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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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Oilersnation Radio Episode 96 – Prepping for the playoffs with Reid Wilkins

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.

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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.

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!

  • Neilio

    I fail to see how wingers are more important than a top pair defenceman. Yes we need scoring, but look at how this team struggles when Kelfbom or Sekera, or both are injured. I’d argue that we don’t have ANY top pairing guys currently, even with them, and that’s a problem. Its been the problem pretty much since Pronger left. And this team is not a playoff threat until that is dealt with.

    • TKB2677

      I do not think he is delusional, I just think there is a disconnect between what he is saying and what you think of when you hear NHL ready in Bakersfield.

      Manning – Can he play in the NHL? He can. He’s not high end but he could be a 6-7. Not ideal but if called upon he can be alright for short spurts.

      Lowe – Same as Manning. He could play as a 6-7. He’s not amazing but he can do it for short times and you could survive.

      My preference is to not have either of them ever play for the Oilers but I think they could play in the NHL for a lot of teams in a limited way.

      Jones & Lagesson – Based on all the talk from Woodcroft who does nothing but rave, those guys could make the jump. I read Sekera who played with Lagesson said he’s NHL ready.

      Bear I think has a shot. Maybe not as an Oiler but as a bit of a specialist.

      Persson- Been a top end offensive dman in the Swedish league which is a very good league and has developed a lot of dmen.

      So there is 6 off the top of my head.

  • Spydyr

    On Defense: Need a top one or two defenseman this off-season.

    Say goodbye to Nuge. There is no other asset outside of Draisaitl and McDavid that even comes close to making that happen.

  • Odanada

    Now I’m just a lowly tier 2 fan, but I have no faith in Bob whatsoever.
    He apparently had his head in the sand while Chia screwed this team into the ground and now he wants to reassure me he knows what he is doing and that there is a “plan”.
    No thanks, I’ll pass

    • HockeyRooster

      Kassian is certainly cheap as top line player (as a 4th line player he’s expensive). I really like him with Connor but consistency has been his problem through each season. That said, leave him there and find a winger for the second line!

  • hagar

    Sounds like they are pushing the timeline narrative on this one. It’s always fun to read what these guys say, then try to figure out in which way they will screw the team and fans over.
    After reading this, I vote that they decide as a group, that there wasnt enough time to get a new gm in place. Then they will decide to carry on like they are “now” ‘lmfao,’ and make decisions as a group for the draft and season.
    In the end, the most important thing for this team is that the boys have a job. Just need to keep figuring a way to keep them all around until the team becomes good, just another year.

    • hagar

      It would actually be pretty sweet if the know it alls got together and publicly ran this team instead of pretending someone else is.
      Just to see all the assanin moves happen without disguise would be worth it. The moves would all feel extremely familiar…. almost like you have seen them for 12 years…

    • camdog

      Nicholson stated a while back that they were in process of starting to do interviews. I couldn’t figure out why so many teams were giving Oilers permission to talk to their guys before the season was over. I guess hadn’t realized that part yet.

  • Rick Stroppel

    I just read the notes and I think you are all misinterpreting what Nicholson said about defencemen. Both places the notes say 7-8 defence MAN not 7-8 defence MEN. So I think what he was saying is that there are prospects, not 7 or 8 of them, who could be brought up as a 7 or defence MAN.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Re Wayne Gretzky not being involved: I call B.S. There was a very interesting post here about a year ago. Somebody said something like this: They were at yet another “Old Oilers Pat Themselves On The Back” social event. They were sitting at a big table with Wayne Gretzky, who said “we are bringing a goalie over from the KHL next season”. Normally you write off stuff like that as gossip. But look what happened. Nicholson knows the hostility that Oilers fans have to the OBC. I don’t buy that they are not involved in hockey decisions. What the heck do they do all day? They are probably making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or more. None of these guys knows anything about business.

  • You just got LITT up!

    um … so Hall straight up for Larson was a bad trade???? Damn1t!
    LOLS in my pants … the Oilers are just classic. It must be so boring to cheer for another team. “Oh what’s that … Brad Trevling just made another good trade”! yawn, wake me up when something exciting happens.
    I’ll take Pistol Pete any day.
    Reminds me of a Family Guy episode that sums up the Oilers … paraphrasing:
    Salesman: “Peter, you can have a boat or the mystery box”
    Peter: “I’ll take the mistery box, but, Lois, it could be anything … even a boat.”

