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Keith Gretzky Named the Oilers Assistant General Manager. Scott Howson Moves On.

Keith Gretzky, brother of Wayne, will be joining the Oilers as the team's new assistant general manager. Scott Howson is now looking for a new job.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Spending as much time on the internet as I do, and seeing as many stupid rumours as I do, I tend to be skeptical of any rumour not coming from the Elliotte Friedmans and Bob McKenzies of the world; ten times bitten, eleven times shy, or something like that. That’s not to say that others in the NHL world don’t break news but before I get too excited/upset, if the rumour isn’t coming from that very small group of "insiders," I run it through a very quick evaluation process: is the person local and do they have a history of breaking news. If the answer to either is no, I try to take a deep breath and wait for confirmation.

Which brings me to Guy Flaming’s tweet from yesterday about Keith Gretzky joining the Oilers as an assistant general manager. Guy’s local and does some excellent prospect work (if you don’t listen to The Pipeline Showyou’re missing out) but he doesn’t have much of a history when it comes to breaking NHL news; something he actually pointed out in his very next tweet. Gretzky does have a history with Chiarelli though, so even if this rumour doesn’t meet my criteria outlined above, given the incestuous nature of NHL front office hiring, I tend to think that there is something to this.

Gretzky joined the Coyotes organization as a scout in 2001. Five years later he was named the Coyotes’ head scout, a position that he held until 2011 when he was let go. He wasn’t unemployed for long though, finding work as a scout with the Bruins – who also employed Peter Chiarelli as the team’s GM – that same summer. Before the start of the 2013 season Gretzky was promoted to director of amateur scouting, a job which, according to the Bruins website at least, he still has.

Gretzky’s promotion came shortly after the Bruins traded Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. Given the timing of the two moves, and that the Bruins got three prospects in the deal, it seems likely that Gretzky had at least some say in the deal, and thanks to the internet we have a snapshot of what that input was (starting at the 30 second mark). A couple sentences don’t tell us much of anything about the man, but I cringe every time I watch that video. I can’t help myself, it’s old school hockey thinking at its absolute worst, and in my opinion not something that the Oilers need more of. The best thing I can say for Gretzky is that he’s the least wrong person in the room, so at least there’s that.

To get a real feel for Gretzky’s work it’s probably best to look at the draft records of the teams that he’s worked for. Having been the Bruins top scout for the last three drafts it’s probably a little early to dig too deep there, but the Coyotes record is much more clear, and not very reassuring. In fact, it’s very reminiscent of the Oilers recent history: good at the top of the first round, not so good everywhere else. How much of that success, or lack or, is the result of Gretzky’s work is an unknown but from where I sit it’s hard to get excited about his history.

Ultimately though, the Oilers bringing in Gretzky to be the team’s assistant general manager isn’t a move that I’ll get either upset or excited about because I just don’t know enough about the job he was doing for his past employers. There are certainly some question marks about his past work, but if his joining the team means that one of Scott Howson or Craig MacTavish is on the way out (my guess would be Howson), then the net result is probably positive for the Oilers. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully. After all, this is the Oilers we’re talking about, worse is always possible.


It's official.