The Good, Bad & Ugly: Keith Gretzky Edition

Keith Gretzky has become a very polarizing candidate as the Oilers continue to search for their next General Manager.

We have seen a few members of the local media throw their support behind Gretzky as a candidate while members of the Oilers fan base appear to be leaning the opposite way.

I’m going to attempt to take an unbiased look at what Gretzky may, or may not, bring to the Oilers if he does, in fact, get the job.

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The most impressive feather in Gretzky’s cap is what he’s been able to accomplish from a scouting perspective since joining the Oilers in 2016.

The team’s prospect pool from the past two drafts appears to be trending in the right direction. Oilers 2017 3rd rounder Dmitri Samorukov looks like he has what’s required to take a good run at an NHL career. Kirill Maksimov is now an elite scorer at the junior level and 7th round pick Phillip Kemp represented the USA at the World Juniors. Yamamoto is right where he belongs and I hope the organization doesn’t rush him.

The early returns on 2018 selections Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod look promising as well.

Gretzky hasn’t been overly active as interim GM but he did manage to flip Ryan Spooner for a player that fills a role for the team both on and off the ice. I’m not going to pump his tires for the Talbot deal but I certainly won’t call it a loss either. He moved the salary required to activate Sekera. I still would have preferred a pick for Talbot but it’s not the end of the world.

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Many people, myself included, have looked to the Bruins lacklustre 2015 draft as a black mark on Gretzky. In that draft, the Bruins had the 13th, 14th, and 15th overall picks and came away with Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zachary Senyshyn.

In this situation, it would be easy to blame the Director of Scouting for all of those picks but in the end, it was Don Sweeney in charge of pulling the trigger. We always point to the fact they missed on Matt Barzal but the real issue here is as an organization they missed on the next ten picks in the draft. The B’s picked Zboril and Senyshyn 13th and 15th respectively while the following ten picks, in order, were Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Evgeny Svechnikov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Colin White, Ilya Samsonov, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, and Jack Roslovic.

If you played any role in the Bruins execution of those three consecutive picks you should probably be taking some heat. They did land Brandon Carlo in the 2nd round; which most certainly helped ease the pain.

As a fan do you care as much about Gretzky’s history in Boston when he has done a solid job in the same role with the Oilers?


The ugly thing about hiring Keith Gretzky would be explaining to the fans how anything is going to be different. I understand that Gretzky isn’t a member of the old boys club but if things don’t go well they would open themselves up for some serious criticism.

I’m not positive an organization in desperate need of improving their standing with the fan base can afford to hire Peter Chiarelli’s right-hand man who just also happens to be Wayne Gretzky’s brother.

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I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m just pointing out that the optics of a Gretzky hiring may not be the easiest thing to spin.


The one aspect of Gretzky’s involvement as a candidate that would give me hesitation is the fact that his name never pops up anywhere else.

The Sabres, Flyers, and Wild have all recently hired new general managers and not once was Gretzky’s name mentioned.

So is Gretzky a candidate simply because he’s been here for a couple of years or does he rank among the best available men to do the job? That is the most important question that needs to be asked.

Bob Nicholson hasn’t been tasked with hiring the best guy already working within the organization he’s been tasked with hiring the man who will give the organization the best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If Gretzky fits the bill that’s fine but he can’t be the answer just because it’s easy.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • TKB2677

    I am not sure if Gretzky has enough experience to be the GM. He really hasn’t been an assistant that long. But a guys last name SHOULD NOT be a factor in this. If during the interview process, you get it down too 2 guys who you think are dead even and if you want to use the last name for optics as the tie breaker, I can accept that. But you shouldn’t not hire a guy strictly because of his name. Pick the best guy based on his body of work regardless of who he is.

    • toprightcorner

      I would say that in Edmonton, if you are down to two final candidates and they are dead even in your mind, then you DON’T go with the internal candidate. The fallout from the fanbase would not be worth the risk.

  • Derian Hatcher

    K-Gretz being part of the management team that made many horrible decisions may not be his fault but it is surely his problem as far as perception goes. No one will ever know how much say he, or anyone else, had as Chia ran roughshod over the NHL roster and completely decimated assets to dust. It sure took long enough to get rid of the guy steering the ship, despite ample evidence that he was heading straight for an iceberg.

    Someone asked such a good question on here the other day…how does Vegas build such a solid group of scoring wingers, D-men and a consistently hard-working team in one year, and here we are with the boss wondering what’s in the water?

    • Geek

      How come no one mentions that this crack group of management in Las Vegas elected to take Reinhart from the Oilers vs Khaira during the draft. Was this Kelly’s selection and if so should we be questioning his ability to be a GM?

