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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The case for removing Peter Chiarelli

‏This is part two of a two-part series examining if the Oilers should keep Peter Chiarelli as general manager. We’ll look at why the Oilers should fire Chiarelli here.

In part one, I made the argument why the Oilers should keep Chiarelli. It’s a difficult choice to make but boils down to general managers usually getting more than three seasons, especially if they haven’t made a coaching change yet. The Oilers have changed general managers and coaches a lot in the last decade, which should ultimately work in Chiarelli’s favour.

Still, Peter Chiarelli’s seat has to be warm after an unexpectedly tough season. That’ll happen when you have Connor McDavid and miss the playoffs.

He hasn’t made a coaching change and general managers usually get at least one before really feeling the heat. But the Edmonton Oilers aren’t normal. Having McDavid in his prime means there should be more urgency than your typical team.

The Oilers will have made the playoffs once in three years with a generational talent on the roster, although McDavid was injured for 37 games in his rookie season.

Most of Chiarelli’s big additions have come at a significant price.

Andrej Sekera might be his best signing, his cap hit and term are fair for a top-four defenceman signed in free agency, even with his tough season returning from injury.

Adam Larsson, however, was acquired for current Hart Trophy-candidate Taylor Hall. The Oilers need for defenceman, especially right-handed ones, was great, but Chiarelli traded down and gave up the best player in the deal while still needing a puck-moving d-man. A common theme of his trades.

Milan Lucic is still a useful player but signed to a buyout-proof contract that already looks incredibly poor. Lucic is on pace for 39 points, which isn’t good enough for his $6-milllion cap hit. Lucic’s contract is a real problem for an Oilers team needing value deals around McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Ryan Strome is a competent NHL player who can play wing or centre on a third line, but he’s not worth Jordan Eberle. The Oilers could use a scoring winger pretty badly. This trade was described as a salary dump, but the Oilers never put that cap space to use. They’ve been one of the teams with the most space available all season.

Kris Russell is a useful NHL player, but he’s a third-pairing defenceman signed to an expensive contract with no-trade and no-move protection. The Oilers defence still needs to improve, but money is locked into veterans Russell and Sekera. $4 million is too much for a bottom-pair defenceman.

Dec 4, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer (34) makes a save against New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) in a shootout at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Chiarelli has sent away a lot of talent as Oilers general manager. Mathew Barzal is on track to win the Calder Trophy with Charlie McAvoy and Brock Boeser fighting for second place. Sure, the Oilers never picked Barzal, but Islanders general manager Garth Snow said they don’t make the trade if Barzal isn’t available at 16. Barzal aside, the Oilers still gave up two high draft picks in a very good draft for Griffin Reinhart, a declining prospect that didn’t fill a need. Their prospect pool would much better today had they kept those picks.

The Reinhart trade might be the most lopsided deal in terms of pure value going one way. You can find a similar trade each summer during Chiarelli’s time in Edmonton. Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson in 2016. Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome in 2017. The Oilers can’t keep trading down and expect to improve, but that’s the way Chiarelli operates going back to his time in Boston. He traded Tyler Seguin and Blake Wheeler and gave up the best player in both deals.

The Oilers’ cap situation is even more difficult next season when McDavid’s cap hit jumps to $12.5 million per year. They’ll need to improve the roster with few tradable assets. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom are often brought up as trade candidates to acquire a right-handed defenceman and a skilled winger. Given Chiarelli’s track record, getting full value for those players seems unlikely if he’s making those trades.

Chiarelli’s lack of activity last summer contributed to this season’s failures. Wasting the last year of McDavid’s entry-level contract should be a fireable offence. Chiarelli didn’t improve the roster in the offseason but arguably made it worse by trading Eberle for Strome and not doing much else.

The Oilers need for a puck-moving, right-handed defenceman is still present, as it was when Chiarelli was hired. Chiarelli’s traded away two high picks in 2015 (one of which became Mat Barzal), Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle, and the Oilers’ defence still isn’t good enough. Now, they have less assets and more money tied up while still needing to add significant pieces. Nurse is a restricted free agent and needs a new contract, so a bridge deal might be necessary with four $4-million defenceman already signed.

