31 Takes: Nicholson’s recent press tour might be worse than Melnyk’s

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At what point do Oilers fans just abandon all hope?

The past several days saw team president Bob Nicholson do a number of local media appearances amid assurances that this time, we swear, the GM search — and presumably the ensuing coach search — will be done right. The number of candidates who will interview for the job numbers will be in the double digits and hey if you talk to that many smart hockey people, you almost can’t screw it up!

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Unless, of course, the person conducting those interviews has done little to inspire confidence that anything at all is going to change with the whole approach. After all, Nicholson’s various appearances have included, but certainly not been limited to, assertions to season ticket holders that admitted-on-all-sides underperformance from Toby Rieder is the reason this horrible team isn’t in the playoff race right this second.

If Rieder, basically the dictionary definition of a middle-six forward, had scored even 10 or 12 goals this year, Nicholson said with what I assume was a totally straight face, the intimation is that no one would have lost their jobs this year, and we’d be counting down the days until Connor McDavid got to play in another playoff game before a first-round exit and maybe the MVP award he probably should have won last year.

Nicholson apologized for saying what he did, but the problem isn’t the saying it, it’s the thinking it in the first place.

This is obviously not to defend Chiarelli, but if the guy who pulled the trigger on his firing is now basically saying this group was a dozen goals from being a playoff team (it wasn’t), that speaks poorly enough for the decision-making process from the top down, in and of itself.

That he’s saying it publicly and shredding a guy who probably doesn’t need to be told he’s had a crap season on a one-year RFA deal is another issue. No free agent in his right mind would come to this team to begin with, right? McDavid Effect aside, just getting yourself marooned in Edmonton, with that management, that supporting cast, that media, that weather, that impending sense of doom? You probably couldn’t pay the vast majority of vaguely valuable free agents to commit to that, and for good reason.

On top of that, if Rieder is being held up as the scapegoat here, while everyone locally trips over themselves to defend the Lucic and Russell and Larsson deals to this day? How do you not feel like you’re just the next guy to get shivved when whoever Nicholson picks to replace Keith Gretzky — and hell, it might just be Keith Gretzky at the end of all this — inevitably screws up. Because you’d think an apt description of the ideal candidate is something along the lines of “someone who agrees with how Nicholson sees the team’s problems” rather than “someone who is going to tell Nicholson he’s screwed up everything from Day 1.”

But he has, and the fact that he’s also going to the Edmonton media this week saying, “What we really miss is Matt Hendricks” doesn’t inspire much hope that he’s figured that out. Because I honestly don’t understand how you get paid several times the average fan’s annual salary to watch this team for 82 games and say it’s a mid-level Toby Rieder performance and a 37-year-old with 115 career points away from being competitive.

It was pointed out the other day that the Oilers have one season with 42-plus wins in the last three decades. The Florida Panthers have twice as many since 2015-16.

How anyone could ever feel like Nicholson and his hand-picked GM, who will hand-pick the next coach, is gonna be able to pull out of that skid is beyond me. Beyond firing literally everyone with any decision-making power for the organization, there’s little chance anything changes before McDavid exits his prime.

That’s four or five years away, and the clock is ticking awfully loud.

C’mon, Bob. (Getty)
C’mon, Bob. (Getty)

31 Takes

Anaheim Ducks: Asking whether Ryan Kesler was done in the NHL would be worthwhile if he didn’t have THREE years left on his deal that pays him a shade under $6.9 million AAV.

Arizona Coyotes: You wonder if the Coyotes’ 16 shorties this season is in any way something they can replicate next year. I’m not sure I buy it.

Boston Bruins: Like the Chara deal. He’s having another good season. Amazing he can do it at his age and size.

Buffalo Sabres: So that’s eight straight years without a playoff appearance, but hey, they’re getting closer.

Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano might clear 80 points this season as a 35-year-old defenseman. Only other guys to do it are Ray Bourque and Nick Lidstrom. Not bad company.

Carolina Hurricanes: Nice to win again but also the Wild made it real easy for ‘em.

Chicago: I know they’re technically still alive but the Saturday loss felt like just about it for these guys.

Colorado Avalanche: On the other hand, I’m starting to think the Avs really are gonna make the playoffs. Which is good. They deserve it.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Okay we’re saying this is the players’ fault? Is that right?

Dallas Stars: The good news is the Stars can’t lose eight straight in March again, but I guess they could technically lose eight of nine.

Detroit Red Wings: Man, come on.

Edmonton Oilers: Well this take is interesting mainly because the Oilers themselves are a cellar dweller.

Florida Panthers: Well, it’s something.

Los Angeles Kings: Yeesh. What year is it?

Minnesota Wild: They’re only a point out but this Wild team feels extremely done.

Montreal Canadiens: Apparently the bad news for the Canadiens is that the Blue Jackets seem just as determined to not-make the playoffs so they don’t get wiped off the map by Tampa.

Nashville Predators: That game Saturday, uhh, didn’t portend good things for the playoffs.

New Jersey Devils: Ah, hoo boy.

New York Islanders: *me saying “hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm” until the sun explodes*

New York Rangers: Yeah hey that one-year tank went great, gotta load up again.

Ottawa Senators: Too bad about this new president of hockey ops position. It doesn’t seem like Peter Chiarelli is looking for a job anymore.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yes. Next question.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin is skating again. Getting him back might be helpful.

San Jose Sharks: Well I guess it’s a good thing they’re not playing Anaheim in the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues: This is literally unbelievable to me.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Now they only have six games to tie the wins record, which they’re four behind. They’d need to run the table to tie the points record.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Starting to look like Bruins/Lightning in the second round again, eh?

Vancouver Canucks: “””””Playoff hopes.”””””

Vegas Golden Knights: To me? Yikes.

Washington Capitals: You can tell all the Caps going to the White House are really proud of their decision because they refuse to do it in public.

Winnipeg Jets: Nice way to lock up that playoff appearance? Blow out your biggest division rival at home.

Gold Star Award

Alexandar Georgiev stopped 44 of 45 against the Leafs because of course he did.

Minus of the Weekend

Colton Sissons was on the ice for all five Winnipeg goals, which would be good except he was on the other team.

Play of the Weekend

No shortage of highlight-reel goals on Saturday night, with Kyle Connor and Artturi Lehkonnen getting real nice ones in blowout wins. But I think I gotta go with Jared McCann’s shortie to win it 3-2 for the Pens:


Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “jonlin” seems like a Sabres fan.

Buffalo gets:

  • Nazem Kadri 4,5M

  • Kasperi Kapanen RFA

  • Nikita Zaitsev 4,5M

Toronto gets:

  • Rasmus Ristolainen 5,4M

  • 5th 2019


Why don’t you freeze it with ice and hit it with a hammer? Works when I get bubbly-gum in the ol’ push broom.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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