As Bob Nicholson continues one of the longest GM searches in the NHL history I decided to take a look at the pros and cons for a manager in the mix for the Oilers gig.
Duh! The Oilers only have ONE thing that other teams don’t, but it’s a big one. If you are starting a franchise in the NHL today Connor McDavid is the piece you want and the new GM would be starting with him in the fold. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that for some candidates McDavid may be the only reason they’d consider joining the Oilers and I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that way.
Leon Draisaitl proved this season that he has super-star offensive abilities. If McDavid were the first pick in a franchise draft right now Draisaitl wouldn’t be that far behind, probably in the top 10. McDavid would be the first pick and Nathan MacKinnon would be the second, after those two guys it most certainly opens up a bit.
I’d have Draisaitl in a group of forwards with Matthews, Marner, Barkov, Eichel, and Pettersson as younger players I’d be happy to build a team around. The Kucherov and Scheifele types are a little bit older but wouldn’t be far behind. If you want to start from the backend I’d suggest Seth Jones, Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Chabot.
I do think the Oilers future on the blueline would be pretty attractive for a prospective General Manager. Evan Bouchard and Dmitri Samorukov have been dominating the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and will eventually be key pieces on the Oilers blueline. They may not have Cale Makar type upside but I do believe they would be seen as significantly positive pieces moving forward.
Chance To Be A Hero
Let’s be honest, if the new GM can get this team to playoffs next season fans will want to build a statue of him. I know it sounds stupid to ask if it can get any worse at this point but I don’t really think it can. This is a franchise that after four years with Connor McDavid has a top ten pick and is currently searching for a GM and Head Coach, it can’t possibly be this bad again. It’s only up from here and the new GM will have a chance to take most of the credit.
Lack of Cap Space
The team will have a little wiggle, but not much. Imagine interviewing a candidate and telling him that one of his first orders of business will be to miraculously free up cap space by somehow moving Milan Lucic, no thanks. If that doesn’t work you can focus on moving an injury prone Andrej Sekera or an overpaid Kris Russell. Either way, it’s a little bit of a nightmare.
No Scoring Depth
McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. That’s it. Those would be the only offensive pieces on this team that the new GM would most certainly have to keep around. Nothing against Chiasson but for the right price he can be replaced. Kassian may still serve a purpose with the club but outside of that the cupboard is pretty much bare at the NHL level.
Old Boys Club
Bob Nicholson can say it as many times as he wants but the old boys club is still a thing. Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Paul Coffey and yes even Mark Messier are all still on the payroll. As long as those guys are on the payroll the Oilers will never be able to kick the old boys club image, nor should they.
The next GM will have to deal with that and if a few of those guys aren’t on board with the hire it may be a lost cause before it’s even announced.
The Koskinen Issue
Even if the GM somehow manages to move Lucic and find some help on the wing the entire season could still end up being sunk by goaltending. The next sucker GM of this the team will have to invest some of the little money he will have to work within a goaltender to push or steal the job from Koskinen.
What’s the biggest difference between the Oilers and the Avs or the Oilers and the Islanders? I’m sure there a number of differences but Robin Lehner had a save percentage of .930, Philipp Grubauer had a save percentage of .917 while Koskinen finished 42nd in the league at .906. The big Finn was 36th in the league among goaltenders that played in at least 30 games, so in other words not the stats of a number one guy. Uh oh.
This is a major issue to deal with and I’m not sure there is a solution available to adequately solve the problem.
Thank god for Connor McDavid. If they didn’t have McDavid I’m not sure why any GM wouldn’t just wait for a better opportunity to come along.