Friedman on Oilers’ GM search

Who are the leading contenders to become the next general manager of the Edmonton Oilers?

The latest edition of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek was recorded Thursday and released Friday.

At one point, the week’s general managers meetings were noted and the Oilers were introduced.

“Bob Nicholson was there,” noted Friedman. “Keith Gretzky as the interim GM did not represent Edmonton. Bob Nicholson did, and everytime you looked, Bob Nicholson was talking to somebody else. He was picking people’s brains. I think he’s got a long, long list of people he’s going to want to interview. And not even the obvious ones.”

Marek asked Friedman about his ideas for potential candidates.

“The big ones are going to be McCrimmon,” began Friedman. “Mark Hunter. I’ve heard differing opinions on whether or not Ron Hextall will want to jump back in at this time, but I think if he is interested he’ll be interviewed for sure. I think those are probably the three names at the top.

“Some of the other names I’ve heard - Sean Burke led Hockey Canada, bronze medal at the Olympics, and has done some Spengler Cup. Bob Nicholson has got a long Hockey Canada history. I wouldn’t be surprised if they talk to him.”

“Hey, pause on that for one second,” interrupted Marek. “What would the reaction be in Edmonton if they go to ‘another Hockey Canada guy.’ One of the criticisms has always been, ‘You’re too much in the bubble.’ This is not to cast aspersions on Sean Burke or any of those candidates…”

“One of the things I heard is that the work that Keith Gretzky did up to and including the trade deadline, they were really impressed by the way he handled things,” said Friedman. “And I’ve heard they’ve got feedback from a couple of teams that said they were really impressed by the way that Keith Gretzky handled things.

“I think that he will be interviewed and it wouldn’t surprise me if, for example, they said, ‘Okay, what if our setup is Keith Gretzky stays the GM, but we bring in somebody over top of him with more experience to kind of…’

“Like say, for example, Steve Yzerman is in Detroit next year. What if it’s Ken Holland. What if Ken Holland is the VP of the Edmonton Oilers, and one of the things they talk about is you work with Keith Gretzky and you train him to be your eventual successor. I could see that being a potential plan.”

“Because the feeling out there is if you’re going to unravel this Gordian knot that exists in Edmonton, it better be someone who has done this before,” said Marek.

“I do believe that one of the things that Edmonton is going to look at,” continued Friedman. “Let’s say, for argument’s sake, Keith Gretzky is the next GM - they will be bringing in some people who have different experiences. I do think that is going to be part of this whole thing.

“But one of the things I know that Bob Nicholson was told was even if people are going to criticize you - if you really believe it’s the right thing, that’s what you have to do.

“And I agree with that. You should never, ever, ever make decisions based on popular opinion. You should do it based on what you think is the right thing. And I think that’s what they’re going to try to do.

“I think there’s going to be a long list of people. I think you’re going to hear a lot of names that maybe you didn’t expect because they’re going to interview a lot of people and they’re going to try to get a lot of different opinions.”