What Gives?

With the Edmonton Oilers on a 1-6 freefall in their last seven games after Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, fans in Oilersnation are screaming for pink slips. Some of you want to see general manager Peter Chiarelli fired. Some of you want to see head coach Todd McLellan fired. Some of you want to see both of them shown the door. Outta here. Now.

I’m not convinced that firing either one of them is going to address all of the shortcomings this team has shown in skidding to a 9-10-1 record after 20 games. That said, I certainly understand the sentiment and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if one of them gets the sack if the Oilers manage to blow off another six points during a road swing that’ll take them to San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Even with the Oilers still in the playoff mix because the Pacific Division is a lackluster collection of teams behind the Sharks, I, like many of you, think we’re beyond the “relax, it’s early” stage. Yes, it is early, but you can’t just sit back and hope issues resolve themselves. Is everything that’s gone wrong – like Cam Talbot’s inability to stop pucks – the fault of Chiarelli and McLellan? No, but it is their problem. Accountability starts at the top.

So, if you want Chiarelli gone a quarter of the way into the season, what does that look like? Who takes over that chair? If you want McLellan out the door 20 games into the season, who takes over the bench? If you want both of them gone, then what? If you take the emotion out of the equation, and you have to if you’re making this call, what are the realistic options and how do those options impact what happens next?

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This is Chiarelli’s team. He built it. In his time in the GM’s chair, he’s decided who goes and who stays. The moves he’s made, be they trades or free agent signings, are there for all to see. We’ve been over them 1,000 times right up to and including his most recent move, Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner. Twenty games into his fourth season as the boss, what has Chiarelli built?

What I see is a team that can’t compete, can’t hold its own, when Connor McDavid isn’t on the ice. Too often, if McDavid, who is the product of the Golden Ticket rather than any deft front office decisions, isn’t dragging this team to the finish line, it can’t get there. People have asked, how does a team with Connor McDavid on the roster miss the playoffs?

Well, fans have watched that scenario unfold in two of the previous three seasons in which McDavid has worn Edmonton silks and we might be looking at the third time if the Oilers don’t right things in a big hurry. Imagine the Oilers without McDavid. It is to shudder. What does that say about the depth and support players Chiarelli has assembled? Not close to good enough is what it says.

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If owner Daryl Katz or Bob Nicholson make the decision to sack Chiarelli, who takes over? From where I sit, assistant GM Keith Gretzky would be at the top of the list of replacements. He knows everybody who is in place further down the food chain and could run the show with a head start in terms of assessing everybody in hockey-ops, including the coaching staff. I don’t see an external candidate coming in. Would this work?


Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan on his bench against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

McLellan was supposed to be the proven coach the Oilers didn’t have in Dallas Eakins and Ralph Krueger after Tom Renney and Pat Quinn gave it a go during the heart of the Decade of Darkness after Craig MacTavish got the heave-ho. I was one of the people, having followed McLellan on the NHL beat, who believed that to be so. He’d make a difference, especially with the transition from San Jose to Edmonton being smoothed over because he was bringing his assistant coaches with him.

With only the 2017 playoff appearance to show for the first three years under McLellan, we got a re-set with the assistant coaching staff with the addition of Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros for this season. The changes looked like a difference-maker through the early part of the season during a tough schedule, but here we are today in the midst of this 1-6 swoon.

While I lean toward the camp that believes Chiarelli hasn’t given his coaching staff a good enough roster to work with, that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate criticisms about how the available talent is being deployed. That’s fair ball. After things settled down in Calgary the other night, why was Milan Lucic still playing on the first line? I question many of the in-game adjustments I see, or don’t see. I question the use of personnel and the line-ups we see.

So, if you can McLellan, who comes in to take over? I’d be all over the idea of bringing Joel Quenneville in, but that isn’t going to happen. No chance. No way. At least not right now. Is Gulutzan, who ran his own bench in Dallas and Calgary, the likeliest internal candidate? I think so. Gulutzan has worked alongside Yawney and Viveiros over the summer and through 20 games. He knows the player personnel. He could hit the ground running. Does that mean he’d be successful? Not necessarily.