  • Randomfan

    I am just wondering who are these people trashing comments made against the management group? Are there seriously people out there who believe management is not the issue?

    • DannyGallivan

      Mgmt is the only problem. They alone made the poor trade/player hiring decisions, poor contract decisions both in amount and term, they choose scouting.

      Don’t blame the coaches or the players. The coaches get the best out of what they have. Todd and Hitch did their best but they can’t get blood from a stone. Cave, Reider, Brodziak, Rattie etc. can only give you what they have. Every one of them would be waived through the league right now.

      This is on Management. Full stop.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Incredible to me that Hitchcock is still in the running for HC next year. Consider what he has done in the NHL them last three seasons. Two seasons ago: barely .500 in St. Louis, fired in late season and the team took off under Mike Yeo. Last season: Dallas was fairly comfortably in a playoff position until late season, team went 1-8-1 or something like that, he was let go at the end of the year. This season: Oilers exactly one game under .500 under McLellan, exactly one game under .500 under Hitchcock, literally zero improvement. You are what your record says you are.

    People talk about the Oilers organization not taking advantage of “advanced analytics”. Actually, they don’t even take advantage of hockey reference, hockey db, and the NHL website. How else do you explain Hitchcock, Koskinen, Manning, Petrovic, Spooner, Zykov, etc.?

  • Rick Stroppel

    I think the Oilers cap situation is actually worse than Mr. Yaremchuk says. For instance he says the Oilers have six defencemen under contract for next season, they actually have EIGHT as of right now according to Cap Friendly: Sekera 5.5 mill, Klefbom 4.16, Larsson 4.16, Russell 4, Nurse 3.2, Benning 1.9, Manning 2.2, Persson 1.0. I understand Persson makes that no matter where he plays, not sure if it counts against the cap. People keep talking about “getting rid of”, “off loading” contracts. How? The Oilers roster is littered with contracts that no other team in their right mind would take on.

    The increase in the cap is unlikely to make much difference, this is why. The NHL is a zero sum game. Every other team gets the same increase. The other teams have more money to keep and get free agents. What free agent would want to come here? Nicholson is largely responsible for the clown show, why is he still employed? Time to REALLY clean house.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Last post, I promise. Why doesn’t somebody ask Nicholson about the famous “forensic audit”? he promised about four years ago. When did it start, when did it finish? How long was the report? Who got the report? Why can’t Nicholson provide the report…or a summary at least…to season ticket holders? Or maybe when Nicholson was talking about a “forensic audit” he was just blowing smoke up everybody’s patootie. And people are comfortable with this guy in charge going forward?

  • DannyGallivan

    1) Stop the old boyz club. Chia was never part of that. He and Bobby F’ed this up on their own.
    2) We need wingers. We have GREAT centers. One of the best 1-2-3 in the league. They have NO SUPPORT on the wings. Our 2 best wingers are Kas (should be 3rd line) and Chais (PTO – 2nd or 3rd) – THAT IS OUR BEST! After the top 3 C, 2 of the next 3 in pts are D (Nurse, Chais, Klef).
    3) We have more D coming up in the next 2-4 yrs than wingers. Think longer term than next season. Missed both Klef and Sek for part of the season. Better offence = more time in the offensive zone = less pressure on goaltending/D. D is now trying to kick in O and we are giving up odd man/breakaways.
    4) GM is incredibly important. He can kill a team – Chia case in point or make it. DO NOT RUSH this decision. The Oil never interviewed a GM in the history of the team (just appointed) – ridiculous.

    • jesse says yep

      Very strong points IMO. 1) to add to this they gave Chia the POHO tag as well, meaning that Bob probably didnt have much say at all when it comes to player decisions.
      2) Center depth has been lacking for a decade and it kills me to hear people we should trade from this position. IE : DONT TRADE NUGE
      3) they need to upgrade either Benning or russel. Neither whould be top 4

      • jesse says yep

        Do you ever wonder if you endless droning on about the same thing ever gets in the way of you having a real conversation? We all get it, you hate the OBC and want more than anything to see them gone. Can you now talk about something?

