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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Who is your choice to be the next Oilers GM?

Welcome, friends, to yet another edition of the Monday Mailbag! Whether you’re at work, at school, or at home, we both know you’re not doing anything even remotely productive and I salute you for your commitment to retired living. And since you’re not doing anything work-related anyway, why not enjoy a few thousand words worth of free wisdom — sound good? As always, this feature depends on all of you and I need questions for next week so if you’ve got one you email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, let’s all gather round to enjoy this here mailbag.

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1) Blake asks – Do you have a preference in terms of the Oilers’ GM? We’ve seen names like Hunter and McCrimmon as leading candidates and I’m wondering if the writers have a name on their wishlist?

Jason Gregor:

Bill Guerin is someone I’d interview. He has worked in management for a few years, and is a very good communicator, and also a strong enough personality to handle the pressure of a Canadian market.

Robin Brownlee:

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They aren’t going to get one of the guys I prefer. Of the candidates in the running, my preference is McCrimmon, followed closely by Bill Guerin.

Cam Lewis:

I think it’s ideal for the Oilers to go outside the organization when making this hire. They need to bring in somebody with new-school ideas and a modern plan for how to work through the mess left ahead of them. With that in mind, Kelly McCrimmon seems like the best bet.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

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I think it’s really hard to have a preference when we don’t know very much about the candidates. I think McCrimmon and Hunter would both be solid choices. Based off of track record, I would lean towards McCrimmon but either one would be good with me. I’m very curious about Sean Burke as well. He’s a young candidate who has impressed a lot of people.

Christian Pagnani:

It’s so hard to know what each assistant general manager was responsible and how they think and operate. Between Mark Hunter and Kelly McCrimmon, I’d lean McCrimmon. I like what Vegas does and they make some shrewd moves and valued skills the Oilers need to. Hunter was part of an interesting group in Toronto, but left after Dubas got promoted. The Oilers need someone more like Dubas who thinks differently.

The Nation Dan:

I have been convinced by Dusty Nielson to look at Pat Verbeek. His work with the best team in recent history (even with the early exit this year) has me believing he would be great for the job. But at the end of the day and I said it on this week’s ON Radio episode, I just want someone to come in and demand control over the organizational chart of the whole team’s executive.

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Chris the Intern:

I don’t know much about all of the candidates on a personal level. But the fact that McCrimmon has worked in the environment of an analytical, successful team like the Golden Knights over the past two seasons that went through the process of the expansion draft is a good enough reason for me to want to hire him.

Baggedmilk:

Right now, I feel like Kelly McCrimmon or Bill Guerin would be my choices for the gig. I like that McCrimmon has been involved in an expansion draft, has an openness to analytics, and would likely bring fresh ideas to the job that this organization has been missing for years. I like Bill Guerin because he’s one of those guys that have worked their way up, been around a successful franchise, and also has the career to back up what he wants to do. Either of those guys would be a win imo.

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2) Terry T. asks – Looking at the teams that have been knocked out of the playoffs so far, which one do you think could be a potential trade partner for the Oilers? I look at Nashville as a team that could potentially want to shake things up a bit and I’d love to see the Oilers try and snag someone off their blue line.

Jason Gregor:

The Oilers needs a right shot D in their top-four. Ellis makes $6.25 mill and Subban over $9. In order to make a deal happen the Oilers would likely have to part with RNH and his contract. I wonder about Winnipeg and Jacob Trouba. I’d reach out to them. If the Oilers could shed salary in another deal, then they could look at Trouba and the Jets, who have to pay Laine, Connor and others, might be willing to take some young cheaper players in return.

Robin Brownlee:

All teams knocked out of the playoffs in the first round fall into that category, even Tampa Bay to a lesser extent. The target — say a right side defenceman — matters more than the team. Who is willing to give up what you want and need for something you have?

