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What will Bob Nicholson do?

Bob Nicholson has never been in this position before.

As President of Hockey Canada, he never had to contemplate firing a head coach or general manager during the tournament. The U17, U18, U20 (World Juniors), World Championships (men and women), and the Olympics (men and women), were so short once the decision was made on who would be coach and GM, it was final. Of course many Canadians wanted Marc Crawford fired the moment his submitted his list of five shooters at the 1998 Olympics, which didn’t include Wayne Gretzky, but by the time Dominik Hasek stoned them it was too late.

Nicholson’s role with the Edmonton Oilers is much different. As the Oilers season-long tailspin continues, we wonder: what Nicholson might or might not do?

This has been a disastrous season. The Oilers are in 27th place and on pace for 74 points. That is 29 fewer points than last year. One could argue this season is setting up to be the most disappointing in franchise history, and that’s saying something considering they missed the playoffs ten consecutive seasons between 2007-2016.

So what is Nicholson thinking?

Sources tell me many in the upper echelon of the Oilers organization are not happy. I should hope so. Someone will pay the price for the losing, but who and when?

Usually when a team underachieves the head coach gets most of the blame. Todd McLellan and his staff need to shoulder some, but not all of it. The penalty kill, 71.5%, is the worst the NHL’s seen in 30 years. For my money, the system is too complex for the mainly inexperienced penalty killing forwards. And the PK has stunk, 75.8%, for the past 112 games. Don’t mention the home or away efficiency this season, because the truth is this team hasn’t been able to kill a penalty consistently for 14 months. The powerplay is 24th at 16.1%, but it has dropped significantly during the season. In the past 22 games, it is only 11.5%, and the PK is 67.2%. Both have shown no signs of improvement. The coaches need to own that.

From where I sit, however, if Nicholson decides Todd McLellan is the scapegoat, then it means general Manager Peter Chiarelli is staying. Chiarelli is on the record as saying he won’t be firing McLellan. I’m sure he is thinking that today, but what if the Oilers lose the remaining three games on this road trip? We’ve seen many GMs state the coach is safe, only to see him fired a week or month later. It isn’t personal, just how the business works.

I think it is fair to ask if McLellan should look for another voice on his staff. McLellan has had Jay Woodcroft on his staff for eleven years and this is the SIXth year with Jim Johnson. A new voice could be a welcome change in the coaching room as well as the dressing room. A new voice and a new set of eyes can offer a different approach or viewpoint.

But a coach is only as good as his players, and Chiarelli has made some moves that have severely weakened the Oilers overall skill.

At the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he traded the 16th and 33rd picks to the New York Islanders for Griffen Reinhart. It is the one trade in Oilersnation history where almost everyone agreed it was a bad deal. The best case scenario for Reinhart was he’d become a #5 D-man in the NHL. Only Chiarelli and head scout Bob Green believed otherwise. The deal was a head scratcher for many reasons. The Oilers had Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson in the system. All of them shot left like Reinhart. The Oilers had no skilled forwards developing in the minors or in junior outside of Leon Draisaitl and they’d chosen Connor McDavid 15 picks earlier. Why trade two picks for a left D-man who no one outside the Oilers management was projecting to be better than Klefbom and Nurse? At best he’d be a third pairing left D-man.

Then a week after the 2016 NHL draft, he traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Larsson is a quality NHL defenceman, and the Oilers desperately needed a right-shot D-man, but acquiring one at the expense of a winger who could drive a line was a bad trade. The interesting part was, while Hall rarely took a night off when playing for some brutal Oilers teams, many fans, along with Chiarelli, felt he was expendable. Larsson is a solid NHL player, but not a difference maker. No one can debate that it was a downgrade in skill. The comment section from that article is amazing considering how many felt Hall was bad in the room. It was a bogus argument then as it is now. Sadly, my concerns in the bullet points have come to fruition.

Chiarelli downgraded in skill this past summer as well, when he dealt Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. I cautioned many who ripped Eberle because he wasn’t physical, or looked disinterested at times and because he never scored in the playoffs. Replacing goals isn’t as easy as you think. Hoping young players will do it is much different than having young players who CAN do it. It was fair to say the Oilers needed more from him in the postseason, but the Oilers didn’t need to shed his salary this year. He might have been a cap casualty next year with McDavid’s new $12.5 million/year deal kicking in, but replacing a consistent 25-goal scorer is not easy. There was no need to rush it. Although, I never thought the Oilers would this bad. Every aspect of the team has failed from the GM, to the coaches to the players.

Chiarelli did make good deals in acquiring Cam Talbot, Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian for very little, and he made some decent UFA signings, but I believe a lack of overall skill is hurting the Oilers more than coaching.

