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.