It goes without saying we’re not going to get a look at CEO Bob Nicholson’s short list of candidates to take over as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. I’m just as interested to know how many potential candidates out there have Edmonton on top of their short list of destinations. Not many, I bet.
While there’s an assistant-GM or two who’ll consider the job here because it’s generally smart to take a promotion and a raise in pay even if the new job isn’t ideal, how many top-shelf candidates are willing to wade into a situation with less than full control and so many old ghosts – specifically the fraternity fans call the Old Boys Club — walking the halls?
Nicholson could have and should have set the table for the new boss by making changes based on what he’s seen during his years on the job here, but declared that won’t be the case. His intention is to make his hire and then look at hockey operations in concert with the new GM. I bet a lot of the candidates Nicholson was hoping to attract made a mental note of that April 8.
In the days since then, we know of at least three people who’ve been mentioned as candidates who won’t be coming here. Steve Yzerman (who was never going to take the job) was hired as GM of the Detroit Red Wings today, as everybody expected. Ken Holland, mentioned by many as somebody on Nicholson’s list, is expected to stay in Motown as senior V.P. Former coach Ralph Krueger, fired by Craig MacTavish via Skype in favor of Dallas Eakins, of all people, has already said, “No thanks.”
I don’t think all the old Oilers hanging around Edmonton in hockey ops or otherwise had anything to do with Yzerman returning to Detroit or Holland staying put. Their ties to Detroit are obvious. We do know the Oilers inquired about Holland, but I don’t see it happening. As for Krueger, while he was diplomatic about his reasons for not being interested in the gig, why would he subject himself to another go-round after being dumped as he was?
I think the OBC will be more of a factor when it comes to some of the in-demand young AGM’s around the league, the kind of guys Nicholson is trying to attract. What about Pat Verbeek in Tampa Bay? We’re told he interviewed with Nicholson, but would Verbeek rather be an AGM under, say, Yzerman in Detroit or take the big chair here? Same with somebody like Bill Guerin, AGM in Pittsburgh, or Kelly McCrimmon in Vegas?
Do guys like that come here knowing cleaning house, which needs to be done, means getting rid of old Oilers owner Daryl Katz grew up cheering for and who are still around despite years and years of failure? Do they take the job knowing some calls they will have to make will be decided, or at least very heavily influenced, by Katz and to some degree by the OBC fraternity, if they have other real options? Maybe. Maybe not.
Of course, there are reasons why Edmonton will be attractive, starting with building blocks like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. That’s not a bad square one. Anybody who really values the jolt of working in a hockey town in front of a rabid fan base knows that Edmonton provides that. New rink. Owner who spends to the cap. All play into the opportunity to move into the GM ranks and build a career. All will be factors for guys like McCrimmon, Verbeek and Guerin.
Likewise, all the old Oilers, the OBC, who are still here play into the opportunity as well because Nicholson wouldn’t, or couldn’t, make the call to provide the new hire with a clean slate, or at least a good portion of one, to work with. How much will it impact the process of landing the best possible candidate? I can’t say for sure, but as the days pass by in Nicholson’s search and jobs are filled elsewhere, we’re going to find out.
HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS
Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.
In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.
You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.