The concern with Chiarelli is that for the past three summers he’s made a trade where he acquired a player with less skill. I understand you don’t win every trade, and sometimes you give up skill to fill a hole, but not to the degree he has. It is a trend, and while each summer he loses the trade a bit less, he is still losing it.

Nicholson has to wonder if the trend continues this summer. And more importantly, how will the Oilers improve?

Chiarelli’s biggest error this season was dead cap space. The Oilers have millions of unused cap space? Then trade Eberle next summer if you want to shed salary. Why do it now and not use the money saved to bolster the team?

CONCERNS

One of Chiarelli’s responses in his interview with Mark Spector yesterday stood out to me.

“I see the situation we’re in. I see levels of improvement, but I also see the losses piling up. There’s a plan in place, and a plan to bring up through the ranks, at the proper time, younger players.”

Which younger players is he talking about?

The Oilers have zero forwards in Bakersfield who can help, now or in the future. Their best forward prospects are Tyler Benson and Kailer Yamamoto. I sure hope Chiarelli and management don’t expect two 20-year-olds to cure the woes of the group next season.

On defence, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and Ryan Mantha are rookies. Bear missed two months with a concussion and then needed a few extra weeks to get back in shape. His off-ice conditioning has been an issue dating back to junior. Is Jones better than any of the LD currently on the roster? Nope. Mantha shoots right, which the Oilers need, but I don’t see how he will improve their defence next year.

This team doesn’t need to get younger. They need more experience, and yes, they need to keep developing players but don’t develop them in the NHL. Try playing them big minutes in the AHL first, instead of playing 27-year-old AHL veterans more minutes on a consistent basis.

The last thing the Oilers need is more inexperience. They need some more proven, consistent veterans, and the problem Chiarelli faces, or any GM who might take over if Nicholson makes a move in the summer, is the Oilers don’t have a lot of assets to give up to improve their team quickly.

CAP NEXT YEAR…

The Oilers currently have $58.55 million towards next years cap with seven forwards (McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Lucic, Puljujarvi, Khaira and Kassian), four D-men (Sekera, Klefbom, Larsson and Russell) and Cam Talbot. They also have $1.33 million in dead cap space due to the Benoit Pouliot’s buyout. So basically $60 million is already accounted for.

The positive is most of their best players are signed. Re-signing Nurse will be Chiarelli’s main priority among the RFAs. Patrick Maroon, Mike Cammalleri and Mark Letestu are UFAs. Do the Oilers just let Maroon walk and hope Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula or Khaira can fill his goal-scoring void? We’ve seen how that works. If they don’t re-sign Maroon they better bring in a veteran scorer with a proven track record. Don’t underestimate the ability to score goals. Yes, Maroon isn’t a perfect player, but he can produce.

So how can Chiarelli improve his team? The list of potential free agents isn’t long on players who can produce and be signed at a reasonable dollar figure.

An NHL scout said this in a text message to me on the weekend: “I don’t think they have the players to be honest. McDavid is so good every night, but no one can do it by himself. (Wayne) Gretzky (Mario) Lemieux and (Sidney) Crosby had lots of quality players around them. The Oilers have some other good players, but not enough.”

That is only one scout’s opinion, but it is fair to wonder how they improve. The parity of the NHL means they don’t need to make sweeping changes to improve, but if you believe the players aren’t good enough then that falls on the GM. He built the team.

The Oilers are not Stanley Cup contenders. I thought they’d make the playoffs at the start of the season, but this roster shouldn’t be in 27th place. The players are also responsible for some of this mess, but the organization can’t buyout or trade every player.

If they make a major move, it likely will be the coach or the GM.

It would be foolish to replace McLellan now, bring in a new coach, and if nothing changes axe Chiarelli in the summer. The new GM should hire his own coach, so forcing him to inherit a coach wouldn’t be ideal. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time the organization hired someone, Dallas Eakins, but didn’t let him pick his own staff, but I’m confident Nicholson realizes that is a recipe for failure, not success.

Maybe Nicholson does nothing and lets the season play out. The odds are very low, but not impossible, they make the playoffs even if he makes a major move now, so I don’t expect one, but he has to look at where they go in the future. Do they have the right pieces in place off the ice?

That is the question Nicholson needs to ask himself.

PARTING SHOTS…

1. Changing a coach or GM will appease many frustrated fans, but history tells us continuous change leads to continuous losing. However, if you keep the same decision makers in charge and they keep making bad decisions, then you will never improve. Chiarelli and his scouting staff need to recognize they made three major errors the past three summers. Every GM or scouting staff will lose a trade, but try losing a minor deal instead of winning those and then getting crushed in the major deals.

