Over on TSN 1260, Jason Gregor had Peter Chiarelli on his show to talk about the start of the season and the GM answered an array of questions on everything from Mikko Koskinen, to PTOs, to Rattie, Bouchard, and a whole lot more.
Mikko Koskinen’s NMC:
The first thing Gregor brought up in the interview was that he discovered that Mikko Koskinen’s contract came complete with a no-move clause, something that no one knew about until today. When asked about it, Chiarelli gave his version of the events and tried to explain (kinda) why an unproven backup with four NHL games on his resume deserved an NMC.
“Well first, Jason, I don’t think that’s the correct assumption that he’s here regardless. There’s certainly discussion that if he struggled etc, because he doesn’t require waivers, that he would spend time down (in Bakersfield).”
Uhhh… He did struggle apart from last night’s game. But that’s not the point, why did he get an NMC?
“He didn’t start very well, obviously, but his practices have gotten a lot better and his second start was a lot better notwithstanding the goals. I can maybe only fault him for one against that Winnipeg team. He’s getting more acclimated to the ice surface, to the team, and I’m happy with the way he progressed.”
You’re not really answering the question, sir. Why an NMC? It was here that Chiarelli talked about a gentlemen’s agreement with Koskinen’s agent that would have allowed for him to go to Bakersfield if needed. Is that right?
“Correct, but that was the subject of discussion. It was more of a safeguard for the full year.”
“If it was a problem, it was something that we could discuss. I wasn’t really worried about him going down there and working on his game.”
Right. Sooooo what would have happened if Koskinen didn’t agree to go down in the end? Hooped? I’ve watched enough Entourage to know that agents lie. Maybe I just don’t understand why an unproven backup goalie with only four NHL games under his belt was worth an NMC? This doesn’t make any sense to me. Anyway… moving on.
On PTO players:
With Alex Chiasson and Jason Garrison still around on PTOs, Chiarelli quickly explained how this works and what the team has to do with their PTO players ahead of the season.
“We don’t have to make a decision by tomorrow (like the rest of the league) — we’re allowed to play PTO players in Cologne.”
Chia then admitted they probably will make the decision before leaving for Europe, though. He hinted at how it wouldn’t be fair to bring guys over to Europe without giving them an idea of what their future holds, which I agree with.
On Jason Garrison and Jakub Jerabek:
Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect from Jason Garrison given how little he played in the NHL last year, but he’s been reasonably effective throughout the pre-season and Chiarelli agreed.
“Garrison, I thought, has done quite well. He’s been very solid on the back end. He’s made very efficient plays and I like what he’s brought so far.”
And to be frank, Garrison’s game has been made to look a whole lot better with Jerabek’s game looking like hot garbage. I know you signed him to a one-year deal but you’d have to agree with that.
“I think (Jerabek’s game has) been average. I think he’s a smart player and we all remember him getting beat in Winnipeg on speed because his gap wasn’t great. I think he’s been average so far. He has to be better.”
I think you’re being nice here, Pete. I respect it, but I’d love to know what you really think. He’s been #ActuallyBad. But I don’t want to take a negative turn on this thing so we’re going to move on.
On the right wing depth and pre-season surprises:
One of the things I was worried about coming into the season was the lack of experience on the right side. Fortunately, those concerns have been squashed, at least for now, and I was curious to know what Chia thought about his young wingers stepping up to the challenge.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at this point. I expected progress in Jesse (Puljujarvi)’s case. With Ty (Rattie), he’s a very cerebral player and he’s at a point in his career where he realizes (he’s) in a good spot and a good opportunity here. He had a very good summer and so did Jesse. Jesse lost 10 pounds and you can see it in his skating.”
To be honest, I was hoping that Gregor was going to talk about Puljujarvi’s delicious abs that he wrote about earlier this week but I guess it was not meant to be. Do I think Gregor dropped the ball here by not talking about the newest sixer to be added to the all-abs team? Yes. But you can’t win ’em all, ya know? Regardless, Pool Party has looked good and so has Ty Rattie.
“(Rattie) has shown that he can play with those guys so far.”
To put it lightly! Dude has shot the lights out in the pre-season and I love it. Certainly, no one expected this kind of pre-season production from Rattie so that had to be a big bet for the team, no?
“I was hedging bets. There was risk attached to it because we saw a short sample size at the end.”
I won’t lie to you, Pete, I’m super pumped it’s worked out so far and desperately hope it can continue even at a lighter pace. I wasn’t sure that this plan was a good idea at first, but I’m liking how it’s turned out so far. No risk, no reward — I get it.
“There is risk in putting him in that spot but we felt like if it didn’t work that there were other things that we could have done that would have required other player personnel moves.”
Other personnel moves!? Oh man, what could that have been? Excuse me for a moment while I drift off into the land of possibilities… Actually, you know what, I’m happy no trades got made to find a player (at least for now) because a certain someone that we won’t name hasn’t exactly had a winning record with trades, ya know?
How could we talk about the right-wingers without mentioning Yamamoto? Impossible. So what say you, Pete. Tell us about young Yam Fry.
