At The Top

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.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Sep 8, 2016; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; Team Europe head coach Ralph Krueger looks at the scoreboard during the second period of the World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game against Team North America at Videotron Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.


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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Oilers70

    Unless they clean house and get rid of the Oild Boys Club, nothing changes, absolutely nothing.

    Any leadership book you read talks of a negative (losing) culture that is a symptom of bad management. The first thing it talks about is having a new fresh leadership team that get’s rid of all the previous ideas and preconceptions.

    So, Katz wont’ let that happen. It took me 15 years to figure out, my letter went in to cancel my tickets one month ago.

    Best financial decision I have made.

  • Any GM worth having would not want to answer to the OBC. With other teams now signing top coaching candidates what is going to be left for the new Oilers GM to hire? When the Oiler get someone to take the GM job how much time will he have to assess this teams needs in order to make changes at the draft? Will McCrimmon take this job if he isn’t the final decision maker? A lot of unanswered questions by Katz, Nicholson and the OBC. The only sure thing is expect to see that goofy looking red headed kid standing at the draft podium. Maybe this kids the jinx.

  • Total Points

    The Oiler’s will never attract a quality GM as long as the OBC are here…….. end of story.

    It was just a figment of the media’s imagination that guys like Yzeman, Holland, Ralph would be interested, but it made me read the articles.

  • Rama Lama

    An exhaustive search………but why? Just about any Joe Blow fan would have made better decisions on player personnel than our last 3 GM’s combined.

    I’m still trying to figure out why we need so called “experts” like our last GM making more stupid trades………he was supposed to be this pseudo intellectual new age GM complete with a law degree.

    Just hire Jo Jo the monkey and give him a dart board!

  • Sammy27

    The inability to move on from staff who have continually failed at their job is telling. All the more reason to clean house. Best fans – worst management vision in NHL history

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I said this befre and will again, their needs to be a house cleaning and if the OBC is still here, its is going to make any serious candidate have pause to accept because of the OBC still having too much sway in what goes on. Their needs to be a good cleanout from the top down, anyone who they talk to is seriously going to wonder if the Oielrs really wants change, the fact that the Oilers have done nothing with any of their mgmt or staff is going to make candidates think that a new GM is just going to have to deal with all the old issues plaguing the organisation

    Uncle Bob’s notion that they want to wait till they hire someone for GM and then let them decide what to do, it stinks to high heaven, if they wait till close to the season starting, the new GM cant turf everyone they wouldnt be able to put that many people in place that quick for the season…so your stuck with most of the mgmt, scouts etc and unable to make any changes, and I dont think that would be a coincidence, that would be the perfect excuse to save those from being canned and the new GM stuck with them

  • Derian Hatcher

    I find it interesting that for the most part MSM, bloggers, and radio hosts (except Baghdad Bob of course) are finally expressing that the OBC, and FOK, could be an obstacle, if not a barrier in hiring a new GM when hard core passionate fans have been saying for years that the OBC is an impediment to success. wonder what took so long?

    Meanwhile the rubber spine of BN will not dismiss the incompetents in advance of hiring a GM.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Stauffer is too connected to the Oilers to really say anything but the company line. I have a sinking feeling that Bob isnt going to do anything like a cleanout without Katz blessing and I dont see Katz giving that blessing with the OBC pals of his.Maybe when the season ticket renewals dont look so hot Katz will have a little pause, but will he have the deire to boot his buddies out, no I dont see it, just reshuffle them into different job titles again and make it look like the are out of the hockey side…and if you believe they wont have their nose stuck in it you’d be dreaming

  • President & General Manager

    The group consciousness of OEG is created by linking each individual, and new GM, to the collective by a sophisticated network of Red Wine Summits that ensures each member is given constant supervision and guidance.

  • CMG30

    Truth be told, if Nicholson cannot clean house as POHO to make way for the new guy he should resign on principal. Sadly, judging by the verbal in some of his previous pressers, he has been assimilated unto the retrograde thinking that runs rampent with the OBC. Likely indoctrinated under the influence of too much red wine… this bodes poorly for the selection of the next GM since we’re going to get more of the same.

    • hagar

      I can only imagine the mode these guys are in right now. Seems they have always thought they could eventually win their way out of failures history, and come out a success in the end.
      So many “turn it around next year” scripts written over and over, with the turn around never actually happening.
      At this point, every month to the old boys must feel like two days as things finally tumble in on themselves. The years of failed promises stacking up, and the team not improving overall, no matter their best efforts.
      Please be near the end, it’s been so freaking long already.

  • justDOit

    The Reino trade, arguably one of Chia’s blurst, reeked to high heaven of the OBC, and they’re trying to attract GM candidates to work with these morons?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    From TSN : Holland withdraws from Oilers’ GM search

    So Holland withdrew his name from the Oilers GM search, but was still open to Seattle but may remain under Yzerman. Hmmm maybe Ken learned what we all figure is that the OBC might not go anywhere and didnt want any part of being advised how to run things.

    Interesting twist, I said already I didnt think Holland was the guy to be the Oilers GM, who knew that Holland didnt like the looks of things on the Horizon…

  • Odanada

    The CBC is reporting Yzerman signing with the Wings.
    Face it. Good people won’t want to come work in Edmonton. BN is a putz and the OBC are like an STD that no one wants to come in contact with. What a dog’s breakfast.

  • Wesley41

    Well Robin if you had to make an educated guess what do you think the odds are of Keith being the gm and say Glen Gulexan excuse spelling if incorrect being promoted to head coach?Its appearing to me that is what might happen the longer this thing goes because of everything in your article as well and nobody being excused of their duties for a less then stellar job the last 10-13 years!

    • ed from edmonton

      At least one media guy (was it Nielson?) has stated he has heard from a “reliable source” that KG has been told he is not in the running for the GM.

