The search for the Edmonton Oilers new general manager feels like it’s been a long process, even though it really hasn’t been. While fans have known a new face will run the show in 2019-20 and there’s been a concern Bob Nicholson finds the right person since the day Peter Chiarelli was given his walking papers (even longer than that, actually) the Oilers have really only started talking to serious candidates over the past few weeks.
Why? Well, most of the coveted names Edmonton might have an interest in haven’t been available for conversation. Either tied up in the U-18 Tournament or working with another NHL team in the postseason, Nicholson and the Oilers have said this is a decision the organization has to get right. Thus, they’ve taken their time and waited until anyone that might be a good fit could be interviewed.
Over the last few days, the process of finding their man has been sped up dramatically.
The Oilers Original Candidates
As much as the Oilers will suggest there’s no rush to get something done, there is. Wanting to have a new GM in place by the NHL Entry Draft, this person needs to come in, make decisions on player/personnel and build a management and coaching team around him. Part of that process will be evaluating and overhauling what is and isn’t working. That takes time.
In other words, the new GM has a hefty job waiting for him on his desk before he ever gets keys to his office.
When the process to find a person who could do that job began, the list of people the Oilers and Nicholson were looking to talk to was long and extensive. On it was rumored to be the following names (in no particular order):
- Pat Verbeek
- Mark Hunter
- Keith Gretzky
- Dave Nonis
- Mike Futa
- Kelly McCrimmon
- Bill Guerin
- Sean Burke
- Ken Holland
- Doug Armstrong
- Ross Mahoney
Because the task at hand is of such importance, even before Edmonton could speak to some of the above names, candidates started coming off the board. Speculation was that Ken Holland had taken his name out of the running after Steve Yzerman went back to Detroit, Pat Verbeek was thought to be sticking in Tampa for one more season and guys like Dave Nonis and Sean Burke were long shots at best. Even Keith Gretzky, while the Interim GM and someone who has done an admirable job in his short stint, is seen as unlikely at this point to permanently get the big-boy chair.
Some of these names were rumored to be more comfortable where they were, others deemed not ready for the task at hand and some might be the right choice, but they have other options.
Oilers Getting Close: Narrowed Down to Three
Just the other day, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman appeared on 630 CHED and Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer and reported that Edmonton has narrowed its list of candidates down to three names.
Two obvious candidates in Mark Hunter and current Vegas assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon lead the way and a third candidate is unknown. Some are speculating Holland isn’t actually out of the mix while Gretzky still has a shot. Bill Geurin might be a dark horse that few people are expecting gets the gig and there’s a small cluster of people rooting for a name like Verbeek because of his association with Tampa.
Count me among the people that would be surprised if it weren’t McCrimmon or Hunter being announced as the new GM but call me even more surprised if it doesn’t happen in next couple days.
Season Ticket Holders Are Waiting
What’s with the sudden rush in Edmonton to get this done?
In about a week’s time, the Oilers season ticket holder and super-box renewals come due. With growing concern in Edmonton that a mass number of current season-ticket holders are on the verge of bailing on their seats, Edmonton needs to throw the angry mob a bone.
Naming a new GM that would get the fan base excited could go a long way and with the right announcement at the right time with the right words said at a press conference introducing the new man in charge, the Oilers could make (or in this case, save) themselves a lot of money.
All fans are important but season-seat holders and corporate buys keep the team profitable.
Without having been hired, the new GM already has a number of jobs to do. First, this team and its management are waiting to be restructured. Second, name recognition alone has to convince paying and committed fans to stay committed. Third, the rest of the fan base has the be comfortable the second whoever is hired opens their mouth to address Oilers Nation.
Moreover, just by still being on the list Oilers fans are judging the organization. And, the person who hasn’t even been hired yet is already working. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during the interviews to see if the candidates have already noticed as much and brought it up.
If they have, that might be a good sign they understand what they’re about to sign up for.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”