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Chiarelli Speaks, Baggedmilk Analyzes

Yesterday, Peter Chiarelli gave his year-end state of the union and while Lowetide recapped things beautifully there were a few quotes that I wanted to dig into a little bit more regarding some of the items that we’ve all been arguing about. Specifically, I was interested in seeing what Swag Daddy‘s response would be in regards to the $6 million men (Nuge and Eberle), the expansion draft, and where he sees Leon playing next year. 

ON FACEOFFS/NUGENT-HOPKINS

Apr 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf (15) trips Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first questions Chiarelli was asked was in regards to the team’s poor faceoff win percentage. The lack of success on the dot drew some major attention throughout the year and I was interested in finding out where he stood. Teach us the ways of the faceoff, Chia God…

“(Faceoffs) will improve with the guys getting stronger. That will improve with the guys working on it because we were pretty specific about it in the exit meetings with those centremen.”

So… we will improve eventually – got it. There have been plenty of articles written about how faceoffs aren’t actually that important in terms wins and losses, but many still believe that wins on the dot are vital in terms of gaining possession at key moments of the game.

While Chiarelli didn’t speak at length about faceoffs, he did mention that it is an area where the Oilers desperately need to improve. Unprompted, Chiarelli then brought up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“In the exit meeting, I’m sitting there with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and he’s getting big, he’s getting strong. He’s 6’1 and he’s almost 200 pounds. That will come. He knows that will have to come in his repertoire. That will come. I can see him becoming a man.”

Firstly, MAN NUGE SWOON! 😍 Second, it seemed like Chiarelli spoke out about Nuge because he knew the question was coming. His answer makes me believe that they’re not giving up on this kid yet, but also that RNH needs to take it upon himself to get better. I guess he must have read the letter to Nugey that I wrote last week.

“Part of that falls on us. We have to be on top of these guys to make sure they practice it and part of it falls on them.”

Personally, I’d like to see the Oilers hire some kind of skills coach that can help the players work on their areas of deficiency. With Edmonton being as bad as they’ve been over the past decade, it’s reasonable to believe that they spent a lot of time (under McLellan) working on systems and not as much on their individual skills.

Now that the systems are more firmly in place, I’d like to see the Oilers focus more on the individuals within the group.

ON EBERLE

April 28, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle (14) moves the puck against Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) during the first period in game two of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think it’s news to say that Jordan Eberle has become villain number one around here, but that’s not how Peter Chiarelli described the player.

“He was our third leading scorer – he gets a lot of touches. I like his cycle game in his own way. He creates space in his own way because he’s quick and he’s smart.”

It’s true that Eberle still eclipsed 50 points in a down year, but the problem for many isn’t so much what he does with the puck, but rather what he does without it.

“I know there are some board work issues that he’s been better at. I know there have been some flashes in his game that I really like from a power perspective. That’s not something you usually associate with Ebs. I saw something in his game that I haven’t seen but he didn’t do it consistently.”

I have to admit that I was confused by this one. You’re going to have to elaborate, Petey.

“He’s a very skilled player and I know there were some things from his game that were under the spotlight in a negative fashion, but he’s a guy who’s in the playoffs for the first time. He was our third leading scorer. We have to be careful with how we evaluate him.”

Hmm… That didn’t really do it for me either. I’m trying to read between the lines but I’m drawing a blank. Anybody have anything? Chiarelli’s wheel of blame may not have landed on Eberle, but his answers aren’t likely to ease the worries of the fanbase.

ON EBERLE/RNH’S LACK OF PLAYOFF SUCCESS

April 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates with Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle (14) his goal scored against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center. Eberle provided an assist on the goal. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When asked about Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins’ lack of success in the playoffs, Chiarelli defended his boys with a little bit of creative tap dancing.

“It is their first time in the playoffs and it’s a different animal. We saw some people thrive, we saw others muddle along, we saw guys struggle. We have to be careful how we evaluate.”

Dance, Pete, dance!

“I know there’s been a lot, during the course of the playoffs, written about those two and I think unfairly but I understand the position everyone is taking because they’re not producing.”

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that guys are underperforming but I do think the venom spewed can be a bit much at times. That said, these guys are paid to perform at a higher level than what they provided and that needs to change if the Oilers have hopes of continuing their improvement next year.

