Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett

WWYDW: Drastic Measures?

What a mess.

After an 8-3 spanking at the hands of the St. Louis Blues last night, the Oilers own a 7-12-2 record. They’re closer to being dead last in the league than they are to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have only four wins in regulation and we’re through one quarter of the season.

This looks nothing like the team that came within one win of reaching the Conference Final last spring. The players look lost. They’re slow, they don’t execute in the offensive zone, they aren’t effective in the defensive zone, they don’t backcheck hard, they don’t forecheck hard, and, honestly, it feels like the Oilers of last year were mysteriously kidnapped overnight and replaced with a team from the Decade of Darkness.

Somehow, this mess needs to be cleaned up. But before that happens, we need to figure out what exactly this mess is. And, along with that, we need to figure out who’s responsible for it. Pointing the finger is one thing, but ultimately, the Oilers as an organization need to figure out what’s gone wrong here and whether they trust those involved to fix it.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday questionHow long of a leash do general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan have?

Feb 3, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan reacts during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

First, there’s Chiarelli. He’s the one who puts the team together. He was named general manager soon after the Oilers won the Golden Ticket in 2015. He’s made some obviously bad moves, like acquiring Griffin Reinhart. He’s made some obviously good moves, like acquiring Cam Talbot. He’s also made some gusty moves, like trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Long story short, he isn’t afraid to make a move and there are rumours floating around that he’s looking for defence.

But last summer, he stood pat. All Chiarelli did was deal Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome and use the cap savings on Kris Russell. He also added Jussi Jokinen and Yohann Auvitu, but he didn’t really build on 2016-17’s success, instead relying on internal development.

That’s blown up in his face. There’s no scoring depth on the wings as nobody has come close to filling Eberle’s void. Also, the blueline is clearly missing Sekera and nobody has been able to step up into the role. In the final year of Connor McDavid’s entry-level deal, Chiarelli has put together a very disappointing product and has made a handful of bets that went wrong.

Then there’s McLellan. Coaches tend to be scapegoated before general managers do, especially during situations like this in which a team massively underperforms expectations.

Can McLellan really be blamed for the team’s struggles? The Oilers are putrid on both the power play and penalty kill. He hasn’t been able to get lines together that can generate secondary scoring. The team also looks flat and he hasn’t really made any adjustments to deal with systems other teams are executing.

But then there are the players. I mean, the Oilers had a very good season and playoff run last season. The difference between the team this year and last is night and day despite the fact the roster is largely the same.

What say you, Nation? Is it time for drastic measures? Would firing the coach make a difference? Or is this the fault of the general manager? If it isn’t, do you have faith in Chiarelli fixing the team at the trade deadline or over the off-season? Or is this entire thing on the backs of the players? 


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  • OldOilerFan

    I’m on the fence with Chiarelli: I don’t think he inherited a lot in the cupboard to deal from. But then he’s pulled the trigger way too fast on some other deals (cough – Eberle – cough). McLellan? All he does is blend the lines. More than a few times I’ve yelled at the TV “take a time out take a timeout!” Winnipeg did that against us. Up 2-0. We tie it. They took a time out, and promptly scored two more. We…. blended lines.

    I hope the rumours of us looking for a defenseman are just rumours. Why bother now when Sekera is coming back? Sit tight as far as a trade goes, I don’t see anyone available that would help and there will always be a cost.

    I think there is a problem in the dressing room and no one of course speaks about that sort of stuff. I don’t spread rumours but SOMETHING is amiss. The decade of darkness they admittedly the dressing room wasn’t great. Last year they all spoke of how great the room was and they played like it. First game against Calgary they looked great. What happened?

    So IMO two things: One, somebody step up in the dressing room ala Mark Messier. If there is a problem, fix it! Two, I think Mclellan should try a few other tricks in the coaching bag: Bench a marquee player for a game. Send a message. Blending lines and bag skates aren’t working.

    Rant over. I need to go wash the jersey I threw on the floor last night …..

    • flamesburn89

      Who would you like to see him health scratch? Can’t blame McDavid or Draisaitl, they’ve both been ok. RNH is having a renaissance season offensively, all while playing a strong 2 way game. Those are really the only 3 marquee players up front.

      On the backend, if you sit Klefbom or Larsson for a game, then you’re asking Russell to play more. Never a good solution.

      The Oilers problem is that they’ve got a few good players in slumps (Talbot, Klefbom, Larsson, Maroon recently) and a hell of a a lot of depth players in slumps (pretty much the entire bottom 6)

      PC did nothing to address the depth on this team, this start is on him.

