Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

No loyalty from the new GM could lead to an unpredictable offseason

Fans and media all have players that they simply like more than others. That’s a fact. Certain players get a little bit more leeway depending on how you personally feel about them. You tend to forgive the mistakes of players you like a little bit easier.

Look at how fans react to Kris Russell. Some will say that he’s one of the Oilers best defensemen because of his compete-level and willingness to block shots while others look at his numbers and puck-moving ability and think the Oilers would be a better team without his $4 million cap hit.

Just like how fans have certain bias’ and opinions, so do coaches and General Managers. I remember points last season when fans were irate with Todd McLellan’s love for Drake Caggiula while he seemingly never wanted to give Jesse Puljujarvi the same opportunities, despite the General Manager clearly wanting Puljujarvi to get more ice time.

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Maybe that loyalty isn’t so much built from the player personally, but it’s a result of a General Manager wanting to be right. Peter Chiarelli likely would have never dealt Adam Larsson because it would mean that he’s accepting that he lost the Taylor Hall trade. Chiarelli forced Puljujarvi into the NHL so that his draft pick would make him look good. Maybe it’s even a little bit of an ego thing.

The best managers and executives learn how to accept when they’re wrong and they know when to put personal feelings aside. Look at Bill Belichick in New England. The cliche around him is that he will cut Tom Brady the second that they have a better quarterback. That’s the way championship organizations operate. Loyalty can sink organizations to some extent and when the Oilers name a new GM, I expect that person will come in and feel no loyalty to anyone on the roster outside of Connor McDavid.

That’s why the upcoming offseason for the Edmonton Oilers seems so unpredictable. The man who brought in a lot of the Oilers current depth players is no longer here and when the new GM will likely have no problem moving out anyone on the roster, regardless of how they got here.

That applies to a lot of players including the aforementioned Russell, who is a prime “cap-dump” candidate. The previous regime clearly thought very highly of the rugged defenseman, it’s tough to tell if the next group will feel the same way.

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Same goes for Zack Kassian. The last group of management saw what he did for them in the 2016-17 playoff run. He’s proven that he’s capable of sliding into the top six for stretches, and he finished this past season on a ridiculous hot streak on Connor McDavid’s wing, but for most of his time with the Oilers, he’s been a fourth line winger. The next GM might look at his $1.9 million cap-hit and feel like the Oilers could replace his contributions with a cheaper player. He might also see Kassian as a realistic top-six option. It’s hard to tell.

The list goes on and on. How will the new GM feel about Matt Benning? He’s 24-years-old and has played in 200 NHL games. With right-shot defensemen like Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, and even Joel Persson in the system, I wonder Benning could be dealt for a young forward. The blue line is an area of organizational depth for the Oilers. 

On a deeper level, there are many who think that the Oilers need a massive shakeup this summer. A lot of people will point to the big trade that Calgary and Carolina made last summer as a prime example of what the Oilers should do. The Flames sent Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland and the rights to Adam Fox to the Hurricanes in exchange for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. The deal worked wonderfully for both teams as they each returned to the postseason.

On one hand, I think we could definitely see that kind of trade and it might involve names like Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Jesse Puljujarvi, or even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I don’t think it would be a good idea to trade someone like Nugent-Hopkins, but the incoming GM might want to make a big swing and put his stamp on the team early in his tenure. The other side of that coin is that the Oilers could also choose a more cautious GM who may want to watch this team with his own eyes for a season before dealing off a core player.

Three of the top candidates for the GM job (Burke, McCrimmon, and Hunter) have never been NHL GMs before so once the Oilers make their hire, we won’t have an NHL track record to reference. We know McCrimmon has been solid in the pro-scouting department with Vegas, Hunter has a reputation of being someone who is big on drafting and developing, and Burke is maybe a little bit of a wild card. Whereas if they were to hire someone like Ron Hextall, Mike Gillis, Ken Holland, or Dean Lombardi we would be able to look at some of their past moves and maybe project what kind of team they would like to build. That’s not really the case with a first time GM.

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Whoever the Oilers hire could come in and feel no loyalty to the current roster which could lead to some fringe fan favourites being moved out of town or possibly some massive changes to the core. At the same time, the new GM might be handcuffed by the salary cap and that could lead to the 2019-20 Oilers looking very similar to the team that missed the playoffs this past season. In short, this summer is going to be a very unpredictable one around Edmonton.