Cam Lewis:

I think Toronto and Edmonton line up nicely as trade partners. The Oilers have a few solid and cost-controlled defencemen, which the Leafs need, and the Leafs have a few good forwards they can’t afford. Connor Brown would be an interesting buy-low option, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson have the wheels to thrive with Connor McDavid, and you might despise Nazem Kadri, but you’d love him on your team.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I agree with the Nashville idea as well. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay might have some forwards they’re willing to move. Winnipeg and Toronto are in straight up cap hell as well. They both have some young forwards that are pending RFA’s. I would be looking at those two, but to make a deal with them you’d probably have to free up some cap space. That might be an issue. I do think there will be lots of teams looking to shake up their rosters this offseason.

Christian Pagnani:

I like Nashville as a trade partner too. Tampa Bay has a few forwards they might move to clear salary for Brayden Point. If PK Subban’s available, I do everything to make room for him. I’d talk to Toronto about their skilled wingers too.

The Nation Dan:

I have the Jets squarely in my trade target sights. Nikolai Ehlers would be a fantastic winger to have on this team going forward and I think right now you strike after his 0 points in six games before the Jets bowed out. The secondary target from them would be Jacob Trouba, but I’m not sure how that trade would work for us.

Chris the Intern:

Nashville is at the top of my list for a trade target team for sure. Other teams who might want to shake some things up could be Winnipeg, or even Washington due to cap issues.

Baggedmilk:

Nashville has all kinds of defencemen that would help the Oilers right now so I like that idea a lot. I also think Winnipeg could be an option based on who they have to sign this summer and the limited cap space they’ll have available to get it all done.

3) Stephen asks – Is anyone concerned about the OBC being a hurdle for the team getting the best possible GM candidates? My concern is that the best people wouldn’t want to come to Edmonton if they felt that glory days boys would be standing in the way. Am I overthinking it?

Jason Gregor:

I expect the new GM will have discussions with Bob Nicholson and make it clear to him who he wants to bring in and who needs to go. If Nicholson can’t offer the GM freedom to make changes to management then it will be more difficult to attract a GM, but I don’t believe will be a big issue this time around. Now more than ever, Katz realizes changes are necessary.

Robin Brownlee:

Of course it’s a hurdle. Why would a top-end candidate come to a team where they don’t have final say and control of how they do their job? No GM acts completely alone, but there’s a difference between consulting with your people in hockey-ops and interference from above.

Cam Lewis:

Yes. I imagine it’s probably the biggest concern any potential GM has with coming here for the gig. As much as media here tries to push that they aren’t involved, they’re in the mix at HQ and voices carry.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think that could 100% be an issue. If a high-end candidate with McCrimmon or Holland or Hunter wants complete control and Nicholson says that certain people need to keep their jobs then it could be a major turn off. I think that’s a major part of the reason why Mike Gillis isn’t in the conversation for the job.

Christian Pagnani:

Absolutely. I felt Bob Nicholson didn’t make the best situation possible for an incoming general manager and it was a weak point of leadership from him. It was an easy PR softball too. Come into the press conference saying this wasn’t acceptable, the wrong thing were emphasized, and that you’ve let go of a number of management people. You don’t have to name names or shame them, they’ll get out anyways via the media, but leaving that to the new GM is pretty cowardly. It shows either they’re not serious about meaningful change or that Nicholson doesn’t want to do it himself. Whatever management structure they’ve had hasn’t worked. Thank them for their time and move on.

The Nation Dan:

When the Oilers hired Pete and Todd I thought it was going to be the easiest way for both those guys to show how much the Bruins/Sharks missed out. Now, I am wondering if people view working with the Oilers as career suicide. There are always going to be voices surrounding you as a GM that you didn’t bring in, but right now that group from our (the fans) vantage point is OBC heavy.

Chris the Intern:

Part of me agrees with you. I think that could also motivate someone to come in and fire all their asses as well.

Baggedmilk:

Absolutely. I can’t imagine that the highest quality candidates would be pumped on dealing with a bunch of old boys and having them go over his head to the owner.

4) Trish asks – Which team should be the most embarrassed about getting bumped out in the first round? To me, it has to be the Flames based on the way they were able to handle the Western Conference all season long.

