WWYDW(FE): Start Fresh

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Lowe: “I wonder if we have enough hot dog buns?”
    McTavish: “Attendance in Bakersfield is great!”
    Wayne Gretzky: “We need another meet-and-greet…what kind of snacks should we serve?”
    Nicholson: “I know these orange uniforms are ugly…the contract says we have to use them for another season!”

    I refuse to believe that none of these fools are involved in important hockey decisions.

  • FutureGM

    Pretty sad that this comment was needed to some to suggest everyone needs to be removed. Pull a dump truck up to Scotty Bowman and get Ken Holland or him to be POHO and hire GM accordingly

      • FutureGM

        Wisdom comes with age. Fact. I didn’t say to get him to run the show, but to kick it off. Right now we literally have the same guy kicking it off, again, that not only is responsible for this circus, but decided it was a good idea to not interview for the GM position. AND admit to it. I’d take my chances with Scotty

  • Abagofpucks

    I’m listening to bob talk to gregor right now and all i hear is Bn say things anybody would say, all you have to do is change a few words and it could be a conversation about women’s health problems.

    • Axe

      Ray Donovan Vs. The OBC… Post game entertainment.. Forget the hurricanes we would have the best post game show.. Except ours would be after our home losses…

  • Total Points

    A Company that I am involved with changed the GM in November. Kept the other staff and the results have been amazing. People that I thought were not performing all of a sudden performed beyond expectations. Turns out the direction from the GM was flawed

    The Oilers need to change the final decision maker at the top – who is probably Klowe (Nicholson was simply a mouth piece) and I would bet things would work themselves out.

  • oildawg99

    Does anyone else want to see Reider score a game winner at home and give the old middle finger salute up to the OBC….. I know it’s highly unlikely but i think it would be a moment I would enjoy,

  • Total Points

    Apparently Nicholson has 35 names on his list as potential GMs and will interview 12. I was going to comment that only someone who does not know what he is doing would have 35 names on a list but I think I better check my e-mail as I am pretty sure I am on the list. lol

  • Derzie

    “makes fans wonder whether the correct group is in place to lead the Oilers to success”
    “you certainly have to question whether Nicholson is the person to dig the Oilers out of the mess they’ve found themselves in”

    Are you being serious? Really? You think there are people that heard this from Nicholson and THAT was the nugget that made them start to question the leadership group? The first time it entered their mind? All faith in Bobby & The OBC prior to this? 14 years? Really?

    This is a prime example of writers lobbing softballs and enabling the gong show.

  • Serious Gord

    It’s probably not a comfortable idea for oil fans but unless there is a massive change in how the org is operated it is likely that we are nearing the midpoint of the years that mcdavid plays for the oil.

    Super stars usually spend their entire career or the productive years at least with one team. But it is not the rule particularly in the cap era. Unless this org not only gets competitive but remains consistently Connor will look to play and earn and win elsewhere.

    Regardless, the key decision is one that will impact the org for a decade or more.

    And it’s simple: remove the FOK and FOG.

  • TKO

    I don’t know about you guys, but i have zero confidence in the ownership and management of this club, and the odd mixed signals from the executives only makes one more apprehensive. I just have a bad feeling about the group making the critical decisions in Edmonton

  • Dark Knight Returns

    So…, you guys still think McDavid is looking forward to staying here during his best years???? He must really like Fringe Fest, hey?


  • ScottV

    C’mon – this guy is all fluff. Out of his league. Trying to hang on to the gravy train.

    Lots wrong in the upper echelon surrounding this club, but – Nicholson doesn’t have the right stuff to deal with it and in particular to deal with running hockey ops in difficult circumstances. Too much of a politician.

    It requires way stronger leadership. The kind of guy that would demand a full mandate from Katz and act upon it accordingly. It would probably involve ridding the organization of the boys on the bus. All those guys do is blur any sense of who is really in charge of things and that isnt good for any organization.

  • Oiler Al

    This is how it ends up when the Owner, who probably cares but cant find getting himself from hiding under his kitchen table,leaves it all to his talkinghead CEO, bellowing soft,hot air to all that care to listen.You have a part time GM,a part time coach and a CEO running around the country asking others what he should do.? The OBC are sitting on the sidelines laughing with glee.

  • madjam

    Over managed and to much consensus direction slowing down progress of moving forward . Plenty of qualified people in organization , just to many chiefs inon to many decisions just muddling things up . Sounds like Nicholson could be gone shortly before next season to the IIHF open position – thus leaving Oilers some foresight thinking to do before seasons end .

  • Oilerz4life

    I thought fans were being hard on Nicholson, a good guy, in over his head. Wrong, again. What a jerk. He will never live that comment down in Edmonton, ever.

