With training camp underway, the NHL season is approaching quickly, bringing with it excitement and intrigue around the season ahead. For their part, the Edmonton Oilers have made several changes over the course of the offseason, only some of which came on the ice.
With this in mind we polled our readers: which offseason move was best for the Oilers?
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire
The best move was hiring Jackson
The runaway winner of our poll is new CEO of Hockey Operations, Jeff Jackson. As essentially the highest hockey related executive, Jackson fills about as big of a role as possible, which certainly impacts the large majority of votes.
Another large percentage of these votes surely come from the fact that Jackson is replacing Bob Nicholson whose legacy has come under some question given the rampant systematic abuses surrounding Hockey Canada. While it should be acknowledged that change was needed above Nicholson in rank, many felt uncomfortable with his continued employ. With the stench of the decade of darkness lingering as well, there were many across Oil Country who were hoping for change in this role.
Famously, Jackson was Connor McDavid’s agent prior to earning the job. Rightly or wrongly, there is certainly an angle here that is pandering to this relationship, as Jackson has been in service to McDavid over the years, presumably building a relationship of trust. Outside of winning the Stanley Cup, the primary objective of the Oilers is re-signing McDavid at the end of his current deal. With speculation surrounding the future of current GM Ken Holland beyond this season, it is important to maintain to McDavid that the Oilers will continue to be a true contender, that there is a clear vision.
Moreover, we are seeing an increasing number of player agents stepping into management roles, including Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes. Agents do have relationships with managers across the league, as well as a number of transferable contacts and knowledge to be effective in other roles.
Likely tipping the scales further into Jackson’s favour is that the hiring of Michael Parkatti can be read as an early move of significance to the Jackson era. In general, it’s clear that Oil Country is quite pleased with Jackson’s being hired, denoting a confidence that the Oilers are headed in the right direction.
Pracey to still prove himself
With only a small fraction of the vote, not too many are excited about Pracey signing to be the new Director of Amateur Scouting. While Pracey has had his fair share of hits and misses, as any scout would, this low percentage of votes might also be contextualised by the expectations around the Oilers.
As a true contender the Oilers and their fans are far less focused on their drafting than rebuilding or retooling teams are. With picks likely to be traded over the course of this season, as well as the foreseeable future, the volume of draft capital will amplify this relative indifference.
Perhaps compounding the low voting percentage here is that former Director of Amateur Scouting Tyler Wright seemed to be doing his best work under such circumstances in recent years. The Oilers currently have a number of interesting prospects who were picked outside the top rounds, a clear indication of this recent strong work. Still, after a long tenure in the role for Ken Holland, joining the Oilers with the GM in 2019 after holding the same position with the Detroit Red Wings for the six seasons prior, some Oilers fans will surely be looking forward to a change here, perhaps even harbouring grievances from years past. This will not help to quell any speculation of Holland moving on from his role as GM at the end of the season as his contract expires.
Still, the Oilers will have a new voice and a new vision in the application of their scouting department. Perhaps we will be able to observe how the team values players, or draft capital, in the future.
Parkatti making a good first impression
The most recent front office hiring is that of new Senior Director of Data and Analytics, Parkatti. Having worked as an analyst in both the public and private sectors, Parkatti is quite accomplished in the analytics field. He boasts experience in the hockey analytics space specifically, working as a contributor at Oilers blog Cooper and Blue, his own blog boysonthebus.com, as well as winning the Oilers analytics competition, Hackathon 2.0, in 2013.
Finishing second in our poll, a great deal of respect is also given to the fact that the Oilers are choosing to invest in this area in the first place. The number of NHL teams without significant analytics departments is dwindling. Across all sports the same can be said as well, even as far to suggest that hockey specific analytics are still behind many of the other sports. These facts combine to tell us that this is a good first step, and that we should expect to see more resources poured into this venture in the future.
A quick look over some of Parkatti’s blog posts might help inform us of some applications that his work might have. Parkatti has pieces on lineup deployment, goalies, signing contracts, and drafting prospects, which should be just some of the areas in which he is able to inform the Oilers into better decisions. It is quite unlikely that Parkatti will have final say on all matters, just the same we should hope that the Oilers, from management to coaches, are open to and implement information from Parkatti.
In any case, it’s very difficult to imagine any real downside to this hiring. Even beyond numbers, Parkatti going from fan to management is something of an inspiring story, and his being a lifelong fan and student of the game ensures his commitment to excellence in his new role.
PTOs not making a huge impact
As a perennial contender returning much of a fairly salary cap strained roster, the Oilers did not have much room to work with this offseason. As such, there was little that could be done to add to this group, as much of the movement during the offseason was focused on getting rid of contracts as opposed to signing new ones.
It’s not surprising then, to see that this did not receive much of the popular vote. While Brandon Sutter might be an off the board reclamation project that works out quite well, his impact on the team is limited. Even the biggest signing of the offseason, Connor Brown, who might well play on Connor McDavid’s wing, doesn’t seem to have inspired great hope.