Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Three Thoughts: It starts at the top

Is Peter Chiarelli, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, the right man to lead the team moving forward in the wake of what has been an undeniably frustrating season of under-achievement and abject failure?

That’s certainly not the only question that comes to mind in the wake of a 0-3 road swing through California, capped by a 6-4 loss to San Jose that has the Oilers hopelessly out of playoff contention by even the most optimistic measure, but it’s the first question that needs to be asked before we move on to anything else. Is Chiarelli the man to get the job done?

If Oiler fans got to make the call in the hours after that loss to the Sharks, Chiarelli, along with head coach Todd McLellan and his staff, would most certainly be on the first rail out of town. My guess is a sizeable chunk of the roster would be taking that ride of shame right along with them. That’s understandable, now that the proverbial spit has hit the fan, but, thankfully, that’s not how it works.

Unless you want owner Daryl Katz calling that shot, that first question, the one that potentially tips the first domino, starts at the top — or should — with CEO and vice-chair Bob Nicholson. Does Nicholson have faith that Chiarelli is the right man for the job? If the answer is yes, then the same question needs to be asked right through the pecking order in hockey operations. If the answer is no, then we’re in for some drastic changes to largely the same front office that was in place for a 103-point season in 2016-17. So be it.

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Simply put, when Nicholson looks at Chiarelli’s body of work as POHO and GM — the good, the bad and the ugly — does he share his vision and trust his ability to carry it out? Has Chiarelli put together the right mix of players, or at least a reasonable facsimile, to give McLellan and his coaching staff a fighting chance of being successful? Yes or no? Somewhere in between? I think the answer is the latter, but I don’t get a vote. A lot of people would say no. Is Nicholson one of them?

Again, this isn’t the only question that has to be answered, but it’s the first and most important one. When it’s this bad, everybody wears it. If Nicholson deems Chiarelli is his man, then you move down through hockey ops and to McLellan and his coaches, through the pro and amateur scouting staffs and, of course, to the players. There’s lots of blame to go around. It’s the scope of changes to come, not whether any will take place, that will be decided by that first question.

My best guess, and that’s all it is, is Chiarelli and McLellan get a vote of confidence from Nicholson — Chiarelli gets the coming trade deadline and this off-season to make the moves to get this team back on the road to contention it seemed to be moving nicely along last season. I won’t be a bit surprised, given how abysmal the special teams have been, if it’s strongly suggested to McLellan that it’s a good idea if his assistant coaching staff looks different next season.

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If that vote of confidence isn’t forthcoming, then Nicholson had best make that call sooner than later. Maybe he has already behind closed doors. Every GM makes mistakes and Chiarelli has made his along the way — letting offensive talent get away in trades for lesser players, not using available cap space and on and on. When things are upside down and on fire, it’s no surprise that fans want heads to roll. How many actually do starts with that first question by Nicholson.


Sep 30, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) awaits the start of play against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The old line is that if Wayne Gretzky can be traded (he was sold), anybody can. There’s a grain of truth to that, but trading Leon Draisaitl, as discussed by Elliotte Friedman, Kelly Hrudey and Nick Kypreos on the Hockey Night in Canada panel, doesn’t make any sense to me. From Kypreos: “There’s one untouchable we know and that is in Connor (McDavid), but after that I’d be open to start conversations about Leon Draisaitl.”

You can never say never, but any conversation about trading Draisaitl better start with a can’t-miss slam dunk coming back the other way, at a minimum, given that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have been dealt away. While the slip in his power-play production has been considerable this season, Draisaitl is producing points at slightly better clip than he did last season (.96 to .94).  Trade him? Better be some real sweet talk coming from the person making that call.


I like a lot of the attributes Milan Lucic brings to the table when he’s on his game, but I don’t recall seeing a good player struggle for as long as he has during an 18-game streak in which he hasn’t scored a goal and has just four assists. Lucic is still banging when he gets the chance, but he has been a non-factor way too often for the price point he’s at. Is this is the start of his decline or is it just a protracted bad stretch?


  • Butters

    I read an article on copper and blue and verified the names with the Oilers website.
    The Oilers pro scouting staff consists off
    1. Matti Virmanen who is based in Finland and has another job as player coordinator with a Finnish hockey team according to C+B
    2. Paul Messier who manages a hotel in the Bahamas according to C+B
    3. Chris Cichocki who looks qualified according to C+B

    This might be an area to look at.

  • VK63

    That HNIC panel is a joke. Its just mindless spitballing and half baked opion.
    Even freidge is getting lazy, think first, then opine.

    Its become click bait into a lapel mic. Not that it really matters. The viewership numbers are weak and thus whatever influence they think they are wielding, is in fact, yelling into a void.
    Or in their case, an echo chamber.

    • crabman

      The HNIC panel said only McDavid is off the table and Friedman quickly put the brakes on trading Draisaitl. He said you listen to anyone who calls but he wouldn’t trade Draisaitl unless it was amazing. And I think everyone would agree you aren’t doing your job as a gm if you aren’t at least listening.

  • nbandito

    Imagine hiring a GM that could trade Lucic for Hall, Strome for Eberle, and Reinhardt for Barzal… and he comes with a second round draft pick in his pocket!

