The Pitch

With the Vegas Golden Knights out of the playoff picture, timing is no longer an issue when it comes to Edmonton Oilers’ CEO Bob Nicholson getting a crack at Kelly McCrimmon in his search for a new general manager to replace Peter Chiarelli. Indications are that’s likely to happen in the next few days.

As much as Nicholson will have to get a clear picture of exactly what McCrimmon’s vision for the Oilers is and how he intends to fulfil it in deciding if he’s the right man for the job, he’s going to have to sell McCrimmon on why he should sign on the dotted line in Edmonton. McCrimmon will have options this off-season, and circumstances dictate it’s up to Nicholson to make a convincing pitch as to why the Oilers are the best option for him.

The bottom line in job interviews has the prospective employer asking candidates — either directly or by nibbling around the edges — “Tell me why we should hire you?” If I was in McCrimmon’s shoes and staring across the table at Nicholson, I’d be asking, “So, tell me why I should work for you?” If it goes like that, and I suspect that it will, Nicholson had better have his fastball ready.

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While that pitch starts with the unquestionably dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it can’t end there. One of the reasons an assistant GM like McCrimmon leaves the cover of a successful team to take the big seat as GM of a new team is that he gets to run his own show. For that to matter, he has to actually be allowed to do that. That should be Captain Obvious stuff, but that hasn’t been the history here.


Having the opportunity to build a roster around the best player in the game, in McDavid, and a rising star, in Draisaitl, both of whom are under contract here for what will be the majority of their prime years, is about as attractive a start as any GM can hope for. How many teams out there have a one-two punch like that in terms of talent, age and cost certainty? How many of those teams are looking for a new GM?

For all the talent they plucked in the expansion draft and put together to build a Stanley Cup finalist in their first year in Las Vegas, GM George McPhee and McCrimmon didn’t have the tandem of building blocks McDavid and Draisaitl represent for whoever gets the job here. Not close. Factor in other core pieces like Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, to name just two, and the new boss has a chance to hit the ground running.

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That doesn’t, of course, mean the rest is easy. If that was the case, McDavid wouldn’t have missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons here despite being in the hunt for the Art Ross Trophy and MVP honours in all but his first year, when he was injured. Chiarelli wouldn’t be out the door. The Oilers wouldn’t be capped out and on the outside looking in at the playoffs in a year when upsets have reinforced that teams just need to get into the post-season to have a shot at the Cup.

That said, I’d rather be able to start with McDavid and Draisaitl and put together the right supporting cast than vice-versa – a roster that has lots of solid team-first guys who know their roles and have chemistry but lacks the top-end talent McDavid and Draisaitl bring to the mix. The way I see it, finding and putting together those kinds of players is exactly what McPhee and McCrimmon did in building the Golden Knights. It’s in McCrimmon’s wheelhouse.


The other significant part of Nicholson’s pitch has to be that whoever gets the job gets to call the shots as they see fit without interference from anybody, and that includes from the guy who owns the team and signs the cheques, Darryl Katz. Whoever gets the job has to have full control of hockey operations — who stays, who goes and who comes in. Again, this should be obvious, but it hasn’t worked that way here.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the new GM has to gut hockey ops during his first week on the job. That doesn’t mean that he has to replace everybody from the previous regime. What it does mean is he has to have the freedom to do so if he sees fit, the way he sees fit and in any time frame he deems necessary. That has to happen without interference, subtle or otherwise.

That doesn’t mean the new GM operates in a vacuum. He need not isolate himself, as it’s been suggested Chiarelli often did. There’s nothing wrong — in fact there’s a lot right — with seeking out the opinions of others in hockey ops. But they have to be people you know, people whose opinions you trust, people you want in those positions of trust. They are people who will challenge you from time to time, if they see fit.

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Why would McCrimmon, or any other legitimate candidate for that matter, accept anything less than that? Why would anybody leave a situation where they can thrive and grow, call the shots and put their mark on an organization, to be GM here if somebody else is pulling the strings? Why would McCrimmon leave Las Vegas for that? Why would Ken Holland or Mark Hunter take a job where they’re told what to do?

So, the question begs. Why should I work for you? If Nicholson can start with McDavid and Draisaitl and follow up with the promise the new boss will have the freedom to do his job without interference, he’s going to make a hire, like McCrimmon, with a chance to get it right in a town that’s fed-up with wrong. Bring it, Bob.


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.

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You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Hemmercules

    I would be ok with either McCrimmon, Hunter or Guerin I think. Just as long as they have the all the pull they want when it comes to hiring and firing. Forcing the old regime on the new guy is a broken record this team needs to break. I would think the entire coaching and scouting staff will be on the chopping block with some possibly staying after they interview with the new GM and new Head coach. Im guessing the coaching staff gets axed entirely with Mact and KG remaining upstairs.

