While the firing of Peter Chiarelli may have been needed in Edmonton, the Oilers’ next hire will be critically important to winning back the trust of the marketplace.
Bob McKenzie had a Wednesday morning radio hit on Montreal’s TSN 690.
Following the opening discussion on Chiarelli, host Conor McKenna went at McKenzie from this angle:
“Now what if I were to tell you that I believe they need to do kind of what the Leafs did a couple of years ago, and find their Brendan Shanahan,” asserted McKenna. “That means Bob Nicholson, Kevin Lowe, Wayne Gretzky maybe even - all these guys, guys that used to play for the team, or guys that are part of what appears to be a sort of old boys’ or good hockey men type of network - they’ve got to get them out of there, Bob. They have to start being a team that looks forward and thinks about the future. What do you say to that idea?”
“What I would say to that is that’s what they thought they were doing when they hired Bob Nicholson,” replied McKenzie. “That’s precisely - this is Groundhog Day in Edmonton because that very feeling of, ‘We’ve got to hire somebody who’s going to oversee everything - the business, operate hockey - and point us in a new direction.’
“The hiring of Peter Chiarelli was entirely viewed at that time as a statement of what you just said, that Peter Chiarelli is not part of the old boy club, that Peter Chiarelli is going to be an own independent voice. And honestly, I think he was - certainly at the beginning, anyway.
“But in any case, my understanding of the situation is that Bob Nicholson is going to remain in the position that he’s in, and that he’ll be conducting the search for the next general manager, and that they’ll be looking for somebody who’ll come in and will want somebody who says they’re independent and ready to go to work.”
McKenna wasn’t really having it though.
“But what are the odds that they hire a retread here,” the morning show host wondered. “Nobody comes to mind off the top of my head right now, but one of the guys who has already been a general manager that is probably destined to be one again at some point soon.”
“Anything is possible,” allowed McKenzie. “It’s not an ideal time of the year to be hiring a general manager. There might be some clubs that say, ‘You know what? We don’t want you talking to our guy, our assistant, in the middle of the season.’
“Now, does it happen? Yeah, we just saw Chuck Fletcher go to Philadelphia, but that was a different situation. To your point, he was a former general manager. He was the kind of guy you would expect would get another crack at it somewhere down the line. And the job that he was going in New Jersey, it’s not like he was there for five years grooming to be a GM in the National Hockey League, and absolutely integral to everything the New Jersey Devils were doing.
“But if you look around the National Hockey League - Kelly McCrimmon, for example, is a name that’s going to get a lot of attention because a lot of people think he might be the front-runner for the Seattle job.
“But if you’re Vegas and you’re George McPhee or Bill Foley and you get a phone call from Edmonton or anybody else in the middle of the season and they say, ‘Hey, we’d like to talk to you guy and take him from you.’
“I know what I’d say: I’d say, ‘No. We’re trying to win a Stanley Cup here,’ and Kelly, for example, is a really important guy.
“And this, to varying degrees, has happened around the National Hockey League at times. Mike Futa in Los Angeles. There are those general managers that are newer, assistant general managers that work for organizations that are absolutely integral to what goes on in the organization.
“So if you’re the Oilers, or any team looking for a GM in the middle of a season, you might not have the deepest pool of talent available to you because some teams might just say, ‘No, not now.’
“But a lot of teams won’t hold their guys back. And then of course you’re right, maybe they’ll look at guys that have been general managers before, and that’s a different dynamic entirely.
“At this point I have no idea what Bob Nicholson and Daryl Katz’s plan will be. Do they look for a young guy who’s an assistant GM somewhere, or do they look at it and say, ‘Man, we better bring somebody in who’s got some experience here.’
“It cuts both ways. You could bring in a young guy and people would say, ‘Oh my god, you’re bringing in a young guy who’s never been a GM before, bringing him into a tire fire. How unfair is that.’ And then the flip side would be if you bring in somebody who has been a GM, who got fired in his last spot, now you’re shopping in the recycle bin and you’ll get criticized for that.
“So at the end of the day, you’ve just got to find somebody who you think is really good at the job and give them the power, the autonomy, and the resources to do it.”
McKenna then wondered about the possibility of bringing in Steve Yzerman, at any cost, in the Shanahan role.
“Yeah, see - the Yzerman thing, my take on this,” inserted McKenzie. “And again, I’m definitely not reporting this, so I’m not getting radioed on this. I said this on my podcast before. I’d be the most shocked guy in the world if Yzerman doesn’t end up with the Detroit Red Wings as soon as his contract is done with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and I believe it’s up on July 1.
“So I don’t have specific knowledge of that happening. Sometimes the most obvious thing in the world is the thing that will happen. I kind of feel that way as an opinion-based thing, that Yzerman is going to end up back in Detroit.
“And on top of everything, Yzerman left his job at arguably the best team in the National Hockey League, one of the best franchises in the National Hockey League, because he wanted to be closer to home, family considerations. With a team in Tampa, a farm team in Syracuse, a home in Detroit, an offseason home in Ontario, Muskoka - it was a little too much running around and splitting things with his family and what have you.
“So how would Edmonton ever fit into that equation - and it wouldn’t.”