“If That’s a Mistake Then That’s Mine” Says Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli on Oilers Now!

After yesterday’s media availability Peter Chiarelli went on Oilers Now! with Bob Stauffer and had another 15 minute or so interview just with Stauffer. I have to say that I think the interview with Stauffer was a bit better than the one with the Edmonton media. I think that Chiarelli danced around a lot of the questions and had a lot of prepared answers ready to fire off whereas this one below I found that Chiarelli was a bit more honest and self-critical. Not that what he said wasn’t true in the press conference, mind you, I just thought that there was lots of opportunity for the reporters in attendance to ask some harder questions and for Chiarelli to be a bit more specific and neither was done.

So what I’m doing for you today is basically transcribing the Chiarelli/Stauffer interview for you as best I can and at the end, I’ll have the audio version available as well.

The interview starts out with some fluff about the Dropkick Murphy’s so I’ve left that out. I imagine that’s okay with you.


Stauffer: Just back from Boston, the team’s 5-0 now against Boston in one of the team’s better performances from your squad this season. I had a couple of guys from around the league say,

“Well, that’s a message. The players want to show the GM that they want to be a part of the solution so they’re gonna play great against his former team.”

Is it just the match up? What do you think is part of the reason why you have that kind of success against the Bruins here over the last three seasons?

Chiarelli: I’m not sure. I know there’s a few ties to the Bruins that are on the Oilers now. I don’t know if that trickles down to the rest of the group. Of course, you’ve got Lucic too. I don’t know. We get up to play them. The one game if I can remember, the one Cam stood on his head in my first year but other than that we’ve been pretty much, we’ve handled them pretty good, so, it’s nice to see. It was nice to see that game on the end of a road trip that was a tough road trip from a performance perspective. I’m sure we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of all that stuff but it’s good to see us win that game. The last game of a road trip too is always, you always worry a little bit because the guys are thinking about getting home. So it was a good end.

Stauffer: Is it difficult to assess when you have a performance like you did in St.Louis and followed it up the next night taking a game over against Detroit, then you go against a team like Buffalo who is really struggling, they were desperate, and there wasn’t a lot there energy-wise and then you own the first 50 minutes of the game against Boston, they finally got a little bit of a push late.

The consistent inconsistency, from a broadcast perspective, it’s kind of flummoxed me a bit and I’m wondering how maddening it is for the GM of a team and the people that are involved with hockey operations in assessing this group?

Chiarelli: It is difficult. You tend to break down a game, a segment of games and try to identify issues, problems, deficiencies. And when it’s up and down like that when there’s such big swings, it’s hard. Sometimes it’s hard to explain them into the line items that you normally go into when you’re investigating or trying to figure out what’s going on.

What I said at the press scrum today Bob, you were there, I think it goes back to that we’re having difficulty managing these expectations and I think it’s crept into our group and so when you see a real strong game, which we saw two on this road trip followed by a crummy game where it was flat. There wasn’t a lot of push, there wasn’t a lot of compete. Part of what makes me think, “Do they get this relief? Do they get this, consciously or sub-consciously, a sense of comfort after having such a good game?” And then that just follows it into the next game where you either underestimate the opponent or you’ve let your mind wander a bit. So, this is a smaller part of managing expectations and it’s not a cliche, these are things that are predominant in every organization and we’ve had difficulty doing it. We’ve obviously got other issues but to me, when you see these dips and peaks and stuff, it’s a large part to do with that.

Stauffer: I know last year I was one of the guys that thought the team would take a big step forward and maybe exceeded some expectations. I believe that the organization would be capable of having a 5 or 6 year run like Vancouver did where they would be 45 wins and about 100pts. I thought, “OK, there’s a good base here, a lot to work with, a good starting goalie, you’ve got some young developing dmen, obviously you’ve got Connor and Leon to mention a couple up front…”

So maybe I was guilty of maybe not recognizing how difficult this is to do on a year-by-year basis. But I do want to start, there’s an adage in hockey,


and you made a purposeful effort in the press conference not to blame your goalie but the fact of the matter is, he hasn’t been as good as he was last year.

