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Photo Credit: Christian Pagnani

What is going on with the Oilers?

After Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli addressed the media earlier in the week, Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson held a press conference to say, well, that Peter Chiarelli will remain as Oilers general manager and things are more or less the same.

People like Bob Nicholson don’t normally hold press conferences after the season. Before the Blackhawks finished their season, Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough went out and said neither Joel Quenneville or Stan Bowman would be fired. This made sense as it was assumed Quenneville would be gone after assistant coaches were fired last season.

Nicholson’s presser was odd because most assumed Chiarelli was staying anyways. The Oilers would be entirely justified in firing him, but holding a press conference to announce he’s staying doesn’t change how fans feel after Chiarelli deflected blame and accountability like he was a backup goalie against the Oilers this season.

It wasn’t what Oilers fans wanted to hear, but Sportsnet’s Mark Spector juicy article gives it more context. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it.

Spector paints a picture of a divided Oilers organization, where some former Oilers inside want McLellan gone as head coach, or at least back alongside one of their guys, while Nicholson preaches ‘stability’ as he doesn’t want to fire either Chiarelli or McLellan. Paul Coffey was apparently hired by Chiarelli, which is as believable as a Leon Draisaitl offer sheet last summer, but is obviously an attempt by “The Red Wine Summits”, as Spector dubbed them, trying to instill their guy in some capacity.

So, Nicholson gave Chiarelli a vote of confidence while there might be an ongoing push from the former Oilers within. Nicholson said he’s believed in what Chiarelli has done and his plan going forward. What general manager doesn’t have a plan though and what has Chiarelli done to warrant such faith?

Continuity for continuity’s sake is bad. Yes, the Oilers have fired numerous general managers and coaches in the last decade, but that doesn’t mean keeping a poor one in place is the right move. Chiarelli has done enough in his three years here to warrant a firing. He’s lost significant value in trades, signed egregious free-agent contracts that’ll be tough to move, and still hasn’t put a built a defence after using all these assets.

The coaching staff is still being evaluated despite the season being over and other teams already making decisions on their coaching staff. Alain Vigneault was fired almost immediately following the Rangers last game. Dallas announced Ken Hitchcock’s retirement and their search for a new head coach on Friday.

The Oilers are still evaluating.

These press conferences gave more questions than answers. Who is really in charge? Why hasn’t a decision been made on Todd McLellan? What is Chiarelli’s ‘plan’? What is Paul Coffey’s favourite type of wine?

This looked like an organization without any direction.

They’ve wasted a fabulous season from their superstar centre and their one goal next season: make the playoffs. The Oilers will scapegoat a few assistant coaches instead of making meaningful change. These past few days don’t lend confidence that the Oilers have the staff to build a contender around McDavid.

  • percy

    I can see it all now,,, a knee jerk reaction, sell the farm, bring in big name D. That goes south. Now WHAT? Katz clean house and let’s start over. Bob, Peter, Todd and OBC hit the road.

      • Petrolero

        Katz got what he wanted from the Oilers. He wanted to pivot from pharmacies to Real Estate. He accomplished this by getting the city to build the arena, thus kick starting the downtown redevelopment and giving him his Real Estate foothold. The Oilers to him are now just a fun hobby he prefers to enjoy with his old ox oilers buddies. If this were his main squeeze things would be running vastly different, but sadly the Oilers are just the weeknd side action for him.

  • Dave2

    The assistant coaches are not scapegoats, they are just goats. If Woodcroft ends up in Bakersfield as their head coach then you know this organization is truly incompetent.

  • teammate michael

    If this was GOfT the Red Wedding would be approriate. Chia. Has wasted assets in pursuit of the white whale. He is our Ahab. He cannot help himself. All I hear is RHD. Im sorry folks there are 22 other players that make up a team. And he has traded away enough talent and assets to start a new team in Seattle. And theres talk about trading away this years 1st round puck. Quick fire this idiot before he decides to take waste another asset or 6 on the white whale.Good gravy my dog makes better descisions. TM needs to get his head out of his ass. Loyalty. Not in this league. Time to move on TM from your assistants.

    As far as the OBC or Red wine club. 5 Stanley Cups. That gets respect. How many does TM have? None.Maybe this Coffey guy knows a thing or 4 about winning a Cup.

  • Craig1981

    I’m not buying the oil boys club being the problem. The bad trades of Chiarelli out live his time in Ed and go back to Bos.

    I actually belive that if MacT would of stayed this team would of been far ahead. His trades seem far better to me.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I was surprised when they relieved him of the GM position right after the Oilers won the McDavid sweepstakes. MacTs only real downfall during his time as GM, imo, was Eakins and him coming behind the bench with Nielson after Eakins was fired.