  • TKB2677

    The way I look at it and I will be blunt, why should whoever the GM ends up being have ANY loyalty to any Oilers player except McDavid and Leon? If you take off your Oilers colored glasses and look at this team objectively, who other than McDavid and Leon has lived up to expectations or even consistently been good? I honestly can’t think of anyone else.

    Even Nuge. As much as I am a big time Nuge fan and do not want him to be traded, up until this season, he’s NEVER scored 25 goals and his career high was 56 pts. Plus he’s been mostly a minus player who has a career 44% faceoff percentage. He was 45.12 this year. Again, I really like Nuge but when the Oilers drafted him, I wasn’t expecting him to be a mid 50’s pt center who can’t win a faceoff consistently. When he was drafted, he was directly compared to Datsyuk. Datsyuk typically scored WAY about 56 pts. He had a bunch of 80 and 90 pt seasons. At 37, his last NHL season he had 49 pts in 66 games. That’s on pace for over 60 pts. He is a career 53.9% on faceoffs. Nuge isn’t even close to Datsyuk. Nuge had his best season EVER this year scoring 28 goals and 69 pts but he played a lot with McDavid. What do you want to bet that if Nuge didn’t play with McDavid this past year, his numbers would be around low end 20’s in goals and 50 pts.

    So the management should take a TON of blame for this mess, blame needs to go to the players as well for not living up to where they should be. So there should be ZERO loyalty for any of them except McDavid and Leon.

    • FanBoy

      “Nuge had his best season EVER this year scoring 28 goals and 69 pts but he played a lot with McDavid. What do you want to bet that if Nuge didn’t play with McDavid this past year, his numbers would be around low end 20’s in goals and 50 pts” – could you not say the same about Draisaitl? If we’re going to start discrediting Nuge for “scoring 69 points but he played a lot with McDavid”, then what does that say about Draisaitl’s 105 point season? Without McDavid it’d be less?

      Let’s focus on the facts rather than what ifs. Fact is Oilers have 3 top 6 players and 6 bottom 6 players. We need to ADD to the roster without subtracting from what we already have. We KNOW Nuge had the year of his career, we should ADD to Nuge, Draisaitl, and McDavid because we know they work in Edmonton with the Oilers. Nuge is not the problem. The problem is the lack of depth to add to our big guns.

      • TKB2677

        Leon had 51 pts in 72 games in his first real season and McDavid wasn’t even with the team. Pro-rate that over a full season and that is 58 pts. Then he put up 77 pts, then 70, then 105 and 50 goals. You are right, did playing with McDavid boost up Leon’s points? Most likely yes.

        Go look at Nuge’s points this past season playing a lot with Mcdavid – 69 pts. His previous high was 56, so he went up by 14 pts. If you take Leon off of McDavid’s wing, what does he drop down too? 80 pts, probably 30+ goals. That’s a big drop. Regardless, Leon is still putting up top line numbers on a lot of teams without McDavid. With McDavid, Nuge finally put up real good second line center numbers. Without McDavid, Nuge over his career has put up mediocre second line center numbers.

        • Twitch

          Nuge played with 3rd line at best player for most of the season, yeah he got a point a game in his time with McDavid but playing away only Leon had a better average playing away from Connor(still almost a point per game when he didn’t play any even strength with Connor). Imagine having Puljujarvi and Khaira as your linemates and still being a 50 point average almost, that’s RNH and sure his faceoffs need improvement but his 2-way commitment is second to none on our team.

        • That's My Point

          Oilers need a TEAM FOCUS.
          Don’t worry about personal point stats.
          Play a TEAM game and worry about WINNING at ALL costs.
          If they get points that’s a bonus, but they’ll be more successful if they play for the Crest on the font of the jersey instead of the one on their back.

      • OilerForLife

        If they do trade Nuge this year is not the time, and they better get a very good return. Trading a successful top 6 forward for another top 6 forward doesn’t make sense. The have prospects, picks and a few D men that they could move to bolster a weak top 6 winger situation.

    • SSB1963

      If you are looking at this objectively you have to admit that Nuge has been saddled with a worse team (defensively) and has morphed into one of the better two way players in the league. If this team had been better defensively would we see better stats from Nuge?

      • Big Nuggets

        whatever Nuge’s past numbers are he has been playing the best hockey of his career lately, there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. We obviously want to keep the option of playing Drai with McDavid open, and it is highly unlikely we could find a better or more versatile 2nd line center than Nuge, so trading him for the scoring winger of your dreams is still a bad idea. If I would look at trading from the defense for a scoring winger or a 3rd line center if I was the new GM.

