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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Oilers need a POHO?

In an interview on my radio show three weeks ago Bob Nicholson said he was only looking for a GM at this time. He reiterated that at his end-of-season press conference this past Monday. Earlier today Southampton Football Club announced Ralph Krueger’s contract as Chairman of their club would not be extended, and many in Oilersnation wondered if Krueger would be a fit for the Oilers.

Krueger seems more set on being in management than behind a bench as a coach. In an interview with Pierre Lebrun, Krueger outlined what he feels are his strengths.

“You can never say never about coaching,” said Krueger. “But I really enjoy the growth of actually being in a role where you hire the best possible people, so that everybody you bring into an organization is actually better than you at what they do,’’ Krueger said. “That kind of became my goal here in Southampton. I think just the driving of a culture in a professional sports organization has become really my new passion and I could see bringing that back into North America someday. I really think that we do some things in the Premier League and in global football that are unique and different. And I think if you amalgamated and mixed the two together, it could be pretty powerful for an organization.’’

I don’t think Krueger has the hockey scouting background to be a GM, but he could qualify as a President of Hockey Operations.

The question is: do the Oilers need a POHO?

I think because the Oilers have endured so much losing many feel a POHO is a necessity. I don’t see it that way.

The vast majority of NHL teams don’t have one, and I’ve seen nothing that suggests having one will increase an organization’s chances of winning.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are the only two teams with one in Brendan Shanahan and John Davidson.

The Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers have presidents in Cam Neely, Luc Robitaille and Glen Sather. Sather is stepping down and they are looking for a replacement.

The other 26 organizations don’t have someone in the role solely as a POHO or president, so I’m not sold it is necessary.

I’d rather the Edmonton Oilers hire a good GM and let him fill out his staff accordingly.

A POHO might not hurt, but will it really help? It depends whom they hire.

NICHOLSON…

Right now I sense many don’t have faith that Bob Nicholson is the right guy to hire the GM. It is fair to question if he will make a better hire than his first one in Peter Chiarelli. No question the lack of a hiring process and the subsequent hiring of Chiarelli did not work out very well. The results back it up.

But that doesn’t mean Nicholson can’t learn from that mistake. The basis for any of us to improve in our job is how we learn from our mistakes.

In this case, it isn’t just Nicholson who needs to learn.

Owner Daryl Katz needs to look at how his hockey operations has been run and recognize their approach and strategy has failed.

This is non-negotiable. Anyone trying to say the Oilers did things well, on the hockey operations side, is fooling themselves. They haven’t.

Since Katz took ownership, in the summer of 2008, the Oilers have been the worst team in the NHL.

In those eleven seasons, the Oilers made the playoffs once, but they are far and away the worst on-ice team we’ve seen in a long time.

They have 787 points. The next closest teams are Colorado (876), Arizona (882), Florida (895) and Toronto (898). Every team but two has more than 100 points than the Oilers since 2009.

The top teams are:

Washington: 1,123 points
Pittsburgh: 1,108
Boston: 1,094
San Jose: 1,086
Chicago: 1,072
St.Louis: 1,057
Anaheim: 1,039
Nashville: 1,031
Tampa Bay 1,014
New York Rangers: 1,007

It is stunning how far from competitive the Oilers have been during Katz’ tenure as owner. The business side of the Oilers has done very well. The building has been sold out. Katz got a new arena built, and it was a needed start to making Edmonton’s downtown more populated. There is a long way to go in that regard, but the business side of the Oilers has been successful.

Katz has to be wondering how his team is so bad, even though he spends close to the salary cap every season. He kept his word he would make the Oilers financially competitive, but it hasn’t translated to on-ice competitiveness and that must change.

The approach, style and vision of the management group has not worked. They’ve had eight coaches and three general managers since Katz took over.

Changing people and voices hasn’t led to more success. Arguably, it has created more failure considering that even with two 100-point players this season the Oilers still couldn’t muster 80 points.

The core values and vision of hockey operations has not led to success. It must change.

And as far as Krueger goes, I’m not sure he has any more experience than Bob Nicholson. If they want to hire a POHO, I’d look for one with more experience. No doubt Krueger is a better orator than Nicholson, but that isn’t reason enough for me to hire him.

