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.

CONNOR AND LEON

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?
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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.
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.
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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.

CALLING THE SHOTS

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.
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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.
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HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS

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