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I’d expect a more significant trade than the Strome-for-Spooner swap – I still don’t get that one — to shake things up if things stay sideways through the California swing. One problem with that is I’m not sure I trust Chiarelli to make a big deal. Another problem is this is a team that’s more than one trade away from addressing all the issues we’ve discussed for months.

As for McLellan, while I don’t agree with some of his personnel decisions, and shouldering some of the blame comes with the gig, I don’t see him, or this edition of the coaching staff, as the primary problem. Like I said earlier, though, while what we’re seeing now might not be McLellan’s fault, it is his problem. You win or you lose your job. Coaches know that’s how it goes.

If I was calling the shots in Edmonton’s front office and had to choose between firing the coach or my GM, I know what I’d do in this case. I’d call Chiarelli in, thank him for his service and replace him with Keith Gretzky. Gretzky would then be tasked with making a decision on McLellan and his staff – that’s an assessment that could take the new boss weeks, months or the rest of the season.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Not sure how much should be read into this, but after watching the last two games, what I see missing is comradery amongst players. No smiles, no high fives, no friendship. Just long faces, stressed out looking dudes, and no love.

  • OilersGM

    I don’t know how you can sit there and justify the GM and coach not being fired. If you are, you truly are little behind in not seeing what is going. McLellan is not a Stanley Cup winning caliber coach. He got absolutely destroyed and eaten alive by Randy Carlyle in the 2016 playoffs and he was eaten alive twice by Sutter and the L.A. Kings prior to coming here. As soon as he left SAN JOSE, the team went to the finals. I don’t care how many wins he has don’t mean squat.
    As for the GM, how many bad moves does he has to make before your eyes can open up and see the damage. Wake up, these two along with buncha others should’ve been long gone. Wow wake up.

  • puckle-head

    I actually miss Ralph Krueger. That was probably the worst decision McTavish made during his brief GM stint. Krueger is a great coach, and from my understanding, he could easily have an NHL job should he wish it again, but he’s happy in Switzerland.

  • ed from edmonton

    TMac is on a game to game basis and odds are he won’t be around in two weeks. Not saying that it’s fair or whether it might help the team win, it’s just the way it is. If PC gets the axe any time on the next year, KG likely next guy up
    I can already hear the OBC complaints starting.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    There are reclamation players out there that are dying to prove they can still play & you get them at a bargain price. Alex Chiasson worked out. Right shot D men Luke Schenn & Dylan Mcilraith we’re both waived. Nothing wrong with having a veteran stay at home D man at your disposal. Chiarelli should have taken a shot at Mike Hoffman. He’d look great on McDavid’s wing. Anthony Duclair sat around jobless when Edmonton could have signed him. So many missed opportunities that could have been made without losing top end talent. Do something!!!!

    • OilersGM

      I agree, both Duclair and Hoffman could’ve been had for nothing and both are fast and can put the puck in the net. San Jose got him and got rid of a bad contract and Duclair was a free agent. Our GM has no creative thinking and can only get fleeced.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Geeeze… how many Flames throw aways and past Oilers with you guys go through before someone actually runs that team properly? I can see McD actually getting fed up and demanding a trade to “any” other team, so he actually has a real career. I never thought I would say this but…I actually feel sorry for the guy!

  • camdog

    Todd’s best attribute is deflecting blame from himself on to the players. He was particularly nasty towards Eberle. He’s really good at it. He’s managed to convince everybody in the media that he’s the victim here. He was playing that angle all year last year. He’s been coaching to win the Corsi, rather then to win the game For over a year Todd’s been more concerned about positioning himself for another job rather than trying to win. It’s sickening, how he’s getting people to buy into his shtick.

  • MrBung

    After dreading the Oilers playing the Flames and having all of my insights confirmed after the beat down in Cowtown….next team I am not looking forward to the Oil playing are the surprising Canucks. The Swedish Gretzky has scored again.

  • Derian Hatcher

    1) There is no number high enough to quantify how much dislike I have for the maple leafs organization. In saying that, it would have been better for McDavid if he would have gone there…Out of all of the horse$hit around this pathetic excuse for an organization, it is 97 for which I feel most badly. He has done everything in his power to help this team be better. As many others have stated, I would not blame him one bit if he asked for a trade.

