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Searching For a General Manager

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Press Conference Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

As I’m sure you’re well aware, the Oilers have not been playing hockey at an NHL level this season. Oscar Klefbom is struggling, Leon Draisaitl isn’t quite playing to his $8.5M price-tag, and Cam Talbot doesn’t look like a starting goalie. As you can expect, fans are livid.

Although it’s safe to say shooting from the point doesn’t work, the PK and Powerplay are costing us wins, and the coach isn’t getting enough from his players — losing 5-0 repeatedly is evidence, the moves over the summer are getting the most attention. The Jordan Eberle trade was a disaster and indefensible from day one, the Taylor Hall trade was god awful — although could be (badly) justified, and somehow, the Griffin Reinhart trade was even worse than that. When disaster trades (and signings) like those coincide with a losing season, the coach and players can do just about anything they want and avoid all criticism. Managing a team the way Peter Chiarelli has just isn’t good enough. I personally find it ridiculous that there are individuals blaming the GM for an under-preforming team and using 5-0 disgraceful efforts to confirm their preconceived notions, but at the same time, it’s not like Chiarelli didn’t make the roster worse last summer. He did.

As is the case when all of these disasters happen all at once, fans are calling for a new GM. Peter Chiarelli has lost the faith of the faithful. There has been some speculation that the Paul Coffey hiring wasn’t Chiarelli’s call, and he’s already being phased out. I personally don’t think that’s the case, but if it is, and we want to play the hypothetical game for a moment, what kind of GM should be his replacement?

You’d certainly want some criteria. Maybe:

  • Experience
  • Track record of success
  • No Track record of disaster trades
  • Not a former Oiler. This is probably the biggest.

Whatever the qualifications may be, I feel quite comfortable saying that you won’t be impressed with the hiring. People with those qualifications are currently employed by other NHL teams, and experienced available GMs are available for a reason. If names like Jay Feaster, Mike GIllis and Don Maloney don’t get you excited — and they really shouldn’t — we’re left crossing out the “experienced” qualification. When we do that, we have a hefty list out there, but all are relatively unknown commodities.

I still remain convinced that if the team gets better pro-scouts, fires Bill Scott, and replaces Duane Sutter, a lot of the Chiarelli mis-steps go away moving forward, but that’s irrelevant now. Let’s go through a list of some of the available people to take the helm of the organization.

Let’s Get the Obvious three out of the way:

Mike Gillis:

I’ll give him credit for being the first NHL executive to utilize analytics while building his team, but the arrogance and the terrible track record speaks for itself. It’s a hard pass. As an aside, he gave David Frost his first job in pro-hockey, can’t be rewarding that.

Jay Feaster:

  • Drafted better than you remember, even that Mark Jankowski pick ended up looking 0k in hindsight.
  • Repeatedly got hosed on trades
  • The biggest has to be the Ryan O’Reilly fiasco. The Flames signed Ryan O’Reilly to an offer sheet. The problem is, he played in the KHL prior to the NHL season starting. This means that he would have had to clear waivers for any team other than the Avalanche signing him, and would still cost the Flames their offer sheet compensation. The Flames are extremely lucky the Avalanche matched that, it could have haunted them for years. On another not, the O’Reilly offer was structured 3.5M on the first year and 6.5M on the second year making his qualifying offer 6.5M. Keep that in mind when you suggest that Draisaitl should have got a bridge deal.

Don Maloney:

  • Meh trades. Nothing big, nothing won, nothing lost. Not by a sizable amount anyway.
  • Hard to grade his signings due to the fact he was operating a bankrupt team that isn’t desirable
  • Really, he wasn’t all that bad. He wasn’t all that good, either.

Tim Murray:

  • Traded for Ryan O’Reilly
  • Started the Sabres rebuild
  • Was an AGM to his brother Bryan Murray for the Ottawa Senators

If that rebuild had been complete by now, or if Nikita Zadorov didn’t end up being as good as he is, he’d have a much stronger case right now. I like him just because he didn’t drag out his draft announcements. No thanksing the fans, the ost team, congratulating the Cup winners, etc. He’d just come up, draft his player and clear the path for the next GM. It’s better that way.