2. Captain Obvious states the special teams need to be better. The fact the PK has been this terrible for 112 games tells me the system is not working. Of course the players have made mistakes as well, but this system is not working. And whatever they are coaching or showing on video to the PP group isn’t either. Make some changes. Stop doing the same thing expecting it to improve. It isn’t. It is getting worse.

3. Talbot needs to be better at EV. In today’s NHL your goalie often has to be one of your three best players most nights to win. It might not be fair, but that’s the reality in 2018. Of the 28 goalies with 25+ starts only Craig Anderson (.901), Matt Murray (.905), James Reimer (.912) and Semyon Varlamov (.913) have a lower EV sv% than Talbot’s .916. Last year he had a .927%. He can play better and needs to. Last year on the PK he had a .877sv%. And keep in mind that PK was 78% for the final 68 games. This year he has a .807sv% at 4×5. There have been some major breakdowns in front of him, no question, but Jaroslav Halak has a .863sv% for the Islanders and they have the second worst PK at 74.1%. Talbot is capable of being better than he’s played this year.

4. Chiarelli’s top priority must be finding a right-shot defender who can produce offence, move the puck up ice quickly and knows how to defend. This has been talked about for years, but we’ve yet to see him address it. Sure, it isn’t easy, but until you make that move, stop making other trades that lower the skill level on the team. That strategy is not working.

5. All the “Hall was the problem” articles and comments sure have quieted down. I wonder why? Because he wasn’t the problem. Learn from that and stop trying to pin the Oilers current place in the standings on some BS “off the ice issue.” The Oilers aren’t losing because the dressing room isn’t cohesive. Many of you believed that was the case with Hall and you’re seeing the errors of your ways. Don’t fall for it again over the next four months when some people are going to try and find a player to scapegoat for the woes of the team. No one player is the reason. Never has been and never will be.

Recently by Jason Gregor:



  • Jordan88

    Hall did have off ice issues. He had an attitude of arrogance around him when seen in public. He treated fans outside of media events like they were lesser people.

      • Rock11

        Wait, you mean a young guy at a bar might not have been entirely polite. Did you notify the police? Surely no one on this website would have ever been a D-bag while drinking in a bar. We are all sure above reproach and for any of you cretins who have ever been rude how have you not been fired from your job for being so obviously terrible at it.

          • Dean S

            Enough Damage has been done.
            The prospect board is almost bare, we have 32M tied up next year in 4 players (Talb, Luci, Drai, Mick). Are we the slowest team in the west? Goaltending is the 2nd worst in the Western Conf.
            The Solution:
            Remove PC ASAP.
            Assistant GM (new title), Keith Gretzky, will assume GM duties till year end.
            Off season, search for a new GM with emphasis on speed/skill/excitement with a few quality veteran leaders.
            No trades to reduce draft picks.

          • Dan 1919

            Yep, follow the Pittsburgh modo of speed and skill, or the NSH modo of rock solid team and individual defence… but not the 2011 bruins modo when the NHL is clearly going faster and faster. Last year I thought he was really good and created a modern era/bruin hybrid. But it turns out that was just a lucky season on Chiarelli’s way to creating a full out slow and big roster that we see this year.

          • IRONman

            Okay. Have a Logical Look. 97 and 29 put up 177 points last year. They have good contracts. If you gave 29 a 2 year bridge deal the cost for him would be 10 million a year in 2019. Cap goes up, so do salaries. McDavid is worth every penny. If the oilers had no 97 and 29 I would be a Jets fan. I believe with 97,29,93,25,27,98 we can have a solid playoff team

          • OldOilerFan

            Agreed. Jim Matheson the hall of fame writer reported the Oilers weren’t going to draft Barzal. So that points at a problem with the scouts, not the GM. Some on Oiler Nation need to get past Barzal. Yeah the trade was bad, two draft picks given up – but I’d blame the previous Exec’s that talked Chiarelli into that trade – he was only into the job what – two weeks? That wasn’t Chiarelli – that was someone above him.

          • That's My Point

            Yet Chiarelli was willing to trade picks to move up to get Yamamoto, who will probably never make the NHL. The SMALLEST player in the HISTORY of the NHL to be drafted in the 1st round. If Chiarelli gets Kailer in round 4 or 5 no problem, but not 1st round.

          • crabman

            if they weren’t going to pick him at #16 then that is just another example of the problems with the GM. Barzal was considered a top 10 talent. He only fell because of an injury. If a player of that talent is available 6 or more spots later in a draft that strong you say thank you to the hockey gods and make the pick

    • I met Taylor Hall on two separate occasions, in public, and he was very nice to me both times. And no he had no idea that I write for this website. I know that’s not every story, but that’s my story.