Chiarelli: No, he hasn’t. And neither of them have. You’re right. I don’t know what to tell you on that. They haven’t. You can’t win in this league with a .900 save percentage. You can’t. So Cam has to be better and you can break down a number of difficult things that are around him.

I described it as a death by 1000 cuts. There’s a lot of stuff going on and that’s one of them and you can’t win in this league with a .900. Now, interesting, I was looking at the stats today and there are a couple teams that are in around a .905/.910 that are winning but you can’t sustain it.

So we have to better. Cam has to be better. Again, not putting all of the blame on his shoulders, we could all shoulder this blame but that’s one of the things.

Stauffer: Well, the stat here for you, .909 SV% or better and the Oilers are 8-2-1 when Talbot’s had starts of .909 or better and that’s not asking for a lot. He’s got a career .920 SV%. .908 or worse, the Oilers are 1-9. So that to me illustrates part of the challenge.

You knew Andrej Sekera was going to be a big loss, to me, guys like him. He’s a good guy and he plays a lot of minutes and you were counting on a couple things to happen here. I don’t know if you thought Darnell Nurse would be this good. Has he exceeded your expectations to date?

Chiarelli: Yeah. If you can recall what I said going into last year we wanted to give the young D a chance to, essentially it was the lower half of our D that was Darnell and Matt Benning. Then going into this year with Reggie out it was, “Let’s see what they can do.” And Matt’s struggled early but he’s got his game back and Darnell’s done well. But the other elements of the D haven’t. They’ve done well and the others haven’t, so, Klef’s been struggling and he’s not the same player for a couple of reasons we won’t go into…

He’s dinged up

We’re not bridging the gap. The intent was to bridge the gap and we’re not. That falls on me to a certain degree and we have to fix it.

Stauffer: Dale Tallon says 300 games for a dman before you know what you got. Oscar’s dinged up but he’s at 211, Nurse is at 139.

Chiarelli: How many did Matheson have?

Stauffer: Micheal Matheson?

Chiarelli: Yeah

Stauffer: Why? Did he trade him?

Chiarelli: Dale signed him for 6 years. I mean there’s a rule of thumb but generally speaking…

Stauffer: Well, it’s interesting because you’ve got Benning and Nurse that are RFAs and they’re, in my mind, they’re a big part of the Oilers future here. I mean you’re looking at a 22-year-old and a 23-year-old dmen, so I guess you’ll have to clear that hurdle when it comes, right? I don’t know if we’re looking at bridge or long-term deals.

Because Larsson to me has rounded into form.

Chiarelli: Yeah, he’s played well. So we’re a defence-by-committee and when you lose a guy like Sekera, everyone gets pushed into larger different minutes and we were counting on the young guys picking that up, and they have,  for the most part they have but the other guys have struggled. The defence-by-committee right now, it’s not great. So that impacts the goaltending too.

I don’t think I allowed you to finish your question. If the question was going to be, “Where’s the verdict on Klef?” Is that what it was?

Stauffer: I would say you gotta be patient with the guy.

Chiarelli: Yeah yeah yeah. Klef’s a good defenseman and he’s having a bad year for a number of reasons.

Stauffer: In terms of an assessment for Slepyshev and Caggiula and Puljujarvi, who were being counted on to provide some secondary offence, I don’t think you could assess Slepyshev because he hasn’t been healthy enough.

Chiarelli: Well, neither has been Drake. He missed 4 weeks but his game has been in and out a little bit too.

Jesse, maybe we were counting on him to start the year. If that’s a mistake then that’s mine. But he’s a good player and he’s coming and of the 8 games he’s played, 6 have been very good. It’s a lot cleaner game, significantly cleaner game.

I just been on the road watching teams and you take a player like Dubois, who was a pick ahead of Jesse, and there’s a lot of talk on that stuff but aside from that he struggled to stick around at the start of the year and you could see it. This isn’t to say the coaches should play him more, that’s not what this is about, my comment. It’s about- Some guys develop at different levels and Jesse’s coming. I’m happy with what I see. But he’s got two goals and Slep has what, one goal? Drake has 3 or 4.

Your comment is an accurate one.

Stauffer: A lot of the fans clamoring for more. In terms of more ice-time for Jesse. How hard is it for the GM, is that a delicate balance between the GM in terms of the relationship with the coach? Because you’d want to see certain guys going and obviously I know the degree of trust factor that is there between the two of you.