There’s also the significant lack of prospects in Bakersfield. There’s not one NHL-ready forward prospect and Bakersfield still sits at the bottom of their division, even with all these AHL veterans playing big minutes.

Feb 22, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates his second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and Vice-Chair Bob Nicholson talked about this season in an interview on Sportsnet 590 with Bob McCown in February. He correctly spoke about goaltending and special teams sinking their season and said they’ve had lots of focus groups say they can win the Stanley Cup in the next three to five years. It’s hard to see the same general manager who couldn’t build a supporting cast around McDavid when he made $3.75 million do it when his cap hit jumps to $12.5 million.

The Oilers still have elite talent, but all precede Chiarelli’s arrival. His task was to surround McDavid with the right support to win but built a slow, expensive team around the fastest player in the game.

Of the current roster, Chiarelli’s additions include Lucic, Mike Cammalleri, Jesse Puljujarvi, Strome, Pontus Aberg, Drake Caggiula, Larsson, Sekera, Russell, Matt Benning, Cam Talbot, and Al Montoya. Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu were also Chiarelli additions but sent out by the trade deadline. Chiarelli’s group isn’t good enough.

Nicholson’s interview with McCown preached continuity and confidence in Chiarelli. The Oilers have had six coaches and three general managers since 2010. But that’s no reason to continue with a poor one.

These are crucial years, and McDavid’s entry-level contract is already gone.

The Oilers were right to look outside the organization for a new general manager, they just hired the wrong one. Chiarelli came into one of the best jobs in hockey and has continuously bled talent and added tough contracts in free agency, making their cap situation difficult going forward.

The Oilers have changed general managers four times in the past decade. That shouldn’t stop them from firing Chiarelli.



  • Before Pete the Oilers couldn’t compete against their decision. He made them heavier.

    Eberle plays well against poor teams. Stats show that.

    Problem is the Oilers can’t compete against rest of the league.

    Need to find the right balance. I’m giving Pete this off season to get it right or he’s gotta go.

    • btrain

      Love to see where those stats show up. Looking at the current season, Eberle has put up points against 26 of the 30 other teams including goals against SJS, NYR, NSH,COL,EDM, CAR, PHI, OTT, VAN, TBL, PIT, LAK, DET, BOS, NJD, CHI, VGK, CBJ, TOR. He also has assists against WPG, ANA, STL who are all pretty strong teams. Only teams he has not produced against are MIN, DAL, CGY, & FLA which are all currently bubble teams batting for playoff spots.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        Granted, the stats for this year indicate that Eberle is just fine playing with his new team (and I am happy for him, he seems like a good kid)… But I think O&G Hockey may have been referring to Ebs not raising his play/compete level against strong teams, in tough games, and at the right times. We all witnessed this regularly when he played here, it’s not some elaborate fiction, or misrepresentation of the player. Elite players rise to the occasion against the best teams and at the right moments- they bring their “A” game, or even better (e.g. Connor’s game vs. TBL, Leon throwing the Avs D-man aside like a rag doll to apple the OT winner the other night). Eberle isn’t in EDM anymore because he wasn’t able to elevate his game at crucial times, and made too much money to be a passenger when he has the talent to be a driver. He only has two gears: normal and float. Oh, and look at his goal-vs-team stats for last year and some tape of his Houdini act in the playoffs. There is some good info in there too.

        • btrain

          My point is that we need to separate what is our own feelings (right or wrong) from what is actually evidence based stats. Using the small sample playoff data and his worst season, production wise, of his career is just poor use of stats. This is the definition of small sample size and its a flawed methodology that cherry picks the details that support an already drawn conclusion.

          Fact is, its harder to score against better teams for all players, and its not unusual for McDavid, Crosby, and other undeniable talents to also feast on weaker competition. In fact, this makes a great deal of sense if you think about it. So when one brings up “look at his goals vs teams stats” an equally important detail to check is what is typical of all players with around 20 goals on the season? This way you can measure up Eberle vs other players who score at about the same rate. If you just put Eberle under the microscope and ignore normal league wide trends, it tells you little. If one believe Eberle doesn’t rise to the occasion as much as he should, that is completely their right to believe this, but cherry picked stats/assumed stats does not make this true.

