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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Who is feeling more pressure: Chiarelli or McLellan?

Whether you’re killing time in your Connor McDavid PJs or the man made you come into work today because they’re evil and mean, this week’s mailbag is here to help you get through a little part of your Monday. Regardless of whether you’re killing company time, or killing time until it’s socially acceptable to drink – I don’t particularly care – I’m just happy that you’re here and spending your Labour Day Monday with us. If you have a question for next week’s mailbag, you can email me or hit me up on Twitter. Until then, I enjoy what’s left of the long weekend. 

Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, speaks at a season ending press conference.

1) Vetinari asks – Who in your opinion has the most pressure on them in the Oilers organization for the 2018/19 season and why? McDavid? Talbot? Lucic? Chiarelli? McLellan? Someone else?

Jason Gregor:

I’d say Chiarelli. He is the one in charge of supplying quality players. McLellan is close because they expect the team to be better and the fact the GM can fire him, but if I had to pick I will go with GM.

Robin Brownlee:

Pete Chiarelli, and it’s not even close. He built this team top to bottom. Normally, the coach is the first to go if things go badly and player moves don’t improve the situation, but Todd McLellan was given a reprieve and brought in a new coaching staff. If the Oilers struggle again, are they going to dump McLellan and bring in somebody on top of the staff he selected? I don’t think so. Would they get rid of the entire staff? I don’t think so. It’s Chiarelli.

Matt Henderson:

I think Chiarelli and McLellan have the most pressure. It can’t be understated that they effectively fired McLellan’s entire staff. They told him he had to take on Coffey and a couple months later all his guys are gone. And the new guys are all qualified to take over for him if the Oilers struggle. But then you have Chia, who doesn’t even have enough room to sign Nurse to a long-term deal and has been forced to keep almost the whole team that failed to make the playoffs because the obvious areas to upgrade are anchored with NMCs and NTCs. He can’t blow another year of McDavid’s career with no sign of improvement in sight.

Chris the Intern:

I’m going to say Milan Lucic. No one underperformed as much as him, and I think he took it really personal. He had huge expectations for him when he signed his contract with us and for him to only score two goals in the last half of the season is horrifying.

Baggedmilk:

Chiarelli and it’s not close. Why? I’m glad you asked. If he screws up yet another year with the Connor McDavid led Oilers, he’ll go down as arguably one of the worst GMs in NHL history. Not only will he lose his job, he’ll probably never get another one. Clock’s ticking, Pete.

Mar 22, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2) Lance asks – How has the Oilers’ offseason matched up to what you expected when the 2017-18 season ended, meaning do you think they’ve gone enough based on what you were hoping for?

Jason Gregor:

I wasn’t expecting a major overhaul so I think they have done close to what I expected. I think the coaching changes, especially Yawney on defence, will make a bigger impact than people think. Their team defence, and play from the defence, will be much better. Yawney is a much better communicator than Johnson.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s about what I expected to see, given the cap considerations. I don’t like the overpay for a back-up goaltender, but I do like the low-buck signings of Rieder and Brodziak and the PTO for Upshall.

Matt Henderson:

They’ve done exactly what I thought they could do, which is almost nothing. They don’t have cap space and they can’t move the worst parts of their team. Only positive for me was getting Rieder for a decent price.

Chris the Intern:

I suppose so. I knew they couldn’t do much with the limited cap space, so I would say Chia has met my very small expectations for the offseason.

Baggedmilk:

It’s pretty much what I expected them to do. The Oilers didn’t have any cap space to work with so that meant Chiarelli was only able to tinker a little bit, which I happen to think is one of his strong suits. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

Dec 27, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Scottie Upshall (9) skates the puck up the ice against Nashville Predators defenseman Yannick Weber (7)during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trent asks – Of the two PTOs that the Oilers have given out to Upshall and Garrison, who do you think has the best chance to win a roster spot and why?

Jason Gregor:

I’d say Upshall. The Oilers could use a veteran who is responsible at EV and can help on the PK. It also helps that he is an upbeat fun guy. Having those guys around, as long as they can contribute on the ice, helps a team more than some people think.

