Ride the Lightning

On Monday, we learned of six men who are still in the mix to be the next GM of the Oilers. Earlier in the week, I took a look at what Kelly McCrimmon, Sean Burke, Mike Futa, Keith Gretzky, Dave Nonis and Mark Hunter may be able to offer the Oilers.

It was announced on Thursday that Mark Hunter would be returning to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence by taking over the under-20 program and the National Junior Team.

Friday morning on the smash hit Nielson Show TSN Insider Bob McKenzie confirmed that Hunter is still allowed to take an NHL job. “If Hunter gets hired by the Oilers he will leave Hockey Canada to take that job, and Hockey Canada knows that.”

I’m not going to argue with Bob’s info but I will say it sure seems strange to commit to Hockey Canada if you thought you had a shot at the Oilers job.

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McKenzie also mentioned that Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito and former Canucks GM Mike Gillis are also names to watch over the next couple of weeks.


Zito has been with the Blue Jackets since 2013. He started as the assistant GM and then added the role of AHL GM in 2015. Prior to joining the Blue Jackets Zito was an agent, representing Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Brian Rafalski and Tim Thomas, among others.

Zito interviewed for the job in Minnesota and was also in the mix in Buffalo before Jason Botterill got the gig. The Flyers were also interested in Zito.


Gillis is an interesting candidate. He went from being one of the biggest agents in the business to the position of Canucks GM during the most successful time in franchise history. He has not worked in the NHL since being fired by the Canucks following the 2014 season. He does have ownership shares in a team in the Swiss National League.

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In 2015 he became a professor at the University of Victoria. From what I’m told he still lives in Victoria.

The one advantage Gillis may have is the ability to grow an epic neck beard.


Ok, let’s get to what I actually wanted to discuss today. The Oilers should be looking at anyone who has been responsible for the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steve Yzerman’s top understudy Julien Brisebois is now General Manager of the Lightning so he’s out of the mix but what about Pat Verbeek and Al Murray.


Verbeek has most certainly paid his dues in multiple organizations. He cut his teeth for four years as a pro scout with the Red Wings before following Yzerman to Tampa Bay. One of Yzerman’s first orders of business was to appoint Verbeek as his director of Professional Scouting. Two years later Verbeek was promoted to Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel.

He has been one of the driving forces in building a team that has been one of the most dominant in NHL history. Brisebois is in his first year as GM of the Bolts so if Verbeek wants a similar opportunity he’s going to have to go elsewhere.

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Murray has been around the National Hockey League since the late eighties. He started as a Western Scout with the Kings in 1988 after spending three years coaching at the University of Regina.

Murray spent six years scouting the west before taking over as the Director of Amateur Scouting for the next 13 seasons. He left the NHL to spend three years as the Head Scout for Hockey Canada.

When Yzerman took control of the Lightning he recruited Murray to become his Director of Amateur Scouting, a job he has now held for the past nine years.

In 2011, Murray’s first draft with the Lightning, they landed Nikita Kucherov in the 2nd round and Ondrej Palat in the 7th. The following year they used the 19th overall pick on Andrei Vasilevsky and in 2014 Murray’s scouting staff found Brayden Point in the third round.

One of the biggest strengths in the Lightning organization is overall depth and Murray may be more responsible for that than anyone. 


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The only downside to Murray or Verbeek would be that they don’t have any GM experience but outside of that, they’ve managed to have success in major roles with an excellent organization.

On Thursday TSN’s Darren Dreger suggested to me that it isn’t out of the question the Oilers try to land two of the names we have heard mentioned this week. I don’t see any of the possible candidates having what I would describe as a President of Hockey Ops resume so a 1-2 punch would likely come in the form of GM and Assistant GM. Why not Verbeek as the GM and Al Murray as his Assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting? Pay those men their money! Ok, problem solved. What’s next?

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Hazeldeanrookie

    This a really bad list of choices. This role now is much more complex than putting an ex jock in this role. Gillis and Zito at least have extensively negotiated contracts and business relationships.

  • Corbs

    I like Yzerman but I think people are going a bit overboard. Tampa has been a really good team but they didn’t win a cup with Stevie Y. All this gushing over everyone involved in TB seems like overkill to me.

  • OilBlood

    I’ll tell you what happens Dusty, remember this and when it happens you get in touch with me:

    1) Oilers make the playoffs
    2) Oilers rock the flames in the first round
    3) Oilers go on a miracle run to the finals against Tampa
    4) Oilers then go on to hire back the man who built the Stanley cup contender Pete Chia as GM with all previous POHO powers.

  • MacDaddy97

    This may be an unpopular take, but not sure why Ron Hextall isn’t being mentioned. He had a pretty decent track record in Philly, and a history of moving out overpaid big money contracts (Lecavalier, Pronger, Timonen, Hartnell, Schenn) for good returns. Maybe he can work his magic and get rid of Lucic and Russell. He might also be the only man to ever fleece Yzerman by getting a 1st, 3rd and Gudas for Coburn. Bobby Nick has worked with him at Hockey Canada and he has actual NHL experience. He’s a way better option than Nonis or Gillis.

    • Goaltender Interference

      I think Hextall would be great too but it’s a pipe dream. Lowe and the OBC would never give him his independence and he’d get turfed pretty quickly after telling them to eat it.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Coburn is a good Shaunavon SK boy. That said, I totally forgot what Hextall managed to get for him. I know the deal was mid-season, but was it a trade deadline deal? That’s a big return for a big/slow stay-at-home D-man.

  • toprightcorner

    One person they should definitely talk to is Laurence Gillman, AGM in TOR. He is an expert contracts guy, he was dubbed one of the first capoligists, he is a huge believer in analytics and is well versed with Dellow and other key analytics people in the NHL.

    He turned down the GM job in CAR because he would not be given final say. He was also offered the job if the commissioner of the ECHL.

    He believes in looking at a players value at the end of a contract when signing it so you are not over paying compared to the value of the team and prefers shorter term with players approaching 30.

    He also worked with the NHL and set up the rules for the Vegas expansion draft and then tutored McPhee for I we a year on how to take advantage of it and to leverage the other GMs to trade with them and how to find the value on players compared to their contract.

    He basically told McPhee what to do so should be given some credit to LVK successes.

    He is great with media and was Gillis guy to do all media appearances.

    He has been GM of AHL teams for VAN and PHX.

    Believes character is important, but skill is more important. A team needs both but speed and hockey IQ are the 2 most important things when looking at a player.

    To me, this guy checks all the boxes and seems the opposite of the past 3 GMs we had here.

    The Oilers have to talk to Gilman and with the cap trouble they are in, they need a that knows how to get them out of it.

  • toprightcorner

    As far as Verbeek and Mitchel are concerned, they would not be able to hire one as an AGM because it would be a lateral move and would only be allowed to leave for a promotion.