Jason Gregor:

Tampa Bay didn’t win a game after 62 wins in the regular season. How can it be anyone but them?

Robin Brownlee:

Tampa Bay. It’s not close. One-and-done after a 128-point season. Calgary was a 107-point team.

Cam Lewis:

Toronto for not capitalizing on being up 3-2 in the series heading home.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It should 100% be Tampa Bay. The Flames had some holes in their roster and I actually thought their first-round matchup was going to be tough. The Lightning appeared to be a perfect hockey team and rolled through everyone in the regular season. For them to go out and get swept was flat out embarrassing.

Christian Pagnani:

Toronto. Winning gets tougher with all these contracts kicking in, but that was a winnable series and they likely lost it because one of their veteran centers wasn’t disciplined enough. They could have easily been the favourite in round two against Columbus and the winner of Islanders-Hurricanes. Instead, they lose to the same team again and don’t make it out of the first round after adding John Tavares and Jake Muzzin.

The Nation Dan:

Tampa Bay is the for sure one here. I don’t know about embarrassed because they did make the playoffs, but I have to imagine the Penguins are sweating things now. Sidney isn’t getting any younger as their window is closing.

Chris the Intern:

Tampa no question. The Flames should also be embarrassed with their outcome, but the Lightning were much bigger favourites to win the cup in my opinion.

Baggedmilk:

Calgary. Mostly because of all the shit we took from Flames fans before the playoffs started. I hope they enjoyed those extra five games.

5) Jesse asks – I’ve seen some of you chiming in on social media but I’d love to know everyone’s opinion on the Vegas collapse from game 7 against the Sharks. I don’t believe a five minute major penalty was justified based on what happened, but I can’t get past the fact that the Golden Knights allowed four straight goals. To me this was Vegas’ fault and blaming the refs is pointless since every team has bad calls go for and against them. Which side are you on?

Jason Gregor:

I wrote my full thoughts here. In short, the call was incorrect, no question, and it presented San Jose with a good opportunity, but it was still up to the Sharks to take advantage of it, and Vegas PK didn’t have to completely collapse because of one erroneous call.

Robin Brownlee:

Officials can’t make a call that bad in a game that important. It’s ridiculous that an offside 30 seconds before a goal is scored can be reviewed and the goal called back if the play is offside by an inch but you can’t have a second look at a call like that to make sure it’s right.

Cam Lewis:

I mean, the call sucked, but Vegas has to be better. Maybe consider killing a penalty? Or making a save? Hell, maybe don’t lose Game 6 while you’re on the power play? They put themselves in that situation by not icing the series sooner.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think some blame definitely falls on the shoulders of Vegas. They should have figured it out with their penalty and they had plenty of looks in overtime but at the end of the day, they should have never been put in that situation. It’s one thing to get called on a chincy minor penalty and even a double-minor wouldn’t have sunk them. They got screwed by a bad call and it’s unfortunate that it came in the final ten minutes of game seven.

Christian Pagnani:

I understand people putting the blame on Vegas for their horrendous penalty killing, but they’re not in that situation without the penalty kill. If it was a two-minute power play they’d be down a goal with just under 10 minutes to play. The penalty call allowed the Sharks to continuously score. Sure, ultimately the Golden Knights needed to kill the penalty better, but that was an all-time bad call. The NHL apologizing to Vegas and shutting down those refs for the season says all you need to know about that call. It cost Vegas the series.

The Nation Dan:

I was pretty vocal on social media and after letting it cool for a couple of days I still feel the same, the refs need review help. We need to eliminate the offside review (unless the linesmen ask for it) and institute a review that refs can start right away (with a hand signal or something) when they haven’t seen the full play that resulted in an injury/goal/game-changing event. The Vegas PK was bad but you could see the momentum that the first and second PP goals gave the Sharks and that was allowed to continue because the five-minute major was the call. The comeback doesn’t happen in that PP if the call isn’t made.