    • russ99a

      I’d give both another year. It’s obvious Chiarelli is doing two things, and McLellan’s systems and coaching style figure in each:

      1. Building a team for the playoffs when offense tightens up and rush-centric players won’t have space to skate or have the game to cycle, Nuge I’m looking in your direction.

      2. Once Connor and Leon signed, his planning became less about seriously contending gor a Cup this year, (both were quoted in the preseason thinking that the group wasn’t there yet) and more to using games to make good decisions on players to keep or move before we get at the cap.

      Both of those left us a little short on the roster to start the season, but I have no doubts that Chiarelli will be active at the deadline to find Connor’s shooter and move out UFAs and RFAs that don’t figure in the team’s plans.

      Hopefully the playoffs aren’t out of reach, and once Sekera gets back the team will likely perform as Chiarelli intended.

  • EThom04

    I would like to see Strome up on the wing with McDavid. Draistaitl with his own line. Strome clearly can’t drive a line on his own. And as a third line centre he can’t provide much. Put him in an offensive role and he might just do something 5 on 5

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    The difference from last year to this year is Strome for Eberle and an injured Sekera. That equals second worst team in the league? I don’t think anyone can saw this coming, but this tells me that it’s a coaching problem and Todd has lost the room for some reason. It’s time to fire the coach.

    • ed from edmonton

      I would suggest the differences in the team have been.
      1. Talbot going from a rock to a question mark.
      2. Klefbom impoding.
      3. LD looking more interested in counting his money than competing.
      4. McD being “off”. He still harvesting scoring points but hos overall game is leaving a lot to be desired, as per the dash 7 in the last 3 games.

      When you best players go from your bets players to your worst, yoi ho from 103 points to 63.

    • That's My Point

      Or leave things the same for the rest of the season but expect different results?? Doesn’t something or everything have to change, it’s not working now so why not fix it before Arizona wins 2 more games and the Oilers are 31st place?

  • Consultant

    Chia downgraded this team over the off-season.
    Sure the team is similar but why downgrade??
    It’s a tough business, but it’s on his head and this is mess a plenty. Fire Chia today.
    Not only would I like to see him fired I would actually prefer a pre-game public flogging at centre ice.
    But they won’t, this caught them all off guard and so now all upper managment is standing around in a stupor, including puppet by Nicholson. I’m afraid we haven’t hit bottom yet and Chia at the helm is not going to help anything, he has proven that.

  • TKB2677

    First of all. I think Chia should shoulder some blame here. The bets he made aren’t working. Here is what I think his thinking was.

    You have a 103 pt team who were 2 pts from the division title and got screwed out of the conference finals. You did it on the backs of strong goaltending and an OK defense. That defense core while not allstars, was good enough to get you 103pt. You lose Sekera (easily your second best dman) for 3/4 of the year due to a knee injury. He’s coming back but you know he won’t be his usual self but he will at least be OK. So with that in mind, while I am not thrilled with the Russell contract, It is pretty hard to be in a so called cup window and have an entirely different second pair if you don’t sign Russell and you are missing Sekera for 3/4 of the year. It’s always a roll of the dice when you sign a UFA, the ones out there weren’t very good and you know what you will get in Russell who at the time was a serviceable #4 that helped you get 103 pts. You could have gotten Hamonic who at his best might be marginally better than Russell but it would cost you 3 high picks. Your minor system is still pretty bare thanks to the previous guys so giving up 3 picks is hard to do. Based on how Hamonic has played the last couple of years, it looks like he is declining. Given how he’s played in Calgary, HE IS declining big time.

    For Eberle. I am sure McLellan and Chia I am sure had an opinion on him before they came to the Oilers and his flaws from watching him. Then they get to see him in person and see how bad the flaws are. You try to fix the flaws. It doesn’t happen. The team finally gets good and Eberle is lousy the whole season and even worse in the playoffs. So bad in the playoffs, on a few occasions he cost them games. Given how McLellan trashed Eberle all last year, how he demoted him and called him out in the playoffs, he was clearly done with him and wanted him gone. So you have 2 options. At some point you have to shed salary. So you can hold on to him for one more year when the coach thinks he’s useless and probably plays him down the lines. Then the offseason comes, you can’t take on ANY salary so you have to trade him for nothing as in a few picks. OR you dump him now while you can still get an NHL player who maybe can do something for you. People can dump on the Oilers for trading Eberle for Strome because Strome wouldn’t be that good but I really doubt he is putting up the numbers he is in New York. He wouldn’t have the confidence of the coach and he’d be on pace for even worse numbers here. I would bet on it. So they took a gamble. Strome based on his talent should be able to get you 15 goals, 35-40 pts. You have to think that Caggulia who’s an offensive player should be able to get you 10-15 goals. Those are 3rd/4th liner numbers. You are high on Slep based on his playoffs so you have to think that he is good for 10-15 goals. Again 3rd/4th line numbers. You expect McDavid to at least get 30, maybe more. You expect Leon and Lucic to put up similar numbers. You expect Maroon to take a small step back but he’s good for over 20 on McDavid’s wing. You expect Nuge to be a lot better offensively because he can’t be much worse. Kassian had at least 4 or 5 called back so you expect him to get you over 10. You brought in Jokinen who’s an offensive player so you expect him to get you at least 10. Letestu had a career year so you don’t anticipate him doing that again but you expect him to put up 10-12 which is typical for him. None of that has happened.