      • Odanada

        I somewhat disagree. It is the fans who make it possible for them to make a living playing the game they love. They are not required to give back to the fans, but I think they probably should.
        Case in point, my 9 year old son wrote Cam Talbot a nice fan letter asking for an autograph. Over a year later: nada. No. Cam doesn’t owe my boy anything, but it sure sucks when my kid asks me “do you think Cam didn’t like my letter?” I reassure him that Cam is busy and that the letter will come when he finds time.

    • Rock11

      Yes. Spend the Lucic money on acquiring a RHD(even if that player is 80% of Larsson) and this team is better. Lets please not forget that the change last year as opposed to 2 years ago was driven largely by health and better G play. Full healthy seasons by 97, Nuge, Klefbom, and the whole team really, accounted for most of the improvement. Add in Talbot’s play and the Hall/Larsson swap was a minor piece of any improvement.

    • Jason Gregor

      Yes I do…make another move and bring in a competent RD…could have signed Demers for instance. Larsson is a solid player, I like him, but he wasn’t the backbone of the team last year. My point was is you can’t keep making trades where there is a clear downgrade in overall skill and expect it won’t catch up with you.

      • Gordon Bombay

        Demers didn’t want to sign in Edmonton, he came for a visit and decided to sign with Florida. So your “could have signed demers” comment is irrelevant

      • RJ

        This was the problem for me with the Lucic signing.

        When Lucic was traded from Boston to LA, the response was that they couldn’t have won in 2011 without him, but that he also was no longer the beast he was in 2011. This was even before he became a King. Yet he got a big contract to be an Oiler based on 2011 (one presumes given his connection to PC).

        When they brought in Lucic they also brought in Demers. He is not a top-10 RHD in the NHL, but he was certainly better than anyone the Oilers had.

        They picked the wrong UFA.

      • Craig1981

        I am confused at his latest comments of trading Eberle so he could be prepared to fend off an offer sheet. That is on him, the contract should of been settled earlier if it was a big concern, or you trade after the offer sheet. I find it hard to believe they couldn’t of found a deal at least close to Strome.

        • belair

          Maybe there’s more to contract negotiation than just putting pen to paper. It’s not far-fetched to say that Drai’s agent might’ve wanted to see what Connor got as a decent comparable. Although RNH’s $6m set the bar pretty high from the get go.

          As for Eberle, he was a $6m winger. I would’ve loved to get more for him but the writing was on the wall with the McDavid and Draisaitl cap numbers coming down in July. And when your reasoning for moving him is cap relief, your trade partners knowing how badly you need that cap gone hurts your leverage immensely.

          We were always going to lose that deal.

      • belair

        Which D, Jason? I’m not advocating trading Taylor Hall but our salary cap situation was inevitably going to push him out if we were going to significantly address the defense.

        I’m looking at the alternatives since that trade was made and Adam Larsson fit the type of stabilizing D we required after 15/16. Which other D moved since then fit our needs both positionally and financially?

        Keeping Hall and signing Demers is eerily reminiscent of a MacT move. It doesn’t significantly change anything and it overpays a low-end to average NHLer with the intention of playing him over his head. Do you honestly believe we still would’ve made the playoffs had that happened?

    • btrain

      Who would trade last years playoff run for sustained success? That’s the question to ask, not if Larson was a big reason for playoffs last year. As exciting as the run last year was, for it to be a flash in the pan and back to losing again this year, it wasn’t worth it for me.

  • Petrolero

    I think chiarelli had a really bad summer but the coaches are a main issue. The reason I say this is because of Vegas. Many are saying the oilers don’t have the players but I dare anyone to tell me the knights have a better roster. Man for man it’s not even close to edmonton’s,and yet they are where they are. Explain that.

    • btrain

      Where Vegas lacks in elite skill they make up for it with an abundance of quality, youthful, depth players. Don’t get me wrong, the coaching deserves a great deal of credit, but there are no weak links on that team. Pair that with a 0 pressure environment and an a huge chip on the shoulder for being cast aside, and they are outperforming all expectations. So as much a Gallant has done a great job, we can no longer underrate the team Vegas has been gifted.

  • OldOilerFan

    I agree with all your points, except the last paragraph. I’m NOT blaming Hall. But …I think dressing room issues DO occur. I won’t fan the rumour mill nor comment as I’m not in the dressing room – neither is anyone else in ON tho. I’m just saying I read a lot about a tight dressing room last year, the players all commented on it and frequently. This year I don’t see those comments as much. IMO I think they miss a guy like Hendricks, he kept everyone loose. Pitlick was another good story, and I think he and Hendricks are two guys they should have found a way to keep.

    • geoilersgist

      I think about this all the time too. How much has losing a player like Hendricks hurt the team? I look at the Jets and see how well they are doing… He cost nothing and kept inexperienced guys off the PK. We need a couple guys like him who can still play.