    • TKB2677

      I completely disagree with your comment about Chia being part of the “old boys club”. When people talk about the Old boys club, they seem to immediately assume it has to be a guy with a certain name with ties the past Oilers. I look at the term Old boys club differently. Yes it mostly involves certain names but for me it’s mainly an attitude. This attitude they know best no matter what. Trades or signings that make sense to no one else make sense to them because we don’t know. When mistakes happen because they do happen from time to time, instead of admitting to the mistake, smuggly just telling us to accept it and they know what’s best. Poor communication. All the things that Chia did. So I do believe he was part of the old boys club because everything the embodied, he did too.

      • TKB2677

        Exactly. He did exactly the same things the previous management did. Be smug, arrogant, I know best you don’t. Mac T was like that. “Schultz is a Norris”. KLowe when he was more involved would spout off about knowing more than us.

        Chia seemed to be a guy who he knew more than everyone else. Manning is a terrible dman, everyone knew that but Chia thought he was good. The whole league was moving towards speed and skill, Chia knew better and went heavy.

      • hagar

        There was a show on TV the other day called forensic files. Seemed to be a show about investigators going back over forensic evidence to try and solve cases… maybe we should submit the vanishing Oilers forensic audit as a case for them to look into.
        It’s probably in the same file folder as the next intensive search for a new gm, filed under “excuses to keep track of.”

  • Mr.Snrub

    Acquiring a top pairing D-Man is usually something the General Manager decides, but the Oilers haven’t hired one yet. But that doesn’t matter in OBC Land i suppose. We all know who really pulls the strings and this is another example.

    I also got a good laugh about Mac T being in charge of Bakersfield this year out of the blue! These morons are like children taking credit for anything positive and blaming quite literally everything else on Chia now that he’s out the door.

  • toprightcorner

    My guess is that the Oilers will add a PoHO before the draft and he and Gretzky will handle the draft and plant some seeds for possible trades. The new GM will be announced after the draft but before July 1.

    I don’t believe you can officially hire a manager from another team until after the playoffs are complete. They will be able to interview managers once their teams are out of the playoffs if not given permission to do so earlier. Nicholson will likely have a very short list of 2-3 candidates before the last round of the playoffs are finished. If he wants to talk to someone still in the playoffs, it will be delayed, if not, then a decision will be made during the final round and announce the new PoHO during one of the off days as the NHL does not like major announcements on game days of the final round. After the PoHO is hired, a new GM will be named within a week as he will already have a very short list to work with and may have 1-2 of his own candidates to interview.

    It is likely that while interviewing for the PoHO that a couple of the main GM’s will be discussed and others may be added to the list.

    Unless Yzerman agrees to come to Edmonton, I don’t see any potential candidate that you would hire to do both GM and PoHO. That includes potential fired GM’s Nill, Kaklainen or Bowman if their teams don’t make the playoffs. Neither have the PoHO title now and I don’t think they should get it in Edmonton if hired as a GM.

  • hockeyartist

    The damage is done and there is no quick fix. But hopefully the bleeding of talent is over. The only way to turn this around is with patience. Lots of good prospects coming but its going to take time. Unfortunately 97 may become restless before that ever happens.

  • CMG30

    Say what you want about analytics. Many, many fans don’t like it and it’s not always perfect. That being said, all the best teams do use it and have found sucess. The fact that our management has until this point, felt that they simply know better than the guys who are actually doing the winning, just goes to show the kind of arrogance that’s flooding the halls of the front office.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The Oilwers need to get rolling on a GMN… interview who they can when the season ends and start scratching off those that wont make the cut, talk to the other teams after the season and see if you can get permisssion to talk to the ones you want to target. They can not wait till a few weeks before the season is going to start to have a GM in place. as for changing coaches, I like Hitch but It’s hard to say if Hitch can lead these guys, as for the assitants sorry but they can all go, I saw no change with the PP PK or defensive system under TM and Hitch, they are still terrible and have been all season and the assitants dont seem to be able to get the team playing well at any of the aformentioned situations, is it all on the assitants no, but they hold the majority of the responsibility, and the players need to share some blame but the coaches dont seem to know how to get the message through to the players of their mistakes and the players seem to have no understanding of what the systems are judging by their play. Schwartz should have been out the door last season and then mid season, and yet this guy is still here as goalie coach, he needs to go, he is determental to the goalies having even a whiff of a chance at success. Needs to go.