  • ziyan94

    What bothers me most is the LW situation.

    We had:
    Hall
    Maroon (good job Chiarelli)
    Pouliot

    Now:

    Lucic

    Our centres can only do so much while having trash wingers. We had some fantastic depth at LW, and affordable too, but that all went down the drain.

  • The Whispererer

    Some people point at bad trades Chiarelli made in Boston and blame him for those decisions; others say he was forced to trade Seguin ( and maybe others ? ) by Cam Neely.
    Some people point at bad trades Chiarelli has made in Edmonton and blame him for them; others say he is being manipulated by the OBC and blame Lowe, MacTavish, etc.

    There is one major difference between the Boston and Edmonton situations. In Boston Chiarelli was GM and was reporting to his boss Cam Neely who was President Of Hockey Operations.

    In Edmonton Chiarelli is GM AND POHO, in charge of all hockey operations, reporting to the CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group Bob Nicholson. All of the hockey employees report to Chiarelli, he does not work for them. As with any large organization, he has a middle management team who are responsible for different areas of the operation; there might also be an informal advisory group ( eg. Lowe, Gretzky, Messier, etc. ). Their roles involve providing him with advice, not controlling his decisions. He is 100% responsible for all final decisions, including the Reinhart debacle; based on his accumulated knowledge from his prior employment along with having 2 months as GM and POHO to prepare for the draft Chiarelli would have had no reason to accept the recommendation of his subordinates unless he was in full agreement. The same goes for the trades of Eberle and Hall.

    It is my fervent hope that, based on the past 3 years, there will be controls placed on him for any major trade decisions in the future.

      • The Whispererer

        If you seriously believe that Chiarelli would have accepted this job in 2015 without insisting on having full control over who would work under him…you and several others are keeping Alcan Aluminum in business.
        As to who would place controls on future large trades, there are only 2 people who could…Nicholson and Katz.

      • puckle-head

        This whole “ Don’t blame Chiarelli! it’s the old boys club still pulling all the strings!” argument has gotten out of control. Yes, the old boys club needs to go, but just look at how different the Oilers personnel decisions under Chiarelli have been vs. before his hiring. He’s making the exact same types of moves he made in Boston: undervaluing talent, overvaluing older “character” players, and managing their salary cap situation worse than I manage my finances on payday. This is Chiarelli’s work, through and through. He may have a crappy staff, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that his crappy trades and signings were, well… crappy.

  • Consultant

    Some of these comments are ridiculous. Kevin Lowe is not to blame for all Chia’s mistakes. Kevin Lowe is the scapegoat that will keep this idiot as GM until we have nothing left. The GM makes the trades, Chia is GM, he is also President of Hockey Operations. When you take that job you take responsibility for mess up’s. This tin foil hat crap about Kevin Lowe pulling all the strings is getting old.

  • 2centz

    People here are franked. Start by firing Mac.T,Howson etc… Somebody,anybody,tell me how MacTavish is the VP and still scouting and assessing talent for this team? Only idiot in hockey,to be fired as head coach, fired as GM and still end up as VP and having input on the club. Mac.T probably phones Daryl, crying like a b@tch,everytime Chiarelli won’t listen to what he says. This team is a mess. Start running it like your businesses Katz

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Firstly, kudos to Oilers Nation for going out of its way to provide balance on this topic. The editors deserve a lot of credit for making this a two-part series – one story defending Chiarelli, the other making its case for getting rid of him. Good on ya, folks. That said … I think he’s got to stay, at least another year.

    Last week, Oilers Nation ran a story on David Poile, the GM of the Nashville Predators. The story noted that Poile was poised to become the winningest GM of all time … and darned if he didn’t become that after the Preds beat the Oilers last week.

    Anyway, I’m mentioning Poile because there’s a key part of his back story that’s relevant to the Oilers today. Way back when Poile first took over as the GM of the Washington Capitals, he traded Ryan Walter and Rick Green for Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin. It was a brave blockbuster – essentially Washington was trading its second-leading scorer (Walter) for a defenceman who was so good defensively he beat Paul Coffey for the Norris Trophy. Twice.

