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Three Takes From Bob Nicholson’s Season Seat Holder Meeting

Bob Nicholson recently addressed season ticket holders at an event and Redditt user “D722” posted a fantastic recap of the meeting and gave the “non-season seat holding” a glimpse into what was said and whatNicholson’ss plan looks like.

There were plenty of topics discussed, but three areas, in particular, got my attention and show what the summer might hold for the Oilers organization.

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TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Nicholson acknowledged that a lot of top GM candidates are currently employed by other NHL teams and won’t be available for an interview until after their season is done. That could be tough for the Oilers because if they want to talk to possible candidates from top NHL teams, that might mean waiting until at least late May or early June.

If that’s when you’re starting the interview process, then it seems unlikely that a someone could be hired and develop a strong plan for the organization before the draft on June 21. Nicholson didn’t guarantee that they’ll have a GM by the draft and advised that it’s necessary to have a GM to make trades. That timeline is going to be very tricky.

On top of that, he added that the next Head Coach of the team will be hired by whoever the new GM is and that having a Head Coach in place is imperative for attracting free agents.

Again, if the new GM isn’t in place until just before or just after the draft, is he going to be able to complete a full and proper search before free agency opens on July 1st? Doubtful.

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It’s a tough balance for the team to walk. They need to make sure they get these next few hires right and to do that, they need to leave no stone unturned. But, they’re heading into a massive offseason and need to find ways to improve this team before training camp in September. If the correct people aren’t in place before the draft and free agency, I think that goal becomes nearly impossible to achieve.

NEED A TOP PAIR DEFENSEMAN

This one intrigued me because if the organization thinks that their biggest need is a top pairing defenseman, I think that’s a problem. If you’re going to sink major assets and potentially major cap space into filling a hole on this roster, I think the best area to spend on is the forward group.

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I’m not saying that the Oilers defense doesn’t need to be upgraded, but I think finding one or two legitimate top six wingers should be of higher priority and based off that comment from Nicholson, I don’t think it is. If they could get a top six forward and a top pairing defenseman, then all the power to them, but I don’t think they have the assets or cap space to do so.

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Remember, the six defensemen that the team currently has were all around when this team had their 103 point season in 2016/17. Again, I want to stress the fact that I recognize their blueline could use another stud, top four player but I believe that getting a young, proven scoring forward is far more important.

Also, a lot of major moves are made at the draft. That’s when future assets are at their highest value. The Oilers won’t be able to take advantage of that if they don’t have a GM.

Nicholson also added that the team has seven or eight could be NHL ready. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe he meant that as they could play right now or next year, I took it as that there are a handful that have NHL potential. Even with giving him that benefit of the doubt, I think seven or eight is a stretch.

CAP EXPECTATIONS

Nicholson mentioned that the organization believes the salary cap will go up between $4-5 million next season. If that holds true, that means the team will have between $11.75-12.75 million in cap space for next season with nine forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie under contract. Now, they could bring up some players who are in the AHL this year and sign some extra forwards for league minimum, but I can’t see this team having more than $4-5 million to improve the roster.

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That’s enough to get either a top six forward or a decent defenseman. So they have the cap space to get one, but it will be very tight. I’m interested in knowing how they could free up a little more room.

Trading Kris Russell is certainly an option, but might be difficult given his cap hit and no-trade clause. Same with Andrej Sekera. Buying out Sam Gagner frees up $2 million almost instantly, but based off of Nicholson’s comments about how much they like Gagner’s presence in the room and how much they miss Matt Hendricks, I doubt that will happen. They could certainly try to trade Lucic, but that’s highly unlikely.

Zack Kassian and Matt Benning have been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late and I can understand why the Oilers would be hesitant to move them now but at the same time, their combined cap hit is $3.8 million and they’re likely going to be a fourth liner and third pairing defenseman respectively.

The bottom line: the team has a little bit of wiggle room, but not enough to make a significant roster change, unless they make some very tough decisions and move on from some players that the fan base/previous regime might really like.

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What say you? What comments from Bob Nicholson intrigued you? Let me know!


    • Ass Eatn Szn 69

      not even close, 2016 was not good and 2015 in boston was horrible too. We are basing this off the last two years which arent even close to unfolding.