      • Dan 1919

        Exactly, a few moves at first made Chiarelli appear like he wasn’t afraid to take a chance. Two years later Chiarelli is just overconfident and wreckless in making a big slow team.

  • Rock11

    In some ways the Mcdavid lottery win sabotaged the organization. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t want it any other way but I believe Chiarelli looked at how good Mcdavid is and basically said that 97 alone was all the offence he needed. That led him to believe he could downgrade the talent around him for “heavy” players and Mcdavid would lift everybody up. While he can and has accomplished that there is only so much one player can do. Even after that 2015 draft this should have been a 3 year build. Chiarelli thought he could do it in one year and as a result the high end upside of this team was flushed away for 2 playoff rounds and now we’re back needing to rebuild the talent base. Rebuild 3.0 ahoy.

  • Oilman99

    Jason you hit the nail on the head. Nicholson has a major headache trying to decide what to do at this stage of the season, and for the future without making it even worse than it is already. This season has really turned into fubar.

  • WhoreableGuy

    Bobby Nick’s former job was the CEO of Hockey Canada, his job was to oversee a team selections of the best Canadian players in the World. You can make 2 or 3 solid teams by the amount of great Canadian talent out there.

    Was it a right choice to bring him in and oversee an NHL team with a hard salary cap and free agent restrictions? An average fan can build a solid Team Canada. Bobby Nick doesn’t seem like a guy who can go out and make tough decisions, he’s like Tambellini but in a higher position.

  • Zed

    Great article Jason. First off let’s look at the roster peter inherited in 15. This is a result of the decade of darkness. The reinheart deal was bad forsure as Jason pointed out. As for hall. He is definitely benefiting from a change of scenery. It was hall for Larson and lucic in the grand scheme of things. If we kept hall last year and he got injured which is unfortunate but he did play a reckless game here then we would have been saying oh we should have dealt him. Our toughest guy was matt Hendricks and he barely played last year. Lucic was brought in to bring toughness. The eberle for strome hasn’t worked out but eberle even said he had no confidence after last years playoffs. And no one is scoring on out team no , who can really say that eberle would be on the same pace as he is with the isle?? Just some food for thought.

    • Rock11

      Lucic still could have been brought in for “toughness” without trading Hall. The cap savings in the Hall deal was only about $2m. Would have left room for Lucic if you think he was necessary.
      Hendricks barely played last year because he can barely play. Loved his effort but when the boots get that heavy its hard to get much done.
      The Eberle trade wasn’t so much Eberle going out it was Strome coming in. Strome has the same “lazy” characteristics that Eberle had but with one third the production. Players going out isn’t the issue. Its the players coming back that have been the problem. If Hall was a problem in the room then fine trade him but be sure you get value back. Same with Eberle. Other GM’s and Agents must get a special tingle every time they see Chiarelli’s number on their phone. Worst. Negotiator. Ever.

    • ponokanocker

      I agree, it was Hall for Larson and Lucic. That was decent in my eyes. Why he couldn’t get more for Hall is beyond me though. You’d think you’d at least be able to get a pick out if it.

    • btrain

      I don’t think its good practice to use the signing of a free agent to justify a separate lost trade. Even though Lucic signing allows Hall to be traded, who Hall is traded for is still an important consideration. Just as a comparison Hall has put up 50 or more points 3 separate seasons where he was at least 10 games shy of a full season. Lucic generally puts up 50+ in recent years but rarely misses a game. So if you have an injured season with Hall, point wise, its likely somewhat of a draw between the 2 players. You get close to a full season out of Hall and over 60 is a safe bet with his career best being 80pts in 75 games played.

      Eberle’s lowest producing season came last year with a historically low shooting percentage of 9.6%. His career average (not including last season) is 14.2% over 468 games played. All logic and intuition suggested that he would have rebounded this season and not only has he, but he has done so in a second line role. Dealing him was likely inevitable, dealing him for an unrealistic replacement, while he was at his all time lowest value, and when you had cap space to spare = poor management. More food for thought.

  • Natejax97

    Question on Defense. Today we have:

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Sekera – Benning
    Nurse – Russell
    Davidson

    If the priority is a top flight right handed defenseman, who is leaving?

    Sekera and Russell have trade and movement clauses. Nurse is not going anywhere. They gave Larsson an A so obviously they have him slotted into their leadership group. This leaves 2 guys, Benning and Klefbom.

    Klefbom’s contract is a dream if he plays like 2016-2017. This year maybe not so much but has shown good stretches.

    Benning is young is developing. He may have some trade value but is the ceiling of the new player coming in as high as this kid’s? I look at Gothisbere from Philly. Fantastic rookie campaign, pedestrian second year with time in the pressbox, now looking better again…

    Davidson is probably one of the best “7 D-man” in the NHL.