  • crabman

    If it’s an either or decision about who gets fired I fire Chiarelli every time. This is his team and they are not good enough. He has a poor track record with major trades and he hasn’t shown anything to make me believe his next trade will be any better. Out of the 2 he is the one that has the potential to make the bigger mistake by making a move out of desperation to save his job and I would fire him right now before he has a chance to make said mistake.

    I don’t believe it needs to be an either or decision. I would fire McLellan today as well. He may not have been given the best roster to work with but this team is losing winnable games and I don’t see McLellan doing anything to right the ship.

    I would replace each with the person you suggested. Gretzky in for Chiarelli, and Gulutzan in for McLellan. Both as interim for the rest of the season.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Why put off the inevitable? Is it just because it’s embarrassing for Nicholson to fire a GM? Let’s be fair, he’s never actually been in charge of an NHL team before, so this is new to him. The setup isn’t working tho. The Coach and GM have to go. There were internal replacements. Why wait?

  • Consultant

    Wow every article says the same thing today. Just read Staples article as well. It truly is time.
    I imagine someone is telling Bobby right this minute, “hey Bobby people want TM’s head”, and old Bobby is now in shock running around trying to find his cell phone so he can call a few buddies and see who is available, this will surely take far too much time, Bobby saw the decent start and probably went on a long holiday.

  • Rama Lama

    The problem with how the situation is framed tells the real story…….I understand the basic premis of the article here, that firing either PC or TM will not change the fortunes of the club but the real question is do you trust either of these people to fix the problems they have created?

    I think most fans have tuned out the narrative that this is simply a player personnel problem………in other words we have either the wrong players or the wrong mix of players. I think that the last time I checked since PC and TM have been in place, we have replaced the roster twice over.

    As a certified armchair critic, I suspect the main problem is a coach trying a system that is NOT embraced by any of his players………just a hunch.

    • Ohlyr

      I wonder how long we loyal Oilers fans have to wait for a “Bold Move”?
      Grab some… Daryl. You call the shots, right?
      Say, Bye bye to the Bob and Peter show.

  • Heschultzhescores

    The beauty of our situation is, as it has been for a dozen years, we have nothing to lose. We can only get better or stay this bad. I say at least try, maybe we’ll find a coach than can bring the best out of a bunch of underachievers.

  • gordo

    everybody in the current boys club, including both gretzkys, lowe, howson, mact, howson, nicholson, coffey…have to go. maybe a real hockey guy like quenville wants to be a team president/gm. go from there.

    • How do you rate Keith Gretzky’s work in his position and what do you base it on? Same with Scott Howson in his new duties. Do you know what they do or are you just leaning on the old boys club line? That’s lazy. Joel Quenneville is not coming here as president/GM.

  • D1983

    I think there isn’t much choice to move on from both chiarelli and Todd it simply has not worked and they have had plenty of opportunity gotta try something different

  • btrain

    I don’t know how you can look at this roster and still hang a significant amount of the blame on TM. Each night he has to slot in at least 3 hopes and dreams into his top 6 forward group. His D have a good night if they just stop the bleeding never mind actually contribute offensively. His starting tender has lost himself on a team that can’t win without being bailed out a half dozen times a game.

    As many have said, and I agree, TM deserves his fair share of criticism, but I just think it would take a Jack Adams performance behind the bench to get this roster into the playoffs. That is on the GM. Please don’t wait for another lost season to fire the GM, or a terrible division resulting in a playoff birth keep him around. He needs to go.

  • bcoil

    I just posted this else where but my question is this .Is Talbot as with other goaltenders in the league having trouble adjusting to the new equipment rules
    They can’t be Michelin men any more and any deficiencies in their games are magnified. I wonder????

  • OldOilerFan

    My only question is why do any of them get the benefit of this upcoming 3 game road swing to then decide someone’s fate? The body of work should say enough is enough, no? Waiting until after this 3 game road swing to do something, and I agree there is not a lot of options as you listed, just puts us that closer to the American thanksgiving status mark. IMO.