I don’t believe the Oilers need a POHO to change the vision and direction of the organization. Just do a thorough GM search, which by the sounds of it they are, and then hire the best candidate and give him the power to create his vision with his people. The right candidate will outline this in his interviews and make it clear where there will be changes. Nicholson, and more specifically Katz, must recognize significant change is needed. What they’ve been doing hasn’t worked.

A POHO might help, but I don’t see it being a necessity, and if I was Katz I’d put the money it would cost to pay a POHO and use it towards an innovative and competent analytics team and hiring more amateur and pro scouts.

The Oilers need more people doing more work at the ground level and in the trenches, rather than pay one man a huge salary to oversee everything.

PARTING SHOTS…

One name I keep hearing regarding the GM job is Mark Hunter. He has scouted for years, he was an assistant GM for the Maple Leafs for a few seasons and then for a short three-month period in 2015 he and Kyle Dubas were co-interim GM for the Leafs until they hired Lou Lamoriello.

I won’t be surprised if he is on the short-list of men who get a second interview.

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  • hagar

    Would a poho even have the power to fire klowe and such?
    Klowe create that position on the Oilers when everyone was screaming for him to be fired as gm.
    I seriously doubt a new poho would have the power to clear out the old group.

    • Oscar

      What up with the secrecy around McD’s injury … what’s the exact injury … is this all part of the improved communication that Bobby Burger promised as recently as his last presser a mere few days ago … ?

      When nothing changes with this hapless organization, nothing changes, hey …

    • Man is it frustrating watching Eberle right now. Engaged and flying around, An offensive threat. You know the east media is going to “why did Edmonton let him go “ if they go a round or two. I think we let him go at the wrong time. His value was at a crazy low level. A trend that has us where we are.

      The Journal writes an article that the win in Calgary cost us in lottery draft?? That’s is about as bad as the “what was Conner doing going to the net so hard” from Calgary fans?”.

  • CMG30

    The Oilers need a POHO for the sole purpose of running interference between the OBC an whomever becomes the new GM. Katz seems to want these guys around so somebody with sense needs to keep them quarantined…

  • What the

    Ebs in the blue paint for his third point in the NYI vs Pit series. Then roughs it up after the goal. Good to see him taking advantage of only his second chance in the post season.

    • fasteddy

      I wouldn’t mind a strong personality in that role…Brian Burke. I know he’s mostly a bumbling media hog, but what’s wrong with that? This team needs someone willing to answer tough questions if they are serious about being more transparent. He and Treliving built a nice team in Cgy. Maybe he and Hunter could do similar in Oil Country. Bob can be whatever it is he is still.

    • hagar

      It’s a fair point, pretty sure it will be fairly obvious if it will work like that when they announce who it is.
      The odds say it will be a suspect decision, and not some super stud businessman in hockey, that wouldn’t take guff from above.

  • Total Points

    It doesn’t matter who the Oilers hire for GM or POHO or scout or backup goalie or 1st pair defense or first line winger because as long as the OBC are still here nothing will work.

    It is as simple as that.

    So it is pointless to debate the issue if Ralph should come here or not. The total focus of the media, season ticket holders, tier 2 fans, etc, etc should be on the restructure of senior management.

    Everything else is nice to debate but we all know will accomplish nothing

  • camdog

    Coffey earning 500,000 per season as skills coach as reported by Gregor. How much does Wayne get? The Old Boys are eating budget that should be directed to Hockey Operations – scouting. This isn’t PC fiscal mismanagement….Cleaning up the mess isn’t a high priority yet..

    • Oscar

      The fascinating part is it doesn’t appear the hapless Oilers are handicapped by any type of budget … they are all getting rich while putting it to their fans … astounding, yes …

  • What the

    Ooops. After the unfortunate article today in the Journal, Katz has just authorized, by Skype, Craig MacTavish to pull Terry Jones media access pass to the OEG.

    It’s been a great run Terry!

  • godot10

    6 years running a Premier League team is far more qualification than Bob Nicholson has. Bigger more competitive league where it is far more challenging to operate on and off the field.

  • Derkus the circus

    Common sense says bobby burger isnt hiring a GM that has autonomy to get rid of him and hire his own POHO. So unless he steps back on his own the guy who thought the koskinen deal was a good idea is still there. A monkey could build a Canadian olympic team. Hell he could build 2 teams. Thats not qualification to head up an nhl team.