Robin Brownlee:

Upshall. There’s room for him on the fourth line and he’s familiar with Brodziak. Garrison is a depth guy who will only factor into things if somebody gets injured or struggles very badly.

Matt Henderson:

Upshall. I think it’s easier to hide a forward who might have lost a step than a defender. He could be a 13th forward and find himself a decent role when he gets in the lineup for eight minutes. If Garrison plays it’s going to be 16 minutes minimum. Plus I don’t think Garrison is a clear step up from Bear or Jerabek or Gravel.

Chris the Intern:

I think Upshall has the better chance to make the team. He likely wouldn’t play many games this season, but I think Oilers management should keep him around as a glue guy in the room. He will be valuable in that sense which makes me think he has the edge over Garrison.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’ll be Upshall. From what I’ve heard, he’s a guy that players in the dressing room absolutely love and the kind of person that can bring the boys together. Not only that, he spent nearly 70% of his zone starts with the Blues last year in the defensive end, and it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have a defensively minded “glue” guy on the roster. We’ll see.

4) Stacy asks – The Oilers have a tough start to their season with the trip to Sweden being followed by an east coast road trip, so my question for the writers is what they think would be a successful October?

Jason Gregor:

On paper, it looks like a tough month, but in order to be a good team you need to compete with other good teams. Successful equates to six wins in my eyes.

Robin Brownlee:

We don’t know what the Oilers will look like then and we don’t know what the other teams will look like. No idea at this point.

Matt Henderson:

The only way to categorize success is if they are looking like a playoff team. They need to be above .500 at least if we want to call it successful. They have Connor McDavid in the prime of his career. If we aren’t looking for the playoffs then what’s the point?

Chris the Intern:

If they can come out over .500 in October I will be smiling. I don’t want to finish another month under .500 and that’s definitely not the start we need. If they can stay in the mix after the first month we’re ready to roll for the rest of the season.

Baggedmilk:

They need to come out of it at least at .500 or else the uphill climb starts to get pretty steep. We’ve seen countless times how a poor start can derail a season and the Oilers cannot let that happen again this year.

Feb 15, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) fights Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) during the third period of play at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

5) Jeff asks – Based on what we know right now, who would be your pick as the likely unsung hero for the Oilers this season?

Jason Gregor:

I guess it depends on what your definition is. Someone you don’t expect to have a big impact, or someone who plays well and doesn’t get a lot of attention.

If it’s the former I will go with Jujhar Khaira…If it is the latter I will say, Ryan Strome.

Robin Brownlee:

Brodziak. Most established of the players who’d fall into the “unsung” category.

Matt Henderson:

Jujhar Khaira. I hope he has a killer year and I think to be “unsung” you can’t be coming in with a top 6 job already secured. He’s my guy.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, I’m feeling good about Tobias Rieder this season. I have nothing to base this off of. But I really liked the signings and I just have a good feeling for him being the unsung hero.

Baggedmilk:

I love JJ Khaira and I’m really interested to see how he handles the upcoming season. He’s got a lot of tools in the box to get excited about and I can’t wait to see how he puts them all together.

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  • taint_taster

    I think the real unsung hero this year will be Baggedmilk’s toilet. The amount of tear stained beets it will have to deal with is going to be massive.

  • Spydyr

    Both Chiarelli and McLellan are on the hot seat. If Chiarelli gets skidded do you honestly think the new GM will keep McLellan as coach? The new GM is going to want his own guy coaching.

    If the Oiler fail as bad as last year it is time to clean house. Too bad you cannot fire the owner.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Sit tight for another 20 years, by then giant curly headed Katz Jr. will take over. Like Rocky Wirtz in Chicago. I wonder if fans here will boo during the moment of silence for Katz Sr. when he shuffles off this mortal coil, like long suffering Hawks fans did when Bill Wirtz kicked off.

      • Serious Gord

        Wirtz was practically and unindicted co-conspirator with Eagleson – he deserved all the scorn and hate he got.

        Katz so far has been a disaster owner due to his pathological jock sniffing of the old boys. But he wouldn’t deserve to be booed.