    I don’t know if I would give up on the current D-Core just yet, unless a really good opportunity came by. In order to get what Gregor is talking about above the cost will be Nuge plus, and I don’t know if I can get my head around that.

    • Rock11

      At the extreme risk of rehashing this tired debate the Russell spot is the spot where the upgrade should have been targeted. He’s fine. He isn’t the player type that was needed however. He is a poor mans Larsson and the Oil needed the poor mans Karlsson. This summer was a chance to upgrade that slot or at least change out the style of play in that spot. Now Chiarelli has painted himself into a corner and it will be hard to improve the RHD without losing a young talented guy like Nurse or Klef.

      • Natejax97

        We will agree to disagree on Russell. lol… I just don’t think the guy we were looking for was (or is) available without a very high acquisition price, and as a whole as long as our defense is relatively healthy I am okay with that 7 man cluster.

        If it were me as the coach / GM, I would be getting these D-men into pairings that are going to be long term and keep building chemistry, and I would be looking to upgrade the easiest position in hockey – fleet footed gritty wingers that are not afraid to shoot the puck, create havoc, block shots and penalty kill. You fill the bottom 6 with a whole bunch of those guys. Then I would build 2 extremely skilled lines around Puljijarvi, McDavid, Draisaitl and Nuge. I would build them so that they are also power play lines so they are always together. And I would leave those lines together for a really long time.

        • Rock11

          Not sure we disagree that much on Russell. My point was simply that Sekera, Nurse, Klef, and Larsson are your core on D. I also think we all agree that a puck moving, shooting RHD is needed. I’m not sure a “better” player than Russell would have been available but it seems to me a more offensive minded puck moving PP specialist type was of greater need for this team than a gritty shot blocking type.

    • oilerjed

      Benning is the man to go. I think he is almost at his top end now and don’t see him improving much more. Bring in someone who can move Larson down if at all possible but at a minimum find another #2 RD to replace Benning.

      • BringitbacklikeSlats

        We can not afford to be shipping away Right shot D man that are at fair value. They are near impossible to find. He’s a fine young player for a 5/6 guy that can fill in higher up in limited minutes. So long as his next contract is good cap wise he’s a player we should probably keep. He’s just in his second year and a ways away from the 300 game meter that seems to be what the experts call enough experience

      • Gravis82

        w h a t ? We are trading away a young RHD for a above average defenseman who we hope can push the guy we traded Hall for down the line up? We have all gone mad

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      In my experience here-and this is just me-if a comment is deleted it’s with good cause.

      But I didn’t read your comment in this case, so I don’t know.

      • Not sure on that, I saw his post, I personally did not think it was offensive, but have noticed in the last couple of weeks a couple of mine have disappeared as well. Nothing offensive on those either that I can recollect, other than disagree with the authors take on things. Seems to be enough now.

        • Jordan88

          Well what I said was true it was not hearsay I was there I witnessed it. It was not like the “I heard through a friend of mine whose mom’s tailor overheard someone speaking about so and so.

          No it was my first hand account of what happened.

  • Gravis82

    MacLellan could probably do fine with a good team. But the question is does his strategy leave too much on the table? What would the team have done with a different coach? This is impossible to know, but if you look at how he puts his lines together and how he matches, then you should be able to almost answer that question. My gut says he doesn’t line match with the best of them.

    Chiarelli absolutely needs to go. Of all the players we let go that are now holes on this team, I forgot about Jordan Osterle. Chalk up another one. Cheaper more effective Russel.

    You can only blame hindsight for so long until you have to start accepting that perhaps you have no foresight.

  • Bills Bills

    A couple things i didnt understand. The Pouliot buyout. They didnt need to do this. He was big, fast and could play top 6 when needed. They had an opportunity to over develop some of their left wing depth and didnt do it. So what if he was overpaid. He is a proven and capable NHL player.

    Trading Eberle, you are right about goals and I was severly disappointed and at times mad last year in the playoffs. But he was the best goal scorer the oilers have had in well over a decade. Let him redeem himself.

    Signing Gryba to anything other than league minimum. Nice guy but very expendable. I do not understand why you would ever pay a depth 7th Dman more than league minimum.

    Either way it was a good article Jasin but changing the coaching staff should definitely be on the table. You said it, there are some serious special teams system issues. Any minor league team knows that a basic penalty kill consists of boxing out the opponents from the front of the net and keeping their chances to the outside. But not the Oilers. They like to have a man high and play a triangle . It is weird and when one of the dmen drop behind the goal line or goes to the corner it leaves major gaps. WTF???

    I also don’t understand the breakout of ome guy cherrypicking at the opposing teams blue line. He just stands there. It is easy to block out that out. It eliminates a passing option and appears to be slowing the defence down.

