One of the quintessential hockey podcasts, 32 Thoughts, is no stranger to hosting important Edmonton Oilers for interviews. While these normally surround current players, noteworthy interviews in their own right, they can sometimes provide us with insights higher up in the organisation. Such was the case this week as 32 Thoughts released an interview with new Oilers CEO of Hockey Operations, Jeff Jackson.
From the interview we can get a glimpse of where Jackson came from, what he is looking to add to the program, as well as the mission statement for the Oilers going forward.
On McDavid and mission statement
The biggest item on the agenda is about the future of Oilers captain Connor McDavid beyond his current contract. 32 Thoughts analyst Elliott Friedman asked bluntly if Jackson’s hiring means a guarantee that McDavid will re-sign with the team—outside of winning a Stanley Cup this is the top priority for the Oilers.
After coyly downplaying the line of thinking, Jackson underscored his responsibility to keep the Oilers strong enough to convince both McDavid and fellow superstar Leon Draisaitl that their best interests are to stay in Edmonton. While Jackson’s relationship with McDavid certainly helps the Oilers cause, the onus will still be on Jackson to keep improving the Oilers strength as an organisation.
Jackson stated that he wants the Oilers to have their Cup window open for the next 10 seasons, perhaps unsurprisingly as this would be the two seasons that McDavid is still under contract and the eight more he would be under contract with maximum term on his next deal. Although this will require a lot of shrewd decisions along the way, it is within the realm of possibility, and is a worthwhile goal to set.
On building answers and how
We’ve already seen some tangible growth in the Jackson era, as the Oilers hired Michael Parkatti to their analytics department and Rick Pracey to lead the scouting department. These hires are a good start to Jackson’s putting his mark on the franchise, but just a beginning. Jackson stated that his goal to build out the Oilers Sports Science staff as one of the next areas he will tackle.
Curiously, Jackson also mentioned some of the ways that McDavid continues to look for ways to improve, including Pilates and ELDOA stretching to prevent injury. Rest and recovery will be huge factors in the Sports Science department, and Jackson’s experience with McDavid, who suffered a knee injury at the end of the 2018–19 season, might offer some insights into this realm as well.
Jackson was keen to mention the importance of drafting and developing talent as well, referencing how his time as an agent might have given him some insights on ways the Oilers might improve here. With clients around the league, Jackson got a look behind the scenes at how all 32 NHL teams operated, and is looking to replicate their strengths and approaches where beneficial.
The biggest area of note that Jackson emphasized was starting individualised development plans for prospects as soon as they are drafted, as opposed to waiting until they reach the AHL to start having a more hands on approach. While historically these prospects would be left to their current teams for any such coaching, it is a tangible and constructive idea for the Oilers to be more involved here.
Jackson was always keen to mention the relationship he has with Dave Gagner, father of Sam Gagner, who is a coach well known for his work in developing younger players, having even spent time as the Director of Player Development for the Vancouver Canucks in recent years. Needless to say that Jackson has knowledge about the workings of player development beyond Gagner’s expertise, which he will be looking to leverage in the Oilers favour.
While the Oilers will likely be trading both picks and prospects over the next 10 seasons of their proposed window, improvements to drafting and developing will still be crucial pieces of the puzzle. Whether players are more likely to contribute to the Oilers roster, or traded for more immediate quantities, maintaining some quality and quantity of futures is key to extracting value in the present.
If nothing else, the Jackson era seems to contrast the Bob Nicholson era in modernising the Oilers overall operations. During the decade of darkness, Nicholson’s time was often plagued by criticism of the Oilers being an old boys club, an insular group stuck in the glory days of yesteryear. While perhaps not destined to be on the cutting edge, Jackson’s knowledge of how the rest of the league is operating should allow him to implement these new measures with success, as he will be able to fashion the Oilers expanded resources in ways that have been proven successful.