    • percy

      Can’t say I disagree with you. Mac T given he inherited Lowes mismanaged mess I thought he did alright. I do believe we would be better off with Mac T than Peter.

    • camdog

      Of all the players let go, the loss of Jeff Petry hurts the most. This off season the Oilers will likely be looking to trade another player off their roster to get a right shot d-man that quite possibly isn’t as good as Petry. As much as people like to think the Oilers changed direction with the hiring of PC and Mclellan, they aren’t that much different in their outlook on hockey to that Of Lowe and McTavish. That Bruins Cup team reminds me a lot of the 2006 Oilers team.

      • camdog

        As for Taylor Hall, the Old Boys were all for trading him. They soured on him following Eakins water incident and his partying. Make no mistake the Old Boys were all for the Hall trade.

        • fasteddy

          I was as furious as anyone to see Hall go, but in hindsight you have to wonder if he didn’t tell the wrong people where to go or something behind closed doors. You don’t take a player that skilled and get rid of him for that return. Had to be more to it or someone in that board room would have pulled the reigns back I’d assume.

          • camdog

            Before Peter arrived here, the Oilers Old Boys were discussing Hall not being the leader that they had hoped for. Hall was a goner long before PC arrived on the job. People are dellusional if they think the New Boys came in and traded Hall without the Old Boys in agreement.

    • Fire Woodcroft!

      What a load of bull. What part of the Mishandling of Petry, Dubnyk, Schultz and all he others suggests that MacT and the Old Boys Club had any more brains or GM ability than Chiarelli. What genius trades do you even remember MacT making?

      The biggest move I associate with the MacTavish era is the firing of Krueger by Skype in favour of Eakins. Yeah – that turned out well…

    • ed from edmonton

      MAcT traded a draft pick to get the rights to sign Nikitin prior to free agency. That move is hard to get below. Hired Eakins, put Schultz in a position to fail. Let’s not get nastalgic about MacT, regardless about what we think about PC.

      • fasteddy

        One thing that isn’t often mentioned is the likelihood that promises are made….JS I guarantee was told he would be on the big team getting certain opportunities….that’s what will go into decision of where to sign. I’d bet Cag same thing.

  • lee

    I don’t think there has been any direction from the moment Eberle was traded, it just seems to be a sequence of poor decisions by PC.
    The trades and the contracts that PC had been responsible for have put the team where it is. There’s no hiding from that.
    Not sure what Nicholson believes in, was there ever a plan?
    And when you look at the countless really poor decisions that TM made over the season, the fact that up till now he still has a job tells the fans that the bar is set so low by upper management that a snake would have difficulty getting under it.
    It would have been nice to see the owner speak out and tell the fans this is unacceptable and they are going to fix this. It might take a season or so but the team will be like the California teams that year in and year out are solid teams.
    Instead we got the , don’t worry everything’s cool, we know what we are doing. Sounds more like a bunch of management types circling the wagons to me.

  • Joeboot

    From a coaching standpoint if you look at our roster and compare it to Vancouver how could anyone say Todd deserves another year??
    The reason I don’t think coach will be replaced is based on economics. Todd has 2 yrs left on contract, hiring another experienced coach in today’s NHL will cost more money than in the past thanks to Babcock contract. Fact of the matter is Katz is selling out the Oilers every night so why change. The only caveat to this is oilers didn’t make the playoffs and they’ll tell themselves it’s a one-off. I think last year was the one-off because the top half of the lineup was virtually uninjured all year, almost unheard of.

    • ed from edmonton

      I agree TMac cannot be given a pass for the last season. When the team as a whole and virtually all players under performs the coach has to be questioned.

  • Imrighturwrong

    As long as the team continues to sell out, and merchandise flys off the shelf, there will be ZERO CHANGE. Remember, this is a business first and the bottom line is to MAKE MONEY and the Oiler do VERY WELL in that department. So no, no change is coming.

    • DannyGallivan

      It is a business but that does not mean they can’t win. Winning and making money is better than losing and making money.

      Heads need to roll after a debacle of a season.

    • otter2233

      The Oilers make alot of money now, yes, but if they actually make the playoffs that would be an extra 1-2 million dollars PER home playoff game so as a business it makes more sense to actually make changes needed to win not just be content with the regular season sell outs.

