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.
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.
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.
RIDE THE LIGHTNING
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.
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.
A TWO-MAN JOB?
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?