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 question. How long of a leash do general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan have?
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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