  • 15w40

    Why can’t they just operated like a normal professional sports franchise? They got McDavid and the parade was on – everybody wanted to be in on the next Oilers cup championship team and to be part of the brain trust that guided them to another Stanley. Too many cooks in kitchen (I was going to say something about chiefs but didn’t want to offend anyone in “people-kind”. Katz needs to cut the cheques and back off and let the hockey people do the managing. Whether they have the right hockey people is another discussion. Just because you played in the NHL doesn’t mean you are a good manager or evaluator of talent. Just because you were associated with a franchise that has won a cup as either a player or a manager doesn’t mean you necessarily know what you are doing either.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    There’s one man to blame: Daryl Katz. The Oilers have been a dysfunctional tire fire since he bought the team. It’s pretty sad. A shiny new arena, best player in the game, and nothing has changed. Pocklington was a better owner. Let that sink in.

    • Imrighturwrong

      Actually they were a mess behind the scenes long before Katz came along. Most of you newbie fans don’t remember how dysfunctional it was before our decade of darkness 😕

      • Randaman

        That, my friend was all about the lack of financial depth. You work with what you have and like it or not Lowe did a pretty good job of being competitive and MacT was a very good coach.

        • McDavid's Comet

          Absolutely right, Lowe was a great GM, working with the limited resources he had at the time with the EIG. MacT was one heck of a coach working with the limited resources K.Lowe provided. Why Lowe left and instilled Mr. Dithers probably has something to do with the Pronger melt-down. Together they really had something going. If K.Lowe wants to install a new coach, then he should install himself as the GM and finish what he started.

      • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

        I am NOT a newbie fan. I’ve been a fan since the Gretzky years. The Oilers may not have won cups before the DOD, but they played hard, made the playoffs, and provided great entertainment during the EEG years.

  • madjam

    Sounding like Nicholson and Chia must go first before club turns itself around and takes the next step forward . Not sold coaches are much of a problem , considering the roster and upper intervention they were dealt with all year . Let’s face it – the roster was far less than adequate for the coaching staff to deal with all season . Somewhat surprised they did as well as they did . Coaching staff was more than adequate the year before having them play above expectations . They didn’t forget how to coach , nor did they expect management to stick them with a very poor team overall with little or no help throughout season to help rectify it . Look at top of organization for the downturn in teams fortunes .

    • RJ

      You have a lot of anger. You need someone to love you the way Todd loves his assistants. Unconditionally. No matter how bad they are.

      (For the record, Todd and his coaching team sucked. Todd can’t be divorced for the utter incompetency of his team.)

  • Mahaloeh

    The special teams play killed the Oilers this year! PK’s best player has to be the GK! Cam was not good this year & I don’t know what his problems were this is one thing the Oilers need to figure out? The team plays different with a confident reliable GK! I also think they missed Gryba on the backend for the PK! He squashed cycles down low consistently, that just wasn’t done last year. He also had a nice first pass out of the zone. He can easily play 16 mins of productive hockey for the Oil!
    The Oilers looked programed when on the PP! They were going to put the puck in certain areas no matter what! There wasn’t much creativity with the man advantage & that’s a crime with that much talent on the team! I don’t know if it’s coaching etc but it’s certainly not a lack of talent in my eyes! I will say that the injury to Sekera hurt the PP because I thought he is a smart veteran presence back there! The Oilers need to solve this before they can move forward. Still a very young core & I look at last year as a growing year!

    • otter2233

      Completely agree about the special teams killing the team this season. Once the PK woke up and was top 10 for about the last third of the season the team went 13-10-2, at that rate the Oilers finish at 91-92 points. If the PP is even average, one would think, that would equal enough points to get into the playoffs. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to expect the talent on this team to come up with at least average special teams is it? Now of course the team needs coaching willing to change things that are obviously not working, kind of like that stupid “I” or “L” formation they seemed to have going on on the PK for the 1st half of the year.

    • RJ

      This has been mentioned elsewhere. They’ve done a comparison between this year’s PP and last season’s. One of the biggest differences was that Letestu didn’t play nearly as well and they didn’t really change that until he was traded. The other was that Drai was moved to the point from his spot in the bumper.

      Both of those decisions are coaching decisions. Players don’t pick who gets icetime and don’t pick where they lineup.

      The bigger problem to me was that when things weren’t working, they were extremely slow to adapt.

      Yes McDavid won the scoring title again, but how many points did he leave on the table because of coaching decisions?

      • otter2233

        Agreed about coaching decisions. I found it especially frustrating that McLellan would seemingly change line combinations at the drop of a hat but it took half the season or more to tweak the PK and nothing seemed to change on the PP all season until, as you say, personnel was no longer available.