      • TKB2677

        Nuge played most of his career with Taylor Hall. The reining MVP and one of the best left wingers in the NHL and then had Eberle on his right who was a 25 goal man. So he had pretty darn good wingers and all he could put up was 56 pts as a career high.

        I am not trying to run Nuge out of town. My preference is to keep him but who ever the GM is can’t be blinded by 1 season of Nuge actually putting up good numbers for a change. His value will most likely NEVER be higher. So if a team desperate for some center depth comes calling and thinks that Nuge can be a 70+ pt center from here on which personally, I highly doubt he will do that and a good trade comes. If you can trade 1 player in Nuge and in return you can get a couple of good forwards back that increases your teams overall depth AND fills a couple of needs while costing you close to what Nuge makes, you have to look at it. Who knows, you might get lucky and hit a jackpot.

        As an example. Prior to getting traded, Elias Lindholm was an under performing forward who had a career high 17 goals, 45 pts, skated well, is right handed, can play both special teams and wins over 53% of his faceoffs. He was making 2.750 mill and needed a new deal. Canes dumps him for Ferland in the Hamilton deal. He scored 27 goals, 78 pts, 54.3% on draws for the Flames. He makes 4.875 mill. I am a big Nuge fan but I do not think Nuge will EVER put up those type of numbers. Nuge is worth WAY more than Ferland. So if you could go out and find a guy like Lindholm who’s decent, can be in a top 6 role but under performed and on top of that. Worst case scenario, he hovers around high teens – 20 goals and 45-50 pts. Just like Lindholm did. Then maybe get yourself say a penalty killing bottom 6 winger who typically scores 10-15 goals, 30 pts, like Rieder was supposed to be. Worse case you are getting 30 goals, 80 pts for similar money.

    • HOCKEY83

      I’d not only take nuge as a Flames but i’d take him over Draisaitl any day. That guy plays with tons of heart and is always the hardest working player on the ice. Draisaitle gets more ice time and constantly plays with McDavid. Throw Nuge up there for an entire season like Drai and the result will be the same points as Drai

    • BR

      WOuld hate to see Nuge go. He’s not a high flying scorer, but he is a defensive beast. He strips so many pucks and forces a lot of turnovers. Can match up against opponents toughs and still contribute really well offensively, he just keeps getting better every year too. We need more top six guys like Nuge – not less.

  • Biomass

    What would Nurse look like on left wing (2L with Nuge)? If that was a real thing it would solve a couple of key problems. One, you’re now looking for only one scoring winger from outside the organization. Two, you open up room for LD prospects that are pushing (i.e., Jones). For a third line, try Chiaisson with Marody and Benson. Assuming you can sign someone like Connelly to work with McDavid and Draisaitl, does that get you to the playoffs?

  • Viperx

    How will a new gm be able to come in and evaluate a team of he hasn’t followed the Oilers? At least not on a regular basis. This could be a interpreting off season

  • CMG30

    To be blunt, no one except McDavid is untouchable. That being said, if RNH or LD get moved then it better be a major win for the Oilers. One of the few things that’s currently right about the Oilers is that RNH gives LD the freedom to move up to McDavids wing whenever the situation calls for it. Together they make one of the most formidable duos in the NHL. Trade RNH and you’ve glued LD to 2nd line center. Put LD on 2 center and RNH is a top 6 winger. RNH is now statistically entering what should be the best years of his career and he’s a proven top line center who can play the wing. Those are the kinds of players teams are looking to find.

    • TKB2677

      I completely agree. The goal of the GM is to make the team better, not to appease Oilers fans because they like a certain player or a player has sentimental value to them.

      I have no issue with what McDavid or Leon make. As each year goes by, those contracts are going to become more and more of a bargain. But they still make 21 mill combined which is a lot. This doesn’t just apply to the Oilers, it applies to all teams. When you have that much money locked into 2 guys, you have to find guys who over achieve for heir salary. Other than McDavid and Leon, there isn’t a single player on this team that overachieves and a hell of a lot that grossly underachieve. As good as Nuge has been, he hasn’t overachieved once and I would argue that until this past season, I am not so sure he has even earned his 6 mill. I look at the center down the highway and who makes 375K more than Nuge and he flirts with 30 goals, scored over 30 3 times. Except for his rookie season has never been below 27 goals, typically scores over 60 pts and is an above 50% faceoff guy. He had 34 goals and 82 pts this year and makes 375K more than Nuge. We are all dancing in the streets over Nuge’s 69 pts.