  • MrBung

    The worst is to rush. And anyway, the team is not going to get better by overpaying mediocre free agents. The big fish are out of the Oils price range because of cap hell. This mess is going to take multiple seasons to fix and will not be turned around in one off season.

    • The Whispererer

      Like many others, I have afforded Gretzky the benefit of the doubt because of the successful drafts since his arrival. A few days ago, on the front page of the Journal Sports section, he reportedly said (paraphrasing) that he has mainly left the drafts in the hands of Bob Green and the amateur scouts; he said that the only time he interfered in the past two drafts was to use the 2018 6th round pick on Mike Kesselring. With that, he torpedoed the only perceived bright spot on his resume.

      • Ass Eatn Szn 69

        again how is it a successful draft, 2 players he has drafted have played in the nhl, 3 if you include bouchard, further to that two of them were the top ranked players and drafted in the top 10, and the other was a first round pick that has done nothing in the nhl. Please tell me how that is successful? Are you basing that success off of how the prospects are trending in Junior? Because as players become older at that age relative to who they are playing against of course they are going to be better. Also look at McLeod, kind of trending backwards this year.

        2015 is a major whiff for gretzky, so please again tell me why we are declaring him a draft god, maybe it is better that he left it to the others, however Greens lover for reinhart and the oilkings makes me want to puke as well.

        • Ty Guy

          i agree here..how is his draft record golden? My 5 year old could pick successfully in the top five. its outside the first that the grading should come in to play. i think the stat was 3 players drafted outside the first round in the last 20 years that managed 20+ goals at least once as an oiler…thats both putrid and crippling.

          • D.Sutton9

            I think it’s more so by comparison to what was done in the decade + prior to his arrival. We’re used to prospects being obvious busts by now. Too early to tell how the recent drafts will all pan out, but prospects doing well in the CHL and some younger players leading the Condors gives us some hope.

  • Cowboy Bill

    There is absolutely no choice but to rely on Keith Gretzky to run the draft , decide which RFA’s to qualify and which UFA’s to resign , if any . Less is more until they can get the right GM in place , his top priority is to shed salary . He won’t be throwing money at his RFA’s , he just has to qualify the players that are useful , if they want more , then off they go to free agency . The teams UFA’s simply need to be signed to value contracts or they can test the free agent market as well . Gretzky can try to sign a free agent , but good luck with that .

  • nijames

    You say the same D-men were around in the 103 point season. When do you think you will realize that season was an aberration and not something we should expect sgain. That year Talbot easily got them at leadt 10 points all by himself. Don’t base a roster on that season EVER

    • jesse says yep

      So your saying our defense is good for around 93 points and if the goalie can steal 3 games we can crack 100? I’m ok with that if it means using the cap space on scoring

  • Oilers_1978

    i am confident the top oilers management don’t have a clue what need to be done and what they will do..

    if after this season: their verdict is they need a top pairing D ahead of two legit wingers…the are doomed. and..

    we should count our days before mcD wants out…

    • Kool-Aid Man

      The joke is on the teir 1 fans whom choose to support the team financially. Teir 2 fans are just the collateral damage because of teir 1 fans.

      If one wants to give 8-10K of their hard earned money to Katz and his cronies for absolutely nothing in return, get season tickets.

  • TKB2677

    Having to wait to interview some guys for the GM’s job isn’t ideal but at the same time, I am OK with it. They HAVE to get this right. So if you have to wait to get the right guy, so be it. Get it right!!

    This whole thing about needing a top pairing dman, I just don’t get. This has come from the team for a long time but it’s not just the team, its a ton of fans and almost every hockey guy says the same thing. Would I like a top tier dman who’s in the conversation for the norris? Hell yeah I would. Would it help them? Probably. But do I think they need to blow their assets to get it. HELL NO. Could they be a good team without that elite of the elite dmen? YES. Another question is WHERE is this guy coming from? What team has this elite guy that they are just dying to get rid of?

    What I more see as being realistic is getting a good dman to take over Russell’s spot.

    • gr8haluschak

      This person right here nailed it on the head. Every dumb fan runs their mouth thinking it is so easy to get a top d man and then embarrass themselves further by making a garbage proposal on how to get one.