Is there a way you could educate our listeners on how you unique that relationship is?

Chiarelli: This is an ongoing dialogue on a number of different things and he understands, he has to understand, and he does understand kinda what the plan is. And I’m just talking in general, I’m not talking about Jesse. But there are little curves along the way and we just continue to have a dialogue. I want him to be comfortable with who he plays and we talk about it and we figure it out. We’re on the same page and Todd’s developed young players before in Detroit and San Jose and I’ve been part of young players that have been developed. This is part of it.

Stauffer: You were asked a question today about culture and sometimes in the context of a room like, chemistry instead of culture, like Pouliot had a terrible year last year, decent first couple years, he was a well-liked guy. When the move was made a majority of fans were 100% on board with the move being made at that time.

Eberle… Likeable guy. Strome’s been good the last few games and I think he’s starting to become accustomed and it takes a few guys- even Hendricks was a- maybe him the most from a culture perspective was a unique personality.

Do you have to factor that in when you’re team building?

Chiarelli: Sure. Yeah you do. It’s hard to find those guys that bring that that can actually play and contribute. I’m not directing that at Matt. I’m directing that just in general. You do have to factor that it. You also have to factor in paying current players and your cap this year and your cap next year. There’s a lot of things you have to factor in.

What I said today on that point was, for me, it was- I’m not in that room so take this for what it’s worth, for me it was more attitude than chemisty and at what point does attitude turn into chemistry? I don’t know. Then I went back to the guys have to recognize and manage these expectations and come to work everyday.

But yeah, that room, they have guys that are veterans in there. And again, to be a good guy and to be a leader, one doesn’t follow the other. To not have the good guys that were here, because Jordan’s a good guy too and Ryan’s a good kid.

I’ve been criticized this year for not doing enough and then I’ve been criticized for doing too much. I’m okay with being criticized, when you’re in this seat you get criticized. We’re just trying to find- to me, this is about a group that may have a little different composition that’s trying to find its way and find their roles and spots individually and collectively and we’re not there yet.

Stauffer: And it’s obviously frustrating from a consistency basis. How quickly, if you don’t mind sharing this with us, did the Cammalleri deal happen for Jokinen? Was it a quick move?

Chiarelli: Yeah, it was a fairly quick move. I felt that Jussi wasn’t a good fit here and I’d spoken to a couple of teams on him then that one came and we did it.

Stauffer: Cammalleri’s been up playing on the first line.

Chiarelli: Yeah, he’s been good. He’s a shooter and he makes plays and I’ve been happy with Mike.

Stauffer: In the right deal would you be prepared to move a future asset? A higher pick because we’ve moved around a lot of 2nd round picks, right?

Chiarelli: Would I be prepared to move a 2nd round pick or a 1st one?

Stauffer: A 1st round pick, the asset has to be one that’s long-term, right? I assume.

Chiarelli: I guess I won’t answer that question but I’m prepared to do anything to make the team better, Stauff. I wouldn’t rule out anything.

Stauffer: In the first 7 years I did color, the Oilers had 7 coaches and 3 managers. In these situations, has it been in your experience is maybe what you need to do the most is to sort-of knuckle down and believe in what you got and not hope for you need to be better but believe that it will inevitably will get better?

Chiarelli: Well it will get better but it’s just painful getting to that point and is there enough time for it to re-adjust. Like, Cam’s a good goalie. He will get better and the numbers will normalize and Klef’s a good player. At some point he’s going to play better but the question is as a manager is, our goal at the very least was to get into the playoffs this year so at some point you’re going to run out of time and you’re going to wait.

You do knuckle down and you I do see light at the end of the tunnel but I also recognize there has to be some fortification at some point and so we’re on the lookout for things that’ll bolster our line-up.


What do you think of Chiarelli’s comments here? Let us know in the comments section that is under the sweet BLH tees that are available at the BLH Teepublic shop!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I’m the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’ve been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I’ll never leave my Oilers, no matter what!

They’re with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • Joe

    Fuck Chiarelli if he trades away RNH.
    Kind Regards,
    An Oiler Fan