    • The only difference is Todd can get fired by Chiarelli. If things go bad though then Todd will be the first out the door as “try to milk my job” move from Chiarelli and unless Gulutzan, Yawney or Viverios can’t turn things around quickly then Chiarelli will follow Todd anyway.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    So let me get this straight:

    Some say Chiarelli is a horrible GM in part because of horrible cap management. Fair enough.

    Some of the same critics (Henderson included) say he is horrible GM because he can’t sign a 26 point dman to a long term contract which, I believe after reading said player’s agent’s comments, would be in the $5M range.

    If Nurse and company wanted to be paid long-term in the $4M range and wanted it early on in negotiations even someone suffering a brain aneurysm would see that value and it would be done. Worst case he’s a 3/4 dman on a reasonable contract and best case he’s a low end 1/2 on a huge value contract.

    Long-term they want $5-5.5M and the fact is if Chiarelli signed THAT deal on July 1st people here would STILL be complaining (won’t swear for the filter) that he doesn’t understand cap management and can’t negotiate.

    • daryl

      If Tre can sign Hanifin for less than $5 mil Chai needs to do the same other wise it just confirms he can’t manage a cap. On another topic Todd is on the hot seat can not manage young talent Peter has put in his buffer and if we come out of Oct with less than .500 he will be gone.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Hanifin broke into the league as an 18 year old. Nurse broke on as 20 year old. Hanifin has had more offensive success playing at a younger age than Nurse has playing at an older age.

        Logic says Hanifin might have more room to grow at 21 than Nurse has at 23. Like the player but feel a $4-4.5M long-term extension would work for both sides. Understand if he doesn’t.

  • TruthHurts98

    The problem is both PC and TM should have been let go after last season I think. I’m not sure either one gets fired even if the team misses the playoffs. PC seems to draft well and make good small trades, but the overpay on numerous player contracts and the horrific trades are inexcusable. I don’t think he or Todd will get hired in the NHL again if fired. But if Yawney works magic on the defense and they figure out the special teams the season will be far better. I think Talbot will bounce back and Connor is fed up with losing. Might be enough, we’ll see.

  • CalOil

    Who has the most pressure this?
    1) Cam Talbot – was brutal last year and a UFA next year. He has a legitimate back up if he stumbles this year. Two bad years in in the NHL = a move to Europe.

    2) Klefbom- he is either a first pairing dman or he is an often injured, not quite reaching his potential PP specialist.

  • ed from edmonton

    TM would probably get turfed before PC and therefore has more pressure on him. If the Oil have a similar record on Jan 15 as last year would there be any chance of TM being kept around?

    We don’t know the full extent of the Sekera current injury, there may be a chance he will remain on LTIR through the end of his contract. His performance last year was so bad that I suggest he should not of played at all, even Bear has better stats. If the Oil understand that Sekera may be destined to remain on LTIR this opens the door for a long term contract for Nurse. Lot’s of ifs in all of this so I think the most likely scenario will be when the first of the Nurse, Hannifan, Morissey, Theodore dominoes falls the others will sign quickly.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    What I don’t understand in regards to Nurse is why wasn’t he signed first? Seems like PC likes to work backwards when it comes to core players.

    • OilerForLife

      Both the player and the team want to get together on a contract- it will happen. It should be a in the 3.2 to 3.5 range on a bridge deal. But Nurse’s agent what’s more, so in the meantime Chiarelli took care of the other holes in a lineup– doing a very good job with the available cap space. If you rush a contract, then you pay too much and then we have a bigger problem to complain about- Cap space.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Why in the world would Nurse want to sign a bridge deal for 3.5M, because of Chiarelli’s cap mis-management?
        There are a lot of teams that would be willing to pay Darnell what he is worth on a long term 6-7 yr deal.

  • toprightcorner

    1) Chia has a lot pressure but there isn’t much he can do about it now that the roster is set. McLellan will have the most pressure as he still has to perform with what Chia has given him and his success will dictate the fate of both him and Chia. Lucic probably feel the most pressure because only he alone is responsible for a bounce back season.

    2) With limited cap space, I think Chia did well this summer. He helped the depth, the PK and added veteran leadership with great room presence, those were the biggest holes that were fixable with a tight cap.