      • JuniorSplash

        Agreed…Nuge has been good. If he texts as a late 1st round pick or a second round gem he would not of been given 6 million annually as we paid in advance on draft pedigree and potential than actual performance. His face offs have always been a detriment and he’s rarely been in a position to be a game changer as a 1st overall would suggest. If there’s a team desperate for an efficient second line C or is fooled into thinking he can anchor a first line if it weren’t for being overshadowed and pays a hefty price, the new GM would be absolutely foolish not to explore it. Much to the demise of many loyal fans…championships are never built on loyalty.

        • Torgerson

          No one is saying he’s a first-line centre but he’s grown into a very good two-way NHL forward. The problem with the idea of trading him is that after the Oilers trade him they would just have to start looking for a replacement because they’re not dealing from a position of strength. They just do not have the depth of talent they need at forward. They may want to trade a young D-man like Benning or Bear because there they have the depth.

          • TKB2677

            Your statement can be true but it all depends on what you think you would need to replace if you trade Nuge. As much as I love seeing McDavid and Leon together, I think the Oilers best line up has those 2 separated centering their own lines. You have decent players with each and then you have 2 elite players driving their lines. So then a team can’t just focus on 1 line like they did this year. The McDavid/Leon line would score a couple goals a game which for any line, is pretty darn good, then the rest including Nuge would score nothing. So the Oilers would lose. The only time they would win is the when McDavid/Leon scored 3 or 4 goals as a line. Needless to say that is hard to do which is why they missed the playoffs again. So moving forward, I think that they need to split those guys up.

            So for a Nuge trade. If McDavid is your #1 center and Leon is your #2 center and Nuge himself says he prefers to be center that means Nuge is your 3rd line center. So if you are trading Nuge who on your team is your 3rd line center, then you can absolutely replace him.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Why would we trade Nurse? Isnt he now playing for team Canada? People need to stop looking at other guys and realize we have some really good talent here right now. We need a few changes, but trading a young, skilled and tough Dman wouid be outright idiotic!

    • camdog

      Nurse is the new Russell. I’m a guy that would have made things work for Petry/Schultz/Oesterle so I’m not one to answer your question. Rather than trading Nurse I’d be looking for the “right” d-man to play with him, you know a Jeff Petry type…

  • Hemmercules

    Anyone is tradeable for the right price. I like Nuge but you have to look at every option. If the trade is a win win then do it.

    That said. The Oilers have some good players and need to look at ways to add to that rather than lose more NHL caliber talent.

    Nuge needs to employ a face-off coach of some kind if he hasn’t already. Getting to be a dominate face-off man would be an even greater asset.

    • Odanada

      The only way we win a trade is if Pickles gets this hire right.
      If the OBC is involved in a RNH trade, we won’t win. Remember Manning? That was all Chia?
      With his track record at that point, why would Chia be allowed to make an unapproved trade?

    • The Whispererer

      Context is everything. If the Columbus GM had a bout of senility and offered you Anderson plus Jenner for RNH plus JP you should be asking where to sign.

  • ifiwasgm

    I couldn’t care less about Loyalty, I just don’t want to see short sighted moves, or trades because of impatience, and not allowing proper development.
    I also don’t want to see ANY buyouts, find ways to save $$ thru trades or just wait it out. Otherwise its just more longterm cap hell.
    Edm gave up to early and did not allow proper development on to many players already.
    Impatience will continue to kill them.

  • Oilers4477

    I love how everybody keeps saying McDavid and Drai can’t play together and that he has “drive his own line”. That’s stupid and irrelevant. Nobody would be complaining if we had proper top 6 wingers to play with nuge. Drai should be playing with McDavid and it should stay like that the season he put up isn’t because of McDavid cause clearly nobody else can do what he did Drai is an elite player and he helps McDavid it isn’t all him. Find real top 6 wingers leave McDavid and Drai together end of story stop saying it’s all McDavid for drais success cause that’s not true

  • The Swarm

    5 years ago the league was all about “heaviness”, now it’s about speed because you can’t hit what you can’t catch. In an ideal situation your “speed” will also have reasonable size (look how ineffective Gaudreau’s speed was versus Mckinnon’s speed). Kassian fits the mold. Keep him and others like him.