      • TKB2677

        When I look at the Oilers defense right now. Are they a pile of crap with the same guys as 2 years ago that made the playoffs? No but do they need a few upgrades? Yes. The Oilers lack a little speed and puck moving on the back end. I am not here to piss on Russell because I think he’s been alright for the Oilers ever since they signed him. He’s a left shooting, defensive dman who’s defense on a lot of nights isn’t elite but not bad. He is what he is. But if you could swap out Russell with a true RIGHT HANDED, better puck moving dman, with maybe a little more offense like 30-35 pts, who can play adequate defense like Russell can, that would be a HUGE upgrade to the Oilers top 4.

        I look at the Oilers 3rd pairing. Sekera has been better than I expected. He’s a smart, crafty vet that does lots of things decent but he’s slowish. Having 2 major leg injuries 2 years in a row I am sure hasn’t helped with his speed. He can get burned at times. I look at Benning, he’s been a lot better since Sekera came back. He’s an OK 3rd pairing dman that can do everything alright at times. But he’s not the greatest skater either. Those 2 can get burned at times because they are slow. If the could add a good skating, good puck moving dman to that 3rd pairing, that would be HUGE. If possible, I’d even look at getting rid of both.

        If next season the Oilers would put out in whatever order
        Klef-Larsson
        Nurse – New guy goodskating, puck mover
        Jones- Persson (or someone else)- both good skating puck movers

        Their defense would be drastically improved. I think you can get a second pairing right shot guy. It will still cost you a lot but it won’t decimate your team.

      • camdog

        They keep Jeff Petry and this is a completely different team. Thing is Mactavish is still out there helping scouting d-man. How many of these hockey people that didn’t think Petry was good are still working for the Oilers and looking for d-man?

    • Ted

      Could they be a good team without that elite of the elite dmen? YES. …. Actually NO. Haven’t had a top ten dman since Pronger! All the difference in the world. Most teams have two top dmen. We have none! And it can’t go forward with this same group of D. Big shuffle required!

        • Ted

          To the BS. Out of just the top fifty dmen.
          STL – Dunn and Pietrangelo
          SJ – Burns and Karlsson
          TOR – Gardiner and Reilly and Muzzin
          CGY – Hanifin and Giordano and Brodi
          NSH – Ellis and Josi and Ekholm
          CHI – Gustafson and Keith
          TB – Hedman and McDonagh
          DAL – Klingberg, Heiskanen, Lindell
          VGK – Schmidt and Theodore
          BUF – Ristolannen, Montour, Dahlin
          WPG – Byfuglien, Morrissey, Trouba
          PHI – Sanheim and Gostisbehere
          BOS – Krug and Chara

          That’s 13 teams with at least two elite dmen 6 of those had three elite… Elite is in reference to the top fifty dmen in the league. I would take any of those pairings over what is currently on this Oilers roster! Oh and Nurse was ranked #32 at the bottom of the top fifty! So BS yourself!!

          • gr8haluschak

            Wow if you consider Vince Dunn an “elite defenseman” then you are full of it and I can say as the only die hard Blues fan in Edmonton I do know what I am talking about and he sure in the hell is not elite today and I doubt he will ever be an elite d man.

            You lost any credibility when you started with that and as I go down the list you really are full of it. Dunn, Muzzin, Gardiner, Hanifin, Brodie, Gustafson, Mcdonagh, Elis, All of what you put down for Dallas and Vegas, Montour, Sanhiem, Krug are not elite d men, hell some of them are not even good d men so do not BS us with such a dumb comment.

            Right now Nurse and Klefbom would be on par with about half of those so called “elite” d men you named, so take your bs rose glasses off.

            In fact i am so amazed by such a dumb list I need to know how in gods name did you come up with such terrible examples of “elite”, what is your definition of “elite” let’s hear it because i guarantee most of the normal world thinks elite is the best of the best.

          • Ted

            Dunn is #39 … Reading works as I stated top fifty defenseman, elite! … And you to can go online and see the top fifty scoring defenseman! … And when I hear Rose colored glasses I only know one A** who uses that expression from the Esks site! Hmmm are you the same uneducated man? … And thanks camdog I did miss that one!!

  • camdog

    Bob said it weeks ago, the new GM needs to be able to fit with the Oiler culture already developed in the front office. The Oilers want to keep on trucking on. They aren’t quite ready to admit there’s a problem there, we are in decade 2 of whatever this is, but they don’t think there’s a problem with how they do business…

    • TKB2677

      Question. Do you know exactly what “culture” means when it comes to the GM?

