To say Bob Nicholson’s tour through Oilers season ticket holder meetings has been a public relations nightmare would be an understatement.
Beyond the puzzling, contradictory comments about who’s responsible for what decisions and vague discussions about how things will be different moving forward, Nicholson threw gasoline all over the fire by randomly tearing into Tobias Rieder. To paraphrase, a stressed-out and agitated Nicholson, a few days into a damning gauntlet of chatting with agitated fans, carved Rieder for his disappointing season while suggesting his poor play was the difference between this team making the playoffs and not.
This rightfully caused a storm in Oil Country. As I wrote yesterday, beyond this being wildly inaccurate, the fact that Nicholson, the leader and a major ambassador of this organization, felt this was an appropriate thing to say about a depth player on the team certainly puts his leadership in question. This is just a meer peek behind the curtains of the thought process going on at the top levels of this organization and it, compounded on top of many, many other things, makes fans wonder whether the correct group is in place to lead the Oilers to success.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Do the Oilers need to start from scratch? Would it be okay to just find a new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager but leave many of the other members of the leadership team in place? Do the Oilers woes begin with Nicholson’s leadership?
We’ve been told adamantly that the Old Boys Club is no longer involved in hockey-related decision making and that pointing fingers at that arbitrary group functions solely for disgruntled fans to have a direction to yell. We’ve also been told that decisions such as Mikko Koskinen’s puzzling extension were made by committee. Then Nicholson explicitly said they weren’t going to be bringing Rieder back. That means that, despite not having a POHO or GM, the Oilers have already determined a free agent will not be signed.
Nicholson’s background is colourful as he’s seen a tremendous amount of success working with Hockey Canada. That involves putting good teams on the ice at international competitions through hiring the right executives and managers and creating a strong brand behind the Hockey Canada name. It makes sense that he was hired to lead Darryl Katz’s Oilers Entertainment Group endeavour, which spans well beyond just the hockey team.
Still, working with Hockey Canada when you have unlimited resources at your disposal and much less pressure from media beyond the four-year Olympic cycle is a completely different animal from working in the NHL. Pressure is higher in this league, fans don’t relent, and 30 other organizations are competing with you at every turn.
Given the way things have gone since he’s filled into his role back in June 2014, you certainly have to question whether Nicholson is the person to dig the Oilers out of the mess they’ve found themselves in.