  • Cleets

    I swear oil fans might be getting just as delusional as leaf fans. Last year tmac chia and everyone was amazing. Larson was more than worth that cancer of Hall. Eberle needs to be gone because he’s to soft. Now the same people say hall is better than Gretzky and eberle is the toughest player in the league. And any smart man would have fired anyone touching the team. It gets rediculous

    • Lawndemon

      Completely agree… Most of these armchair GMs would trade Strome + 3 mil in cap space back for Eberle. Honestly, I think that trade is a win. At least Strome isn’t afraid of his own shadow. What did Eberle do to help the Isles make the playoffs this year?

  • Kr55

    Didn’t think this org could turn into more of a clown show, but here we are.

    It’s time to shed some of these useless people. Start with Lowe, MacT and Howson who have been failing this org for over a decade. We have been waiting forever to get rid of those 3 turds.

    • Cleets

      I could be wrong but I think Lowe’s contract is done now. If he gets resigned to continue whatever it is that he does then it’s an organization fault and I feel this all gets put on Katz & co

  • IceMan11

    I agree that PC should be gone and possibly TMac as well.
    I know it’s stating the obvious, but give us a GM who has won a Cup or two with players HE has brought in, and a Coach who has done the same, and who can adopt a successful system for the guys we have right now.
    TMac hasn’t done that, imo, but let’s face it, his resources were limited!

    • LAKID

      TMac on the other hand is responsible for his coaching staff. The facts don’t lie the PP and PK are fireable offences on any other team in professional hockey. Chia may have not given Todd the players to succeed with but there is no excuse for the Power play or penalty kill. That is a fact and has to be addressed before the draft. The GM or the Coach will have to man up and either replace the assistants or graciously resign. Chia isn’t quitting because this will be his last GM job in the NHL. So who wears the horns?

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Peter Chiarelli is back for another yr (prob 20-30 games).
    Another year of Connor McDavid is wasted.
    The evaluation continues, as Bob is afraid to make a decision.

  • RJ

    Probably the biggest concern for me is the drafting philosophy.

    Let’s use a franchise QB as the comparison. When you get the chance to draft one, you do it because they don’t grow on trees. They are very hard to acquire one. You know there is going to be a steep learning curve, and they aren’t likely to play in draft +1, or even draft +2. But by draft +3, they’re in integral part of your team.

    Every team plays their own version of the neutral zone trap. The best way to beat that is with an elite puckmover making quick passes to elite forwards before the opposition can set up their trap.

    One of the ongoing problems this team has had for more than a decade is they haven’t seemed to catch on that they need that elite puckmover.

    You’ve wasted the ELCs on Hall, Nuge, Drai and McDavid without building the team they need to take advantage of their abilities.

    You can’t sign one in free agency and if you could they can’t afford one. The UFAs they’ve gotten don’t have that in their skill sets (Nikitin, Fayne, Sekera and Russell). They’ve blown out a ton of assets to add defenceman (Hall, 16, 33) and they still haven’t fixed their problem. They haven’t been able to trade for one (Larsson is a good defenceman but not an elite puckmover).

    You can basically just draft and develop them. So of course the Oilers haven’t and are talking about trading this year’s pick).

  • Kevwan

    So Mark “Clickbait” Spector writes a speculative piece on the Oilers management being in turmoil and ON goes nuts.

    For starters Spector offers zero sources for any of his information. Using words like “voices” and “someone”. Alright then – who above Chiarelli hired Coffey? Who’s voice is in Katz’s ear? I will bet that Mark cant tell you because Mark doesnt know.

    The reason he doesn’t know is that he’s anything but an insider. When was the last time Spec broke any news about the Oilers or anything else in the league? Forget Freidman, Mackenzie or Dreger, guys like Chris
    Johnston, Craig Button, Eric Francis and others actually get information from the teams they cover.

    That Spector still has an axe to grind with the OBC over getting punted from the team’s broadcast in Dec ’14 is obvious. And coming up with the “Red Wine Summits” is brilliant- really a sign of what a great writer he is. But 2 things are obvious as long as Katz owns the team:

    1. Katz will seek the advice of, and listen to, his heroes.

    2. Mark Spector will never have the inside scoop on the team. So anything he writes – no matter how skillfully, should not be taken to seriously

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Elliot Freidman, stated “the Oilers are too slow” in October.
      Chia, stated “I don’t think we are a slow team”
      When Bob Nichelson was asked? We are under Evaluation. BEAUTIFUL!

    • Total Points

      Spector may not have inside scoop but he is right.

      Inside scoop guys generally do not critize upper management. If they do they don’t get any more scoops.

