While we sit and wait to find exactly out how and when the Edmonton Oilers and the NHL might get up and running again for another season, Bryn Griffiths and I took some time to chat this morning with TSN analyst Ray Ferraro, whose takes on hockey are as solid as anybody I know.
We covered a lot of ground with Ferraro, and you can find the entire conversation here if you like. Ferraro, married to Cammi Granato, who isn’t only one of the best female players to ever lace on the blades but has been hired as a scout by the Seattle Kraken, talked to us about the NHL being more inclusive and expanding its reach. That’s something he knows plenty about.
With the Oilers, we talked to Ferraro about the work GM Ken Holland has done this off-season, specifically in regard to doing business on a budget with the additions of Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris and Dominik Kahun. Following are some snippets from that chat while we wait for news from the NHL’s head office.
EXPANDING THE BASE
The Miami Marlins made headlines last week by hiring Kim Ng as their general manager. As a 50-something-year-old guy, Ferraro is old enough to remember the days of the old boys club when that kind of hire just wasn’t going to happen – in baseball, hockey or any other of the major sports. The times, at long last, are changing. It’s essential for the sustainability of all sports.
“The game’s target has to be inclusive,” Ferraro said. “And so, the game’s target is not for a bunch of 25-54-year-old white men. It’s for everybody that loves the sport and not everybody loves what we love. It has to grow, and it has to change, and it requires different thought and different creativity.
“I’m not letting anything out of the bag here, but my wife, Cammi, is scouting in Seattle. They have these Zoom calls because she’s not just involved in the scouting. There’s some other things going on – they’re building the platform out of nothing. I’ll walk by the screen and there’s men, women, black, white, brown. It’s the most inclusive thing you’ve seen. They’re young and they’re older. You know, like, these ideas are flying all over the place.
“That’s what the league has to embrace. That’s the way forward. Whatever we remember, that’s in our hearts and that’s our memory, but you can’t expect everybody else to love my memory. Everybody wants to engage the game however they want to engage it. It’s hard, but the league has to find a way to connect with each and every grouping of people, if that’s even the right term. Oh, these people like this and these people like that. How do we get them both to like the game? We have to find a way.”
“There was nobody questioning Kim Ng’s credentials,” Ferraro said. “Should this have been 10 or 15 years ago? Probably. The mindset has to change. We’re in interesting times. Things are changing. Opportunities are evolving that were never there. I read something, I don’t know if it was a year ago or two years ago, about all the managers being white men.
“If that’s your pool of candidates, you must be missing quality people that aren’t white men. How do you find them? Well, you have to go out and look, but you also have to mentor. You have to give opportunity. Kin Ng didn’t start out as an assistant general manager. Her road has been so long to get to where she is, now she’s in a decision-making position.
“Her decisions are going to be far more wide-scope than if it was somebody who was just a recycled general manager, somebody who had been around the game in a very narrow capacity for years and years and years. There will be other women who will manage other professional sports teams. Why wouldn’t there be? I hope Kim, who I’ve never met, does a great job.
“It’s not just about putting a person in a position because you think you should. You should put the person in that position because you think they will do a great job for you. We’ve seen lots of great players that have been general managers and coaches and they stink. Just because you’re a great player doesn’t mean you’re a great manager or a great coach, so why can’t someone that’s not played manage a team?
“The change is coming. People can bitch and complain if they want. The momentum is there. The change is coming. People are going to be given opportunities that they’ve earned but have never been given before. This can only be a good thing.”
TYSON, KYLE AND DOMINIK
“I watched Tyson Barrie 25 times last year,” said Ferraro, who takes his place at ice level between the benches. “I did 25 Leafs’ games. I was 10 feet from him most of the night. He was in the wrong role, in the wrong spot. He started terribly and he never got untracked. As a kid, Tyson is an 11 out of 10. He is a fantastic kid.
“When he is at his best, what you will see is not a defenceman who starts the break-out and follows the play up. He’s in the rush. That puck goes to the winger, Tyson will move it to the winger, and his legs carry him in the middle of the rush. Toronto, they didn’t want him to play like that. He was always behind the play. He never had the puck. His strength is with the puck.
“I’ve known Kyle Turris since he was 15 years old. The key to Kyle is his pace of game. It didn’t work in Nashville. He and (coach Peter) Laviolette weren’t just not on the same page, they were in a different book. (Dave) Tippett knows him. I think he can be behind the two big boys (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) a really effective player for them. It gives them a position holder that they didn’t have last year.
“Dominik Kahun, he’s good. He’s a good player. It didn’t cost them much. When you have so much money tied up in so few players, you’ve got to bargain shop. You have to hit with some of these guys. That’s what Ken hopes to do.”