Today I read a post from Alex Thomas from The Oilers Rig and I was mildly aggravated by what I read and thus the reason for this post today. Before I get into it though I want to preface the piece by saying that I really like Alex and respect his work. I’ve worked with him in the past and overall he’s a good lad.
I simply don’t agree with his take this morning and I’d like to reply. So basically what you’re going to read today is some of Thomas’ takes from his blog and my reply to them. Nothing more and nothing less really. I’ll probably ruffle a few feathers but it comes with the territory. I’m telling you this now so you have the opportunity to bail before you go down the rabbit hole that is Oilers fandom because this is a long one folks.
WHY CHIARELLI WAS FIRED
Like so many before him and so many in the future, Chiarelli got stubborn and failed to adjust with the sport. No longer is the NHL about building a big and tough team like it was even five years ago. Now, the NHL is all about speed and skill.
Back in Chiarelli’s days with the Bruins, it really was about size and puck possession but let’s not forget that the Bruins missed the playoffs by a miniscule 3 pts in 2014/15 and in 2015/16 the Bruins tied Detroit for the last playoff spot in the East but lost out to the Red Wings due to ROW (reg. and OT wins) and in 2016/17 they made the playoffs again… They were never really out of it.
Chiarelli gaffed in a major way when he traded Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in July of 2013. He began to get rid of the talented players on the Bruins in favor of heavier veteran players. The results? Boston missed the playoffs in Chiarelli’s final season at the helm and are still recovering three years later, desperately trying to add legit talent in any way they can.
Still recovering… HA! Recovering from what exactly? Being an annual playoff contender maybe. See, this is the rhetoric I’m talking about. Are the Bruins desperately trying to add legit talent right now? The Bruins are 1 win out of a playoff spot in their division. If they’re so desperate to add “legit” talent, it’s not because Peter Chiarelli left them a shit team, it’s because Brad Marchand and David Krejci can’t stay healthy and that Zdeno Chara is 40 years old or because Tuukka Rask is having a crap season so far (sound familiar?). And even with all of that, they’re still in the playoff picture…
ON THE OILERS
Two years later, the Oilers are once again in the basement of the NHL and are devoid of talent. Listen to people in other markets, they all agree that the Oilers don’t have enough talent and aren’t built to win in today’s NHL. This is a slow club with only two legit skilled players in the top-six.
The Oilers don’t have enough talent? I scoff at such statements. They aren’t built to win in today’s NHL? Don’t make me laugh! A slow club with only TWO LEGIT SKILLED players in the top six? Get me some more of that swill!
Leon Draisait, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, Zack Kassian… These are all players with speed to burn baby! And for some reason, people forget that. But the usual retort is that it’s hockey IQ or speed isn’t just skating and to an extent, I can agree to that. Like in the first month of the year when the bottom-6 simply wasn’t producing but in November, that simply isn’t the case. One could even argue that the Oilers 4th line of Khaira-Letestu-Kassian has been their best one recently.
Chiarelli has committed the exact same mistakes in Edmonton that he made in Boston, and the Oilers are dangerously close to being in a desperate situation as an organization.
If making the Oilers a year-by-year playoff contender is what you consider a mistake, you’re being too hard on the guy. After 10 years of not making the playoffs, I’m sure there are real Oilers fans out there that would love for Edmonton to have a team that competes for the playoffs every year as simply being in the playoff picture is enough.
The Oilers were in a desperate situation before Chiarelli and McLellan were hired. 10 years out of the post-season is not a place where any Canadian NHL team should be. Jerseys were being tossed on the ice, billboards were being rented out to voice the fans displeasure at how the team was being run. What’s going on now is nothing compared to how it was.
Failure for either of those things to happen will result in a harsh reality: The Edmonton Oilers will waste Connor McDavid’s career and he will request a trade before the end of his eight-year mega contract.
Oh shhyit! Here we go! The Oilers are going to ruin Connor’s career and he’s going to request a trade out of Edmonton. Yeah because this is a common theme amongst superstar NHLers let alone generational talents… Sounds like Thomas has been spending some time listening to the ultras in Toronto. What a brutal taek!
Edmonton’s GM is stuck in 2011, thinking the game is still won with power forwards and ‘heavy hockey’. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way anymore. The Pittsburgh Penguins have proven it each of the last two springs, and the Chicago Blackhawks many springs prior to that. This is a game won with speed and skill now.
Ya know it’s funny that these are the kinds of comments that are being made while the Oilers are losing and yeah, there was a certain faction that covers hockey that “warned” (their word not mine) the Oilers could be victim to having too heavy a team. But where were they during the playoffs last year? Well, I’ll tell you. They were “warning” us of the one-off season that the Oilers were having.
I’d like to know what happened to the Penguins and Blackhawks speed and skill this year? I mean if it’s soooooo important, why are they not leading their divisions since that’s the key to success in today’s NHL?
The Edmonton Oilers had ample skill, but Peter Chiarelli traded it in to be the next edition of the 2011 Boston Bruins, a team that only won because Tim Thomas had the spring of a lifetime, might I add. Now Edmonton is dealing with the after effects of Chiarelli’s decision making and plan.
It is very true, the Oilers had a shit-ton of skill and with all of that skill they found a way to finish 2nd last in the league, not dead last. If I’m not mistaken, how many Stanley Cup finalists, letalone Cup winners, get to that point without riding a hot goalie?
This is a general manager that traded in Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle for Adam Larsson and Ryan Strome. A GM that acquired a defender in Griffin Reinhart that who is currently sitting on the AHL roster of AN EXPANSION TEAM, passed on Matt Barzal and Alex DeBrincat because of their size, dumped Benoit Pouliot because of one bad season and invested heavily in Milan Lucic and Kris Russell like it was 2009 all over again.
