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Exactly What Makes Keith Gretzky The Most Qualified Candidate To Become The Next Oilers GM?

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Many candidates, but the focus seems to be awfully high on the interim candidate who’s already here. Why?

2017 NHL Draft - Round One
Everybody hold their horses
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s been a little more than seven weeks since the Edmonton Oilers let go of Peter Chiarelli midway through a loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The Oilers would pick up their 27th loss of the season (their 24th in regulation). Stacked up against 23 total wins at that point, it was way past Peter Chiarelli’s shelf life.

The guy to watch the mess in the interim? Keith Gretzky. That doesn’t seem to be too bad a thing. Figure that he’s got two months and change at the GM’s helm, don’t steer the team into a fiery wreck at the trade deadline, and then the team can conduct an exhaustive search for a GM that will try to pick up the pieces for what seems like the 47th time over the last thirteen years.

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite gone that way since late January. Mind you, Keith Gretzky did not lead the team into a fiery wreck at the trade deadline (that’s good), but the exhaustive search seems to be a lot less exhausting than I would have expected to hear.

I see Keith Gretzky’s name coming up quite a bit, and I’m...well, not really sure as to why I keep seeing his name come up so much. I’m especially concerned because the season isn’t even over yet. Remember when the exhaustive search was supposed to begin? Call in a few folks, have an interview, grab lunch. Do that like twelve more times. Talk to a lot of people. Conduct an exhaustive search. The term “Exhaustive” should mean that you do so much work in finding a new GM that you have nearly ran out of capable candidates. Then, maybe prune that tree a little. Conduct a few more interviews. You get the idea.

Hiring Keith Gretzky before the season is up is the actual antithesis to an exhaustive search.

Even moreso, he hasn’t really done anything to warrant serious consideration for the job.

What’s he done since becoming interim GM?

As of March 12th, the team has gone 8-7-4 under Keith Gretzky’s helm.

He’s made a couple of trades, one that absolutely had to be made in order to become cap compliant. The first deal he made sent Cam Talbot to the Philadelphia Flyers for goaltender Anthony Stolarz. The Oilers acquired Stolarz to free up cap space in order to activate Andrej Sekera, who had been on LTIR up until that moment. The market probably wasn’t too hot for Talbot, who has had a season he’d like to forget. Acquiring a goaltender that’s going to become a Group six UFA doesn’t seem like too good a deal, but that’s where the deal lies.

The other deal? Moving Ryan Spooner to Vancouver for Sam Gagner. The money was even on this one, but I still like the deal for Gagner. He’s picked up five points in twelve games since being reacquired by the team, which is more than Ryan Spooner could say for himself while he was here.

And? That’s it. The Oilers are hanging by a thread in the Western Conference playoff race (they need to win 9 games in their last 12 in order to have a ghost of a chance at getting in), but that’s all I can say for Keith Gretzky at this point. We haven’t had a really big body of work to judge the guy by, and that’s also one of the reasons why I don’t believe he deserves such a strong consideration. He’s probably a better choice than say, Dave Nonis,

But by how much exactly?

Is Keith Gretzky the best choice that’s available? I don’t believe so. And if he is, it had better be after the absolute most thorough vetting process ever. So far, that hasn’t happened yet.

The next hire must be after an exhaustive search. Figure out who can lead this team into the 2019-20 season with challenging roster issues, no cap space, and some wild ideas about how to make it all work with the world’s greatest player while on a strict budget. I’m not sure that I’m ready to hand the keys to the Buick off to a guy who’s been running the show for a couple of months. The stakes are just too high.

The next selection for GM absolutely cannot be anything less than a home run. If it isn’t, I can’t imagine what things will look like in two years.