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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Is Chiarelli building the right kind of team?

Another Monday is here to ruin your practice retirement and that means it’s time to collectively waste company time until the next weekend rolls around. As such, the mailbag is here to help you kill off a few minutes of your day and maybe, just maybe, help you learn a little something while you’re at it. If you’d like to join in on next week’s mailbag, you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and waste as many work hours as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli makes the Oilers pick of Connor McDavid (not pictured) in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1) Trent asks – October isn’t even over yet but I’ve already started noticing some articles questioning Peter Chiarelli and whether or not he’s building the right kind of team. Do you think that is fair this early in the year?

Lowetide:

The heat is on, Trent! Peter Chiarelli is charged with winning a Stanley Cup for the Edmonton Oilers. Several of his summer bets have been found wanting in the early days of the season. I think we all have our own clocks set on making calls on things like trades and auditions and the slow start has caused many to carve the general manager. Tough business, but losing in Edmonton brings back some harsh and somewhat fresh memories. That’s the job.

Robin Brownlee:

Criticism is part of the gig. Fair? I don’t know if that comes into it. At this point of the season it certainly is premature — and that would hold true for over-the-top praise if the Oilers were off to a 7-2-1 start.

Matt Henderson:

It was fair to ask the question in June. The Oilers have had holes in their lineup for months and plenty of opportunities to address them. Absolutely Peter Chiarelli should be questioned. Today, tomorrow, next week, every minute of every day it is wholly appropriate to question the General Manager of the Oilers regardless of whether they are doing great or poorly.

Chris the Intern:

Nah definitely not. The same articles came out when he traded Taylor Hall and he eventually gets nominated for GM of the year. He’s made some questionable signings and of course, when we lose the haters will come out. But in the next 10 games when we start winning again, you won’t see any bad take on Chia.

Baggedmilk:

Of course it’s fair. It’s part of the job. I still do think the Oilers are playing better than their record but soon that’s not going to matter if they keep digging this hole they’re in. This is Peter Chiarelli’s team now, he’s the one that should be on the hot seat.

Oct 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) during the face off against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at Rogers Place. Winnipeg Jets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) AJ asks – Do you think the NHL is reverting back to a speed game and if so do you think the Oilers/Chiarelli are suited/adapting to this style of play? (Minus McDavid of course)

Lowetide:

I think things ebb and flow and everyone chases the latest winner. There is more than one way to win and I do think a team with a range of skills is better off than a one-trick pony. You can have a big club with speed included and you want some offensive ability on as many lines as possible. Edmonton is not horribly flawed nor are they perfectly aligned. Balance is the ideal.

Robin Brownlee:

If size succeeds over time teams pattern their rosters after that. Same with speed. It swings back and forth. Build a roster with a bit of both. The Oilers added the size they need but are now a step slow here and there. Trick is to find the balance.

Matt Henderson:

I think the Oiler defence has speed on every pairing (or can have speed on every pairing) so that helps. I do not like the speed on their second line but after that, I think they are fine. If Lucic and Strome weren’t both so damned slow it wouldn’t be such a pronounced issue.

Chris the Intern:

Speedy NHL teams are definitely succeeding lately, with the Penguins as a prime example. I don’t think we have a terribly slow team. Our ‘enforcers’ who often slow a team down aren’t THAT slow. Maroon’s getting faster every year, Kass has speed, and Lucic… well Lucic is slow but that’s okay.

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers definitely needed some size in the lineup but the problem is that they’ve also downgraded on skill. Getting Connor McDavid is fantastic but he can’t be the one that does everything and the fact that the Oilers are struggling to score goals right now is wild considering who’s been moved out.

Feb 22, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) celebrates his game winning goal against the Florida Panthers with center Drake Caggiula (36) and center Leon Draisaitl (29)in the third period at BB&T Center. The Oilers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

3) Kelly asks – Do you think the Oilers are trying to be too pretty in the offensive zone? Would a simpler game help to increase scoring? They’re getting a lot of shots on net but I don’t ever see the forwards banging and crashing the net in search of rebounds.

Lowetide:

I think they’re going to score a lot of goals if they keep shooting as much as they have early in the season. Driving to the net helps, better luck helps, but I think there’s a danger in making sweeping statements too early in the year.

Robin Brownlee:

Lots of little things, including what you mention, go into producing goals. Part of producing rebounds is getting people in front of the net before the puck gets there, not after.