“Over the years I’ve seen people get into the playoffs and, like “holy cow” this is something completely different and they figure it out. Going forward they’re meaningful contributors. I saw it on a number of occasions in Boston.”

The more I look at the Oilers cap situation and the more I over-analyze Chiarelli’s words I actually think that both players have a reasonable chance of coming back next season. Yes, Leon needs a new deal and so does Connor, but the big cap problems really start for the 2018-19 season which gives him some time to play with things a little bit more. Chiarelli is in no rush to trade either guy before next season, and I wonder if he’ll let them both return for a last chance curtain call before deciding to move on.

ON DRAISAITL AND THE ROSTER

Apr 14, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture (39) chase a loss puck during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest questions of the summer will be whether or not Chiarelli decides to move Leon back to his natural centre position or if he plans on keeping him with Connor for the foreseeable future.

“From 30,000 feet – roster wise – we built this team to take it out of the division. You saw two relatively heavy teams that we played against and we played with a certain heaviness. In that definition of heaviness, I put in faceoffs because that’s about strength. We have to improve in that.”

Yeah, okay, we get that faceoffs are important but what about Leon?

“We saw (Leon) without Connor and we saw him with Connor. I still don’t have the answer. My instinct knows where he should be at some point but I can’t tell you that he’ll be at that spot to start. We need to figure that out.”

This quote is basically like, “sometimes I like coffee with sugar and sometimes I like it without.” Not much clarity here.

If you look at Todd McLellan’s history in San Jose, he often used four centremen in his top six and that will likely play into Chiarelli’s decisions going forward. It’s always easier to put a centreman on the wing than it is to put a winger at centre, and, no doubt, Chiarelli is aware of that.

“I want to give our coach the ability to flip-flop because it changes the tempo of the game and can change the nature of the game. Unfortunately, that means pushing Nuge to a lower third line. I’m not saying it’s unfair to Nuge because he’s a team guy, and that’s one thing he stressed in his exit meetings, but in the ideal world, it would be nice to have set centres and a big centre like Leon as your centre and not your wing.”

Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t give Nuge a look on the wing kind of like what McLellan did with Joe Pavelski. I bet he would be a hell of a winger, frankly. What else?

“This is about versatility, and as far as team building it means getting a guy that can play the wing and play centre.”

Not to mention injuries. Heaven forbid the Oilers decide to move Nuge and then get hit with a run of injuries that forces them to play guys out of position. We’ve seen that movie around here and the plot sucks.

“Nothing has really changed in our approach to building this team… We’re still going to be patient.”

My grandma used to tell me that patience is a virtue but the Oilers have worn out my ability to wait and see, so it will be interesting to see what Chiarelli actually does in relation to what he says.

ON THE EXPANSION DRAFT

Jan 21, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) celebrate win with center Connor McDavid (97) and center Mark Letestu (55) after the game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, I wanted to see where Chiarelli’s head is at in regards to the expansion draft. We haven’t seen one of these in a while and the idea of losing a player can seem terrifying, depending on who we’re talking about.

“Everyone has issues in the sense that they’re going to lose somebody.”

Yeah, thanks. We already know that. What is going to happen to the Oilers?

“Everyone knows who is most vulnerable and we’re in the middle of the pack.”

I’m just thankful that the Oilers have some key guys (MCDAVID!) that are ineligible for the expansion draft and that fact makes this easier to take. But that still doesn’t answer the question of who could be gone come October.

“We’re going to lose a player that we’d prefer to keep… The guys that we might lose, there’s a little more meaning to them for me based on our success that we had.”

AHHHHHHHH! Alright, let’s think this through. Who could Chiarelli be talking about? Power play wizard, Mark Letestu? That would be bad news. Edmonton’s favourite son, Zack Kassian? Ohhhh lawd – please no. What about Griffin Reinhart? LOL it would be hilarious in a sad sad way, right?

Regardless of what’s going to happen with the roster, or in the expansion draft, I can honestly say that I feel better about it knowing that Chiarelli is at the steering wheel as opposed to the clowns that ran the show before him. The problem is that Chiarelli chooses his words much more carefully than his predecessors and that misdirection often leaves us guessing. As Lowetide always says, we wait…

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Does anyone else ponder what it would be like to kiss Peter Chiarelli on the lips?

