Oilers GM Search Underway


The Edmonton Oilers finally pulled the plug on President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli just prior to the NHL’s annual All-Star game. Last night, the Oilers got their first victory after the move, improving to 1-1-2 in four games since the firing.

Somehow, Edmonton is just two points behind St. Louis for the final Wild Card spot out west, and now just four points behind Minnesota for the top Wild Card position. As bad as this team has been, they are still alive for a playoff berth.

The Oilers have been very quiet in regards to their GM search, in fact it is my belief that the search has not truly kicked off just yet. While the team has been hard at work putting together their list of candidates and people they want to talk with, they haven’t truly begun the process of getting people in for interviews.

That process will start in the next few days, if it didn’t already in the last 48 hours.

What The Oilers Are Looking For:

The Oilers desperately need talent on their roster. They need more skill and more speed if they want to compete for the Stanley Cup moving forward. In order to find that, the Oilers are likely looking for a strong talent evaluator.

I don’t think the Oil have too big of an interest in taking a risk like they did when they hired Dallas Eakins as head coach back in 2013. While they are not opposed to hiring a first time GM, if they do that person is going to have a lengthy track record in the sport. Someone like Mark Hunter or Kelly McCrimmon.

The reason I mention those two? It’s my belief that they are Edmonton’s top choices. More on that in a few moments.

Overall, Edmonton is looking for a veteran executive that can evaluate talent and change the direction of this club. The ‘big and tough’ mantra did not work, as the league went in a different direction. The directive will be speed and skill now, and the person put in charge will need to share that vision.

Buzzwords like character and leadership are still very important to the Oilers too, so don’t discount that in this process. I think we will see that more reflected in the off-season moves, but if Edmonton hires a hockey Czar that values those things do not be surprised.

The Candidates:

Kelly McCrimmon: In a lot of ways, McCrimmon is the anti-Chiarelli. He’s a Western Canadian and spent a lot of time in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Now, for most organizations those are irrelevant points but for the Oilers they are important. Maybe that’s why they are in this position to begin with.

On a more important note, McCrimmon is well respected in the hockey world and got in on the ground floor with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s the right-hand man for GM George McPhee and has played a major role in Vegas’ rise to the top of the Western Conference. It’s a matter of time until McCrimmon takes over as a GM, and if Edmonton doesn’t act then the expansion club in Seattle likely will.

It is my belief that McCrimmon is Edmonton’s top choice heading into this process, and as a result should be treated as the favorite to land the gig. That said, don’t expect Vegas to give permission to interview him until after the season.

Mark Hunter: Many were stunned when Hunter did not take over as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer. As a result, with Kyle Dubas getting the promotion, Hunter stepped away from the Leafs. He’s credited with some excellent work at the draft table for Toronto, helping them identify talents like Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Hunter was able to evaluate talent with the Leafs, and that will no doubt appeal to an Edmonton team in need of high-end talent like Marner and Nylander. Hunter is also, like McCrimmon, well respected in the hockey world and that will play to an Edmonton organization that cares about that. Hunter has paid his dues and has a good track record as a drafter. He helped build one of the best and most skilled teams in hockey, and I think that counts for something.

Bill Guerin: Here is the quota filling ex-Oiler on the list, but this one comes with a twist. See, Guerin is actually qualified to become a GM and has paid his dues in the Penguins’ organization. He has helped run their AHL club and has worked with GM Jim Rutherford quite closely the last few years at the NHL level.

Guerin has seen how an organization with franchise talents functions at a higher level, and I can’t help but think that those lessons will help him succeed in Edmonton. Guerin would have to deal with the ex-Oiler questions, but I like his resume and I think he is close to ready for a lead role in hockey operations. He’s not on the level of McCrimmon and Hunter in terms of interest from the Oilers, but they’ll reach out.

Ken Holland: Holland did an excellent job for a long time in Detroit, but it appears the game has passed him by. He’s got a bad hockey team that is brushing up against the cap for the third season in a row. Like Chiarelli, some time off might bode well for this veteran executive, and I don’t think he is at all a fit for Edmonton.

Why do I list him? He’s got strong Hockey Canada connections and very likely could be out of a job come July 1. I believe Steve Yzerman will end up running Detroit’s hockey operations and as a result Holland will be looking for work. Edmonton should pass, but if he is available they will be interested.

Mike Futa: Futa has been connected to many GM’ing jobs before, but has been reluctant to leave LA. With Rob Blake running the show and the club appearing close to a rebuild, Futa might be willing to jump ship right now.

Edmonton doesn’t need major surgery, but Futa still could put his mark on the squad and get things turned around quite quickly. There were rumblings, before Chiarelli was fired that Futa was a target for the Oilers. They’ll at least reach out to gauge interest on him.

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