    So for Chia, I don’t know how you anticipate just about your entire forward group underachieving all at the same time. You listen to all the stats guys and their shooting percentage is beyond low which even they say is strange.

    You have your in the vezina conversation last year goalie, unable to stop a beach ball this year. Not sure how you anticipate that. Talbot is flat out not giving them NHL goaltending on most nights. You can’t win with .900 or worse goaltending regardless of your defense.

    You have your really good last year, up and coming, point producing dman in Klefbom looking like he can’t play NHL defense. You don’t anticipate him being as bad as he’s been.
    Larsson has been OK for the most part.
    Benning who is young and you expect to have some ups and downs, looks like on most nights he’s not an NHLer. I don’t know how you can anticipate that.

    Nurse you expect to have ups and downs as well. He’s been decent for the most part but when he is down, he’s really bad.

    Russell while not spectacular you expect him to be what he is. He hasn’t been as good as he was last year. So you wouldn’t anticipate that.

    ON paper if everyone is at least playing to their capabilities, I am not talking about overachieving, this team should be a playoff team. Maybe not challenging for the division but should have a playoff spot or at least right there. I think Chia was banking on that and given how favored the Oilers were, so did everyone else. SO I think Chia planned on standing pat and be in the playoff hunt. He knew he was getting Sekera back so that would be like getting a deadline acquisition. I also think he was going to use his cap space at some point. Most teams aren’t looking to make moves until December at least, that magic “American Thanksgiving area”. So having cap space is a weapon that most teams have. So once teams realize they are out of it, they are open to make moves so I think Chia was thinking he could add a player with that cap space. To put him over the top. None of it has worked out. So while I agree that Chia shoulders some of the blame. There are way, way, way too many players having bad starts that you would never anticipate.

  • madjam

    I would think the players , management and coaching have done a poor job of adjusting to new rules that negate most truculence in the game today as another big factor in our demise . Put everything together , it appears next step will be a new coach to see if that is bulk of why players are playing so poorly .

  • There has been a negative trickle-down effect.

    From the general manager reducing the team’s overall ability, which then affects the coaching staff’s ability to set expectations, and then to the players who expect other player positions to perform enabling them to improve HAS NOT HAPPENED.

    – The top six is fine. On average as a whole, they have not overly improved from last year and that’s fine because they were good as a whole. For example, Nuge is better this season, but Draisaitl is not.
    – The bottom six is a disaster, offensively and defensively and all are playing worse than last year. You can’t play the top six more minutes or their performance will reduce at the 20th minute.
    – Young Puljujarvi was expected to be much better. He’s improving but not at the desired pace.
    – It’s as if the general manager was expecting the improvement of the top six and younger players to carry any decline in the bottom six. It doesn’t work like that. It hasn’t worked like that.

    – Not replacing Sekera’s absence trickled the load and pressure onto Klefbom to step up. He has not and it has had a major negative effect on his performance. Instead he got Auvitu, an 8th defenseman at best. This is on the general manager.
    – Nurse was sheltered by this and it gave him room to leap frog Klefbom in the lineup. This was a good move by the coach yet Nurse is not a top pairing defensemen yet.
    – Larsson has been better offensively but his defense has waned as a result.
    – Russell is worse and the next three years will be painful to watch.
    – Benning was expected to fulfill a 2nd pairing role. Way too soon. This is on the general manager in not finding a defensemen to play 2nd pairing right side, even left side.
    – Gryba’s defense is good in a temporary 3rd pairing role, and is prone to brain-fart mistakes.

