Oilers Need Audit, Then McCrimmon as GM

Make no mistake, the Edmonton Oilers will inquire about the availability of Kelly McCrimmon as their next general manager.

There is no report that the Oilers have already reached out to the Vegas Golden Knights, nor has there been confirmation that should the Oilers reach out, the Golden Knights would stand in the way or let McCrimmon go, but Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson would be silly not to ask and current Golden Knights GM, George McPhee would be silly to confirm.

McCrimmon checks a number of boxes for the Oilers organization that can’t be overlooked. All the while, he also brings forward complications that hamper the ability of the team to conduct present-day business.

Checked Box #1: The Oilers Can’t Be Trusted

Part of the reason that an active search for a new GM today is so imperative, is that the brain trust behind the current decision-making in Edmonton has proven to consistently get it wrong. Traces of this go all the way back to April 2015, but one need look no further than the last month’s contract decisions and trades to have enough ammunition to suggest Nicholson is correct when he says there’s something in the water Edmonton doesn’t have right.

One example of this took place just a few days ago. Despite a report by Mark Spector that former GM Peter Chiarelli negotiated the new contract extension for goaltender Mikko Koskinen — with only Chiarelli and Koskinen’s agent, but no other management personnel involved in those talks — such a report doesn’t accurately describe how a transaction like that gets done in today’s NHL landscape. In fact, it would be nieve to think Koskinen’s extension was a one-man initiative.

Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers Cam Talbot is pulled and Mikko Koskinen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Chiarelli may have been the voice on the phone when that deal was finalized or discussed terms and agreed to them, but he worked with his pro scouts, Keith Gretzky, and potentially Nicholson himself to put the pieces of that deal together. It was decided, as a group, that Cam Talbot was not the man moving forward and Koskinen was. Right or wrong, that decision is on more than just Chiarelli.

This also would have been the case with trades like the one that saw Drake Caggiula leave for Brandon Manning or Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner. Chiarelli may have pulled the trigger, but he spoke with his scouts, his management team and others before doing so. Any other option means either Chiarelli didn’t use his team, overruled everyone who knew better, or worse, these scouts and other management agreed with these horrendous decisions.

Kelly McCrimmon is not connected to this brain trust in any way and that’s extremely important in a new GM moving forward.

Related: NHL Rumors: Datsyuk, Leafs Search for Defense, Oilers, More

Check Box #2: McCrimmon Has Built a Team From Scratch

Unlike most assistant GM’s, McCrimmon was extremely hands-on when working with GM George McPhee in Vegas to build the Golden Knights team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. While the Oilers aren’t an expansion franchise, they are a team that appears to need total reconstruction (not unlike an expansion team).

Realistically, Edmonton should focus on keeping only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and (arguably), Darnell Nurse. Everyone else is fair game. In Vegas, McCrimmon was responsible for scouting half of the teams in the NHL and reporting his findings to McPhee. The two of them then worked side by side to choose their draft list. With that in mind, McCrimmon is way ahead of the curve over most GM’s who might lack “actual GM experience”.

For this reason, speculation he is being heavily considered for the GM role in Seattle makes a ton of sense. McCrimmon is a guy, who while never a GM in the NHL before, has been there and done that and he brings potentially more experience acting as a GM than any non-GM in the league’s history.

Related: THW Podcast – Ep 8: The Oilers, Sharks, Senators and More w/ THW Guests

Complication #1: There’s No Way Vegas Says Yes

McCrimmon would be an incredibly useful tool for the Oilers today. That said, Vegas would never agree to it.

In the hunt as a Stanley Cup contender and having done a great deal of scouting for the Golden Knights leading into the draft and postseason, what McCrimmon has in his brain from the tireless work he’s likely put in over the past couple months is invaluable to Vegas. The Golden Knights would be crazy to let him walk out the door with that information and take it to a division rival.

George McPhee - Golden Knights
General Manager George McPhee of the Las Vegas Golden Knights attends the NHL Combine at HarborCenter on June 3, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

McPhee was asked in previous interviews if he would stand in the way of McCrimmon being hired by a team like Seattle, and while he said no, he also wasn’t saying no at a time like this. When asked, his team wasn’t mere weeks away from the trade deadline or months away from the NHL Draft.

Complication #2: The Oilers Need to Conduct Their Internal Audit

In the end, while McCrimmon may choose to be the best candidate for the role of new Oilers GM, Nicholson needs to do his due diligence and not rush into a decision. This is true even if the team is 99.9% sure McCrimmon is their guy.

If Nicholson’s not asking names like Steve Yzerman or, at the very least, interviewing others like Bill Guerin or Mark Hunter, he’s not doing his job. There’s no harm in hearing what every candidate has to say, what their plan would be for the Oilers moving forward if hired and getting an outside opinion about what might be poisoning the water. Failing to do so speaks to the same type of mismanagement the Oilers have been conducting for years.

This is not a decision Edmonton can afford to get incorrect. Do your audit first and unless you hear something that absolutely changes your mind, hire McCrimmon after.

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