Waiting on Kelly

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.

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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.


Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on South Las Vegas Boulevard.

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.

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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.


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.

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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.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Randaman

    If I had to bet, I would think Mr McCrimmon says no to the Oilers and waits for Seattle to call. I think that is the better opportunity to tell you the truth.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I don’t know? Any winner, which McCrimmon clearly is, won’t take the easy way out. A winner would be more inclined to take on the challenge & be the difference maker,… the solution…
      That kind of attitude is exactly what drew Shanahan & Babcock to the Leafs… we forget what they were like before those guys…
      If I had McDavid & Leon, the Nuge & an eager fan-base that was looking for a turnaround, I’d be all over becoming GM of the Oilers. What a way to define a career as a new GM in the NHL.

    • jesse says yep

      What makes Seattle a better oppourtunity? There is going to be a lot of pressure to repeat what Vegas has accomplished and the chances of that happening again aren’t great. A couple of good moves could move the Oilers a ways up the standings and make him the “saviour of McDavids early Career”

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      If he doesnt want to deal with the mess, I think he goes to Seattle because he can replicate there whats Vegas did and be headache free. If he wants a serious challenge of his abilities then he could come here, but would he, I think some other GM’s will be on the block after the playoffs end. so there could be other availabilities to him as well besides Edmonton and Seattle

  • WhoreableGuy

    I had an extra pep in my step today as I walked into work this morning here in Calgary.

    The best part of them being embarrassed is that we won’t see them mucking up our articles with comments for a bit.

    Couldn’t have happened to a better fanbase.

  • Shane

    In case he’s reading.. Say what you got say to get the job then clean house. The pro scouts and management are some of the worst in team sports, and this team is going to suck for years until they’re all gone.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to Seattle, I don’t expect them to do as well as Vegas because teams will have learned from the Vegas expansion draft. When Vegas had the chance, the Pens put themselves into a position where they had to choose between Fleury who was a really good goalie or Murray who was also good but way younger. The Pens knew the expansion draft was coming but they choose to hold on to Fleury longer than they should have. So Vegas got a star goalie. I don’t see that happening again. Seattle will be picking from older guys who are past their primes or unproven back ups.

    The big one was what Florida did. Florida was going through a shift in organizational philosophy at the time. They replaced Tallon with Rowe for GM for a short time who did some dumb things and they have come out and said they screwed up. They fired Gallant who was an excellent coach. He was a finalist for coach of the year the previous season, then they fired him when he was 11-10-1. So they gifted Vegas an excellent coach. Then in the expansion draft, they decided to protect an extra dman who was Petrovic instead of Marchessault who was coming off a 30 goal season for Florida. So they gifted Vegas a legit, top line player in expansion. As if that wasn’t enough, they traded Reilly Smith, another top 6 forward, for a 4th round pick. So they gifted 2 legit top 6 players to Vegas for almost nothing.

    • hagar

      The only thing Vegas did was build a complete team out of slightly above average players. The idea was genius and wouldn’t be hard to duplicate.
      Its becoming clear that one or two stars on a team surrounded by less than average players doesn’t work anymore.

      • TKB2677

        True. There were some players who Vegas drafted who were nothing guys on their old teams and came out of no where to be really good. Like Karlsson. He was nothing on Columbus then took off. So there is always the chance that Seattle will find those guys. But like I said, some teams made some big time mistakes. Florida protected Petrovic who at the time was at best a #4-5 dman and left Marchessault open. Marchessault when he was picked was coming off a 30 goal, 51 pt season with FLorida. How you leave a 30 goal man open and protect at best a defensive #4-5 dman is beyond dumb.

        Other teams made other baffling moves to protect guys who a year later aren’t very good. So I don’t think teams will make the same mistakes again.