    3) Upshaw all the way. He was actually brought in to hopefully fill a position, Garrison was only brought in so they could have enough veterans to reach the minimum required for preseason games and so Bouchard and Bear are not forced to play most of them. He is not here with any plan to have him on the team, but maybe he can get the attention of another team.

    4) I would be fine with 5 wins in the first 5 games, but hope to see them get 6 wins.

    5) Unsung hero, I love JJ, but I don’t think he can get to the level of “hero”. I think Strome has a really good shot at a very good season. If he can get some key points early, he will then get more PP time, hopefully the 1st unit as the right shot shooter and then get the bump up to a top 6 winger late in games when double shifting McDavid and Draisaitl. He will have a good shot at 20-22 goals (8-10 on the PP) and 55 points. Add that in with some solid PK work and he could be the biggest key to bridging the gap between the top and bottom 6. If Strome can reach those levels, he will be loved.

  • Still Hate the Flames

    Name that ON writer :
    “Hey ____! What are you up to this evening?”
    ____:”As it is only 430PM, it’s impossible to know all the factors that could influence what I may or may not do this evening so I’m not sure why you’re even asking this question”.
    I kid, I kid. Thanks for the labour day read, and Go Esks !

  • #97TRAIN

    McLellan should not be axed ahead of Chiarelli but if they stumble coming out of the gate badly it will be him and not Chiarelli.
    Unless everything comes together the Oilers don’t have all the pieces needed and that’s on Chiarelli.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    In the Chia / TM who is under more pressure race, I will say it is Chia hands down. Chia is the one that has the Oil tied to some of these contracts that are crippling the Oil to move bodies, other NHL teams have found a way to move some really bad contracts, Chia hasnt figured it out yet. Some of the Buyouts Chia has done IMHO just wanted the Oil’s buyouts that were available. Chia ia also the one last year who decided to see how the hope thing worked out, even at the 1/2 way point of the season,m it was obvious the Oil were in trouble and he still hung on to hope. And in the 2018 2019 season, there is still a big reliance on hope that players will come around. The overpayment for Caggulia, Strome, Benning and Koskinen contracts weren’t necessary and IMHO squandered away dollars the Oil need. Nowhere did I see the big demand for all 4 of those players withing the NHL, So why was there a need to over pay them? It’s moves like that that are handcuffing the Oilers.

    Juhjar I think will continue to excel, I though he was awesome last year. The oil need someone like Juhjar who can hit , skate and put pucks in the net, Kassian was invisable last year, Lucic was there but he was just not having any success. I Hope Juhjar picks up where he left off and continues to trend upward. I hope Kassian and Lucic find years like when they were in the first year, if they dont I think they will be money wasted, lets hope they have better years. Aberg has a long way to go to get out of the doghouse with TM. I am hoping Reider and Draisaitl gel and they can make the second line a force, we will see.

  • CMG30

    Chirelli’s career as a GM in the NHL is on the line. In his short time on the Oilers he’s made a number of truly horrendous trades that saw premium talent shipped out with only a tiny fraction outgoing value replaced. His cap management skills are non-existent. He’s managed to overpay for personnel in virtually every area on the ice and through unnecessary buyouts, he’s even paying for players not to be on the ice. His arrogance is staggering. He was comfortable to start the season without replacing Sekera, his arguably best defenceman from the prior season and failed to recognize when his goaltender was struggling in season and was unable to shore up the position.

    The only area he seems to have upgraded is the scouting department.

    Improvement this season must include a trip to the third round at minimum. We have the best player on the planet, a 2 time art ross winner in his prime leading this team. I won’t consider just making the playoffs a success. The Oil were already close to a playoff team throughout much of the decade of darkness but were hamstrung primarily by atrocious goaltending. With Talbot, the Oilers have a right to expect average ‘tending at minimum. This should be enough to get this team knocking on the door of playoffs. But that’s not improvement, that’s just regressing to the mean. The time has come for success. If this team is behind the 8 ball midway through November, Chirelli must be shown the door to give the next guy the best opportunity to fix Chirelli’s mess and maximize McDavid’s career.

