While he hasn’t said so, Edmonton Oilers’ CEO Bob Nicholson will certainly have a rooting interest in the San Jose Sharks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their opening round series Tuesday.
If the Sharks prevail in Game 7, only then will Nicholson, weeks into his search for his next GM, get the opportunity to talk to Vegas assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon, who has been made off-limits for potential suitors by boss George McPhee until the Golden Knights’ season is done. McCrimmon, according to just about everybody who has followed his career, would immediately jump to the top, or close to it, of Nicholson’s short list of candidates.
With May fast approaching, timing is everything. While San Jose closing out the series would give Nicholson the chance to talk to a candidate he covets, Las Vegas prevailing against the Sharks and moving on to the next round could throw a significant wrench into his plans. Would another two weeks, or more, take McCrimmon out of the picture? It might.
What we do know is Nicholson already has Keith Gretzky as his interim GM and he’ll get a lot of consideration. We were told by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet on the weekend that Nicholson has interviewed former Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant GM and current London Knights’ GM Mark Hunter twice. Hunter might have the inside track right now. Nicholson has talked to Pat Verbeek. We know Nicholson is interested in Ken Holland, who has been kicked upstairs in Detroit with the hiring of Steve Yzerman.
Now, he’s waiting on McCrimmon.
McCrimmon, 58, certainly has the kind of credentials the Oilers are looking for in a replacement for Peter Chiarelli. He’s received a lot of credit for his work in helping Vegas build a contender right out of the blocks since being hired by McPhee in August of 2016. As owner, GM, governor and coach, he built the Brandon Wheat Kings into a WHL powerhouse before signing in Sin City.
After 28 years in Brandon — a tenure that included 10 division titles, six conference banners and four Memorial Cup appearances — before helping McPhee assemble the Golden Knights expansion roster, McCrimmon has a proven track record as a shrewd assessor of talent at the pro and junior levels. McCrimmon also has options, most notably the expansion team that will operate in Seattle.
So, while getting the chance to speak with McCrimmon doesn’t mean that Nicholson can convince him to sign on the bottom line, it would certainly sharpen up his short list and lend credibility to his search for Chiarelli’s replacement. That matters with a fan base expecting nothing less after another failed season. Again, it might come down to timing, which Nicholson mentioned in his season-ending availability.
Nicholson has the luxury of having Gretzky oversee operations heading into the draft, which is his forte, as a fall-back position, but indications from TSN’s Darren Dreger are Nicholson would prefer to have his new GM in place around May 1. If Dreger’s information is good and if Vegas advances past San Jose on Tuesday, Nicholson might not get a crack at McCrimmon.
Nicholson needs a San Jose win Tuesday and the chance to have that conversation.
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.