      I have heard Stauffer plus other Edmonton media guys plus other outside of Edmonton media guys all say the same thing. Chia was not a fan of talking to the media, he always came off as prickly and kind of standoffish, negative and arrogant. He was smarter than everyone else. He came off that way when he was hired, he was not a big communicator from day 1 and preferred to bunker himself in and do things himself.

      What’s the perception of the Oilers and the “old boys club”? Is it not exactly what I just described Chia as? They rarely talk. When they, they give you jack squat. They come off as arrogant and with an attitude that even though they are doing a lousy job, they no better so just accept what they say is right and keep paying your money.

      When I look at Nicholson. He’s a talker. He likes to be out there. He’s a communicator, he seems to always try to be positive. He seems to want more openness. Instead of bunkering himself in his office, telling everyone “We got this, relax”, he’s out there picking peoples brains. The exact opposite of what the Oilers have ever done. The Oilers ever since Sather quit, didn’t hire a GM, they APPOINTED people. So what if the culture that Nicholson wants is what I descried as what he seems to be.

  • samakehurst16

    Honestly a guy like Benning might be good trait bait. He will likely get pushed out of the bottom 3rd pair by guys like Bouchard, Bear and Jones, who’s potential is a lot higher then a Matt Benning. Trade him to a struggling defensive team for a top 6 winger maybe throw in a pick or a prospect combo to sweeten it. Win that trade, help out with a second scoring line. Let Bouchard, Bear and Jones fight there way to the big show. We have the defenceive depth might just take a year or two. But we NEED scoring wingers and forward depth.

  • madjam

    Options are plentiful depending on direction New GM wants to take with team , and that includes the cap situation . Look , how far has team gotten forward by the likes of Connor and Leon , while not enhancing the defence to contend with top teams that ineviably make playoffs all the time because their focus is mainly on the backend (goalie and defense ) . Trade one , fix defense and cap situation no longer strangling team . Have to wonder if we had a Doughty what might it take to get him in our fold . Our defence and goaltending might take another decent goalie and two top defencemen to win and still maintain one of our top two forwards . Build from backend which we simply still have not done with hardly any success . Philosophy how to build the Oilers has to be from backend . Look , even our last best season in 2004 was the foresight of K.Lowe doing exactly that , and adding a penalty killer extraordinaire (who’s name avoids me presently) . I think all the fans realize our biggest problems are manifested in a weak backend for todays game . If Oilers need to trade Leon , Ryan or both to get the defence up to snuff , then so be it .

  • oil27

    I agree with you that our number one priority should be a scoring winger but how can you say we don’t have 7-8 prospects with real nhl potential? benson, yamamoto, maskimov, mcleod, jones, bear, bouchard, samurokov all are projecting to be nhl players. I’m not saying they will be but they have potential and this isn’t even including our older prospects. And while benning is only a third paring defencemen, kassian has proven in the last 15 games hes more than just a 4th line guy. 4th line player cant make plays like kassian has been doing of late and if you add his speed and size, if he can stay engaged for a full season hes a very useful top 9 guy.

  • btrain

    I can’t believe they want to prioritize a D man. I am with Yaremchuck, the forward group needs to be the priority. If you want to put the cart before the horse and look at next year as the YEAR, then the D man sort of makes sense. However, if we can all agree that this team is not winning a cup in the next year or two, let the D group take care of itself.

    With Bear, Jones, Legasson, Bouchard, Persson, all looking like reasonable bets for NHL time, why road block them with another big contract? They will be sufficiently insulated with Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Sekera, Benning, and perhaps Russel (prefer to turn him into a winger) to help carry the load.

    This team will never start taking that next step until they can begin to develop from within. I think they are as close to accomplishing that on the back end as they have ever been. So let it ride out a bit while you add to the forward group. If they could manage to clear enough space to bring in two top 6 wingers, this team is significantly better. It bumps a number of players (Gagner, Khaira, Lucic, Chiasson, Kassian, etc) down a peg. It also gives young offensive prospects a chance to play in a top 6 role without the success of the team riding so heavily on their ability to carry the offensive load.