  • Slipknot 8

    ‘when Nicholson looks at Chiarelli’s body of work’

    You mean when Gretzky looks at everyone’s body of work and decides wether or not he want Friends of Gretzky running the ship.
    It’s already taking place…

  • SailorD81

    I’d be making a call to Carolina about Faulk. Rumours are they are looking for help up forward and have a bunch of D men already and Faulk may be an odd man out.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Ever notice that whenever a defender seems like a good fit on the Oil blue( Hamilton and Hamonic) the phlegms acquire them? Faulk to Calgary,then…done deal. I wonder what their team would be like with 75% of the cap spent on defencemen. Better than the steaming pile here in Edmonton probably. Anyway, go oil.

      • SailorD81

        That does seem to be true. And they probably have the assets to give up to get him… I’m sure there’s a middling left shot D prospect on another team that PC can give up a few good picks for.

  • DannyGallivan

    Chia and TM will undeservedly stay. Chia is a problem in that he has made more bad trades than good. Hall, Ebs are top of mind. Larsson is good/not great and Strome not so much but H/E are top quality.

    TM has not proven himself. Second worst PP and worst PK. Too predictable, not dynamic, too much passing. That is coaching – he should be getting more out of this team than he is.

  • Yourresignationpeter

    Why even talk about this crap. Nothing will change. Nicholson will have a media avail saying he Ian confident in chiarelli. Which is a huge joke. When they announced they were hiring chiarelli and giving up a draft pick for him. I knew we were doomed !! Guess I was the only oilers fan that was aware of how crappy he is at trade value. Look at Bostons roster. He left that team in shambles. Again losing all the trades he attempted. The guy is a lawyer. Go practice law and leave hockey to hockey people !! Seriously. If chiarelli is GM next year. I’m cheering for the Flames. They’re GM is way better then ours. But that’s an opinion. Like most it will be unheard and won’t matter. But for the record I’ve forgotten more about hockey then most of the front staff of the oilers. Clearly hockey Canada is better off with out Nicholson and chiarelli.

  • Derzie

    “The top” is a couple of rungs higher than Chia. He is not great but the influence at the top is a constant though the decade+ of problems. Old boys = old problems. Won’t change until that does.

  • toprightcorner

    Charelli is the sole reason the Oilers have given up a goal on the first shot of the game 19% of the time and given up a goal in the first 3 minutes of a period in 71% of their games.

  • Kass - Brought to you by BTF 2.0

    I don’t watch the flamers except when they
    p̶l̶a̶y̶ lose to the Oilers but after this yapping I thought I’d check out the highlites.

    Didn’t like the game but loved the Lomberg fight. To bad Tkapuk always runs and hides but eventually he’ll get that too.

    But once again this is ON – go talk about your crap team somewhere else

  • 24% body fat

    oilers fan here, I like JP and in the long run he may be better, but to say this right now is as stupid as flames fans thinking Bennett is better than Draisaitl, or monahan better than mckinnon

  • FlamesFan27

    Yeah, sure. Tkachuk has 20 goals and 39 points plus he’s drawn the most penalties in the league. Puljujarvi has 9 goals and 15 points. Puljujarvi may be better in the long run, but he sure isn’t right now.

  • DRT57

    Where do you get this Monahan McKinnon Bennett Drai thing. I was asking about a post made by Jordan 88 (looking for clarification ) about Jesse >Tkachuk .There is no comparison now period, Tkachuk by a mile. Like comparing cats and dogs, ones is soft and likes to lick itself ,kind of like Kass Bro ,the other is a pure breed nasty pit bull that can’t be contained and just want to eat and fu….. score

  • Hemmercules

    I would take Tkachuk all day every day over JP. I hate Tkachuk but he is quite obviously the better player for the NHL.

    JP is decent but the Koolaid drinkers have this major love for him and overvalue him like most Oiler fans do with their players.

  • DRT57

    Jesse better in long run.? Can’t see that. Tkachuk is just 20 and so far ahead in his development and His trajectory will keep him ahead of Jesse. Take that to the bank. Like comparing cats to dogs

  • DRT57

    Hey 24% As far as Bennett vs Drai Sam’s is a Center he’s got Monty and Backlund ahead of him. His defencive game is far superior than Draisaitl ‘s , if he got first line or second line minutes he’d put up 60 or 70 pts easy and he’s one tough dude , ask Mc D . as far as been a judge of talent once again you have proven you wouldn’t no it , if it came up and booted you in the nuts or in your case the VJ

  • DRT57

    With all the heavy meat you’ve got on that team ,to bad they don’t show up and have the balls this kids has. Loo /Marroon /Kassian don’t have a pair between them. all Heft no heart

  • crabman

    @DRT57 you sound like people that said Yakupov would score 60-70 pts if he played on the 1st line. Bennett has a career high 36pts and has been a minus player every year. Draisaitl is heads and shoulders a better player. not even a discussion.

  • DRT57

    R E A D the post , never said he was better , better defensively , yes Big difference in minutes , a first liner playing with Mc Diddle or second line where he’s not nearly as productive compared to Sam playing 3 rd line minutes ( checking line ) with rookies Jankowski & Hathaway We’ll keep Sam thanks, Draisaitl to expensive and not worth that Money as being discussed in Edm. If Sam played on 1 st pair with Monty and Johnny he could put up 60 -70 + pts ,(have you seen his junior numbers.) but he’d be playing out of position. I don’t know why I even bother. Head and shoulders not even a discussion what an idiot.