    On the one hand, I think I would be confused: “Am I really kissing one of the 31 NHL General Managers?! How did this happen?!! What will my wife and kids think?”. On the other hand, I think it would be kind of cool to see what his moustache feels like: is it fuzzy or prickly? Anyway, I hope we don’t lose Mark Letestu in the expansion draft. He’s a useful player.

  • 4000miaway

    “Now that the systems are more firmly in place, I’d like to see the Oilers focus more on the individuals within the group.”

    This sounds very reasonable to me and I bet Chiarelli feels the same. Remember he also talked about how they, as the season went on, found their team identity and I bet that’s something they’d like to keep working on. All these guys accomplished something together. Let’s not upset it on a knee-jerk reaction.

    My bet is neither Eberle nor Nuge is traded, they want to see what they’ve got and go hard for the cup before they get rid of some very talented players.

    Pouliot is probably gone though for a low pick or buy out.

  • GM of the year award doesn’t even have a name yet. It’s just called the GM of the year. Brian Burke first introduced the idea in 93 while working for the league and they handed it out for the first time in 2010.

    I never looked up GM of the Year before… I wonder why?

  • Optos

    Playoffs are a whole different style of game compared to regular season. Of course Chia didn’t want to throw Eberle/Nuge under the bus, but i’m convinced he knows their value took a huge hit with those performances, especially Eberle. While Chia is preaching for us to be patient and see what these players can accomplish over the offseason and possibly next season, I get a feeling Eberle will be gone before our next playoffs start.

  • Consultant

    What I hear is in his comments is:
    Yes we will offer Iginla a one year contract. This way McDavid will have an obvious choice when passing cup to the next player and Flames fans will be both conflicted and furious. Eberle will get traded in early 2018. Nuge needs to spend more time working out and less time brushing horses.

  • Hemmercules

    Sounds to me like he wants to keep Ebs and Nugey around for next season. More so Nuge than Ebs though. Obviously almost anyone is in play for the right deal if it should some along.

    Eberle should be in his prime right now having his best seasons. The pressure was off a bit and he was healthy but he regressed. He put up 50 points but other than that one multi point game he had I can’t think of one memorable or important goal he scored all season. Its going to be a really tough call for Chia this summer, I think it lies on what else he can do on RW this summer. If there is no suitable replacement then I doubt he’s traded or exposed. Same goes for Nugey but I get the feeling Chia wants to hang on to Nugey for at least another season.

  • Oiler Al

    Pete is not about to step up to the podium and give the media and the world his infinite plans for the team, nor is he about downplay the work and value of Ebs or Nuge in the eyes of his trading partners!

  • Orm Nullman

    The Inscrutable Chia Pet. Good luck figuring out what he plans to do from his comments. At this time last year did anyone foresee the Hall for Larsson trade? I doubt anyone knows what he plans to do this off season and frankly I love it.

  • Alberta Ice

    I don’t like the possibility of losing Letestu in the expansion draft. He was a great addition to the run this year. And the bar has been set pretty high for Chiarelli going into the next season.

  • RJ

    I find most advanced stats in hockey annoying, because it seems like people creating them don’t actually think about the game’s ebbs and flows.

    Win FOs, win possession. Letestu wins the FO in the Oilers zone. Fayne takes the puck, fires it around the boards and the opposing team recovers. They’ve got the puck in the neutral zone and come back on the attack.

    You can point to this and say, the value of Letestu’s win was marginal. But take the same situation, and replace Fayne with Klefbom. Klefbom makes a successful controlled zone exit into the neutral zone and the Oilers have a chance for a controlled zone entry into the opponent’s end. In the second scenario, Letestu’s win helps the Oilers gain possession, followed by a successful controlled zone exit and hopefully a successful controlled zone entry. The successful FO is key to subsequent play. Or Nuge can lose the defensive zone draw and the Oilers spend a shift trying to get the puck back.

    • russ99a

      This is what drives me crazy about the stat heads. There are many metrics that can shine a light, such as opponent shots when they win faceoffs in our zone, clean exits when we win faceoffs in our zone, and high danger scoring chances against to measure defensive acumen. But they act like Corsi For is the only stat and conversely our offense is all that matters.

