The 2018-19 season has not been kind to Tobias Rieder. Already mired in a season-long scoring drought on a struggling team, the Edmonton Oilers forward now finds himself facing questions about the public criticism aimed his way by the team’s CEO, Bob Nicholson.
“You look at it and you kind of can’t believe it,” Rieder said of his reaction to reading Nicholson’s comments. “I feel like it’s disappointing and I’m offended by it. I’m the first one to admit that I [haven’t had] a good year and it has not been an easy season for me. It’s been hard but I’m still going out there and giving 100 per cent every time I’m on the ice every game and try to help the team win.”
Nicholson was openly critical of Rieder’s performance this year during a season-ticket holders’ event in Edmonton Thursday morning, telling those in attendance that the club would not be re-signing Rieder and even going so far as to say that, “if Toby Rieder would have scored 10 or 12 goals we’d probably be in the playoffs.”
He apologized to Rieder later Thursday — which was accepted by his player — and admitted to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector that he “screwed up.”
“I promised I’d talk until all the questions were done. I don’t look back on that in a negative way,” Nicholson told Spector Thursday night ahead of the Oilers’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. “But where I got offside in my comment is that Toby wouldn’t be here next year. That, if he would have scored 12 or 15 goals, we’d be in the playoffs. That’s wrong for me to say that.”
Rieder, 26, signed a one-year, $2-million deal with Edmonton last summer. The German-born winger was coming off a 12-goal campaign at the time, split between the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings, and his deal with the Oilers was deemed a smart signing for a team looking to complement its stars with scoring depth. Rieder registered a career-high 16 goals with the Coyotes in 2016-17. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“It was tough to read that somebody got singled out like that and kind of thrown under the bus but it is what it is now,” Rieder said. “I’m not proud of the season I’m having and like I said, I’m the first one to admit that I’m not playing to my capabilities. I think it went a little too far and I think Bob knows that too.”
Of course, it’s not just Rieder who has been struggling offensively this year. The Oilers as a whole have not lived up to expectations. The club ranks 20th in goals scored this season and have a goal differential of minus-35. Though not yet ruled out of the playoffs with a current record of 33-34-7, the Oilers have a tough road ahead if they’re to sneak into the picture.
“I thought the timing was a bit weird, we’re still in the race for the playoffs,” Rieder said of Nicholson’s comments. “I’m still going to go out there and play my heart out and play for the guys and my friends in the locker room and do my best to help the team win.”