Toby Rieder and Bob Nicholson

A weekly sports column from the 100 Mile Free Press

On March 21, Bob Nicholson, CEO of the Edmonton Oilers, pointed his finger at the underperforming bottom-six forward Tobias Rieder as the lone-reason for the franchise’s lacklustre season.

His comments read as such:

“Toby Rieder will not be signed by the Edmonton Oilers at the end of this year. Toby Rieder was a player that other teams wanted. He came here for one year because he wanted to play with Leon Draisaitl who he plays with on the German national team. He thought if he wasn’t playing with Leon he’d be playing with Connor [O’David], he’d score 15-16 goals, and instead of making two million he’d sign a four-year deal [extension] at three and a half million. Toby Rieder hasn’t scored a goal. Toby Rieder has missed so many breakaways. If Toby Rieder would have scored 10 or 12 goals we’d probably be in the playoffs.”

Rieder, in fairness, has been underperforming. He’s had a grand total of zero goals this season and 11 assists during the 61 games he has played for Edmonton. However, to claim the reason the Oilers will miss the playoffs because of one player not scoring 10 or so goals is, at best, ludicrous.

It also reflects badly on Nicholson to make such comments about a player currently still active on the roster, never mind the fact he publicly said the team was out of the playoffs while they are still fighting for a place (as of March 24, the Oilers are only six points removed from a wildcard position).

It’s not the first time a CEO of the team has publicly called out a player on the roster (Dallas Stars’ CEO Jim Lites sought out media to call out Jamie Benn and Tyler Sequin in an expletive-laden rant three months ago), but it’s the first time one has said they wouldn’t be on a team for the next season.

It should be mentioned that Nicholson has done some damage control, apologizing personally to Rieder, but it could have caused some problems in the future when Edmonton tries to recruit free agents in the future.

Ageing or middle-of-the-road producing players may take pause before accepting a contract, especially one-year ones, with the franchise when this comes to their mind.

It’s also interesting how these comments affect Rieder and his teammates for the rest of the season.

“You kind of can’t believe. I feel like it’s disappointing and I’m offended by it. I’m the first one to admit I haven’t had a good year… It went a little too far and Bob knows that,” said Rieder in a TSN interview, he also mentioned he talked to his teammates who agreed that Nicholson’s comments were not right.

Knowing that he’s unlikely on the roster next season and already lacking confidence in his play this season, is he likely to improve after this or continue with poor (if not poorer) form?

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