  • KootenayDan

    The defense overall still is not good enough and that is on Chia. Slow to the puck (Benning) poor passing to the forwards (Benning) it’s not like I don’t like the player but he should be in the AHL instead of learning his trade in the NHL. Better goaltending and better defense would be a good start there is enough skill up front to be at least competitive.

    • crabman

      I feel like a broken record always defending Benning but I don’t get how he consistently is the one getting singled out for poor play on the backend. He has his warts and isn’t a top 4 defenceman but even with his apparently AHL level skill everyone keeps talking about has 5 points in 16 games and is, for the 1st time in his short NHL career, only -1.
      I do believe he would have benefited from a year in the AHL but to put up 21 points, last years point totals, at the NHL level isn’t easy and shows there is talent there. Add that to a career plus player and still learning at only 151 career games. He is a fine bottom pair defenceman who is still prone to make some mistakes, just like any other young defenceman will, and is quite often the victim of being asked to do more than he is capable of. That’s on coach and GM not the player.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    As much as I would like the whole works of them need to be shown the door, you all know that is never going to happen. Remember when Bobby Nic had to relieve Mac T as GM? He talked about honour and loyalty, he wasn’t talking about the fans. He was talking about keeping Klowe, MacT, Howson, Gretzky…..theses guys will NEVER be shown the door. You can trash this post all you want but it is the TRUTH. For the last time the ONLY WAY you will get a complete change is when the people STOP going to the games. As an avid hockey fan, I really hate being the laughing stock of the NHL.

  • Old school

    Wow can’t believe we are debating if TM should stay or go ? He clearly doesn’t manage or deploy his resources effectively and he is outcoached in most contests that l have watched for the last 3 years. Lucic turned the puck over 4 x Saturday and he left him in .. we were literally swimming in our own end he doesn’t call a timeout because he has nothing to say .. no strategy .. no ideas .. certainly doesn’t give them confidence..nothing .. the players know he has nothing – except put Connor and Leon together and cross his fingers .. This is a business and in business you fail fast and move on. Fire the GM and the coach and move on because they haven’t got it done . Todd hot z psd after last year and has been held accountable for nothing . Do something – anything

  • Spoils

    i’d fire chia and todd. promote internally for this year and keep the powder dry… as it play it out. This team was NOT a cup contender at the start of the year and it isn’t going to be one if you change mgt.

    This is all about timing – it is all about having real contribution on ELAs – if you can get Bouchard, Yammer, Pulj, and a couple other prospects contributing meaningully next year (or the year after that). then you can use the extra cash to sign other contributors.

    In that scenario – with Klefbom, Nuge, Drai, Nurse etc. all a year older and thus closer to their peak AND with the next-wave contributing but on ELAs, AND with some key signings to puff out the roster AND with McDavid being McDavid…

    That team could win.

    But we are dangerously close to missing… if Pete thinks the only way to save his job is to make a big bold bet of a move AND he makes it and it misses…

    well, that keeps me up at night.

    • “if you can get Bouchard, Yammer, Pulj, and a couple other prospects contributing meaningully next year (or the year after that). then you can use the extra cash to sign other contributors.”

      If, if, if. You can’t rely on maybe after a dozen years of selling hope with just one playoff appearance to show for it. Next year or the year after that, eh? That sounds familiar.

  • RexHolez

    I wish Lowe, MacTavish and Howson’s name came up more. The one constant in the last 12 years of garbage, for the most part, has been them. I would like to see internal changes in the entire management. Not just another change of coach or gm

    • Stinky Mitt to the Face

      Remember when they fired the training staff, equipment staff, parking attendants and the mascot…but not Lowe and MacT. Not sure if howson was hear then.

  • Rufio Barcoli

    If Oilers had a coach who knew how to use and deploy the players properly this roster would look a lot better on paper and ice.
    Unfortunately, Todd is not that guy.

  • ziyan94

    Fire Chiarelli before he gets the chance to sink this team into an even deeper hole with another lopsided trade.
    As for coaches, hopefully Alain Vigneault will be considered. Quenneville won’t be coming to this tire-fire