      • Gravis82

        This is why having two superstars makes building a team that much harder. Because you need everyone else to be just slightly above average for their position still but slightly underpaid. The eyeball test is just not sufficient for this. You need hardcore analytics to find players who dont look as good by the eyeballs as they actually are. There are many of these players available. Typically they have an odd skating style that makes them look slow, or have low “gritensity’

    • Is there a chance Seattle won’t enjoy the early success Vegas did? Sure. Doesn’t matter. How many expansion teams have been as good? If Nicholson doesn’t get a chance to talk to McCrimmon because of timing, then he’s missing out on one of the consensus top-five GM candidates out there. That’s the point.

      • jesse says yep

        I wonder how McCrimmon feels about having his options limited in the way he is by his current boss. And really what is the point since everything he can do for the season has already been done. Now the GM and co can only sit back and watch.

      • CityofWhat

        Why is McCrimmon a consensus top-five candidate and according to whom, building a major league team is nothing like a minor league team and the reason I say all of this is because how do we know what exactly he did in Vegas, it seems to me everyone discredits the job George McPhee did the real GM of the Vegas G.Nights.
        An interview would help knowing what his plan would be to fix our team but putting him consensus top 5 when he has no prior experience as THE GM of a NHL team makes no sense to me.

        • MrBung

          Agreed. The Oiler situation is a tire fire. Cap hell. Bad contracts. Blown picks. Urinated away value. Lack of any depth. Second rate NHL D. Backup goalie paid like a starter.

  • Die Hard Oiler Fan

    Wonder whose decision it was in Vegas to choose Griffin Reinhart from the Oilers in their expansion draft (if I recall they wasn’t much available from Edmonton, with Khaira as the only other unprotected name of note). I am not saying this pick falls on McCrimmon. If it does….” oh well, you can’t get them all right”. Besides Vegas did make it to the Stanley Cup finals in their first year, didn’t they.
    Sorry to keep mentioning Reinhart. My therapist hopes that with another few years of therapy, I will be able to get over Griffin’s acquisition from NYI (thanks once again Chia and whoever else orchestrated that deal…set us back years and years).

    • camdog

      Vegas plan was to flip their extra d-men to old school GM’s for picks. Problem was other GM’s didn’t want to deal with them after they had so much success during the expansion draft. Thing with Griffin is he’s actually helping their AHL club out, so they are still using him…

  • fisherprice

    It really feels like they’re circling around Mark Hunter tbh, and it always felt like the most obvious choice to me. He has that new school executive feel to him, while maintaining a lot of ties to the old school hockey establishment. Personally, I’m okay with it if that’s what ends up happening.

    What I really need to see is someone who’s going to come in and actually start cleaning house. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to start firing all the old Oilers, but at least relegate them to positions where they have no influence or say in player development.

    • Rock11

      The thing that I like about Hunter, at least in theory, is I get the impression he doesn’t NEED an NHL GM job. Which is my way of saying that I think he would have the stones to say to Nicholson that if you want to hire me then great but we are doing this thing my way. If that means I want to fire the entire OBC then that is what I am going to do. If I cant do that then take your job and shove it. There are some candidates out there who will be so desperate for the role that they may just swallow having to deal with the OBC just to get the job. That would, as they say, not be good.

  • TKB2677

    With Calgary, the #1 team in the West getting beaten, with the Jets out, with the Preds on the ropes, if Vegas can win game 7, the West is wide open. So they could easily go on a long run. So if that happens, you can’t sit around and wait to talk to McCrimmon, it could be June.

    At the same time, does anyone know what a GM or there assistants are doing right now if their team is in the playoffs that would stop a team from granting permission to at least be interviewed? You can’t make trades, you aren’t really signing anyone. There isn’t any salary cap stuff to worry about. The amount of roster moves are pretty limited. It’s mostly play every other. So I am curious why they wouldn’t allow it because if Vegas goes on a run, you are sort of stopping him from any potential jobs.

