Oilers shakeup Hockey Ops; hire Keith Gretzky, part with Howson, Dellow

In the dog days of the offseason, the Edmonton Oilers decided to give their Hockey Operations department a good shake to get out all the cobwebs (minus Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe).

The first announcement was the hiring of a Gretzky as Assistant General Manager. Not THAT Gretzky; it’s Wayne’s younger brother, Keith.

As showcased by the picture above, Keith Gretzky is being reunited with his former boss in Boston, now-Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli. While working for Chiarelli with the Bruins, Gretzky served as a scout for two years before taking the post as the Director of Amateur Scouting for the next three. His biggest draft success for the Bruins thus far has been David Pastrnak.

Gretzky replaces “Lucky Bill Scott” as AGM. MacTavish bestowed the moniker upon Scott as he sent the man to win the Connor McDavid draft lottery for the Oil. He did just that, but appears his luck has run out, more or less. According to TSN, after two years as AGM, Scott is being moved to the positions of Director of Salary Cap Management and Assistant to the President of Hockey Operations (a position held by Chiarelli).

Kelly Buchberger was promoted to Vice President of Player Development. An 18-year NHL veteran, including 13 seasons with the Oilers, Buchberger served six seasons as the Manager of Player Personnel with the club until his promotion.

Also moving up the ranks within the organization is Duane Sutter. Since April 2011, Sutter served as a pro-scout for the team. He is now the Vice President of Player Personnel.

It appears as if he’ll have a new boss, though. Per the Oilers press release, senior vice president of player personnel Scott Howson has “moved on to explore new opportunities.” Howson was in his second stint with the Oilers front office.

The other shake up come in the way of research and analytics.

Justin Mahe served a few seasons as Administrative Assistant, Player Development for the Oilers before taking over the title of Coordinator, Video & Analysis this past year. He is now the Manager of Hockey Analysis. (Not sure what else he would analyze…?)

As Mark Spector first reported in June, Tyler Dellow’s contract as an Analytics Consultant was not being renewed by the team. The press release today made it official.

Dellow was plucked out of the blogosphere by Edmonton in August 2014. He was one of the leading advocates at the time for adding analytics into hockey. He was one of the more colorful personalities as well, as Wysh wrote at the time of his hiring:

Tyler Dellow is loathed by some in hockey, and not just because he toppled Colin Campbell under the weight of his own nepotism. He’s been called out by the likes of Steve Simmons and Marc Spector over the years; now, he’ll be employed by a team they cover, one that valued his knowledge and analysis more than that of any scribe or television bloviator.

The possession time of Dellow’s middle finger to the establishment would be among the leaders in Fenwick Flip-Off.

OK, saying he was hired by “the Oilers” might be a stretch. No one is sure how Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe really feel about analytics. But Coach Dallas Eakins is a dedicated follower, and Dellow is expected to report directly to him. So is assistant GM Scott Howson, who no doubt lobbied within the organization for the move.

This is what it takes in the NHL for a team to embrace analytics: advocates in places of power.

Clearly Lowe and MacTavish haven’t gone anywhere. Dallas Eakins is now coaching in San Diego and Howson was set free. Current GM Chiarelli isn’t exactly anti-analytics.

From a June 2015 interview with 630 CHED’s Oilers Now (transcribed by Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal) Chiarelli said:

I’m a big believer in analytics, we’ll continue to have an analytics group in our mix. It’s going to be a pool that we’ll be able to use. You won’t hear much about it from us, but it’s something that we’ll continue to have… It’s not that we’re going to hoard all of our proprietary stuff, we appreciate our customers and our media partners, but a lot of this stuff we want to keep to ourselves, to have that information and process it and make the right decisions.

Dellow was probably locked in to a non-disclosure agreement by the Oilers, so the chances of him talking about the split are slim. We wouldn’t be totally surprised if Spector was the one to report on any details, though, given his and Dellow’s contentious relationship in the past.