      • crabman

        Advanced stats are far from perfect and are slowly evolving to give a better picture of player performance, ie instead of just save% save% of low medium and high level scoring chances. To not watch the game and go only by stats you can’t have a clear picture. But these stats when used as only a tool to help evaluate play of both players and team are very useful. Advanced stats have been around,used and accepted in other sports and as they evolve I believe they will be a useful tool in hockey as well.

  • RJ

    The other thing that comes to mind is trade value. If PC says, hey we have to move Nuge or Eberle, the trade offers drop, and they move them for pennies on the dollar.

    Or PC can use his buddies in the media proposing potential trades while retaining deniability, so GMs know Eberle is potentially available but PC won’t just give him away.

    This is one area where PC far outshines MacT. “Hey, I’m going to make big moves!” MacT has created an expectation that he’ll make a move, so he weakens his negotiating position with other GMs. I don’t remember exactly how the saying goes, but basically if you’re drowning they’ll give you a boat anchor.

    PC LOVES Eberle; LOVES Nuge. It would take a heck of an offer to get him to consider moving one of them. You know, basically the same move that NJ played on PC in the Larsson trade.

    • JDogg

      I think PC has proven he is willing to make a difficult move to better the team (Hall/Larsson, Picks/Talbot). There’s nothing to support your “LOVES Eberle” or “LOVES Nuge” theory. If PC sees an opportunity to improve the Oil’s chances for a Cup….they Gone Baby, Gone.

  • madjam

    Vegas will take Pouliot over Letestu simply because Pouliot drives the play more offensively , is faster , and more truculent than Mark . Seems like a waste of a pick to add Reinhart, Khaira or Broissoit as all 3 may not be NHL ready .

    • Hemmercules

      They don’t need all NHL ready players yet, at least not from every team. Reinhardt, khaira and Broissoit are all pretty close too. They don’t need to build a team full of vets and contracts in the first season. It’s so impossible to guess who they take at this point. When all the lists come out it’s going to be pretty fun to watch.

      • madjam

        Don’t kid yourself , Vegas will have a very good defence and goaltending out of the draft , but will need to take on more salary with a group of forwards experienced enough to make them competitive . I do not forsee or expect Vegas to take a non veteran player from our lineup , and I doubt Chia expects that as well by his comments . Unless something unforeseen happens it will most likely boil down to losing Pouliot or Letestu by not protecting one or the other .

    • RJ

      Pouliot 67GP. 14 P. Playoffs 13GP. 0 P. $4m/AAV with two years left. Is a left-handed LW, which is not in short supply.

      Letestu, 78 GP, 35P. Playoffs. 13 GP, 11 P. Letestu is also a RHC with a 50.4 FO%, and has averaged over 50% for his career. $1.8m/AAV with one year left.

      If we agree that Letestu had a career year and will regress, and Pouliot will bounce back, I’d still take Letestu because RHCs are in short supply, he’s got a lower cap hit and is in the last year of his deal. Take him this summer and after Christmas trade him to a contender for a prospect or a pick.

    • btrain

      Hartnell 35 has went from a 60pt season to a 49 to a 37. Chances are higher then not his decline continues.

      Foligno’s most productive season is 23pts……..really?

      And Kane? You want someone to singlehandedly disrupt a culture and dressing room and pay over 5mill when he has cracked 50pts 1 time.

      Hard to see how any one of these guys makes the team better.

  • Deep Purple

    Have to admire PC’so Cool-Factor! The 2017 off season will be the: 1) summer of reflection (regular season boys need to turn into playoff men); and 2) build the depth (imagine another playoff run without injuries). The results will guide a very interesting 2018! We wait…

  • Bills Bills

    This isn’t that difficult. He was not cryptic. He was protecting the teams assets and giving answers. Was he supposed to say Ebs sucks I can’t wait to trade him? Haha…. so anyway I am not confused about anything other than why TMac hasn’t tried Nuge on the wing. Want to give a very talented hockey player his offensive instincts back? Take away his defensive responsibilities and feed him the puck. All in all I was happy with his answers and he deserves GM of the year.

  • russ99a

    Eberle played well on the wall in the playoffs, Nuge’s cycle game was non-existent. That’s what Peter means, I saw it too.