“With him, you also look at what he brings other than scoring right now. He has scored at this level, and as the games progress into the regular season – stronger, faster, heavier the games get – and obviously he’s not the biggest player, so (you look at) the other stuff that he brings. He brings speed, and he’s a tremendous forechecker and penalty killer, but you don’t want to pigeonhole.”
One of the concerns I have about Yamamoto is how he’ll be able to handle the grind of an NHL season, so it makes me happy to see that the organization has this on their mind too. No, Pistol Pete didn’t exactly say it but I’m going to go ahead and read between the lines a little bit. I mean, he’ll probably be fine but I’m a ‘plan for the worst, hope for the best’ kind of person. Physical concerns aside, I think Yamamoto’s had a very solid training camp.
“I thought he’s had a good camp so far and he’s another one who is a very smart player.”
Hockey IQ and rabble rabble rabble. I get it. Defence? Defence.
Bouchard or Bear:
One thing we’ve talked about at great length during the pre-season is who is going to get the sixth (???) spot on the Oilers’ defence — Bear or Bouchard. When Gregor asked about it, Chiarelli talked about the need to be patient with young defencemen but offered up a look at what they’re seeing in both players.
“There are areas of (Bouchard)’s game like stick defending and body position that could cost a goal, and yeah, we have to weigh those things with the benefit he gains.”
To be expected, really. Young defencemen really have it tough in the NHL because of the drastic difference in speed, quality of players, etc, so I like to hear that the team is conscious of that. Not that I expected anything else, but I was around for the Jultz era so I’ve been hurt before. Excuse me if I worry.
“If we were to make the team today, he would be on the team for that test period of nine games or however many games it stretches to.”
The thing that sucks for Bouchard is that he can’t go to the AHL. It’s either the big dance or back to junior for him, and I don’t know how much more he’d get out of another season with the Knights. Maybe they’ll do that thing where he’s in the press box a lot and don’t send him down until the World Juniors tourney starts. I don’t particularly like that idea, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
On the other hand, Ethan Bear is a little bit older and more experienced so, in theory, he could have a leg up, no?
“I think Ethan, just from experience and age, is a little bit ahead defensively. He got a little taste of it last year … and that experience is invaluable.”
Not only did he get those 18 NHL games, but he also got a full year with the Condors to try and acclimatize to the pro-hockey. Ideally, he’d go for another year in the ‘A’ to keep rounding things out because the NHL is not a development league despite what this franchise has tried to do many times over the years.
“His game still has some holes but it’s still getting better.”
Yeah, I get that. Like Bouchard, that’s not overly surprising that a young defenceman still needs to work on the defensive side of his game.
“You’ve gotta make a tough decision. As an example, with the goalies, we didn’t really give Al (Montoya) a lot of trial time in the pre-season, but we made that decision on the body of work from when we acquired him and what Koskinen has done in Europe. You have to look at all factors when you make these decisions.”
Well, that and the NMC too. I mean, I know you said there was a handshake type agreement in place with the agent if he needed some AHL time, but come on… Don’t piss in my ear and tell me it’s raining. But we’ve covered that already so we’ll move on.
On the European start:
Considering the Oilers are starting the year with a wild road trip, how does that work for things like waivers and roster finalization? I mean, you guys will be in Germany when everyone has to submit their rosters.
“We do get some concessions (such as carrying non-roster players, as an example). As far as the waiver wire and the roster, we’re allowed to carry some players during the regular season that aren’t on our roster yet. There are a couple of conveniences … but it will be hard.”
I almost wonder if that’s something that is almost secondary to just surviving the jetlag, travel, and mental whirlwind that comes with a European start, no?
“Our medical and training staff, starting in July, have been implementing a program from A-Z, starting from the beginning of this week to when we get in Boston after the game in (Sweden), with regard to sleeping aids, whether they’re simple things like earplugs and masks or natural sleeping pills… the timing of every event on the off-days and practice days is to quickly assimilate to the time.”
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my 33 years and one tip I’ll offer is to not sleep until you get to your destination country. What I did was pound back a bunch of Red Bulls and forced myself to stay awake until it was night time in my destination city. That should work, no? Worked for me.
“Part of it is that you can’t over-do it, and our medical staff and training staff have done a lot of studies about what’s optimal (for a shorter time frame)”
Oh, right. You guys have doctors and trainers and shit that handle all of this so I’m guessing they didn’t recommend the “binge on Red Bull to stay awake and then get blackout and sleep when the locals do” theory, huh? Too bad. It’s a good time. Probably knocked years off my life, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
“We think we found a happy medium from a science perspective and a logistics perspective so we’ll see how it goes, but we think we did a good job on it.”
SCIENCE! But seriously, I hope so, Pete. You and I both know that a good start is crucial for this season to be a success and we desperately need that to happen. I don’t want to eat as many beets this year and you likely want to have a job come next October, so we’ll both have to keep our fingers crossed that this train stays on the rails.
Chiarelli went further in-depth on a lot of the topics above and it’s definitely worth listening to to get an idea of where the team is at and what’s to come. Check out the full interview here.