One thing that following the Oilers has done to me is change my overall perception of general managers and the value I place on them.
It’s obvious that they have a significant role in the game, overseeing roster construction, contracts and the draft. But unless the organization itself is set-up properly and has instilled a shared set of goals and values, with strong support from ownership, the general manager’s true abilities and their input are completely useless. And on the flip-side, if an organization is well structured, then you don’t need your typical hockey executive to fill the general manager’s chair – you could even get by with a non-hockey person with perhaps a background in finance or risk-management to give your front office a different element.
That’s a big reason why the Oilers current general manager search has very little appeal to me. The names that have been reported on and speculated about all seem fine, but it’s all but guaranteed the Oilers will go with a safe, conservative option – mainly because we know how this franchise operates under the current owner. In an era where professional teams need to be proactive, and progressive, and develop innovative methods to take calculated risks, going with a safe option just isn’t good enough.
Unless the team goes with a proper re-organization and constructs a front office that relies on solid, well thought-out business practices, a new general manager isn’t going to make any difference for the Oilers. Knowing which individuals are in the running for the Oilers general manager position, it’s likely going to be another four to five-year term where there’ll be some highs and lows for the franchise and maybe a playoff run if they’re lucky. But in terms of building a long-term, sustainable championship contender, the Oilers won’t be any closer.
The one thing I hope the Oilers do following the hiring of a general manager is to get a completely outside perspective of their organization as a whole, and receive some advice on how best to restructure the organization. Multi-million dollar organizations do this all the time to stay competitive in their industries, so it’s nothing ground-breaking. Ideally, this sort of consultation process would have started long ago and would have helped inform the role of the general manager and who best to hire. Because the Oilers demonstrated their usual complacency, and the fact that the franchise is heading into a critical time of their off-season, they’ll be taking yet another reactive approach.