    – And finally, the negative trickledown affects the goalie the most, his confidence, and his calmness.
    – Due to poor penalty killing, a subpar bottom six, and half of the top two pairs of defense in a position above their ability, opposing teams are able to grind better, find the slot, pinch, and score–and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

    – McLellan is trying to blend the lines to find chemistry. He’s benched players for underperforming and attitude, even McDavid.
    – The PK and PP are essentially the same as last year so their poor performance is on the assistant coaches.
    – But this is ultimately on the general manager in not improving the lineup this off-season and because he was unable to, possibly due to the distraction on the Draisaitl contract, he defaulted to hoping the young players would step up. If he’s smart, unlike Lowe, he won’t fire McLellan, but fix the lineup. Easier said than done.

    But now, it’s too late. The season has been long over for many games now.

  • Cauliflower McPugg

    I reference Gregors piece from the other day inferring that the Oil channel the Flames of last year.
    This Oiler team is actually much more like the final ELC year of Johnny Gaudreau’s Flames (15/16).
    After winning a round versus Vancouver in 14/15 the Flames lost to the Ducks (sounds familiar).
    The following year (15/16) they missed the playoffs, had talent but roster holes, generally underperformed and were a lottery team eventually landing Matty Mouthpiece at #6.
    Last year they stumbled out of the gate, got undermined with bad goaltending and slipped into a wildcard to then get unceremoniously disposed of in 4 straight, quite possibly the most misleading sweep in several years, as Calgary by advanced metrics was the dominant team, but, goaltending, reffing and dubious OT losses were their demise (sounds familiar).
    I think this Oiler team more closely resembles the 15/16 Flames than the 16/17 Flames, and by extension, a Matty Mouthpiece consolation prize would be ok. Not Rasmus Dahlin ok, but ok none the less.
    Actually who am I kidding, PC is trading this pick for magic beans out of desperation for his job.

    #tradethemall and fire management into the sun. Actually do that in reverse order but whatever.

    • Broken

      When the Flames made the playoffs in 14/15 they were not a “good” team. They were exceptionally lucky in so many aspects of the game, that it wasn’t a surprise they failed to make the playoffs the following year and why Bob Hartley was fired.

      The Oilers were a good team last year, it wasn’t a fluke they made the playoffs, and if the NHL had Elliotte Friedman in the war room, that goal where Kesler was prying apart Talbot’s legs would never have counted.

      Sure, some guys had a very good season last year that they probably could never live up to. Chia kept those guys and traded the one guy who used to have very good seasons who had a so-so 16/17 (Ebs, of course).

      Anyway, I don’t agree with everything that’s been said about the Oilers, either before the season started or the 21 games they’ve played since. They should be a playoff team even with some holes to fill. It would help a lot if they could get on a roll, though, and the sooner the better.

  • OilersBro

    If the coach has lost control of the room like people hear believe, its up to the players in the locker room to respond. Lucic knows his 6M isn’t just for points its for leadership.His scoring is what we expected however, if I were him I’d make a statement in the locker room about back/fore-checking hard and then follow it up with a fight early in the game.

    Detroit is a team with speed; we have to come out gritty or get buried quick today.

  • Total Points

    The fighting among the players is not good. The GM needs to send the player or players home – explained as upper body injuries- and then trade them.

    Once a team – whether sports or business – does not get along the GM needs to address and correct the situation.

    That is where I blame Chai. He sat there and did nothing and here we are.

  • Vanoil

    I would like to see the pundits and fans STOP evaluating coaching and management based on results, and start evaluating them on the process and diligence they use to make decisions. In this league you can NEVER discount the role of the opposition — the game is not played in a vacuum. Simply assuming that the team was good enough based on what they achieved last year is soo ignorant. It ignores factors like Dallas taking steps to improve, Winnipeg, Minnesota and St. Louis fixing their holes, LA actually shifting to the calibre they are capable of … And that is just the West.

    In this sport you have to forecast what it will take in the year ahead to build a winner — of the whole Championship; then against that imaginary standard you fix the holes in your line-up and adjust the possibilities against other factors like pending Free Agents and the Salary Cap. Bottom line — YOU CANNOT REACT and hope to succeed; you must be PROACTIVE.

    Has Chiarelli or McLellan been proactive — why haven’t they been able to craft lines that can produce? Where was their pre-season diligence, what alternative line structures did they have written down, what were their respective fail-safes????? If the answer to these is that there aren’t any, time to evaluate them for not being prepared.

    I’m not the biggest fan of Ralf Kruger, but his relative levelof success showed one thing — he over-prepared. That simply cannot be stated about this group of Managers & Coaches. Why would you risk going into a season with Strome and Jokinen — the best evidence of their abilities is their most recent production, not historical stuff. Players are either on the upswing of their carreers or the down swing, if you don’t like the stats, watch the video, the evidence is there; a failure to review it is simply negligence.