Matt Henderson:

I think I would like to see Lucic and Strome crashing the net more but I’m not worried about them being too fancy just yet. Outside of McDavid trying to pass the puck when he should shoot sometimes, I think most of the time they are just snakebitten and not making poor decisions.

Chris the Intern:

I think if they were being ‘too pretty’ we wouldn’t see half as many shots as they’re currently taking. Honestly, I don’t really know why they aren’t scoring, and It’s frustrating as hell. We’re getting a ton of chances but then you have Matt Murray making his bid for save of the year in a game against us. Not fair!

Baggedmilk:

I guess? Maybe? Sometimes? I mean, I think the Oilers could definitely do a better job of getting themselves to the front of the net. They’re getting a lot of shots this season but there’s rarely any traffic in front of the opposing goaltender.

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

4) Jayson asks – What were your first thoughts when you saw Mark Letestu lining up in the top six as a winger? Does that move only happen as a result of shallow depth on the wing or does it make sense to have him there to have two centres on a line?

Lowetide:

I think it shows the coach is casting about for secondary solutions after the early, obvious options are gone. This is often followed by a trade.

Robin Brownlee:

Both. Letestu can produce and he’s very good in the circles.

Matt Henderson:

My very first reaction was that this team needs to make a trade for a real top six winger ASAP. No, it is not normal for the 4C to be the 2RW, and I’d buy the idea that faceoffs were the main concern if Nuge hadn’t been off to a decent start in the circle. If Letestu starts more than five games at 2RW all year then we have a major problem.

Chris the Intern:

It’s a little scary seeing him up there. He’s been playing great so it is definitely deserved, except I think it really shows off a lack of depth on our part.

Baggedmilk:

I love Mark Letestu but I think even he would admit he’s probably not a top six winger. Plain and simple, this comes down to a lack of depth on the right wing. Say what you will about Eberle, the only top six plan available after he got traded was Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Strome or two teenagers. Not exactly set up for success.

Oct 12, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his third period goal against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Terry asks – Are you at all concerned about Puljujarvi’s slow start in Bakersfield?

Lowetide:

I’m not sure it is a slow start, but am not concerned at this time. Wish he had a more skilled centre down there for sure.

Robin Brownlee:

No. Given where the Oilers are at right now, that’s well down my list of concerns.

Matt Henderson:

Yep. Of course I’m concerned. At the same time, I know it’s early and he could have one great game that puts him on a pace that befits a player of his pedigree. He’s had something like 14 shots in the last two games and it’s likely he’ll break through eventually. He’s just a kid, but obviously, I would feel much better if he was picking up lots of points.

Chris the Intern:

A little bit. I’m trying not to be but so far he hasn’t exceeded expectations in either the AHL or NHL. Give him the year in Bakersfield to work it out, but I’m crossing my fingers we see the Poolparty we all dream about soon.

Baggedmilk:

He’s a teenager working through things that teenagers need to work through. He doesn’t have any goals but he’s not exactly playing with much skill either. He’ll be fine. No need to rush prospects into the NHL anymore… well… ideally.

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  • madjam

    Should one be concerned the two expected best RW options (Kailer and Jesse) are not doing well , while others are doing even poorer than them beyond Draisaitl and keeping him on top line which they had hoped to do otherwise with Leon . Should we be worried about our 3-6-1 record ? Should we be worried about lack of offence of team ? Should you worry about the lack of internal progression of team and additions like Jokinen , Auvitu and Strome ? As someone once said if you have to ask the question the answer is pretty obvious !

      • cmandev77

        Kailer is doing ok but he is not ready for the NHL. We need a bonafide NHL right wing on our second line. I would prefer Kailer to spend another year in the CHL and possibly one in the AHL before coming up to the big club. Let him develop. Kailer is/was doing all he can for the team but he is not ready for a full time NHL schedule. Let him dominate the minors for a bit.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          What the heck is he (Yamamoto) doing here???
          Hard for a team to gel into a team if you have a team member here that’s not meant to be a participant…
          Let someone who you plan on being part of the team play & make a name for themselves…
          We need our TEAM back McLellan… NOW please… quit farting around with your so-called chemistry & go with lines that have proven themselves over the last couple of years… Chicago game as an example…
          It looks like the players want that as well??? Obviously…

  • cmandev77

    Chiarelli rushed the Eberle trade. He should have waited until sometime during this season to make that trade. Eberle was weak in the playoffs and we got rid of him at the wrong time. His stock wasn’t going to drop more than it had already. Chia should have let him rebound this season until the deadline and then cleared the cap space. We didn’t need the cap space this season. This trade made the right side extremely weak with nobody to replace Eberle’s scoring ability. Our biggest problem has been secondary scoring. Strome is not a cheaper version of Eberle…Hated the trade then, still hate it now.