Chris the Intern:

My god. I’m still in shambles about how entertaining that game was. I was so invested in it and was rattled by the call. It was obviously a horrible call that should have never happened, however, I understand the human mistake behind it. The timing and significance of it were just awful and cringy though. Regarding the comeback, I am a believer that yes, if the referee didn’t make the bad call then Vegas wouldn’t have to kill the penalty. HOWEVER, hockey is full of unpredictable adversity. When a bad call goes your way, champions don’t roll over and complain about it, they rally and fight through. Vegas failed to do that.

Baggedmilk:

It was a weird penalty there’s no doubt. But I can’t help but feel as though the Golden Knights needed to get something done on the penalty kill. They completely unravelled because of a bad call and ended up losing the series because of it. Should the call have been made? No. But once it happened, Vegas had to focus on killing off that penalty and they couldn’t do it.

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  • TKB2677

    I an really surprised that a few of the bloggers in here would suggest going after PK. These are the same guys who have said over and over again that the Oilers can’t keep making bets on expensive vets.

    What is Subban?
    – He’s a going to be 30 in a few weeks, right handed dman coming off an injury plagued, down offensively season. He’s still a good dman but he’s not the same guy that was in Montreal. He’s 30 in May so he’s through his prime years. In most cases, guys who are 30 and above, start to decline. He’s making 9 mill. I questioned when he signed the deal if he was a 9 mill dman. At 30, he’s definitely not a 9 mill dman.

    If Subban was a UFA and the Oilers went out and signed him to the contract he has right now, 3 yrs at 9 mill. I believe that most in the media would severely question the deal. They would list the exact things I said. Too much money for a 30+ dman who has an injury history, who’s best years are behind him, coming off a down season and who will most likely decline over the length of the deal. So if most people would probably criticize signing him, why on earth would anyone want to spend assets to get him.

    • Schmidt Head

      What you are highlighting here is the single biggest reason why this team never improves.

      It’s because they continue doing the same dumb things, year after year. It’s because the same stupid people with the same flawed thinking keep making the same stupid mistakes and the same dumb decisions all while expecting different results.

      This team hasn’t advanced one single meaningful step in a quarter century….. and it NEVER WILL!!…. as long as the same incompetent fools are in charge…. no matter whose door plaque has “General Manager” engraved on it!

  • Randaman

    JG – “More than ever, Katz realizes changes have to be made.” Really? Then why haven’t changes been made? Did Katz actually say this? I think you give Batman too much credit. Glass half full crap?

  • Schmidt Head

    Any day now, Bob Nicholson, and perhaps even our favourite brother Daryl, will walk out on a stage with some guy dressed in a nice suit. There will be all kinds of media and invited guests. They’ll say a bunch of nice things about the guy, the team, the fans, the city and maybe even kittens and puppies as well.

    Speeches will be made, pictures will be taken, hands will be shaken and smiling faces will abound.

    Then they’ll stick a pin on his lapel that says “General Manager.”

    Once the paparazzi have departed, they’ll walk him to a nice office and show him the nice plaque on the nice door that has his name and “General Manager” underneath it and the similar one on his nice desk.

    Then they’ll all walk further down the hall where the new guy will be introduced to a room full of other men. Mister Bob will introduce Mister New Guy to his real bosses and he’ll be told that his job is to do whatever these men tell him to do and to keep his mouth shut about it.

    So off Mr. New guy will go, back to his nice office and his nice plaques and play video solitaire on his nice computer until his nice phone rings. He’ll listen for a few moments and then say “Yes sir, Sir” and life in Edmonton will carry on just as it has for the past 30 years.

  • Oiler Al

    Gregor…..”now more than ever,Katz, realizes changes are needed”. Did Gregor or someone in the media talk to this guy?Did I miss the interview[if there ever was one ?] Has the hermit spoken about the team ?

  • D

    Until reading it here, I had no idea that the NHL apologized to Vegas. Looking at other articles now, with the refs being put on ice, I suspect that their careers are in serious trouble.