    • OilerForLife

      I don’t defend Bob at all for this. It shows his lack of judgement and experience at the professional level of hockey. All they had to do was not sign him, there isn’t a stronger message. There is no doubt Katz needs to let him go to fix this alone. They need to replace him for hiring Chiarelli, who signed Lucic and traded for Reinhart.

      Having said that, Reider has been decent on defence, but he was brought in to provide secondary scoring. I saw none of that.

      The Oilers still have a very good core of young players and more on the way. They need a new manager to do his best to slowly fix this. Make no mistake about but it, this will take 3-4 years before we see a marked improvement. There will be no miracle, and patience will be required by the fans or we can kiss this franchise goodbye.

      • Oilerz4life

        I’m returning my hope nuggets. Not giving up on the Oilers, but as a fan, pretty deflated. Really, I have no idea.
        Who is going to do the next gm hire, and then the next, and next? The next coach and then the next? Next. Cue hype machine. No? Next. Cue the hype. Fail. Next please.

        The only good thing is a wicked farm team. But, I trust in the Oilers completely to find a way, somehow, to mess up each prospect and then blame each player. Run them each out of town. One after another. Get in line. Players fault. Next.

        Maybe Bouchard can develop through the Oilers’ system, so that they can ruin him, discard him for nothing and he can go on to win elsewhere. Jones and Bear can be traded away for next to nothing too. There are some good scoring prospects. At some point Maximov will bolt for the KHL. Benson, Marody, etc. etc. Incarceration in Edmonton may serve to inspire each one, to find success elsewhere.

        It’s always the same pattern, the same type of hype at the same time, each year. Same thing, broken record. Soon it will be the “dog days of summer”. Ohhhh yaaa! Lets go Oilers…

        I know I’m excited to hear about the next Oiler to come on back home to twilight his career. There will be some awesome new third and forth line reclamation projects that the Oilers bring in. Somehow the media will be pumping the tires on that one this summer, guaranteed. There are some goalies to graveyard too. They will each lose confidence and leave, then make the playoffs backstopping a team with defense.

        So sorry, maybe as a fan I should show some MORE patience. I know there is no quick fix. But, I really don’t have any flippin ideas what might be the fixer upper for this Oiler club anymore. No idea. Also, still haven’t found a reason to spend MY money to buy a ticket to that new arena yet. It does look like a nice barn though, from the outside. If as a fan I sound frustrated, sorry not sorry.

  • camdog

    It’s been noted this year that PC stopped communicating with the Oiler Executives. He went out on his own. The only person he discussed personnel with was Sutter. Whatever was going on with the management team it’s clear they weren’t working as a team. The irony of Nicholson to bring culture up as the problem with the team when it’s pretty clear that management personnel were working against each other the entire season. The only question is are some still working against each other? This is a real question, are the divisions gone?

  • madjam

    Time to put blame where it most lies on team for it failure this season just looking at the +- of our poorer players this year – surprise with some we were relying on to get us forward . Larsson worst on team at -22 , Hopkins -16 , Jesse -14, Brodziak -12 , Khaira -11 ,Nurse -10 , Lucic -9 , Reider -7 , Klefbom -7 , and Petrovik -7 in only 9 games I believe . Benning at +12 the best with Russell and Sekara at+4 defensively . Hopkins and Larsson surprised to see worst on team demise this season . Far more than Reider as a problem .

  • Johnnyo

    I’m no longer angry. Now I’m just sad.

    Management has been telegraphing “the players are the problem” for weeks in the media.

    And now Nicholson has a slip of the lip and, in honest frustration, says what no executive should ever say publicly.

    I believe his frustration is real. Ownership has changed out multiple GMs and multiple coaches. Change has been constant, on ice and off. Scouts, coaches, assistants, players — all swapped out almost wholesale. Seemingly, only trainers have tenure.

    So Nicholson has every right to be frustrated. It’s no wonder he questioned the water.

    So too are fans right to be angry, to pounce on every misstep, to question the decisions of those at the very top and demand transparency on the decisions made to-date and the decisions yet to come in short order.

    What’s dawned on me since Nicholson made those I’ll-fated remarks to a breakfast of skeptical season ticket owners though is this: these near term decisions won’t serve to cure what ails this organization and its fanbase. Nicholson could go tomorrow and many, if not most, of us would angrily question whether Katz is the right person to decide his replacement.

    There’s a disease at play, and we’re far from agreeing on a diagnosis, much less the cure.

    Connor deserves better.

  • billsbills

    Nobody here knows what goes on behind closed doors. But what we do know is what is demonstrated both on the ice and in the public forums and both of those have made this team the joke of the league. For more than a decade. I love the City of Edmonton and the Oilers because of their geography.