Yup, the optics do not look good but at the end of last year when the Oilers were a 100pt team and in the playoffs, you’d have been hard-pressed to find an Oilers fan who’d do the swap Larsson for Hall. So now that Hall and Eberle are having some success, it’s time to really give Chiarelli the gears, right? I mean it’s always easier to kick a guy when he’s down isn’t it?
Chiarelli is also the man that got Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl under contract for their best years. He’s also the guy that didn’t trade Darnell Nurse and look where he’s playing now… Basically in Andrej Sekera’s spot. Jesse Puljujarvi is now where he should be playing and is a player that actually knows what “200-foot game” means. Ryan Strome actually shoots the puck on the PP too.
Milan Lucic and Kris Russell are interesting choices to highlight in my opinion. Lucic has the 2nd best pts/60 on the team behind Connor McDavid at 2.53 and last I checked, Kris Russell was the teams leading scorer on defense and if he were to keep up the offense until the end of the year and not miss any time due to injury, he’d end up in the same point range (high 30s) as players like Tyson Barrie or Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko or Jaccob Slavvin did last year.
How about that though? A $4M defenseman who not only is amongst the leaders in blocked shots every year but also adds offense… It’s weird right?
As for Reinhart, I agree. It was a shat trade and a longshot to cover the bet. But I will not sit here and cry because the Oilers could’ve picked Matt Barzal. If you actually know what you’re talking about when it comes to that draft year, you’d know that the Oilers weren’t even going to take Barzal with that pick. Not that they couldn’t have used him but Joel Eriksson-Ek and Evgeni Svechnikov were higher on their list if I’m not mistaken and I think that Thomas knows this.
DeBrincat is a guy I wanted Edmonton to take for sure and Tyler Benson’s injury history scared me but that being said, the following teams passed on DeBrincat in the 2nd round too:
- Toronto, Buffalo, Columbus, St.Louis, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Florida
So missing out on Barzal and DeBrincat wasn’t just on Chiarelli, it was on a few other GMs too but you don’t hear all the other fanbases crying like 5-year-olds that their team didn’t get them… Christ, it’s sickening to read all the whining. And you know what? Tyler Benson is having a HELLUVA year for Vancouver right now and barring injury (fingers crossed), should have a season quite similar to Barzal’s last year in Seattle (79pts in 41 games).
Bottom line is this: The Oilers were gifted with Connor McDavid. His selection should mean at least one Stanley Cup for this organization. In order to win, however, you have to have a general manager who knows what he is doing in command of the roster. Peter Chiarelli has not proven that he can be that guy to this point. If this team is a lottery team in McDavid’s final year of his ELC, then someone needs to pay.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were gifted Mario Lemieux back in ’84 and it took them almost a decade to win a Stanley Cup. Don’t tell me the NHL didn’t know that the Penguins deliberately tanked the season prior either. They could’ve done something about it but didn’t… I believe one of the moves that turned around that team was trading a no.2 overall draft pick for a much older offensive defenseman… (Of course it’s not that simple but one sure could make it sound that way, couldn’t they?)
Thomas is right about one thing here. If the Oilers are a lottery team this season, which has ZERO to do with McDavid’s contract, let’s be clear on that, then somebody will have to pay and I’m betting it’ll be McLellan and his staff because they can’t seem to get the special teams going on a consistent basis. It may very well be just his staff that goes since he’s a pretty good coach who is well respected.
I do not believe that the game has changed so much in one season that the team Chiarelli built last year is obsolete this year. Are the Kings a fast team? How about Winnipeg? Is Tampa Bay the fastest team? I’d argue that no, they are not but what they do have on the Oilers is health, special teams that are running on all cylinders, health on defense and goaltending.
The Oilers downturn started the game Draisaitl got concussed vs. WPG in the 3rd game of the year I reckon. I think that not going with the 3-headed dragon down the middle hurt. Keeping Yamamoto for 9 games didn’t help anybody because the Oilers knew they were sending him back. But hindsight is 20/20 right? Lots of things could’ve been the catalyst to this year.
For me, IF this season does end up with the Oilers drafting in the top ten due to their place in teh standings, then somebody on the coaching staff will need to go. That’s the warning to McLellan that his job is in jeopardy. Then if the Oilers start the same way next season, McLellan goes. That’s Chiarelli’s last card to play before he is relieved of his duties.
Even with that said, there are a few GMs on expiring contracts this year and that might be tempting for Darryl Katz. So ownership could go all Buffalo Sabres on the brass and bring in a new crew too…
But I’ve said this time and time again. The team that Peter Chiarelli has built was built to compete in the Pacific Division, which for now is still one that is won with size. Beat the Pacific division teams in a bunch of 4pt games and you’re still in the mix I say.
My question is, what’s wrong with size and skill? Oilers have a bit of that I’d say and when it’s going it’s near impossible to stop.
What the team is lacking, in my opinion, is confidence and health. The players on that team rely on kids to carry them and don’t we all know how volatile a young person’s mind is. The highs are stupid high and the lows are ridiculously low as it takes time to bring those under control.
When this Oilers team gets it’s mojo (and health) back, they’ll be a team to be reckoned with and it’s at that point that I want to see how many blogs are written about firing Chiarelli and or McLellan.
If you want to talk to me about a disappointing squad, talk to me when they’ve had another October-like month in February this season with a completely healthy squad.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Let is know in the comments below! And everything is on sale over at the BLH Teepublic shop, so click the pic below and find something nice to give a loved one (or yourself) for Christmas!!