  • Serious Gord

    1. Need two people – a POHO and a GM. I know it’s a cop out but I don’t know the hockey executive works well enough to say someone specific. But perhaps there is a current nhl POHO/GM looking for a new challenge- say some one from Nashville (?).

    As has been noted often – and thankfully more than ever – people are saying that who is picked is irrelevant if they aren’t given free rein and the power to purge the FOK and FOG (including WG).

    2. No point talking about trade partners unless you are prepared to trade RNH.

    Any trade of RNH should be for wingers not d-men.

    3. “Now more than ever, Katz realizes changes are necessary.”

    Didn’t know Gregor was a personal friend of Katz.

    I have zero expectations that things will change. If they were Bob gutless Nicholson would have announced the departures of the OBC already.

    4. Tampa. As I think I heard recently- no team with as good a regular season record has ever been swept in the first round.

    5. The call obviously is THE reason for the collapse. If it doesn’t happen nothing else does.

    As for it being a bad call – 50 plus years ago it would have been accepted – incorrect calls happen all the time. Today with the level of coverage and replay incorrect calls are Harder to move on from. Certainly the refs should have discretion to consult with Toronto to get the call right. That should be THE primary objective of those officiating the game and their supervisors.

    • Spartacus

      It’s SO NHL that Vegas gets a bad call and loses a series and the whole reffing system needs to be analyzed and repaired to fix the obvious flaw.

      The Oilers lose to the Ducks with a non-call that is so egregious that the NHL is too embarrassed to make any sort of statement regarding the blown call, and it’s business as usual, nothing to see here.

      Meanwhile, the NHL issues a formal apology to the Knights.

      What a bush-league league this is. Just an absolute joke.

      When it happens to the Oilers; all is well. Carry on.

      ANY other team and it’s time to tear things down and make sure it never happens again.

      There is no worse pro league in the world, and there is no worse pro team in the world.

      Why couldn’t I have been a fan of a team that actually cares about its fans?

      • OilerForLife

        Vegas and their fans have one complaint and they get their way. The US teams get results when they have a complaint, and the Oilers who were screwed against Anaheim get zip. Then some whiny Vegas fans complains about the rowdy Oiler fans when they can’t handle being beat by them in their early inception. Vegas and their fans are a bunch of big babies, and they deserved all the bad karma that comes their way. If the shoe fits wear it.

      • Serious Gord

        I don’t know all of the pro leagues in the world, but the CFL is far worse than the NHL (unless you think that the CFL is semi-pro which IMO is a defensible position)

        The NBA is worse – certainly more scandal ridden – from frozen envelopes to refs on the take from organized crime to numerous suspected points-shaving incidents.

        And the NFL might have a better system for making the game more competitive and officiated (and the pace of the game makes it easier to do – and let’s not forget the blown pass interference call that cost the Saints a visit to the Superbowl). But it does its level best to act like it opposes PEDs while letting them to be used by almost every player. And Bettman is the best of all the head executives in the big four NA leagues.

    • fasteddy

      I still say a good idea would be to get a very strong personality in POHO, (I use Brian Burke as example)….someone to deflect attention from the GM, keep the wolves at bay while a brainiac type GM figures out how to turn the ship around. No one would ever think a Burke-type would be taking sht from above, it would be their show regardless of whether the umpteen advisors were still in place or not.

      • Serious Gord

        I agree. The problem is that Katz and co. wouldn’t allow a strong character (or any other character) the power to do what such a character would want to do. So that kind of character isn’t coming here. Catch-22.

      • Exactly what we need, a guy who can draw a line in the ground and tell Daryl, the media, and sometimes the fans to F off. The hockey operations room should be the center of this franchise and the product on the ice should be the focus.

