JONES: Nicholson promises to make it right for Edmonton Oilers this time


Most of the anger and venom being directed at the Edmonton Oilers around the dismissal of Peter Chiarelli did not focus on the guy who hired him.

But the vice president and CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group, Bob Nicholson, does not shy away from that. He missed a chance to score in an empty net to start the Connor McDavid era and knows that this amounts to a crime against hockey.

I put it to Nicholson up: "How much do you have to use? And where did that go wrong?

There was no tap dance, disconcerting and changing guilt.

"There's no question," Nicholson said. "It was my decision to hire Peter Chiarelli with Todd McLellan and I had the lucky rabbit's foot to take Connor."

But now, with Chiarelli and McLellan out of the picture, you can not understand how important it is for Nicholson to do right this time – absolutely 100%, absolutely right.

He did not pick up a phone or even sent an email to set up an appointment with someone. This process for hiring a new general manager probably will not begin until the team is back in town after the break and all immediate problems are resolved before heading to Philadelphia and Montreal for weekend games.

"This is going to be a big hiring for the Oilers," Nicholson said. "I'd like to have that person in place tomorrow, but this time I'll be sure to turn in every stone and talk to a lot of people. I need to make sure that when we name that person, she'll be the right person for the long This is goal number one.

Nicholson, before he starts, wants to do his homework, take an objective and time-consuming look at the Oilers organization and make sure he has as much reasoning as necessary.

"Everyone is asking:" When? "This time I want to do a lot of research on who we are and what all our options will be," he said. "This time I want to be completely certain about what the characteristics of a general manager we need to have so I can stand up to the Oilers fans and tell them:" This is the person & # 39; and why that person is the best person to move forward. "

Days after tankers convened Connor McDavid, Chiarelli became available in Boston. So did McLellan of San Jose. They were hired almost the next day. It seemed to pretty much everyone in hockey as the Oilers could not ruin everything.

Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson on the left and new President and General Manager Peter Chiarelli are holding a Chilton Oilers shirt during a press conference in Edmonton on Friday, April 24, 2015. Jason Franson / CP

"My management style is getting the right people and giving them the responsibility to move on and get the job done," Nicholson said. "I gave it to Peter, he gave it to Todd. And we thought we were going.

"Two years ago we played the playoffs and went to Game 7 of the Pacific Division Final. We were rolling.
Nicholson paused for a moment.

"We've been a team of ups and downs since."

There has been a lot of writing and saying about what happened to put the Oilers back where they were in the Dark Ages and lose the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 years and put themselves in danger of extending to 12 of the last 13.

Chiarelli had attempted to turn the Oilers into a heavy hockey team in the image of the Bruins, so they could compete in the then-heavy Pacific Division. He was caught doing this at the exact moment when the entire NHL moved away from big-body hockey toward speed and skill.

So the things that resulted in Chiarelli being fired in Boston went into action. And spectacularly bad operations.

The purpose of this column is not to kick Chiarelli in the butt once more as you walk out the door. Forty days ago I was patting my back after Ken Hitchcock's hiring resulted in a turnaround of 9-2-2, his controversial $ 2.5 million goalkeeper Mikko Koskinen won seven straight at home and Alex Chiasson was running his total goals for 19.
A sports columnist may be wrong from time to time.

Nicholson knows he can not fool himself again.

Oilers players have a chance to hit the refresh button during the 10 day break, and the organization has a chance to restart Acting General Manager Keith Gretzky. Nicholson will not even start GM's search until the team goes back to the ice.
"We have to create a structure and it's not a person," Nicholson said, not identifying directions other than the general manager he may be looking at here.

"When it comes to the general manager, we need to get someone to believe in where we are going and ensure that someone can communicate with the coach in the area of ​​players, but also manage all components of the hockey operation."

At some point, he will decide whether it will be a person or two – chief hockey operations manager and general manager.

The quote from Nicholson's press conference turned viral: "There's something on the water here in Edmonton that we're not right about. We have to figure this out. And the way to find out is that you talk to people. I will try to open more doors in every aspect of this organization to find out the little things that have not been corrected in the last few years so we will not be in the playoffs. "

To some extent, this has to happen next. Then the search begins.

Bob Nicholson, CEO and Vice President of Oilers Entertainment Group, talks about the dismissal of Edmonton Oilers from general manager Peter Chiarelli at Rogers Place in Edmonton on January 23, 2019. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

"We're not doing a rebuild. We're doing a construction," he says.

"There are good parts in place, really good parts.

"We are three points at one point in the playoff.

"Our whole situation fits with our players and our coaches to change that immediately. We will try to ensure that everyone has these tools to do this and we will continue to evaluate in the short term to take a long-term approach.

"I already know we have many good parts. I'm not going to play the really good parts. We have to look at the other parts to improve this.

For me, in addition to the obvious expertise and experience in hockey, there is a real demand that the new GM recognize the passion of hockey fans here and not be afraid of it.

I consistently wrote that Chiarelli operated as if he were in the witness protection program and became more invisible in Edmonton every day. He avoided interacting with the fan base directly and through the media.

There was also the feeling that he did not really hug Edmonton and did not show up to make many friends here.
Nicholson suggested that there was a lack of communication in various directions, both external and internal.

"I really want to have open communication," he explained. "I absolutely want all lines of communication to be open with this organization. I want to make sure this is done in the locker room so that players feel comfortable talking to the team. It's part of making sure that all of you are going in the same direction. "

It gives him the definite impression that he would like to have a master who is not afraid to talk about hockey with fans through the media.

Like Montreal, this is not an easy place to be a general manager.

When Chiarelli was fired in Boston, it was news. But it was shortly after the opening day of the Red Sox and Boston columnists, mostly, ignore hockey anyway. It certainly did not involve 13 pages, plus the cover of the newspaper and the cover of the sports section, as was the case with the Edmonton Sun; or the entire poster on the front page of the Edmonton newspaper featuring photos of all the general managers and coaches of the past 13 seasons.

Virtually all captive hockey writers have spent the last few days playing names of potential new masters including Kelly McCrimmon, Mark Hunter, Ron Hextall, Dean Lombardi, Bill Zeto, Sean Burke and several others still employed.

You have to wonder how many of these people would take the opportunity to do what Chiarelli did not do – find the support cast to go with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and some of the other professionals in the place as well talent development is clearly on the way.

Brandon Wheat Kings Owner, General Manager and Chief Trainer Kelly McCrimmon leads a team training at the Clareview Recreation Center in Edmonton on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. David Bloom / Postmedia

This is the bait hook.

But how many may want to run in the other direction because of the unfortunate situation Chiarelli left here with salary cap and fat contracts that can not be transferred?

Nicholson says he is not worried about the caliber and the number of candidates who want the job.
"To be fair, this is one of the best jobs in the National Hockey League. We have a passion within this fan base that is unbelievable, "he said.

"The fan base is upset now. My job is to find the general manager for this to happen to the fans. "

E-mail: [email protected]

No Twitter: @ByTerryJones


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