    • Mac T needs to go too, all of them need to go, they do not know a thing or two about winning or running a franchise. Entire staff should be gutted before the hire is done, as in the NORMAL way of doing things, but nothing with this franchise is normal at all. Just to add to the pile of stupid stuff, Booby Nicks called George McPhee about ten minutes after the game was over. No respect and no brains.

  • All Ice

    Bob: so what would be your plan?
    Candidate: well we have to get people who are successful at their position in here to handle key elements. Possible get rid of some of the bad decisions that have been made
    Bob: whoa, whoa let’s not get too hasty, these people have been here along time and they know the boss pretty well. Plus let’s be honest, it’s not like they can get jobs anywhere else after what they’ve done here. What will they do?
    Candidate: what?
    Bob: how about this plan? We overpay you, you keep everyone, I mean, they really need these jobs. We’ll see how the next four years go! If it fails again we’ll fire you and blame you and keep everyone who’s been around for the last decade. I really mean it, they cannot find work outside this organization…

  • Oilman99

    The question is, will McCrimmon be willing to take the job based on all the history of theOBC interfering, and the last 13 years of mismanagement this team has gone through. A clean slate with a team like Seattle where he can try to do the same thing they accomplished in Vegas may be more appealing. We just have to hope he would jump at the chance to build a competitor around McD and Drai.

  • All Ice

    Robin, I’ve asked this before on other articles but what are the bets on MacT’s position if no POHO is hired? Hard to be an assistant POHO with out one. Does he become POHO by default (disaster) or an equally influential position (disaster)? Or finally get axed?

    • Hemmercules

      Mact and Lowe are untouchables. Katz will make sure they stay in some capacity. I personally dont think Lowe really has anything to do with the NHL team at this point as far as player transactions, contracts, scouting etc. Mact will move into a similar position if the new GM doesn’t want him as a scout.

  • norm

    The question I would ask is will I have the time to build up enough depth to win in the NHL before being fired. Enough time to get rid of some of the poison pill contracts the last guy left behind before my head hits the slab

  • Derian Hatcher

    Oh I think we pretty much know how all of this will go. The Wino club will still have the direct line to the bat phone and the houdini owner will continue the decade-long dance will continue. It’s obvious to everyone but Batman that BN is in way over his head.

    Excuse my cynicism, but the best predictor of future behaviour is, well…you know. #wanderinginthedesert

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Whoever figures this mess out, be it McCrimmon, Hunter, or someone else, will go down forever as a god in this town and would have a significant feather in their cap – the guy who finally figured out what ails the hapless Oilers. I think that’s gotta factor into the candidate’s decisions as well, if only internally.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Any smart candidate for the GM job will phone Chiarelli. Chiarelli may say this: “The OBC club doesn’t really interfere with anything. I made some bad moves, that’s all on me. It’s a good job…good luck!” Or Chiarelli may say this: “It’s a total gong show. Everyone was constantly looking over my shoulder and telling me to make dumb moves…starting with the Reinhart trade. If you lose they will make you a goat, if you win they will be taking all the credit. It’s up to you, but…” If Chiarelli says that, the GM will be Keith Gretzky.

  • CMG30

    There are too many voices in Edmonton. I don’t care who they hire, they will fail unless their first action is to fire everyone not involved in amateur scouting. I give those folks a pass because they’ve done a bang up job down in Bakersfield

  • With an expansion draft coming up, I would think it’s an advantage to have McCrimmon around seeing as he’s heard every team’s pitch for the last one. You’d think that would be an asset but what the hell do I know.

  • TKB2677

    The one selling point for McCrimmon to go to Seattle is he would be able to hire who ever he wants around him. But as cynical as many Oilers fans are when it comes to the “old boys club”, money talks to them. It’s one thing to just keep going like they do with the same people when everyone keeps coming. They are crap every year, they raise tickets every year yet people kept coming. But it’s another thing when people, most importantly the suite and season ticket holders, the people who keep the lights on, come to event after event are are legit PISSED. It’s another thing when they actually pull out and say no more. That would mean something that things can’t continue. It means something when McDavid, who doesn’t say anything usually, says we need to be better as an organization. Not the old, I will train harder, I will be better, etc. The organization NEEDS to be better. Nicholson said that resonated with the Oilers and I actually believe him. So if the Oilers and Nicholson want to get a good GM, they can’t be stupid enough to think that the true good ones are going to be cool with just keeping everyone. So I believe that pretty much everyone on the hockey side will be gone when the new GM is hired. Klowe will probably survive because he supposedly does all business but the rest will be gone. So assuming the Oilers would be willing to let who ever is GM make the call on who works for them, when it comes to opportunity for say McCrimmon, what will be better?

    If he goes to Seattle, sure he can start from scratch BUT not a chance in hell it will go like it did for Vegas. Everything went right for Vegas because teams didn’t know what they were doing. Teams like Florida went stupid, admittedly made big mistakes and gifted Vegas star players and a star coach. It’s not going to happen again.