    • Natejax97

      Hate it if you want but it was essential to make that move to thwart off any offer sheet that may have come Draisaitl’s way. Funny how Eberle’s biggest critics soon become Chia’s. This board was absolutely lit up with “Trade Eberle” all throughout last season and then ramped up even further in the playoffs. If that is how we felt, imagine what the players value was during conversations with other GM’s. Lucky we got as much as we did.

      • cmandev77

        I never once said “Trade Eberle” last season. If we were going to trade Eberle or RNH, it should have been this year. We had enough cap space to thwart off any offer sheet for Drai and nobody was going to put an offer sheet in anyway. It doesn’t happen in todays NHL. Eberle played horrible in the playoffs, nobody is disputing that but trading him for Strome was a mistake. We needed him until we could have received something better than an unproven player. This was a mistake made by Chia and now we need to fix the problem and find a 2nd line right winger. The fact is we will have to give up an asset or two we did not want to if we want to fix the problem this year.

    • IRONman

      They team needs to build from Goalie out. 33 is good. Need a back up. Need solid defence to believe in. Solid passing, breakout. I believe a new coach is needed and players. It’s a good lot of forwards but hard to score from your own end.

      • cmandev77

        I disagree. Experienced goalie depth is a concern but not something I would point at as a big problem right now. I would like Ellis to get a shot before we do anything in net. Defence to me is pretty decent. Passing and breakout are good for this team, paying a bit more attention to the small details is all they need. I DO NOT WANT A NEW COACH…This team needs coaching consistency. I believe McLellan is doing the best he can with what he has. If you have watched the Oilers games, we are out-shooting our opponents and spending more time in their end than ours. We need a second line RW who can help distribute the scoring and take pressure off of our first line.

    • btrain

      Agreed. I am not panicking about the season yet, but from the moment the Eberle trade happened it left a giant question mark on the RW depth of this team. It would have been much more ideal to have waited to see what the kids could do and if someone could show a reasonable chance of replacing Eberle’s guaranteed 50 points a season before shipping him off. As a result of trading a legit top 6 RW for what appears, by salary and by NHL resume, to be a decent 3rd liner, Chia may be forced to go shopping for RW help. So lets say he finds a legit scoring RW for the top 6, what is that going to cost him? who will he have to trade? It may turn out that keeping Eberle would have saved the team money in the end as Strome’s 2.5 mill and new scoring RW’s 4 + mill > 6mill.

      What is done is done, but I think its important to keep close tabs on the GM and not just follow with blind faith because of a little success. Fact is, the Eberle deal wasn’t the only questionable decision made and Chia’s trigger happy approach, though gets things done, comes at a cost of either sending the better (perceived to be better by most media coverage) player the other way or throwing extra dollars on a contract to stay on his agenda and timeline.

  • #97TRAIN

    2 years ago I thought this year the Oilers would be a serious threat to win a Stanley Cup. Some big things have to change. When is Sekera coming back? It’s gotta be more than Sekera as to why we are losing the way we are.

    • cmandev77

      Our biggest problem is lack of secondary scoring. If you look at the RW position this is our depth chart. 1. Leon Draisatl (who is supposed to be our 2C), 2. Ryan Strome (Not good enough to be in this spot.) 3. Zack Kassian (perfect for the 3RW spot but not a 1 or 2 RW), Anton Slepyshev (Decent in the 4RW spot but I wouldn’t put him in 1 or 2 RW), 5. Jesse Puljujarvi (just not ready for the 1 or 2 RW, although he is one of our best prospects to fill that spot hopefully sooner rather than later) 6. Kailer Yamamoto (See JP)

  • Roberto

    I don’t understand the Pouliot buyout. I didn’t mind it at the time as I thought another deal must be in the works. But as of right now, no other move, lack of speed, poor PK, and lack of winger depth. Not to mention wasted cap space penalty for 4 years. I wasn’t a Pouliot fan, but was he that bad to have around for a lack of better options, or to trade him maybe at the deadline? The buyout still doesn’t make sense to me, he’s an NHL player and the Oil are lacking those on the wing… so why pay him to play for someone else?