For the record, two of the above GMs have won the GM of the Year award, confirming the stupidity of that particular recognition.

Now lets move on to some other potential GMs who have never held the title before.

Kyle Dubas:

  • Current AGM of the Maple Leafs managing their AHL team the Toronto Marlie
  • Is an analytics superstar according to people covering his hiring
  • Was heir apparent to Luo Lamoriello in Toronto before Mark Hunter became AGM as well. Now it’s up in the air.
  • The Colorado Avalanche seem to have dibs on him once his contract expires judging by last summer. Time will tell.
  • If I knocked GIllis for his David Frost connection, I’ll be fair and do the same to Dubas for hiring Sheldon Keefe in Sault Ste. Marie.

Meghan Chayka:

  • Founded Stathletes with her brother — Current Coyotes GM John Chayka. It’s a company that analyzes player and team data to weed out lazy narratives when it comes to talent evaluation. From how I understand it, it’s a consulting firm that specializes in player development and pro-scouting. You know, Chiarelli even just hiring this company for a quick look would probably be an overdue idea.
  • Degree in Finance
  • Is more qualified to run a professional sports team than every former player currently doing so. I will not stop harping on this until an NHL team hires her. Then again, I can imagine operating her own company might be more rewarding than running an NHL team.

Keith Gretzky:

  • Despite his name, he is not a former Oiler or part of the hated Old Boys Club
  • Did very well as director of amateur scouting for the Boston Bruins
  • Already knows the organization and can hopefully see the same flaws everyone else can. Makes for a very easy transition.

There are plenty more options of the amateur variety, but I don’t have much of any information on them so going through the endless list won’t really provide anything useful. When the Sabres hired Jason Botterill from the Pittsburgh Penguins to be GM, a lot of talking heads were all talking about what a great hiring it was. I had no idea who he was and I most certainly had no idea what evidence I was supposed to evaluate. What was his role in Pittsburgh? What moves can be specifically attributed to him? I have no idea. There are no shortage of AGMs like he was, all available for a promotion to Oilers GM, right now. Any and all of them would be in play for the next Oilers GM, although probably not until after the draft.

Edit 1: Paul Fenton

  • Current AGM of Nashville who takes care of their AHL team.

Edit 2: Julien BriseBois

  • Current AGM of Tampa bay

*I didn’t include these two originally but have been informed that I should have. I agree.

Just for fun I started looking at another GM. This one:

That’s pretty bad. Those are the kind of moves Chiarelli makes, but worse. I don’t know how a GM can do things like that and keep his job. Further, this GM doesn’t even receive criticism for these ridiculous move. It’s Stan Bowman by the way. If your team wins 3 Stanley Cups, you can make any ridiculous move you want and not have anyone question it.

In short, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be happy with the next GM. None of them are going to have all the criteria you’ll want, the unknowns have nothing publicly available to evaluate, and the real crux, the people who want Chiarelli gone at all costs, are the very same as those who don’t trust OEG to hire the right GM in the first place. The Oilers aren’t going to win the cup every year, even Chicago doing it as often as they did was extremely unlikely, but that’s where the bar is now set. I can already picture the next hiring being met with extremely negative reaction directed at OEG due to either a bad track record or no experience. Just make sure you have realistic expectations when it comes to the next hiring, if a next hiring is even going to happen, and ideally, judge a GM off of a little bit more than number of wins. Most people agree that it’s a dumb way to evaluate goaltenders, why is GMing any different?

Again, I’m not defending the stupid things Chia has done, he’s done a lot, but I’m also not expecting anyone else to be any different, or really, any better. For now, Keith Gretzky is my favorite to take the reigns — a conclusion I didn’t expect. How about you? Anyone you think I missed?