      • crabman

        this is a rediculous comment. Maybe if they didn’t win the devision and go to the cup final in their expansion season people would question some of their choices. But the results speak for themselves.
        Besides the fact that the expansion draft was about building an organizations depth and required them to follow a very spacific set of rules. A certain number of forwards, defence and goalies. Maybe they were content with the forwards and goalies they were taking from other teams leaving them to choose one of the poor options of defencemen the Oilers made available. Who can argue with their decision making after the season they had?

        • Geek

          I agree it’s a ridiculous comment. The point is we need to look at a body of work and not just point out the negatives of a person. No matter what role or organization everyone has wins and loses in their work. The goal is to have more wins and in defence if this article I would suggest the Gretzky has more positives then negatives. That being said I don’t think he is the first choice for GM unless you get someone like Ken Holland as president.
          I do believe Gretzky still has value to this organization in the future.

  • CMG30

    If I was Gretzky, I would turn down the full time job if offered. It’s relatively safe to keep the interim label but as long as the all those ‘helpfull’ advisors still roam the back hallways and keeps the ear of Katz, taking the GM position in Edmonton is a career killer.

  • Big Nuggets

    Well I don’t think anyone in the organization wants to sully the Gretzky name. Maybe Keith will have the backbone to tell the old boys their ideas are bad, and maybe because he’s a Gretzky they will listen. Or maybe not, have to hope the old boys are desoerate enough to step back and let someone run the show for a while.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Keith Gretzky might be a good guy and maybe a good GM candidate but settling for him simply because he’s here isn’t good enough. They have to get this move right. Convincing fans that Keith is the best option available is mission impossible. Aim higher, it’s time to give the fans the best on ice product possible.

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    wait we are bragging about gretzkys drafting, look at 2016

    Jesse Puljujarvi, was the right pick, in hindsight no, this was not gretzky as much as it was drafting in top 5 based on consnsus

    Tyler Benson, drafted as edmonton kid, not bad pick but Debrincat was there and half the people on oilersnation and oilersblogesphere want debrincat instead,

    Markus Niemelainen, garbage pure garbage, oilers drafting for height again, look at the other available Dmen drafted after him

    Matthew Cairns, Same thing, stop drafting from BCHL,

    Filip Berglund, trending well we will give him this one

    Dylan Wells, at least one round too early, team dont draft goalies with such bad Save percentage, mediocre prostpect

    Graham McPhee, stop drafting grinders, they are replacement players and can be found every year on free agency and signed for 700k

    Aapeli Rasanen, looked like a good pick, not trending well

    Vincent Desharnais, horrible pick, no offence ever, is showing some promise but still too slow, will show nothing in any pro league, oilers drooling over height again. This is the time in the draft where you take skilled players who fallen because of dumb concerns, attitude, russian factor, too small etc. take a swing for the fences and maybe hit a home run. Dont bunt and expect to get a triple. if you can trade meandering prospects for 7th and employ this strategy you will end up with more assets than before.

    • crabman

      I will agree it is too early to give him too much credit for his drafting because even his up arrow players won’t all turn out. But the majority of draft picks for any team will never make it to the NHL.
      I have read numerous times how a successful draft is one that produces 2 players that play over 100 NHL games. The 2016 3rd round is a glaring black mark on Gretzky’s time with the team as he may have gone 0 for 3 there. But Puljujarvi has already passes the 100 game mark, unimpressive as it has been but I put more blame on development than drafting here, and although Benson hasn’t played an NHL game he is a bonified prospect with a strong chance of being the 2nd 100 game player from that draft.
      The 2017 draft has multiple players trending in the right direction with Samorukov, Maksimov, and to a lesser extent Safin. They also spent an early pick on Skinner who had a fantastic draft +1 season last year and is finding his way in pro hockey this season. We are years away from knowing if he will make it or not. And although many people didn’t like the Yamamoto pick I was happy to see the Oilers choose skill dispite his size instead of the other way around. Yamamoto had top 10 skill and if he was even average size would have been picked inside the top 10. Today’s NHL is making ot possible for this type of player to make it and he just needs time to get stronger. I am.confident at least 2 of these 5 will get their 100 game.
      And lastly the 2018 draft. At 10 Gretzky had numerous options that will all probably have varying degrees of successful NHL careers but I think he got it right with Bouchard. Adding McLeod with the 2nd round pick looks good so far as he looled very good on camp this year. These 2 both have a legitimate shot at an NHL career even if they need a bit more time to arrive. After that a goalie who will take another 5 years to see what we have and a 6th and 7th round pick really don’t instill a ton of hope.

      So like I said above it’s probably too soon to give a ton of praise for his drafting but it is an improvement on what was going on before he arrived and if an extra player or 2 emerge along with one of Skinner or Rodrigue as a starter we could be looking back at those draft picks as the key pieces to a championship team. Still early but I’m optimistic.