    • btrain

      Couldn’t agree more. This may be the most frustrating decision Chia has made to date in my opinion. You reserve buyouts for those players who have consistently performed far below expectations. Poulliot didn’t have the point production we wanted but was a serviceable top 9 player, great for special teams, able to blend in with most players, and still had a healthy amount of speed and size to go with it. I still don’t get, with a little effort at the negotiation table, how Chia couldn’t have moved Pouliot in a retention deal and avoid a rather harsh cap penalty. At 2 million/year for a utility forward who has also potential to play in your top 6, there had to have been a half dozen teams willing to go there post buyout window.

      • Big Nuggets

        Exactly. Pouliot was our best PKer, stat-wise. And Buffalo snapped him up right away showing other GM’s would have some interest. 2 goals on the season so far for Pou. thats more than Lucic has.
        I assumed Chia was working on an acquisition and needed the cap space, but without a big acquisition that was just a plain bad buyout.

  • Klef abs

    Chiarelli sucks. PL and simple. Made two good moves and 10 bad ones. McDavid covers up some of them but the rest was visible for some time but people just didn’t want to admit it. Team has many glaring holes. Didn’t have to be that way but our GM is stupid.

    • Derian Hatcher

      Speaking of Klefs abs, they are about the only thing he has going for him now. His on ice decision making is that of a house league peewee defenseman (nothing against house league peewee defensemen, they are expected to make poor on-ice decisions in order to learn). Klefs abs are one thing, but his brain so far this season is not working well.

      • Klef abs

        He’s making some poor mistakes for sure but he’s still getting 25 minutes a night because we have no one else even close to capable of doing the other things he does. He needs to simplify a bit and he will be fine.

        • Derian Hatcher

          Totally agree that he is capable and will bounce back. But we can say this about a lot of Oiler players right now. They are not playing up to their capabilities. The big question is – when do they start? tick tock

  • Roberto

    The team will be “Good” because of Connor, Leon, and Talbot…. But I’m afraid they won’t be as good as they should or could be… Lucic deal is looking poor. Strome isn’t looking great. It seems like many players the Oilers acquire have some sort of prior connection to the team or the Royal family. Why can’t they just build the best possible team and leave all the back scratching to minor hockey!? I wish they’d clean house, hire Kruger and let him pick his staff. I’m starting to question Todd as well…. it’s always someone elses fault and never his. Mac T will probably be the coach/gm before the season ends, because Oilers. Trade the mall.

  • Roberto

    I liked Chia because he made the “Bold” moves that no one else would make. However, it’s not too early to question whether or not he’s done his good for the team, and whether someone else would serve the team better. I just have no confidence that the higher ups would hire the correct replacement, and Chia is better than the internal alternatives. This organization is a Mickey Mouse organization, and is hard to justify my continued support.

  • the reasonable person

    It’s too easy to say this now, but we didn’t have cap issues this year, they were next year. The GM had the option to leave the group together that got 103 points and it’s beginning to look like he should have exercised that option unless there were good trades to be made (which there evidently were not). In hindsight, might have been better to hold onto guys to play now and be traded for less than good value later, since good value was not available in 2017 off-season.

    Now we are seeing all the calculated bets Chiarelli made go wrong and with them, the Oiler’s playoff hopes are legitimately starting to slip away. A sad sight indeed that I hope the Oil can correct, but they have to do it NOW!!!!

    To me the silver lining is that when I look at the November schedule, while it is certainly not “easy”, I like the looks of it. Oil get a chance to get hot against Eastern Conference teams they should be able to beat.

    By the end of November we will know a LOT more about where this season is headed.

    The other thing is that even if they miss the playoffs this year, which would suck, they at least have the core in place to hit the ground running in the very near future with just a few tweaks and some luck with development of players and minimal injuries.

    Still a very disappointing and concerning start to this season.

    • Klef abs

      The thing people and Chia refused to believe is that pretty much everything went right last year. The Stars aligned and we had few injuries and 7 players had career years. Sitting back and thinking the same would happen this year with no Sekera, Eberle out and relying on internal improvement from rookies and AHLers was a huge miscalculation.

  • camdog

    Oilers are -8 on speciality teams. Power play should eventually start to score, penalty kill could continue to struggle. Oilers are near bottom of league in power plays drawn – not enough skill or speed in line up to draw penalties. This roster isn’t going to fix itself.