Odds Keith Gretzky Retains GM Job with Oilers

Here’s what we know…

The Edmonton Oilers are planning to do a thorough search and another audit of their coaching, management, and front-office as they maneuver through a disastrous 2018-19 season; while forging a plan moving into next season. That means taking their time to see if there is a perfect fit for the organization in terms of a new general manager.

Here’s what we also know…

The Edmonton Oilers tend to do a lot of the same things they’ve always done. Worse yet, when a change takes place, they tend only to go halfway.

Repeating Oilers Management History

The Oilers have had numerous coaches and a few GM’s in the past few years. Relative to the rest of the NHL, perhaps more than any other team. Yet, despite all that change, many of the same faces remained.

Peter Chiarelli
Peter Chiarelli did not make decisions alone (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

When “The Old Boys’ Club” was seemingly removed and Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli came in, names like Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Scott Howsen, Bob Green; among others, never really left. Those traces of the past Oilers’ regime played a major role in moves like the trade that saw Griffin Reinart come to Edmonton or names like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle leave. Anyone that suggests only Chiarelli had input on these decisions is fooling themselves.

It was said that an audit was done at that time, but was it really? Even Nicholson himself said he rushed to hire Chiarelli because he was available.

Related: Are the Oilers Buyers or Sellers?

Oilers Management Future

Realizing his past mistake, Nicholson has now come out and suggested the Oilers will look outside the organization for a new GM. This time, he’ll take the proper precautions to ensure he gets the right candidate.

That said, knowing the Oilers history and in trying to define what it means to “look outside”, are fans being too quick to overlook and exclude one man who is already there?

While the last name has everything to do with Edmonton, Keith Gretzky was not considered a member of the “Old Boys’ Club” when he entered the picture. He was a Chiarelli guy, but a guy who also had a pretty good record for drafting and scouting. Two questions everyone should be asking are, ‘do the Oilers consider Gretzky a fresh face, voice, and perspective?’ and ‘Is what he’s done with the prospect pool in Bakersfield enough to warrant him consideration for the job?’

We’re about to find out.

Related: THW Podcast – Ep 10: Matthews News & One-on-One w/ Guest Lowetide

Gretzky Has an Open Window

One of the easiest ways to determine whether or not Gretzky has a shot at this job is to watch closely what gets done over the next two weeks in Edmonton. When a trade is completed or a move is made, who talks? Which one of the many faces — Nicholson, MacTavish or Gretzky — actually address the media? If Gretzky, that might tell fans something.

Is Craig MacTavish running things in Edmonton or is Keith Gretzky? (James Guillory-USPRESSWIRE)

I spoke with Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) of TSN 1260 on our recent episode of The Hockey Writers Podcast and he said something interesting:

“Bob Nicholson said he wanted to go outside the organization and do a thorough search but also said the talent procurement was going well. That’s Keith Gretzky’s wheelhouse… It’s a funny thing that happens. Even though Nicholson has an idea to do a thorough search, he may come back and say Keith Gretzky has made a couple minor moves, the team’s gone on a four-game winning streak, it’s just human nature; you start to go, well maybe this problem isn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe we can get there from here.”

If this happens, how long before Nicholson changes his mind? After all, the NHL Draft, free agency, and other important dates are going to be approaching this Oilers team and someone has to make the calls required to navigate the organization through such muddy waters.

There is a ton of speculation that Mac-T is actually pulling the strings in Edmonton. If he’s not and if Gretzky has the power to make trade decisions and salary cap dumps, that might be a sign he’s got an open window to impress Nicholson and earn himself a full-time job as the new GM.