    It was a trade that turned around the Capitals – mostly. They didn’t miss the playoffs for the next, like, 15 years. But they also didn’t get out of the first round more than, like, three times in that span. They were the poster children for underachievement throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    My point is this: Poile was the Caps’ GM all through that. Washington’s ownership let him continue to grow into the job, making good trades and bad trades, hiring good coaches and bad coaches, drafting good players and bad ones. Never won a Cup. Barely made it out of the first round.

    Then Poile ends up with the Preds. For their first six or eight years under his tutelage, they struggle mightily. They have finally started to blossom, thanks to some decent trades Poile’s made. They haven’t won anything yet, but wouldn’t you know it, Poile’s now the regular-season-winningest GM of all time.

    Chiarelli’s been with the Oilers for less than three years. After missing the playoffs his first year, he traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson in June … and the Oilers clinched a playoff spot the next March. A year after that, the team’s bad – thanks to injuries, slumps, some bad moves by Chiarelli, but also some decent-bets he made that simply didn’t pay off. That’s hockey.

    Should Chiarelli get fired for that? I’ll answer the question with some questions: If you fire Chiarelli, who would come in to replace him, knowing that he’s only a year of bad luck and some decent-bets-gone-bad from being canned? In other words, who would knowingly set foot on such an island of knee-jerk instability?

    You don’t have to answer those questions. Instead, we should send them to David Poile. I bet I’d know what he’d say.

    • Christian Pagnani

      I get the comparison, but Washington was Poile’s first GM job. This is Chiarelli’s 12th year as a GM in the NHL. This is how he operates and it’s unlikely that changes.

      The Oilers aren’t Nashville when Poile came in. They’re not an expansion team, they have the league’s best player and should be winning.

      Chiarelli loses too much value and has put the Oilers in a tough cap situation with his free-agent signings.

      They don’t have time to wait and see if Chiarelli can make good decisions. They need to contact Tampa Bay or Nashville and see if they can hire Paul Fenton or Julien Briesbois. Two successful assistants GMs from well-run organizations.

      The Oilers can’t afford to wait and see if Chiarelli can start winning trades and adding the right support. They have Connor McDavid in his prime.

    • crabman

      Poile would probably say stay the coarse. Followed by never trade your 1st and 2nd round picks unless you plan on making a real run at the cup. Build your team through the draft and from the goal out. and be patient, don’t trade your beat players for less than they are worth. That is his style and that is why Nashville is in the position they are today. Chiarelli obviously has a different philosophy to building a team and therefore what would Poile say is already out the window.
      As for who would want the job? Anyone interested in becoming an NHL GM. There are only 31 of those positions available at any given time and I’m certain anyone currently working as an assistant GM would jump at the chance to run their own team. To be successful in a job like that you must be confident in your skills. And those people always think that if they got a chance they could turn the fortune of a team around.

    • Edmontoncanucks

      Decent bets? Name one?
      It was a decent bet that if you didn’t replace the injured Sekeras with a live NHL veteran player your season would be a fail. It was a decent bet that if you didn’t have a legitimate NHL backup goalie to cover and push the slow starting Talbot your season would be a fail. Everyone knew that Lucic for 7yrs was retarded. Everyone knew Russel for 4m was retarded. Honestly, Chia is an embarassment to Harvard…his mistakes so glaring and obvious a casual fan could of made better G.M. decisions. He needs to be fired. Its just business. He has never won a trade in his G.M. career. Its like hiring a baker who has never vaked a successful cake! Its so beyond ridiculous.

  • Afc Wimbledon

    I’m not sure you can blame Chiarelli as the team is stationary, regardless of coach, regardless of McDavid, regardless of the barn the Oilers are in exactly the same place they were a decade ago, not just missing the playoffs but missing by a country mile and being a draft pick team without even the advantage of a low cap hit after drafting 4 number one picks.
    By God they are only one point ahead of a team that has never drafted first in its whole history and arguably right now might have a better future.