    Nuge doesn’t play a strong game, and unless there’s an offseason commitment to strength training, and he comes to camp heavier and willing to go to the tough areas, he won’t be here when Connor’s contract kicks in.

    • Dreadguy

      It must be backwards day or something. The exact opposite of what you are saying happened in the playoffs actually happened. Nuge was determined and played with heart against the top line of the other teams. Ebs was, well…. Ebs. You get one thing from this guy and it is, and even that thing isn’t consistent (point). Him (or any player like him)is NOT what the Oilers need going forward. The play dies with Ebs on the cycle unless the person he “panic-passes” to someone who manages to keep it alive. Also, shying away from Cam Fowler (he was injured at the time) when he was 2nd to the puck, but didn’t even bump him (did a wavy stick fly-by), which resulted in a goal was straight up cowardice.You simply cannot teach passion, conviction, or intestinal fortitude.

    • Bills Bills

      Eberle played well on the wall in the playoffs….. except when it counted and cost his team the game. I’m sure that’s what you actually meant to say.

  • Ivan Drago

    Why can’t Nuge play 1RW when they play teams with big heavier C’s and Leon play 2C, then have Nuge down at 2C and Leon back at 1RW when going against “lighter C’s”? Is it too hard for players to get used to that? I mean Nuge would be on off wing and all but some players like that. He’s a #1 OV pick with good skill and pretty smart, don’t see why he couldn’t and Leon is already playing both so obviously he’s ok with it. Besides if Nuge is 6’1 and 200 now he shouldn’t be overmatched that often. Matt Duchesne killed it in FO % this yr and he’s no bigger than Nuge is he? If Nuge could hit over 50% on the dot it would be really nice. He needs to work hard on it. Technique is important not just strength.

  • cherry picker

    Charelli must go to sleep listening to positive sports phychology tapes… He can even brainwash fans with his positive spin on every player on his roster.

    • Hemmercules

      Still no love for a guy that built a team that went from last to clinching a playoff spot a week before the season was over. I prefer Chias approach, positive but still keeps his cards close to his chest. Mact would just lay it all out there and probably throw a guy or two under he bus.

  • OilersRheal

    RNH & Ebs… do we keep them to start in October or do we trade one of them ASAP? Who to keep? Both? None?
    What about Caggiula and Slepyshev? Puljujarvi too in the mix. They may emerge and be great players, making #14 & #93 expandable…
    $12,000,000 US between them and only 94 pts in total last season. Even if we trade both, what do we get? Two 3rd round picks each, or leave one unprotected for expansion draft? Is it too early to drink? Oh wait, CFL season about to kick off…

  • OldOilerFan

    I hope the team experiments with Nuge on the wing. I’m not sure why they didn’t do it more quite frankly, maybe they were focused on figuring out best fit for Leon first, dunno. But I do remember Nuge and McDavid having some nice chemistry on a few powerplays during the season so why not? IMO.

    • Spydyr

      I have been saying give Nuge a chance on McDavid’s wing for months. He could take care of the defencive zone and let McDavid hang up high. A la Gretzky Kurri.

  • Is it April yet?

    I think it’s pretty clear what Peter Chiarelli plans to do with Jordan Eberle. It’s anyone’s guess who he has his eyes on but you can count on him doing what needs to be done and this needs to be done. No harm done, just time to move on.
    Nuge needs to get better at The Dot. He has to get better at something this summer. His “attention to detail ” is not enough IMO.

    Onward and upward : )

  • toprightcorner

    ON NUGE – regarding faceoffs, sure he will get stronger as a man, but he has shown zero signs of improvement over the last 5 years. Technique is just as important and it doesn’t seem like Nuge even knows how to win a faceoff. I do not expect him to improve as he gets more manly. His only hope is to hire Adam Oates this summer and work on faceoffs and skill. He seems to have lost his skill and creativity he brought in his first few years, he needs to get that back to succeed.

    ON EBERLE – Sure, Ebs was 3rd in scoring, but he was 5th in goals. If it would not have been for the hat trick in the last game, he would have been 4th in scoring and 6th in goals behind Nuge and only 1 goal ahead of Letestu. His season could not be summarized as anything close to offensive. Chairelli’s words were more about proping up Eberle’s season if he decides to trade him.

    Eberle also does not play the type of game that can be successful in the Western Conference playoffs.