    • Randaman

      I think the point is that Nuge, Nurse, Klefbom, etc. are not untouchable. Everybody wants to keep Nuge and Nurse. Good luck with that because that’s all we got unless you want to give away all our picks. Can’t have it both ways

  • ed from edmonton

    Apparently it was stated on Stauffer’s show today that the decision on the GM has been made but they can’t announce for a couple of weeks. Does this allign with the Holland rumor?

  • Foximus

    This summer will be fascinating for the Oil. Everyone is freaking out and they probably should be. Until they hire a GM everything else means nothing. They NEED to get this GM hire right more than anything else in the organization. This is a borderline playoff team now and could easily make the playoffs next year. LD was an absolute beast the last time they made it. As we have seen this year all a team needs to do is make the playoffs and then everything changes. I wouldn’t blow up this team but if the new GM did they better win all the deals they make. Fascinating stuff.

  • madjam

    We hired a GM outside the OBC and it proved to be a 4 year disaster as it turned out . Maybe we might be just as well to stay with someone close to OBC ? Perhaps Gretzky might be as good as any , and he knows the players , management , etc. already . He has had the reins on himself ever since being an adequate assistant GM . Give him some slack and see what he might do / accomplish . If it looks bad before season starts they can always find another.

  • What the

    What is predictable is that there will be a large percentage of season ticket holders that do not renew.

    What is less predictable is if the people on the waiting list will really open their wallets to the tune of $10k, $20k or $40k a year when the phone rings.

  • Alberta Ice

    I’d like to say congratulations to ex-Oiler Patty Maroon for scoring the game winner last night against Dallas and managing to make the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row with the Oilers, Devils, and now Blues.

  • RJ

    If I was trading anyone of the Chiarelli core, it would definitely be Klefbom.

    Many bloggers at ON have an undeserved love affair with Klefbom.

    The Oilers have Nurse, Sekera and Jones who could play LHD, with a guy like Gravel who could play a depth role,
    while another team’s fan base can swoon over Klefbom only to see him sprain a pinky and miss 50 games next season. Me. Glass isn’t going to make it through a full season, so move him before everyone figures that out.

    • TKB2677

      The Oilers lack skating, puck moving and offense from their defense. I am not sure how you get better in that area if you trade a 25 yr old, good skating, decent puck moving who brings offense dman in Klefbom. Then expect a going to be 33 yr old, who was slow to begin with and has had 2 major, major leg injuries to be a replacement in Sekera. Sounds like a move that Chia would be all over.


    I don’t care who it is as long as he doesn’t trade our good players for a handful of beans…
    That being said he should and hopefully will be able to dump some players for something. Russel is a useful player and some team will want him. Possibly package with a pick for a player (Forward)?
    Manning is a bottom pair /7th for a weaker d lineup that has puck movers looking to add grit. A late pick would be enough to clear his money.
    That’s around 7 million with those 2 players gone.
    Sign Gravel (budget deal)for bottom pair on Left side or #7, I also believe One of Bear or Jones, Lagesson will make the team also.

    Hopefully we leave Bouchard in the Ahl to work on skating and his defensive play. Plus they will have Samsmorov, Mcleod, Kirill joining the roster, pushing some of the vets up on forward and D.

  • the reasonable person

    Nuge should be traded for basically can’t miss young scoring wingers (whether young NHLers or top prospects) or high draft picks if an appropriate deal can be done. Ideally you get 2 of those assets and also a later pick. It there are no takers, keep him.
    A good general manager in the cap era would agree with me. Trash away.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    A new GM was replacing an outgoing GM. The outgoing GM met with the incoming GM for an exit interview. During the discussion, the departing GM stated he had placed 3 very important letters in his drawer just as his predecessor had done for him. He explained the new GM would find opening the letters in order useful when a serious problem occurred. He also said the letters left for him really helped him over his tenure as GM.

    Months passed before a major slum happened. The new GM remembered the letters numbered 1, 2, and 3. The new GM opened letter #1 and the letter said “blame it on your predecessor.” The new GM did as the letter stated and amazingly he was able to avert serious problems and keep his job.

    A month passed before another big losing streak happened. Things were starting to get ugly at the rink. There were even calls for the GM to step down. In desperation, the GM opened the drawer and pulled out letter #2. With great fear he, opened it carefully to read the word “make some trades.” He followed the instructions and just as before he was saved. The whole organization quieted down.

    By the end of the season, it was clear the team wasn’t making the playoffs this news was much worse than the earlier bad news. But the GM knew how to get out of the mess because he had a third letter left to open. With a smile he reached for the letter #3 and opened it. It said: “write 3 letters.”