The Edmonton Oilers held a season ticket seat holder breakfast event on Monday morning. By most of the accounts **, the event was appreciated. It also didn’t sway many from their decision not to renew their season seats for next year.
With a number of fans looking at three percent increases on the prices of their seats from last season but the Edmonton Oilers a team that will now have to pretty much run the table in their last ten games to make the postseason, there is a strong appetite not to invest hard-earned fan dollars into this team and reward the organization for poor decisions, terrible trades and a failure to produce results.
What got said by management at the breakfast, namely CEO and vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, Bob Nicholson, didn’t help matters much either.
** Thanks to Paul Almeida for his summary of the event.
Top-2 Defenseman a Top Priority
When asked about the plan for adding to the team for next season and what type of player/asset the organization will focus on, there were a few responses. One of the bigger ones was that the team would target a top-two defenseman.
This plan makes sense considering the Oilers don’t have one outside of Oscar Klefbom. The problem was, in this type of environment, such a suggestion is going out to an audience of fans who watched as the franchise tried to solve the top-two defenseman issue by trading one of the most talented wingers in the NHL (Taylor Hall) and picked up struggling Adam Larsson.
One of the seat holders to quipped “that’s what trading Taylor Hall should have got us” when Nicholson advised fans of the plan. It was a natural reaction, to say the least, and one thought by many of the people in the room but simply not said out loud.
With fans now knowing the team is thinking they didn’t solve their blue line issue and need to again, what exactly can this team do to grab that player they need? Will they search free agency and shoot for the moon with someone like Erik Karlsson? Good luck. Will they make another trade? If so, say goodbye to a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Oilers Are Looking for “Character” Players
Bob Nicholson also hinted that the team would focus on adding to the positive “culture” and “character” of the team with their player acquisitions this offseason. He admitted that when the team traded Matt Hendricks, the Oilers underestimated how big an impact that would make on the locker room.
Again, not a bad idea in theory.
But, the problem here is that the Oilers history suggests they aren’t terribly good at looking for two qualities at the same time. Not only do the Oilers need to add better character players (guys like Sam Gagner helped a little) but they need better players too. This team simply isn’t good enough.
If you had to ask most season seat holders what their preference would be — even if you asked guys in the Oilers dressing room — logic would indicate choosing talent over choir boys (a good descriptor given by Almeida) every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
If the Oilers focus on adding leadership and character over actual talent, expect another season of the team feeling good about their progress and finding reasons to stay upbeat but not playing hockey in April, May, and June.
GM Interviews Haven’t Even Begun Yet
When asked about the vacant GM position, Bob Nicholson stated that the GM search in regards to interviews has not begun. He admitted that teams who employ managers the Oilers would like to speak with are hesitant to give the permission needed to speak further on the job opening.
This is not surprising but the idea that the Oilers haven’t interviewed anyone and will head into the draft without a GM is unfortunate. It’s no wonder the team came out the other day and publicly endorsed their faith in Keith Gretzky to run the show at the NHL Draft. They have no choice.
Gretzky will likely do a fine job. He’s probably the brains behind the most recent draft selections of the team anyways. That said, any new GM will have to take the job knowing they had no say or hand in who was drafted just days before they took the reigns of the team. While that may not bother every candidate, it might bother others.
It also lends to the notion of concern the Oilers may panic and make a quick hire. They’ve done so before.
Nicholson Probably Should Have Pleaded the Fifth
Just to hammer home the uncertainty that engrossed the room, Nicholson also admitted that previous GM’s weren’t interviewed, simply hired with few to no questions asked. He also admitted the team rarely uses analytics in their research when making decisions.
If you were at the season seat breakfast and weren’t sure about renewing your seats, you may have walked away from Monday’s get-together and thought to yourself, some things are simply better left unsaid.
At least you probably enjoyed a good meal. The Oilers tend not to cheap out on that kind of thing.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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