  • Abagofpucks

    Jujhar is a player that could take the next step, i’ll be paying attention to him this year.
    I believe with all the new players and coaches this team will be respectable.
    So many players from last year that have something to prove, i just have to believe the Oilers will make the playoffs.

  • CalOil

    Chia inherited a mess, a talented team of individuals, that had won nothing in 10 years and the best player said so in a year end interview. The team had learned to lose and rationalize that night after night. Lots of rumours of lack of off ice focus and too many of the same skills as players. A farm system as weak as it comes. A back office filled with Lowe’s gang.

    In three year’s he has switched a lot, mis-steps for sure. But this is a much better run organization than I can remember.
    Connor, Leon, Adam, Oscar, Ryan all signed long term.
    Jesse, Kailer, Darnell, Evan and Matt pricing they can play in the NHL.

    The rink is full.

  • Serious Gord

    1. Surprised so few have picked McLellan as having the most pressure. Guaranteed that if the team is out of a playoff spot by Xmas Chia will fire him – even though most of the blame will likely be on Chia.

    2. The cap handcuffs chia had meant that he had little choice but to largely stay the course. Now with sekera yet again out for most of the season that cap hell paralyzes him and puts the chances of making the playoffs below 50%.

    4. 500 or close to it. If they come home with a record well below that the season home opener will be something not to be missed.

    5. If the oil have a great season I think the relatively unsung hero until now will be RNH. If he flourishes on the line with mcd and gets into the top five for points he will arguably be the top Good news story of year league-wide.

  • Frustrated Fan in Calgary

    Pressure is everywhere within the organization, but I would think that Chia would have the most on him. There were enough big decisions made under Chia’s management that have worked out poorly to terribly that he has lost the confidence of a large amount of the fan base, and I would imagine that the owner would have a similar opinion. I would guess that this season is key to his coming back next season. Same general situation is there for TM, as I would guess that he had his input into all or most of the moves, but I think the pressure will be a bit less because he did not have final say on player decisions.

  • I like the idea of a Brodziak and Upshall duo on the team. I think these young kids could really use some upbeat, fun, veteran guys after those sky high expectations then slam down to earth from last year. Todd said that Letestu had confidence issues and that got in the way of his leadership role and Iiro Pakarinen was never going to be a “character” guy. Keeping Matt Hendricks around didn’t hurt the Jets at all. Last year it felt like the players and fans didn’t enjoying coming to the rink where as 2 years ago everyone(including players) was getting withdrawals every night they weren’t playing.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      100% agree. Guys like that are going to be gold in the young dressing room. Always working hard, always glad to be there, true pros that will balance professionalism and fun, and demonstrating how awesome it is to be an NHL player. Brodziak is a stud in the face-off circle too, which will benefit McD, Drai, and Strome.

  • BR

    Hendricks Leaves the oilers roster and the team goes into a funk, joins the Winnipeg organisation and they go from seemingly having many distractions to a cohesive team taking it to another level. Coincedence? maybe, but maybe part of it was something else. Having someone like that on the bottom of your roster, effectively a coach and motivator there amongst the team, can have a massive affect. Hoping to see Upshall be that guy here. Give him a contract, move Caggulia along.

  • Jerri Kurli

    100% Chiarelli on the hot seat. He’s backed himself into a corner and now he’s got a punchers chance of coming out on top. I disagree with many and think he’s made some great organizational moves, however I can’t argue with the bad ones that stand out above all. He did have the final say in all transactions. The team and coaches let him down huge last year, from special teams (coaches) to most of the young players who were supposed to take a step forward but instead regressed. Maybe Brodziak and Rieder can be just what the Dr. Ordered. This defense of ours has me the most concerned. I really feel a move has to be made to fill Seks role or we may have Deja Vu of last year.

  • ubermiguel

    There were more questions around Chiarelli when he was hired; many astute fans at that time pointed out he left Boston in a mess. I still feel like McLellan’s got more rope because of his record as a coach. Yeah, yeah he never won a Cup, but I’ll take a proven very good coach over an unproven lottery ticket of a coach at this point.

    • That's My Point

      There were two teams that missed the playoffs last season with 44 wins; face it the Oilers aren’t going to make the playoffs this season so expect Chiarelli to be gone.