    But this chapter in Oilers history, needs to come to an end. Katz took over in 2007 with what I am sure we’re the absolute best intentions. But the on ice results since he purchased the team have been dismal and the public perception of the team have been that they are a laughing stock. Even having the best player in the league fall in their lap has not been able to make this team even close to respectable.

    I’ve started to become apathetic and I am sure so am not the only one. This is the worst time I can remember as an Edmonton sports fan.

    Apathy is the beginning of the end. I hope to gawd that Katz realizes that his organization is alienating a very dedicated and passionate fan base.

  • FanSince72

    Come on, really? Can you complain about BN who is calling it like it is? Reider is a useless hockey player. Period. Skates with his head down, running around in the wrong direction… Shoots the puck in the corner as always panicking. Am I wrong? 70 games, on a regular shift and can’t even have one bounce off his leg, or butt? That anyone can defend that, is purely stupid. Watch him closely and you’ll see, he has NO brain with the puck.

    • Flint

      If what you’re saying is true,if he’s so bad, then why does he have a place in the Oilers lineup?
      60 games. He’s played 60 games. Why?

      Forest for the trees.

    • camdog

      Ya and 2 weeks back it was Jesse’s fault and in 2 weeks it’ll be a different players fault. They throw anybody and everybody under the bus to try and sell tickets. In 2-3 years they’ll even do it with McDavid. It was long ago the current Hart trophy winner was the problem. Everybody gets there turn here.

  • DannyGallivan

    The Old Boyz Club (people that keep jobs in the face of poor performance) is still there. McT (VP of Hockey Operations), KLowe (Vice Chair OEG) and Scott Howson (VP Player Personnel). BN brings in two outsiders in Chia (POHO and GM) and McL (coach) in very key positions. I am not sure of the OBC’s impact after that. Clearly Chia should have had the wheel and clearly he F’d up both in terms of his management (no changes) and on ice decisions. He should have been capable of making ALL the mgmt and on-ice decisions. Yzerman or Rutherford would not have put themselves in a “committee” decision situation so don’t know if the OBC had an impact or if Chia was just incapable on his own. We will never truly know.

    First the next POHO (position filled after a strenuous interview process) should let go of McT and Howson – he has to make it clear when he takes the job that there is to be no interference from above (BN/Katz).

    Second, the next GM (also after a strenuous interview process) should find a good coach. I think that McL and Hitch are both good but had a poor on-ice player group to work with. Finally deal with the NHL scouts who had to have a major hand in poor player decisions (Manning, Rheinhart, Yakupov et al) over the years.

    I believe that this team could be great with the right mgmt and that they can attract top mgmt with the core players they have. When you sweep out the old and bring in the new, do it properly.

  • blobbo

    At this point, I would be happy if the Oilers quit saying and doing stupid things. That would take care of half their problems. Maybe they should hire another exec, a VP in charge of avoiding saying and doing stupid things.

    Chiarelli said after last season that nobody’s job was safe. Despite that, he was permitted to do stupider and stupider things and his dismissal was long overdue. Before hiring the new GM, he has to be given a calculator test. It doesn’t have to be fancy, one of those old fashioned solar powered calculators with big buttons is fine, but he needs to know how to use it. Chiarelli was Harvard educated but he obviously failed math. Even us complete idiots (fans) knew this team was headed for cap hell a long time ago. If Chiarelli was supposed to have been put on a short leash, Nicholson must have left the leash in his desk (along with his own calculator).

    End of rant.

  • Clayton

    Funniest part about the whole Nicholson thing is that he is actually right. If Reider had notched 15-20 goals the Oilers probably would be sitting in one of wildcard spots, not outside of them.

  • KMM

    Obviously, in order to start completely fresh, Katz would have to call Bettman and ask him to hire someone to headhunt someone else for the position of “Director of starting fresh in Edmonton”. That person would then fire Katz as owner. But wait, do we really trust someone who was hired by someone who was hired by someone who was asked by Katz to make the right decision here? Arrgggh! It’s hopeless!

  • Oilers70

    Whether the old boys club is involved or not, they still are around. This is puzzling. In addition, they have added a Moron named Nicholson. It guess it fits. Losers tend to follow Losers and do Loser things. Winners Win.

    I would suggest someone start a GoFundMe Page to raise funds for a sustained and embarrassing media campaign to get rid of these clowns.

    We as fans need to do this, because our local media is as completely useless and blind as the Old Boys Losers.

    • hagar

      It’s quite the schtick. Managment that refuses responsibility, and press that is scared to question them about it. Lots of writers hide behind some code of ethics when it suites them, then for self preservation take the other road.
      I get it… Bill’s to pay are a big deal, and it’s hardly a job you can just side step out of into a different carreer if you ask the honest questions and get black balled.
      Us fans pay for it all, if we don’t consume, the Oilers nor writers don’t have a job.
      We are paying for what we get I guess.