    • corky

      I bet Spec does have sources inside the team. A person or people pissed off at how the organization is being run and are sick of it. I bet Coff coming in got a few noses out of joint. Just like every large business, there is never total harmony.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Peter Chiarelli (Oilers news confrence) on Milan Lucic:
    “I’m confident that he can get back to where the expectations lie for him,
    I actually liked his skating this year”.

  • ellebee

    If this same team, with the same management, is in the same position come November, let Chai/McL face the same fate as every other coach & manager in that position on every other NHL team in the league. You don’t get four full seasons to turn around a team, pack up your Lucic and go.

  • CMG30

    The Shadow cabinet, the Red Wine Summit… whatever you want to call it, this organization is dysfunctional and it lays at the feet of Katz. I’m sure he wants his buddies to hang around but the organization would be much better off if he just paid them all to stay home. Chirelli has made some terrible moves but I don’t lay the Reinhart trade or the Coffee hire at his feet. Someone else was pulling strings there. The only blame he gets is for going along with it.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Good heavens, what a complete and total manufactured story out of a complete and total manufactured issue. This story’s full of the kind of flimsy speculation that drives me up the wall.
    To wit:

    “ People like Bob Nicholson don’t normally hold press conferences after the season.”

    Um, OK. Why not? Why wouldn’t the CEO wait until the season’s over? And, to borrow from my grandfather’s favourite phrase, what does the Chicago example have to do with the price of tea in China? Didn’t the Blackhawks miss the playoffs as well? Why are they being held up as an example?

    “End-of-season-is-the-wrong-time” is a weak, weak assertion. No jury would convict on it. But this one might be even worse:

    “Nicholson’s presser was odd because most assumed Chiarelli was staying anyways. The Oilers would be entirely justified in firing him, but holding a press conference to announce he’s staying doesn’t change how fans feel after Chiarelli deflected blame and accountability like he was a backup goalie against the Oilers this season.”

    So … it’s “odd” to hold a press conference after the season to confirm the GM’s back even though everyone wants him gone and the Oilers “would be entirely justified in firing him” but most assumed he was staying.

    If I follow the logic, it sounds like it’s not good to just come out and confirm – in mid-April – that the ticket-buying fandom can expect the same GM. Do I have that right? If so … how is that logical? Why wouldn’t the CEO want to nip any rumours of regime-change in the bud, in the spring, so plans for 2018-19 can continue in earnest? Are you saying if Nicholson had held that presser three weeks ago and said Chia and McLellan’s jobs were safe that you’d have been OK with that?

    The writer here suggests Spector’s article is a must-read. It certainly is, but I’m not sure if it’s warranted the all-hands-on-speculation-deck that’s come from the Oilers blogosphere since then. Suddenly, there are all kinds of experts on running an NHL team, on trades, on free agency, on Nicholson’s responsibilities as the CEO, and on the conversations that take place over red wine during and after games.

    And all of this conjecture has been surprisingly contradictory. Certain writers in the Oilers blogosphere have been calling for Chiarelli’s head … but they’re saying it’s bad that the BOTB wants Chiarelli’s head, too. They’re saying that Nicholson needs to assert himself and keep the BOTB in check … but when he comes out and does exactly that, it’s either the wrong thing … or the timing’s wrong because” it’s not how Chicago does it.”

    At some point, I hope Spec’s brave enough to identify his source. If it’s McLellan … and I suspect it is … then I think the Oilers know it and he’s gonzo and the Oilers will wait until the playoffs are over to see which coaches shake loose (how does Barry Trotz sound?).

    I will say this, though: You could tell Spec was over-reaching when he mentioned Coffey. The Oilers’ blogosphere can rail on and on about the BOTB all it wants, but Coffey’s hiring was, at worst, an act of desperation way too late and, at best, innocuous. Just a test-drive for him, as much as the Oilers. He’s not qualified to be an assistant coach – he knows it, Chiarelli knows it, Nicholson knows it, the BOTB know it. But Coffey knows enough to impart some wisdom for what was, at the time, a historically bad power play. It was a move of low-risk desperation in a lost season. It wasn’t a harbinger of a bench hiring to come.

    Like I said when it happened – at some point, somewhere, a team took a chance and gave Adam Oates his first job as a skills coach. The Oilers were barely taking a chance. Yet, because he won three Cups here, that automatically disqualifies any possibility that he might have been the right hire and automatically generates assumptions that he’s a BOTB guy (even though he was the first BOTB to leave the bus … and he stayed bitter and gone for a long, long time).

    I think we all need to stay away from the blogosphere for a few months. Or, if applicable, the red wine, too.