Bob Nicholson is the CEO of the Oilers Entertainment Group, which consists of sports and entertainment entities. Under the OEG umbrella is the Edmonton Oilers, the Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oil Kings, the Oil Country Championship (golf tournament), and the OEG operates Rogers Place. Las week, Nicholson announced Peter Chiarelli would be staying on in his role as General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, and he would be assessing the coaches and every other facet of the Edmonton Oilers.
“I really believe in his (Chiarelli) plan. There has been anger and disappointment about where they ended up and we certainly understand. We’ll have a plan coming up in the near future about how we move forward,” Nicholson said at his press conference last week.
Nicholson said the Oilers are “assessing” the coaching staff, and I was a bit taken aback by the comment. The Oilers were out of the playoffs, unofficially, for the final two months of the season. Chiarelli was watching the games, I presume, so shouldn’t he know what he has in the coaching staff? How much evaluating does he have to do, I asked.
Well, it turns out Chiarelli has more evaluating to do than I thought, and some off it has nothing to do with the Oilers.
I’ve learned Chiarelli is not only evaluating everything in the Oilers, he is also doing an overview of their AHL team, the Condors, and will be doing a review of the Edmonton Oil Kings. I understand why he’d have a say in the AHL, considering they are directly related to the Oilers, but why is he spending one second focusing on the Oil Kings? It makes little sense. The Oil Kings players have no connection to the Oilers, unless they are drafted by them, and currently no roster player is an Oiler draft pick.
Being an NHL GM is difficult, but why would you want him taking time away from the NHL and AHL teams to focus on how the WHL team is doing? I understand the Oil Kings are part of the OEG, but the connection is mainly financial. I know the Oilers coaches speak with Steve Hamilton and his staff from time-to-time, which makes sense because they are likely discussing hockey tactics, and the NHL coaching staff has more experience and tips to pass on.
I’m told meetings and interviews are planned with coaches from all three teams later this month and into early May. I realize Chiarellie isn’t involved heavily with the Oil Kings during the season, but to be involved in any form now is perplexing to me. How does it make the Oilers better?
Does Chiarelli watch enough Oil Kings games to have an accurate opinion on how they are being coached or managed? Is he spending hours digging into their drafting record? If so, this is taking precious time away from what should be his main focus: running the Oilers.
The Calgary Flames own the Calgary Hitmen, but Flames GM Brad Treliving did not conduct a year-end review. Nor should he. Two sources in Calgary confirmed Treliving has almost nothing to do with the Hitmen.
The Oilers and Flames are the only two NHL franchises who own a major junior hockey team. No other GM in the NHL is handling a review of teams other than their NHL, AHL and ECHL team, if they have one.
OILERS ARE THE OUTLIER
Chiarelli’s title and responsibility on the Oilers website says: “Peter Chiarelli is the President & GM, Hockey Operations in the OEG Executive structure, responsible for Oilers, Oil Kings and Bakersfield hockey operations.”
Over the past decade, the Oilers have been the worst franchise in the NHL, and one of the worst in NHL history. During Chiarelli’s three years in Edmonton, the Oilers have accumulated the 24th most points. They have made the playoffs once, and weren’t close the other two years.
Is it really in Chiarelli’s best interests to be spending time, regardless of how little, on the Oil Kings?
No other GMs in the league do. So I ask again: how is this benefiting him? I see no benefit, and if it takes two, five or ten percent of his time away from the Oilers, then it is a mistake.
He should be spending all his time focusing on scouting, developing and ensuring their AHL affiliate will be more competitive and better suited to develop players, and trying to make the Oilers a competitive NHL team.
I’m sorry, but the OEG’s decision to have Chiarelli overseeing the WHL team, even in small spurts reeks of arrogance. I don’t see how he can have enough time to do it properly. And winning in the WHL is damn hard as well. To win you need people who are 100% committed to every facet of their team. Chiarelli can’t be that committed.
His main job should be making the Oilers competitive. They aren’t, so I’d have him focused solely on teams who can directly lead to wins for the Oilers.
The OEG should ask itself: how does having Chiarelli involved in the Oil Kings make the Oilers better? Quick answer: it doesn’t.
Is Jim Rutherford doing this in Pittsburgh? Is David Poile in Nashville? Doug Wilson in San Jose?
The answer is no. These GMs took their teams to the Stanley Cup Finals the past two seasons. They weren’t spending time focusing on things which do not improve their NHL team’s chances of winning.
Did Chiarelli do this when he was the GM with the Boston Bruins and they made two Stanley Cup appearances? Nope. So why now?
Being an NHL GM is very difficult, and it is even more difficult to build a consistent winner, never mind a Stanley Cup Champion. You win in the NHL by focusing on NHL drafting, developing and making good signings and trades.
The Oilers were not a competitive team this year. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt when they have their GM do unorthodox things.
Winning organizations eliminate distractions, and no offence to the Oil Kings, but Chiarelli should not be focused on their success. That is Randy Hansch’s job (current GM), and from a business standpoint, Bob Nicholson or Stew MacDonald should be the ones focused on the bottom line.
Leave Chiarelli to focus on the Oilers. Based on their recent play, it is clear they need his undivided attention.