    We have seen coaching changes make a difference mid season and you said so yourself, the personnel on thos team is better than 27 place. So unless you are throwing in the towel, I th8nk it is needed. Besodes, trading Nuge is a horrible idea right now unless you’re getting above market value. And in my opinion he has more value than Duchene

    • Bills Bills

      Sorry for the spelling errors. I am typing like a mad man in a Mexican coffee shop with my typset and spell check set to Español. 😉

      Seriously this teams play has got me mad.

  • Hemmercules

    I think the whole “Hall has a bad attitude so thats why they traded him” thing is just a crutch to soften the blow of a lopsided trade that most people hated.

    I thought it sucked but had almost had to be done because the defence was so weak. Much like trading Eberle, Chia should have waited longer to get a better return or just not traded him. If Chia loses another trade like the ones he has already there is no way he keeps his job.

    Its hard to fathom their PK has been that bad and no staff change is in the cards. Get a new set of eyes on the team if even just an assistant. Everyone on the outside sees the problems but the team seems to be in their bubble of stubbornness. Reminds me of that meme of the dog sitting in the burning room. Everything is fine. Nope, it isn’t.

    • MrBung

      The Hall trades big criticism is another example of Chia giving up more value then receiving. In the eyes of the fans, it was acceptable if the Oilers had success. It has now turned out into another Chia giving away value in a trade. He has lost more moves than he has been successful on. All GMs will make moves that don’t work, but they have to have more of the shrewd, good moves than the bad ones. On top of that, Chia is positioning the Oil into cap hell.

  • ed from edmonton

    Perhaps the most telling stat with the Oil is they have been outscored 61-14 is 12 games this year that they have lost by 3 or more goals (thanks to Brownlee). TMac’s mantra of “staying in the fight” seems to have lost its impact.

  • TKB2677

    I am not going to say much about the Hall for Larsson trade. Hall was an excellent player for the Oilers. I never saw him as the problem when he was an Oiler but I never saw him as a guy that could lead a team. This is coming from a guy that has a Hall jersey in his closet. I also didn’t see how after 10 years of losing and not only losing being at the bottom or near the bottom of the league for most of it that you as an organization could say you are changing your ways while still having Hall, Nuge and Eberle with the team. They were the big 3 when the Oilers were at their worst. A ton of blame for those really bad years is on the shoulders of the management and coaches but those 3 were supposed to drive the Oilers improving and they didn’t do it. So I felt that if you are serious about changing and showing you are changing, at least one of them had to go and Hall was the only one that could actually get you a decent piece back. It doesn’t mean I think they got full value on Hall but I don’t see Nuge or Eberle getting you anything with while without drastically sweetening the pot.

    When it comes to getting a good, right shot dman without trading Hall, I say who was out there? They tried to get Hamilton. Out of spite by the Bruins, it would have cost them their 1st, second and Nurse. Sorry, WAY too much. That would have been a terrible trade. For all the people that menion Demers. He signed for 4.5 mill. Demers is a 4-5, right shot dman. They already had Fayne at 3.625 mill, why on earth would you want to sign Demers who’s a lightly better version of Fayne.

    • Rock11

      One could argue that a 4-5 RHD plus Hall is better than a 2-3 RHD and no Hall. I like Larsson but he certainly isn’t a #1 and the complete lack of offence to me at least means he isn’t a true #2 either. Was Taylor Hall worth the upgrade from Demers to Larsson. Not to me but, to quote Lowetide, your mileage may vary.

    • Gravis82

      The problem wasn’t that the good players were not good enough…the problem was that we didn’t have enough of them.

      You cant build a team on trades, they are at best sideways moves.

      You win by drafting and developing. Don’t have a defenseman? Well then we need to draft one. Will take 5 years? Oh well, those are the breaks. Be a good offensive team until you find one. Then when you do, go supernova.

      • BringitbacklikeSlats

        What are you saying? On one hand draft and develop and on the other it takes 5 years to build a defensemen that way…
        Clearly the status quo of a terrible defense waiting 5more years to improve was not an option. Few GM’s are even around for that long.

        • Gravis82

          It wasn’t an option? Well look where the alternative got us. Traded away all of our offensive assets for a mediocre defenseman and spare parts. If you think that approach worked, see standings.

          You steal D men like that when a team is desperate, or you just have to draft them. Trying to find one when they are not there will destroy your team.

          Part of this is the realization that we are not entitled to a stanley cup. You need luck and good management. Part of that is finding good defensemen in the draft. If you cant do that then honestly you dont deserve to win a cup.

  • ed from edmonton

    Nicholson’s job at HC would not have included firing of tournament coaches, other than if a coach did some outrageous thing like abuse his players in some way. Don’t forget that HC us must more than just the tournament teams that we watch, it is involved in almost every aspect of hockey development in this country. I would be shocked is over his time with HC Nicholson didn’t have to make a decision on somebody who wasn’t getting the job done.