  • cityofchampions

    1. I would accept anyone of the serious candidate (McCrimmon, Hunter, Guerin, Verbeek) if it came with news that the OBC were being retired and/or sidelined to non-hockey related posts so that the new GM could bring his own people in. In no sane world should MacT be Asst. Poho, the pro scouts retained, Howson kept as cap specialist, etc. The only exception I’d make is having KG kept in the organization as head of scouting or even Asst. GM but only if the new GM has the chance to do interviews and decide for himself that KG is the best man for the job. I’m a bit worried that the choice will be Sean Burke, with ties to Bobby Burger and the OBC, who might be convinced to retain most if not all the OBC in their current capacities.

    2. In regards to trades, the new GM has to clear cap space first before being able to bring in anyone that can have a real impact, whether that be on D or forward. Without being able to create cap space, we’ll be limited to looking for Maroon/Chiasson bargains again (I love what both of them brought, but they aren’t the solution….they buy time for us to find the solution).

    3. OBC is a big factor is having competent people decline the position. I believe that ideally a new POHO should already have been put in place, and that this person should have already cleared out the OBC and thus set the table for his new GM. Burger Bob (who is essentially the POHO now, with help from MacT), have started the GM search off on the wrong foot already by not doing things in the right order (POHO first, then GM). Not all teams need a POHO, but this mess in Edmonton requires it…we need both a competent POHO and competent GM to fix this mess. Its too big for one man to handle.

    4. Tampa should be most embarrassed, the Blue Jackets didn’t even really put up a sweat in sweeping them. But Tampa Bay still has an open window, as does Calgary, and Pittsburgh and Washington have won cups recently. Therefore I would say that the most devastating loss was Toronto. This was their year, before all the ELC’s kicked in, and they recognized this and traded for Tavares and Muzzin to give them that extra push, at a cost to future years via the salary cap as they knew it meant losing some young talent. Management did its job in setting the table, the team had a 3-2 lead in the series, then let it slip through their fingers in a year when the other top teams got eliminated. The winner of Toronto-Boston has this inside path to representing the East, and Toronto face-planted at the worst time. Dishonorable mention to Winnipeg, who also lost in the first round and are, like Toronto, now in a cap-crunch.

    5. Bad call at a bad time, but Vegas had their chances to win in Game 6 and in OT of game 7. The problem is that there has been knee-jerk reactions to specific calls, when the focus should be on any “egregious” error no matter what type (offside, goalie interference, penalty, or anything else). I don’t think an offside that needs to be looked at repeatedly in slo-mo to determine whether it was offside should be reviewable, but one that is clearly six inches offside should be. Same with penalties or any other game-changing moments. Clear errors need to be addressed, the 50-50 calls that are part of the game should be left to the ref’s discretion. I believe the refs on the ice should have the final say on everything except goals, but give them the evidence they need to correct themselves. Refs should be able to decide for themselves if they want to look at replays to determine the correctness of their own calls.

  • Ted

    I agree with Trish and BM that Calgary should be most embarrassed. Their classless acts as BM attests to are sweet karma. Can’t tell you how good that feels being a true Oilers fan! Gone in five!! Ha ha ha hahahaha! Okay let me tell you singing ” I feel good “

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to the new GM, I think trades can and WILL happen. I am not talking bit pieces. I am talking guys like Lucic and Russell. If you retain salary, you can get rid of Lucic. They playoffs have shown AGAIN that while speed and skill rein supreme during the regular season, big, tough, nasty hockey is what happens in the playoffs. So if you retain a big chunk of salary, I am thinking 50%, I think teams would take Lucic. I have said it a few times, if Ryan Reeves, a career goon can make just under 3 will with Vegas, teams would take Lucic who is a way better player for that number. I also think that a dman like Russell has value to lots of teams. You may not get much for either but you can get rid of them.

    The reason I think those 2 happen is Chia is gone. A new GM has ZERO ties to those guys. It would be embarrassing/hard to do for Chia to go to his bosses and say “We need to trade Lucic and to do it we have to retain 50% and get nothing back”. If I am the higher ups in the Oilers, that is a hard thing to swallow if the guy who sold you on signing him, is coming to you 3 years later to tell you, he needs to get dumped. Sames goes for Russell. A new GM has zero ties to these guys and all he has to do is say they have to go for me to make us good.