    There has to be changes, Benning needs to go…anywhere else…Reidier needs to go, Lucic contract is bulletproof he isnt going anywhere unless some GM gets suckered, noty signing Chaisson will cost the Oilers a guy they could have had fairly cheap, I doubt he is back. Cave is cheap I’d hang on to, Currie ought to be up here next year..Russel I like for his shot blocking but he could go, Kassian is a toss up does he still want out, does he expect to stay on McDavids line next year, they needs to see what to do, he cant disappear for half the season again either. Rattie I let walk and Manning and god knows who else, we are going to either have to try and get rid of or we are stuck with them. It’s not going to be pretty next season

  • Steel Panther

    While I think it would be nice to add a top 6 winger or two, I think the acquisition of a true top pairing D- man would be the most effective way to improve the team as a D man can play 25 minutes a night vs. 18 minutes for a forward. If the right guy is brought in I think a D man could also help drive the offence especially on our inept PP. Right now we do not have any offence from the D. Klefbom is not a true number 1 PP guy. … and don’t suggest Benning.

  • TKB2677

    They could bring in Lidstrom or Chris Pronger in their primes and it wouldn’t be enough. They need to STOP worrying about trying to get this #1 dman and just ice 6 good ones. If they could build 3 solid pairings, that can defend reasonably well, move the puck reasonably well, skate reasonably well and bring some offense, they would be fine. Blowing their wade so you have 1 really good pairing, the 2 other crap pairings makes no sense.

    Go find yourself a decent right shooting, decent skating, puck moving dman for the second pair so he and Nurse don’t spend 2 mins trying to get out of the zone. Then upgrade your speed and puck moving a bit on your 3rd pairing and you are fine. I think internally, they can upgrade the 3rd pair but they need to go outside to get a second pairing guy.

    Where they need to use assets is to get rid of crap contracts and boost their forward depth.

  • Derzie

    So your car is a piece of crap. There are holes in the floor, the engine starts every 2nd or 3rd day, belches smokes like an sob and get 2 miles to the gallon. You’ve been using that car as a high-price limo to shuffle discerning customers around Edmonton. Many of them choke and gasp along the way and a lot never get to where they want to go. The invoices are sent out like clockwork and the prices go up every year.
    It’s time to get the passengers to sign up for another season. This is the chance to win their support and keep their business.

    The whole presentation is focused on the fact that the 2nd hand winter tires you need for next season are still on another car. Until May or even June.
    But boy, are those winter tires going to be something. When (if) the car starts, they’ll barely slip and most of the time. Here’s where you sign for next year.

    Bob. The car is a piece of crap. The people that maintain/ignore the car are incompetent. No one has a license or even knows how to drive. Tires won’t help.

    Good thing for you that your customers are desperate and not as discerning as they should be. No other city in North America would let that car stay on the road. It would be crusher bait. Ask your buddies out east, that are giving you such solid advice, about how crushers work. Your customers will thank you.

  • Big Nuggets

    If they can package up Russell with something to get a better defenseman that would be ideal. Or just ship him out and use that cap space on a good RD. Sekera probably doean’t have much value in a trade but a team might be willing to take on his cap hit. I just don’t know it would be worth it. The return will be low and Sekera is a good defenseman. I don’t think its a coincidence that Benning is suddenly playing well now that Sekera is healthy. Ideally I think they move out one of Russell and Benning for a good puck moving defenseman. Then find a scoring winger and a 3rd line center.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    What makes Zach Kassian a fourth-liner in your eyes?!!! He is killing it on the first line – and has been for a while. He is exactly what we need in a top-6 winger, he keeps McDavid safe and is a bargain at that. Saying he’s a 4th-line winger doesn’t make it so.

    It’s not his fault that he wasn’t used properly before. He IS NOW and has been doing great in that role. Leave him there and leave him alone at his bargain contract in that role. (We already lack top-6 wingers without needlessly pulling one down out of that role.)

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    So first he says we need a top-pairing defenceman and now he says we have 7-8 defensemen READY!??? Totally NOT clued in.

    This only proves how badly we need to fire Bob Nicholson and all the other Oilers brass that has been here for a while. Their incompetence is going to be this team’s undoing…and may lead to McDavid requesting a trade out eventually, which I really hate saying!!

  • Da Money

    Its time for Bob you to go. please there are lot of other jobs in states and overseas. Lucic signing was a biggest mistake and that’s where it all started.you failed us right then.