oilers should hire to steer the ship? In my opinion, the Oilers need somebody who is willing to be patient as the team navigates their way out of salary cap hell. I think it would also be prudent for the organization to look into a more unique, new-age pool of candidates with different philosophies from the ones they have now that clearly aren’t working.

  • Just facts

    If he’s doing what he said he would Nicholson is talking to people across the hockey world about who they think might be able to do the job and why. And guess what, because it’s the best league in the world, most of those people will be with other teams. And contrary to what some seem to think his hockey Canada experience likely leads to more open and candid feedback; he built relationships when they weren’t competitors. He’ll then take that input and put together a list of what seem like the best prospects, have preliminary conversations and then narrow the list down and then interview the finalists and ask them to present detailed plans of what they would do to move the team forward. He should make sure he has a range of candidates, experienced to “new blood” and then make his decision . He admitted he didn’t do it right the first time and unless and until he demonstrates he didn’t learn there is no reason to believe he won’t do better this time. By the way that kind of process is exactly what happens for well run recruitment processes for executives of large organizations (and even they too often don’t use robust processes). If you think that other influences in the organization will cause the process to fail, absent any evidence so far that he isn’t being diligent (and I don’t think Dregers list is worth the paper it’s written on) then maybe time to switch your allegiance to another team.

  • KootenayDan

    With fans like this who in their right mind would want the job? KG has the same or even more credentials than the guys mentioned so let’s go with the devil we know.

  • bwar

    I’d go full court press on Yzerman. I don’t care if he doesn’t want the job, convince him to come a build a team around the greatest German player of all time and Connor McDavid.

  • That's My Point

    Lightning have 51 wins and 18 losses this year with Yzerman as GM from 2010-2018.(and still have 15 games left to win even more)
    Oilers won 47 games one season since 1987; the ONLY time they won MORE than 41 games since 1987.
    Yeah, Katz doesn’t want to get Yzerman, winning is over-rated just ask Lowe, who knows a “thing about LOSING”.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Since the NHL has basically become a non contact, European style hockey on smaller ice, maybe we need to go to Europe to find our guy. For both coach and GM. Don Cherry style hockey is over, probably take 10 years to make one good fight tape in today’s game.

  • Retired Secret Agent

    So burger Bob was ” asking opponents around the league who a viable candidate” might be. The management teams around the NHL are basically all packs of wolves. And what BN did, in wolf speak, is lay on his back, put his paws in the air and expose his throat to all the alpha males he has to contend with! Nice work Bob.

  • What about someone like Quenneville? I know it’s a long shot, especially for GM, but hear me out. He obviously has coaching chops, which would be a good backup plan on a temporary basis if the team struggles to find a full-time coach or, as is always a possibility, they give said coach the axe after a lackluster start. He clashed with Bowman in Chicago over player moves (like Panarin for Saad) so he obviously knows what sort of team he’d like to assemble. Maybe Coach Q is ready for the front office.

  • Serious Gord

    I want several hires – not one.

    And also a mandate and condition which I will outline below.


    1. A POHO – someone senior – with past successful GM/POHO experience at the NHL level. Someone who is not tied down with the day to day tasks of a GM but rather oversees the staffing of the hockey ops and things like budget, PR etc, and one who can mentor the second hire…

    2. A GM – hopefully a proven at the NHL level GM who may have gotten the short stick in a battle in another hockey org. This guy could also be an up and comer from a lesser league but only if there truly are no proven options…

    3. A fully featured group of analysts – cost no object in terms of staff numbers and resources… We are on the cusp of an analytics arms race and the oil currently are a bunch of rice farmers watching the satellites glowing as they traverse the night sky…

    And the condition and mandate: That the POHO have complete autonomy. No interference or input from those above in regard to hockey opps. The mandate: to gut the org of any trace of favouritism/nepotism by creating unimpeachable hiring and performance review processes.