  • Ted

    You know whom ever gets hired will be a tire fire as this organization has no clue!! If it’s not obvious to the hockey world it is definitely obvious to Edmonton. And that matters the most!!! CHANGE THE IDIOTS! IT IS NOT WORKING!! … On the Evan thing give this man an honest shot to make the team. There is a role for this guy on the PP at the very least!

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Until we pull a Maple Leafs and fire EVERYBODY, bury the past by retiring some jerseys, and otherwise forget about those teams (but acknowledge that they did accomplish something), things aren’t going to change around here. Just wish we had an owner who cares more, but that won’t happen until he sells the team off again

  • Hockey Forever

    If candidates for the GM and other jobs are flat turning it down. And others are really not showing interest. How do you think the players are feeling about this organization? My guess… not so good…

  • Spoils

    let me apologize for this statement because I know it’s dumb, but it feels like Chiarelli’s moves were soooo bad that it may have been a conspiracy to distribute players to markets the NHL believes needs them.

    Dumb and wrong I know, but Chiarelli was really that bad.


  • VvV

    So the OBC influences the GM’s decisions? Yet by all accounts Chia was on his own, infact there have been reports that Chia didn’t communicate well to his staff, meaning he was making decisions alone…

    So which is it the OBC is pulling strings or Chia had full control. It seems everyone keeps saying it both ways it’s one or the other. Why would Chia completely ruined his reputation and take credit for this mess if infact he was being influenced by the OBC… It’s because it was all Chia and not he OBC!

    Same goes with Tambellini. Chia and Tambo are never going to be hired again based on their tenures with the Oilers, you’d think it the OBC was actually running things then they’d step up and say that to save face… Or is Katz paying them to stay quiet too, but that’s just another conspiracy for you to add to the OBC conspiracy.

    • — “So the OBC influences the GM’s decisions?” In some cases, yes.
      — “Yet by all accounts Chia was on his own . . .” All accounts, all the time? No.
      — “Chia didn’t communicate well to his staff . . .” Absolutely true.
      — “So which is it the OBC is pulling strings or Chia had full control?” Doesn’t have to be one or the other. Black and white can be convenient in making an argument but seldom holds up in reality.
      — “It seems everyone keeps saying it both ways” Everyone is saying it both ways? No.

      You seem to have missed the vast middle ground between “the OBC makes every decision” and “the OBC has no influence at all.” What’s actually been happening can be found there.

  • cityofchampions

    I’d be interested to know how many names on the list just politely said “Thanks but no thanks” when approached by Burger Bob, assuming that the fix is in and that the sober Gretzky will eventually be named GM. Burger Bog made it publicly clear he would do doing extensive interviews to pick the brains of applicants….but why would applicants who don’t feel they have a fair shake at the job give the Oiler’s braintrust any advice on how to fix the pickle they have put themselves in?

  • ed from edmonton

    So should BN do a pre-emptive strike and fire a bunch of OBCs so the new GM has a clean slate or do what he said he will do and work with the new guy? In a normal organization (which the Oil clearly are not) if a person is deemed not meeting the requirements would be shown the door regardless if a level of management was being filled in a temporary role (i.e. what BN and KG are doing). At the same time when a new person takes over often he wants ” my people” in key roles and there is a lot of change. By not changing people at this time does this suggest BN is okay with what the OBC are doing?

    The Oil also need to keep enough people around to keep the organization functioning. Firing a bunch of people and not being in a place to replace them for say a couple of more months (possible time line for new GM if someone like McCrimmon is a serious candidate) would create its own problems.

    It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall and hear if candidates bring up the OBC issue during the interviews.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    Remember the reality tv show Making The Cut (CBC circa 2004)? Mike Keenan and Scotty Bowman gave amateur hockey players a shot at a PTO. Time for a new chapter in the vein of Oil Change. Let’s get the ball rolling Katz. You can have the old boys club compete against outside talent for the Throne. The King of Northern Alberta McDavid will crown the winner.

  • 50 Flex

    Hopefully the new GM hire can force the Oilers’ hand a little. Hopefully the best candidate makes it clear that they will accept the job only if the old boys are out of the picture. I mean, Bob wouldn’t hold on to those guys if it meant the best GM option would walk away would he? Yeah…. He probably would.

  • RJ

    The Oil spent a lot of money on experienced assistant coaches, on bringing in Hitch, etc. and I don’t see any improvement outside four or five players.

    It should be well past time to make all necessary changes to improve this team. If not for the fans, do it for the the playoff revenues.

  • All Ice

    Question, might be a stupid one but gonna ask anyway. If I understand correctly, MacT is Vice POHO. If they don’t hire another POHO then what does his position become? Personally think he shouldn’t even be in the organization anymore but would this just make him a POHO by default or something else equally as disastrous?

  • KootenayDan

    There are only 31 gm jobs in the NHL why wouldn’t any respectable potential gm want the job? The OBC is more myth than anything pretty sure Chiarelli made his foolish decisions on his own after all it was his neck in the noose. Who was whispering in his ear to to do stupid decisions? MacT? Howson? KLowe Gretz? who knows for sure, any of you dynamic insiders have any proof? A good hockey mind will turn this team around in a heartbeat they just have to stop doing stupid sh*t.

  • Serious Gord

    Let me be more direct Robin:

    Either Katz wouldn’t let BB fire the old boys or BN himself either doesn’t think they should be removed or he hasn’t the guts to do it.

    Regardless, I think it very a remote possibility that any of the FOK and FOG will be disposed of save perhaps a token ‘retirement’ or two.

    And that guarantees one thing. NO CUP in the next four years because we are going to need yet another collapse before maybe, just maybe Katz relents and permits the stable to be cleaned.