The case for Keith Gretzky as next Edmonton Oilers GM

There are plenty of candidates to replace Ken Holland as the Oilers' next permanent general manager, but what about someone already in the organisation?
2018 NHL Draft - Round One
2018 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

With Ken Holland now out of the picture, the Edmonton Oilers are still considering their options as to who will be the next permanent general manager. However, what will give fans faith and hope in the team making an educated and detailed decision, is that they are not in a hurry per se, to find Holland's replacement.

Consider that during the Stanley Cup Final, CEO Jeff Jackson said the Oilers were not going to deal with the general manager situation until they were out of the playoffs. Speaking to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required), Jackson said they were operating day to day, essentially not feeling any pressure to resolve the situation even though both the draft and the beginning of free agency were looming large.

As it turns out, there was good reason for the Oilers to be so relaxed about the entire situation, as they already had a provisional plan in place. More specifically, that Jackson would act as general manager in the interim and lean on his staff.

Well, as we have since witnessed, the decision for Jackson to run the show turned out to be a rousing success. The way he managed to sign/re-sign players and actually improve the overall strength of the roster while navigating the Oilers' tight salary cap position, was a thing of beauty.

In fact we've already suggested -- among others to be fair -- that the 59-year-old should seriously consider taking over the general manager role on a full time basis. However, he's been quite clear that he has no interest in doing this, which is something we have to respect and just accept.

A prime candidate

As such, who will be the next general manager remains the question. In terms of who should take on the role next, you have to imagine that Keith Gretzky will be in the running.

Gretzky has been with the Oilers organisation since July 2016, when he was hired as assistant general manager. Since then, he's go on to prove there is plenty more to him than just being Wayne Gretzky's younger brother.

The 57-year-old has built up a wealth of general manager experience during his time in Edmonton. This includes filling in for the role on an interim basis back in 2019, when the Oilers fired Peter Chiarrelli after finally having enough of his repeated incompetence and were looking for his replacement.

Jackson's right-hand man

Gretzky continues to work as assistant general manager for the Oilers to this day, which means Jackson relied on him during the draft and the beginning of free agency. He's also general manager for the organisation's AHL affiliate the Bakersfield Condors, with them making the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.

Further helping the Brantford, Ontario native's case, is that he has lengthy experience at various levels of scouting prior to arriving in Edmonton. This includes working as the director of amateur scouting for both the then-Arizona Coyotes and the Boston Bruins.

One final factor which can work in Gretzky's favour, is that he used to play hockey himself, which helps with his understanding of and relatability to today's players. Selected in the third round of the 1985 NHL entry draft, he went on to play six seasons professionally, including in the AHL.

Breaking down the latest salary cap numbers for the Oilers. dark. Next. Breaking down the latest salary cap numbers for the Oilers

We appreciate there will be plenty of candidates clamouring for such a prestigious role, including Gretzky's fellow assistant general manager in Edmonton, Brad Holland. However, it seems fair to consider Gretzky as one of the prime people to take over the main general manager role, given all that he has accomplished during his years involved in the game.

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