    WRT the Oiler’s, it not Nicholson’s job to hire or fire coaches that PCs, although Nicholson might provide his thoughts. Hiring or firing the GM is certainly directly in Nicholson’s oervue.

  • grumpyKoala

    We need to aquire player like Lias Anderson, the one that hate losing more than us, fans.
    Right now i feel more despair, frustrations and deep anger from us than the player, it not good

  • morsecode89

    The sad truth is, the only people who defend the Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall trade are Oiler fans. And I like Adam Larsson, but Gregor is 100% right that he is not a backbone of this franchise.

    Oiler fans, Look at teams like Dallas, Toronto, Tampa, past Chicago rosters. You need as many elite players as you can get. And despite Hall’s tarnished reputation – yeah, he was 23 years old and was rude to your buddy who tried to buy him a beer at Cactus Club – he was and is an elite player. And he was always an elite player on a very very poor Oilers team.

    This team could have had 2 elite lines with Hall – Nuge, Drai – McDavid. Instead, we have a somewhat stagnate offence. Replacing goals at the NHL level scored by 1 player just isn’t easy. I don’t think Strome, Caggiula, Slepyshev, and Khaira has as many pts as Hall does combined this season. And if they do, it’s insanely close.

  • ponokanocker

    If anything is to happen right now, it is Chia being axed. This prevents more bad trades. The new GM can come in and evaluate, and tell Todd to fix the special teams. In the offseason, the new GM can find their own coaches then.

  • PickardvilleSlim

    I personally didn’t have a problem with either the Hall or Eberle deals, except an astute GM would have gotten picks back, or at least shopped around for the best deal possible.
    Ask the question: Would NJ trade Hall to us straight up Larsson, or Eberle back to us for Strome? Not a chance in the world.
    Also, a friend pointed out that Pete basically gifted the Islanders their second line of Barzal and Eberle. And people think Snow is an idiot! Pete’s MO is losing trades and I have no faith in him going forward whatsoever.

  • The Future Never Comes

    I think it’s either one or the other, either Chia did not supply enough NHL caliber talent and should be turfed, or Mcl did not utilize the talent he does have at hand and needs to go.

  • So the plan is to let younger players come up the ranks? Let’s see…

    FORWARDS:
    Puljujarvi is playing fairly well for average-sake, but still needs way more experience, and needs to improve.
    Slepyshev is not a 2nd line right-winger, never will be.
    Caggiula is a 3rd line left-winger at best. They’ve tried him nearly everywhere and putting him on his off-hand certainly isn’t idea.
    Strome is a 3rd line right-winger at best where he can make a difference.
    Khaira has surprised but he’s still currently a 4th line left winger at best.

    DEFENSE:
    Klefbom is not a 1st pairing defensemen–he’s currently 2nd pairing, but he does have the potential–if he can hit the net and play better positioning.
    Nurse is not a 1st pairing defensemen–he’s a 2nd pairing at best, but still has potential.
    Benning is not a 2nd pair defensemen–he’s a 3rd pairing, but still has potential.

    GOALIE:
    Brossoit wasn’t fully ready. Finally getting a vet goalie will help Brossoit, but I maintain that Ellis will surpass Brossoit.

    Last year was a fluke. Talbot was lights-out. Team was healthy. I’ve maintained that Chiarelli wasn’t building the team for this season, but maybe for 2018-19, which is why he got rid of Eberle, bought-out Pouliot, and let Hendo walk. It was his way of showing how the team would be under a big McDavid contract, but show it early and see if the youngins would reach for the stars–which they haven’t overall.

  • Northcom

    This is a great article, and the players own a lot of the oilers ills, if you play hockey or have played competitive hockey there is nothing that kills a team more then bad goaltending and weak goals. Being down 2 – 0 after a few shots is like climbing Everest with no oxygen… The reason the oilers were good last year is because Talbot was great last year. This team knows how to play a winning game, it just seems like the tank empties after bad goals early. Oilers are out of the playoff picture, barring a miracle but if you look at Vegas, they got great goaltending from a bunch of goalies and we can’t get it from any…

  • ScottV

    I would let McL go.

    We need a nuts and bolts – systems type coach. Someone that is a cross between Hitch and one of the Sutters.

    A motivater who can really influence – by hook or by crook – if necessary.

    McL hockey is too unstable. Not near enough attention / passion toward the flip side of the game – among a number of other factors.

  • Romance14

    Hall was absolutely an issue in the room. Numerous teammates made reference to this (Perron, Ference, Belanger). The Oilers and Devils successes and failure don’t change that fact.