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Nicholson and Gretzky speak following disappointing season

Considering the Oilers missed the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years, I was very curious in seeing how today’s press conference with Bob Nicholson and Keith Gretzky was going to go. Were they going to give us reasons to be hopeful? Would heads roll? Would they say a lot of words without saying anything at all? Let’s find out together.

Before even starting the press conference, I could tell based on our Twitter interactions that fans were feeling skeptical about what was going to happen in this press conference. Needless to say, Oilers fans don’t have a lot of trust for Bob Nicholson right now and the cynicism was palpable. The fact that Keith Gretzky was also up at the podium didn’t help matters much as many of us are already feeling like he’s going to be named as GM regardless of how long this search drags on, and it added another layer to the onion that some folks struggled to get past. That said, the pair covered a lot of ground and we shouldn’t waste any time before getting to it.

ON THE GM SEARCH

With Peter Chiarelli blasted off into the sun back in January, the team has been without a General Manager for the past three months and is still one of the major holes that need to be filled before anything can happen next. Obviously, this is a major hire for the Oilers as they need to get it right, a point Nicholson hammered home throughout the press conference.

As we’ve heard all along, Nicholson says he plans on being patient with the GM hiring process and I do appreciate that approach after the way they gave Pistol Pete the keys without so much as a conversation with anyone else. With the playoffs kicking off this week, you know that there are names on Nicholson’s list that can’t be interviewed right now because they’re busy with their playoff run. Who is on that list, you might ask? Nicholson wasn’t sharing.

C’mon, Bob, give us a ballpark on how many names are on the list? Please?

Bah! C’mon, Bob, give us something. At least, tell us what kind of person you’re looking for.

So, if I’m getting this right, the team is basically looking for the anti-Chiarelli to be the next GM of this hockey team. Nicholson says they want a guy with a focus on communication, talent identification, and a willingness to use analytics and sports science, which is basically the exact opposite of what we had here before and I’m all for it. If the Oilers can find someone that is the polar opposite of whatever Peter Chiarelli was then I think we would all be happy.

I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m not sure how you can be patient and not delay the process at the same time, but I’m going to give Nicholson the benefit of the doubt here as there’s no doubt he knows how important this hire will be. I know a lot of people have busted his balls, myself included, about talking to other teams to gather information on this process, but I do appreciate that he’s taking his time and not rushing into making a decision. That said, the season is over now and it’s time to speed things up as the NHL Draft is just around the corner and this can’t drag on forever.

ON KEITH GRETZKY

One of the weirder parts of this presser, at least for me, was the fact that Keith Gretzky was up at the podium. It’s not that I didn’t think he had good answers, he certainly did, but it’s that most of the questions were about the GM search, a position that he does not currently hold. You’d have to think that was awkward, right?

When asked about Gretzky’s spot in the GM search, Nicholson spoke highly of the interim GM.

I was happy to hear Nicholson say that Gretzky won’t get any priority with this process, but it still confuses me why he was involved in this presser in the first place. It would be like having a barista at Starbucks sitting in on managerial meetings just because they applied for a position. Even so, we’re going to move past it.

One thing that Gretzky did consistently in this press conference was making sure to say “if” he gets the job. I just can’t imagine what he must have been thinking as he sat and listened to Bob talking about the GM search and what the proper candidate must do. Did they talk about this beforehand? You’d think so, right?

When asked about what assets Gretzky could provide the organization as its new GM, he leaned heavily on his experience in and around the team.

Nicholson went a step further, though, and pointed to the way Gretzky has replenished the depth chart.

No argument from me here. Though, considering he’s been successful at the draft so far, I do wonder why he didn’t try to give himself more bullets at the draft at the deadline, but that’s a story for another day. Yeah, I know the Oilers were still in the mix for a playoff spot at the time, but that’s not exactly the best asset management, ya know?

Every time someone asked about the next GM, I couldn’t help but think of whether or not this was an awkward experience for Keith Gretzky. The guy admitted to wanting the job, but Nicholson understandably spent most of his time talking about how many other names are on his list, and I wonder what the thinking was in having Keith sit up there in the first place. Optically, it was a bit strange to me.

ON KEN HITCHCOCK

When Ken Hitchcock came to town, we were all told that he’d be around as the coach until the end of the year, but we didn’t know that he actually had a three-year contract in his pocket. Now that the season has wrapped, Nicholson was asked what’s going to happen with Hitchcock moving forward.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Hitchcock going into next year, but I’m very curious to find out. To me, this is a guy with a world’s worth of experience and it makes sense that they would want to retain that warehouse worth of knowledge.

ON FINDING A COACH

With Joel Quenneville getting hired in Florida this morning, Bob Nicholson was asked about the next coach, how that process will play out, and if he’s feeling rushed to get a GM hired so that talent pool doesn’t dry up.

One step at a time, my friends. One step at a time.

ON CONNOR MCDAVID

Considering how important Connor McDavid is to this franchise, it made sense for one of the media members to ask if he was going to be involved in this process. Without hesitation, Nicholson quickly confirmed that he would be.

I was at the game in Calgary on Saturday night, and one of the worst things I’ve ever seen was when Connor McDavid was laying on the ice, unable to put any weight on his left leg. When asked about the results of his MRI, both Gretzky and Nicholson acknowledged that the results were better than initially expected.

I don’t know how this miracle happened, but I do know that Connor’s bones are far denser than any of us could ever hope for. Praise McDavid and praise the McMiracle that kept his left leg intact.

THE WRAP…

Let’s be honest, the last time Bob Nicholson spoke about the Oilers didn’t exactly go so well for him. He spent a week with season ticket holders with the idea that answering questions was going to make everyone feel better. Instead, he told his customers that if Tobias Rieder had scored 12-15 more goals that the Oilers would be in the playoffs, completely ignoring the fact that the organization made strange choices all over the board and that there are far more holes in this roster than just the one guy. While they did admit to needing to be better in every area, they never got around to apologizing to the fans and the acceptance of responsibility that I was hoping for. That said, I will admit that both of these guys clearly know that this is one of the most important offseasons for this franchise and getting it right is the only acceptable outcome.

What did you guys think?