  • Oilpepper24

    Oilers didn’t make the playoffs with Hall and Eberle on the same team. Hall got traded, and after his massive pout fest, was told by the Devils management to grow up already. So now Hall is playing unbelievable, and it took a trade and a scolding to get his head out of his butt. As for Jordan “coward of the oil crush county Eberle”, watching him in the playoffs last season drove me and many others up the wall. I welcomed that trade with Strome. He can score all the goals he wants with the islanders but when the playoffs come and the intensity increases 100% he will hide and coward again. Just like the capitals the past few seasons, best team, lots of points but can’t play intense hockey when it matters and step aside for teams and players that get it.
    Those two players played in Edmonton as if the league owed them something and it doesn’t.
    Hall seems to have figured that out this year.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    The only thing that pisses me off about the Hall trade is PC not insisting on swapping 1st round picks as well. Could have had the #1 pick last year in Hischier. It shouldn’t have took a genius to look at the Devils roster and see they weren’t making the playoffs last year.

  • CMG30

    Fire Chirelli! He trades down every chance he get, even when he doens’t have to… When Hall was moved shock around the NHL GMs was obvious… they didn’t know he was available! Verbal out of a handful of cities was that they would have offered more. Now we’re down a hart trophy candidate and still have the hole he was traded to fill! Bad contracts, downgrading talent, dramatically overpaying for free agents, wasting McDavids ELC all while pillaging the farm system mean Chirelli needs to go ASAP.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    If one makes PC 100% responsible for this season, one must credit him 100% for last season. Logic bomb.

    The reality is that there are a constellation of issues with the Oilers and pointing at one source of failure as the root of all issues is what gifted the fans the DOD (the gift that keeps on giving). Finger pointing got us in this mess, again and again and… Firing PC creates instability, not stability – uncertainty, not certainty. I think if a symbolic sacrifice needs to be made, the lambs should be the special teams coaches. Small changes often produce the best results. This principle has been demonstrated consistently in politics, business and even human psychology. T-McL should be taking the reigns in all crucial areas anyway – show the players that you are RESPONSIBLE for the on ice strategies and instill in them they are ACCOUNTABLE for their performance.

  • toprightcorner

    Some of the things you blame Chairelli for are misdrirected and are the responsibility of MacT. You can’t blame PC for lack of AHL prospects when he has only had 3 drafts and 2 are already in the NHL. There are a number of good looking prospects only a year or 2 from the AHL and that is on pace with expectations. The lack of prospects is on MacT’s terrible drafting record and nothing else.

    Sure, Chairelli hasn’t added a right shot offensive dman, but the Oilers have been looking for that for almost 10 years. In fairness, they just don’t get traded very often. Weber for Subban was a 1 for 1 of the same position. Vatanen, maybe but the Ducks would never trade him within the division. Those are the only 2 offensive right shot dmen to be traded in 3 years and there was no chance the Oilers could get either one (not including deadline rentals). It is easy to say “go get one” but it 99% of the time, it is a drafted position. You cannot blame PC for something basically no other GM has been able to do either.

  • toprightcorner

    QUIT BRINGING UP BARZAL!

    The Oilers were not planning on picking him anyway and if you say that is terrible scouting, what about the 10 other teams that passed over him outside the top 5 players? Even last year, not one person expected Barzal to be this dominant in the NHL.

    Yes, it was a terrible trade but only a complete uneducated fool would say we traded Barzal for Reinhart

  • VictorspOILs

    As a fan you have to be completely delusional to think that keeping Chiarelli will change anything for the better… the idiot has proven time and time again that he is incompetent and clueless… how he ever became a GM and how he ever landed a job with the Oilers is beyond me. He should have been fired the minute he proposed a Hall trade… GONE!!!…. fast forward three years later we don’t have a solid two way defencemen we don’t have a solid stay home defencemen and we have no one two punch that McDavid and Hall would have provided to go deep if not all the way in the playoffs. We don’t have any bait to bring in a top two defensive pairing because the moron traded all that away to in Eberle, Yakupov, etc…. Chiarelle should be given the boot before this season end. I wouldn’t even give him the satisfaction of staying till the end.. Go destroy some other team… The fool that hired Chiarelle should be gone too.