  • This team needs to make a significant trade and soon in order to salvage this season. They lack defense and most importantly leadership. If they can turn it around and get into the playoffs they can still be a scary team.The Oilers have some good prospects to deal in order to get some missing pieces, but it has to happen soon.

    • Jaxon

      They’re not making it. Less than 3% chance and that 3% that made it had a freak run. So in reality a 0% chance. They’re basically already eliminated. Via Tyler Dellow at The Athletic:

      “Over the 11 full seasons played since Lockout II (in ’05), 36 teams have been below 17 points after 20 games. Only one of them made the playoffs — the 2007-08 Washington Capitals, who fired their coach after their 21st game and traded for Cristobal Huet, and went 11-1 in their final 12 games to crawl across the finish line with 94 points.”

  • WillyWonka

    1) Fire Chia publicly with pomp
    2) Hire Tippett as an assistant coach in waiting
    3) Trade draisaitl for Oliver ekman-larsson
    Today’s NHL offense requires you have offensively capable defenseman. Joey L will replace drai’s goals and drive the defense

  • CMG30

    I don’t think the coach should be shouldering the blame for the season. He’s a proven coach who can only work with what he’s given. The blame falls squarely at the feet of the GM. The Reinhart trade raised red flags, the lack of return for Hall rang alarm bells. The Eberle trade and lack of work on a clearly deficient roster in the summer speaks to his ability to evaluate NHL players, or more accurately LACK of ability to evaluate NHL talent. Not to mention boat anchor contracts for both Lucic and Russell along with overpay for Drai. Fire Pete now. The season is lost and we need someone competent to helm the organization next year.

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      It’s crazy to think that with all the blunders you just mentioned, there are still people on here who think chiarelli is a good gm. not even mentioning the horrible moves he made in Boston!

  • The Whispererer

    The absolute worse thing this team could do is trade prospects and picks in an effort to salvage this season. (1) It is a very unlikely at this point to acquire players that would help them become a playoff team overnight. (2) Prospects and picks don’t count against the CAP; actual players do, and there might be room to add 1 worthy player while still keeping within the CAP. (3) With McDavid contract kicking in next year they will need to have cheap plug and play prospects to fill holes in the roster for the next 8 years; sacrificing picks and prospects now in a vain hope to salvage this season would cripple the team for years. If in doubt, just look at the lost opportunities we suffered by trading picks for Reinhart along with the picks lost for signing Chia and TMc.

    • Jaxon

      Yup. I agree. They’re not making it. Less than 3% chance and that 3% that made it had a freak run. So in reality a 0% chance. They’re basically already eliminated. Via Tyler Dellow at The Athletic:

      “Over the 11 full seasons played since Lockout II (in ’05), 36 teams have been below 17 points after 20 games. Only one of them made the playoffs — the 2007-08 Washington Capitals, who fired their coach after their 21st game and traded for Cristobal Huet, and went 11-1 in their final 12 games to crawl across the finish line with 94 points.”

      If anything, they should be early sellers to get better returns. And thereby also increasing your chances of drafting a Rasmus Dahlin or at least a top 5 talent.

  • The Whispererer

    One thing that drives me nuts is the management and coaches publicly shaming the players. All that accomplishes is decreasing their trade value to the point where all you can get is a Strome for an Eberle, 3rd round picks for Shultz and Yakupov, a 4th line winger for Dubnyk etc.
    In the (nearly) full year of Sakic trying to trade Duchene, i can’t recall a single negative public comment by Sakic or coaches about the player.

  • Zbilly

    Oilers ownership usually has no patience with these things. I think we may still be paying MacTavish and Eakins still. They need to be more patient in my opinion. If they fire Chiarelli do they promote internally like Keith Gretzky or Bill Scott. Or externally like Lombardi or Tim Murray. If they fire McLellan do they look internally at his staff or Flemming in Bakersfield or do they look externally. For me firing either doesn’t lead to a lot of better options.

  • Jaxon

    Well, they’re not making the playoffs, so why not sell early to get better returns on Maroon, Letestu, Cammaleri, Auvitu, and Fayne (if possible)? See if you can get players or prospects of note for Maroon from St Louis. Allow them to negotiate ahead of the trade to get a better return. St Louis has Barbashev, Tage Thompson, J Schmaltz, Zach Sanford and others. What would St Louis give for Maroon? Or Maroon and Letestu? The Oilers may have to take salary back to make it work.

  • That's My Point

    After tonite’s BLOW-OUT against the Wings will anything change? It didn’t after allowing 14 goals the last 2 games? If I’m a BILLIONAIRE owner I think I would try to hire the best GM and coaching staff to go with the BEST player in the WORLD!!!