A number of Oilers fans were unimpressed with the announcement that the organization had hired former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson.
I think it’s fair to say that’s because they didn’t see it as a hockey decision. After all Bob Nicholson will not shoot a puck, recruit a player, or (at least not directly) fire a coach.
It’s nothing against Nicholson. They’re just tired of losing, and don’t see the dotted-line between this move and a change of fortunes. It’s not that top pairing defenceman everyone seems to agree the Oilers need.
Were you living in Edmonton in 1998? That was the year that Peter Pocklington very nearly shipped this franchise out of town. The depressing fire-sale of glory-years players, the debacle that became the Oilers farm system, and
the unfocused leadership of the investors group (god bless you, but…) that followed? They all played a part in where this franchise sits today. Also, don’t forget, on the same raft that so much of this franchise’s glory floated away upon was one Glen Sather, leaving behind a very loyal, smart, but inexperienced General Manager in Kevin Lowe to mop up that mess. His heart was in the right place. But, arguably, he was not ready.
Fast-forward to today. Love or hate Daryl Katz, fact is Mr. Katz has delivered stable ownership, the bank account to make this franchise viable again, and an arena that by all accounts, should be the envy of many once complete.
But that is just bricks & mortar, really. The team has also (finally) stopped the head coaching carousel, brought in a General Manager in Craig MacTavish who did not skip any steps on his way up the ladder, and recently hired Craig Ramsay as (potentially) one of the best Assistant Coaches in the NHL.
What we’re watching, if you step back far enough so as to see it with the proper perspective, is a vital re-populating of the brain trust of this organization. I see countless articles on the relative non-success of the Oilers at the draft. Sorry, that’s not on the head scout. Those are organizational mistakes.
A good organization, a potentially winning organization put strong, sharp people in those positions. Once there, people like Nicholson both drive the franchise forward with good ideas, and have the guts to question bad moves before they ultimately come back to bite you.
Yes, Kevin Lowe is higher on the hockey ladder than Bob Nicholson. But look at the shared history of the two men, through Hockey Canada. Do you really think for a moment that Kevin Lowe won’t pick Nicholson’s hockey brain for all it’s worth?
The diversification of Mr. Katz’s business is also a very good thing for the product on the ice. This goes back to my initial point. A house is only as stable as the foundation that it is built upon.
I know you’d like the house to be prettier, and to go up faster. Me, too. But it makes way more sense to build it this way.