      • Ass Eatn Szn 69

        Im not saying there all going to make it, but you will improve your odds of players making it when you draft for skill, and follow what works. Drafting BPA works, the CHL is usually the best place to draft from, place emphasis on NHLE, stick to consensus list, dont draft goalies early. Oilers have proven for the last 2 decades they cant draft so why do they still know better than the other 29 teams.

      • Ass Eatn Szn 69

        oh and not going to bet on rodrigue, all these top rated goalies for the Q never turn out. I dont get the love for them from scouts. There save percentages are garbage.

  • tkfisher

    As far as im concerned he’s an accomplice to crimes of Peter Chiarelli. If he was involved in boardroom discussions with Peter (which he was) about and wasn’t able to point out how stupid some of those trades were, he’s not fit to be a GM. It’s that simple. ANY ONE and EVERYONE involved in those trades should have no part in the Oilers future.

  • hagar

    I would still like to know if that list of names actually meant the names on the list gave permission to say they are talking with the Oilers, or if it was a general list of names without, or about to be without a job, the Oilers put together?

  • VvV

    This has been brought up by Dustin multiple times, and I’m not sure why he keeps mentioning Buffalo. The Sabres hired there new GM on May 11th, 2017. Not sure why Gretzky would be considered for GM at that point, he had been an assistant GM for only 9 months at that point. By the end of the season he will have almost 3 years as assistant GM/Intern GM. There is a significant difference between 9 months experience and 3 years, that is why he wasn’t considered for Buffalo and is a better option now then then. I’m not saying he should be GM and it’s not based on a Ryan Spooner trade, it’s based on the fact he has more experience now then when Buffalo hired a GM.

  • Rob...

    If he had any knowledge or influence over the Manning trade possibility and didn’t object I’d include that in the Ugly as well. Anyone in the organization who approved of that trade should be gone, ASAP.

  • toprightcorner

    Agreed, I don’t think Gretzky has ever interviewed for a GM position. Most first time GM hires have gone through a few GM interviews and they learn a lot from each one on the type of strategies you need to support to get hired. If Gretzky was like Fuka (I am against hiring Fuka) and has been sought out before, then that would be different.

    To that extent, I am not sure McCrimmon has been in consideration for any other GM positions in the past, but he is definitely a serious target for any team out there looking to hire a new GM.

    If Gretzky was head and shoulders better than all other candidates, then fine, but if he is at best equal, it would be better for all involved to to hire a fresh face.

  • Total Points

    Gretzky would have to be perfect as the GM and that will never happen as all GM’s aren’t perfect. The Oilers would take a lot of heat if he was hired and made any mistakes.

    Gretzky and the Oilers should pass on him at this moment in time. Perhaps later when he has a better track record as an exec and the Oilers have passed their decade (s) of doom.

    They need someone now who can change the culture of the Oilers.

  • nunyour

    After so many failed years, if Katz doesn’t clear out upper management it will mean to me that he is not serious about improving his team and it won’t matter who the GM is .

  • JayZed

    I don’t want anyone from the Bruins “War Room” that traded Seguin anywhere near this job. We already failed with one, and we will fail with the next. Actual quote from K Gretz (on Seguin) ” I see work-hard from Seguin, but half a second late, and he won’t pay the price”

    So yeah, no thanks. Just in case you need a refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRyIgatcTAs

  • camdog

    Interesting how nobody and I repeat nobody discusses the Vice President of hockey operations job that is also vacant. That should be the first position filled. Or is Nicholson or Mactavish getting another bump in pay here? I wouldn’t mind Keith if they brought in somebody from outside the organisation to work with him. The current guys they have are only good at getting high draft picks.

  • The biggest problem is that “committee” and group of “advisors”. I’ve seen the names and they’re not pretty ones(did you know we’ve had the same “salary cap manager” for the last few years). I wouldn’t mind seeing Keith on the list. The 2 deals he was negotiating at the deadline(Donato for Puljujarvi and Benning for Brown) are exactly what we needed so it seems like he seems just abit smarter then General Dissapointment

  • crabman

    I would consider Gretzky and interview him for the position but I don’t think he is the right person for the job. I would however be okay if the new gm wantes to keep him on as assistant gm. I think he has done well at the draft choosing skill in the last couple of drafts. But the only way the optics aren’t horrible in doing so all the upper management woild need to go so it didn’t look like the new gm didn’t get to pick his own people.
    That said I also wouldn’t be the least bit upset to see him dismissed outright. The roster is inadequate and he was the right hand to the man who put us in this possition.

  • Ratt McNuge

    No way. Gretzky is not the guy. He needs to stick to scouting. Get somebody outside of the organization who is unrelated to the OBC to be GM. Also, fire the OBC. Gretzky and co. need to go.