    • Rink Rat

      Agree, why wouldn’t McPhee allow McCrimmon to interview for the job. What harm can he do? Any deep dark secrets will come out after he’s hired.
      Make his hire date for after the draft.


    I think McPhee is doing McCrimmon a huge disservice by not letting him talk to teams before Vegas gets eliminated. It’s pretty obvious that he will not be staying with the Golden Knights after this season anyways and its not like he can do much GM work with Vegas during the post season anyways. I know it might not be the case, but maybe he really wants the Oilers job and he could be missing out on it if they get to the second round.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I have had McCrimmon and Hunter as the guys I would like to see be the Oilers GM. Both I think would be good at getting a core in the Oilers Mgmt of people who know what they are doing. The fact that McCrimmon and McPhee were able to use the expansion draft so wisely by getting teams to give them other players or pick plus a player for one that a team did not want picked was shrewd, they were able to take those picks and use them to trade for players, as a sweetener in some deals , hold picks for down the road and take guys that they didnt have room for on the roster and deal them for other guys or prospects and help stock the farm. Vegas has been pretty decent the two seasons in so far, their AHL team is competitive, so there was a lot of good moves that were made and one has to admire the fact that Vegas looked not only for now but in the future.

    Hunter was a major part of the Leafs re building, yes he didnt do it alone but he and Dubois were the major candidates for GM, AND Dubois beat him to it, so Hunter left the leafs and went and did own thing, but the fact that he was in contention says a lot. He has done great things with Knights and the leafs are well stocked with Prospects on the farm and they field a competitive team . Hunter has a good eye for talentin the juniors and pro ranks, and he had some say in the moves they were made by the leafs/

    McCrimmon and Hunter would both be good candidates for GM here, I would be happy with either of them

  • Serious Gord

    Presumably the person who best knows the issues with this org is BN. After all he’s done what? Two Audits? PLus he’s been there for almost five years.

    So why wait to gut the org of the FOK and FOG?

    The answer is obvious. That isn’t going to happen. The reasons why are not known.

    And if they haven’t been removed by BN then there is no chance the new POHO / GM will be allowed to do it.

    So. What potential candidate who is of any decent quality is going to take either of those jobs?

  • 50 Flex

    Guarantee that teams are going to do everything they can to only expose their older and slower guys. Vegas showed that if you can have speed throughout the lineup you can do real damage even if their production hasn’t been great in the past

  • toprightcorner

    Don’t wait on McCrimmon. I don’t think he is a great fit anyway. His NHL experience with Vegas is as opposite as possible to Edmonton situation. Vegas had no cap issues,no bad contracts and nothing but space to add the pieces needed. Yes, you could say he could evaluate talent but as far as team building goes, the two situations couldn’t be further apart.

    If Vegas beats the Sharks, then unless you haven’t spoken to a GM candidate that you are happy with, choose from those available.

    You always choose the best GM available and right now McCrimmon isn’t available

  • Randaman

    To tell you the truth, I prefer Hunter. There is a history of excellence with London. He also did some good things with the Leafs before they went in another direction.

  • toprightcorner

    I think it is stupid for McPhee not to let the Oilers talk to McCrimmon, at least for 1 interview.

    McPhee is pretty naive to think that McCrimmon hasn’t already been working on putting together a plan on his own time for as soon as he can talk to the Oilers for a chance at a GM job.

    Let them have 1 interview and if the Oilers want to go further with discussions, then they can wait until after the playoffs. McCrimmon has already put in the homework and studied the Oilers and building a plan to show the Oilers.

    A 2 hour interview will not negatively affect McCrimmons focus on Vegas. It’s not like he can do anything during the playoffs as an AGM, his work is basically done other than scouting other series for possible future aquisitions.

  • madjam

    Oilers on the cusp of being a very good playoff team once again , and what GM would not want a chance to ride that band wagon . Oilers a very priority team to come to for any aspiring GM .Small impediment , if any ,in OBC and /or Nicholson .