Yesterday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli jumped on The Hockey PDOcast to talk all things NHL when the conversation landed on the Edmonton Oilers. Today, that chat is making the rounds around the Y-E-G and as you can probably guess, it wasn’t pretty.
For me, and you can tell me I’m wrong if you’d like, but I happen to believe that Frank Seravalli is a well-connected guy around the NHL and when he speaks I tend to believe him. You may not believe that but I do, so I’m always interested to hear what he has to say about the Oilers, especially when it comes to its decision makers. As you’d probably expect given the ups and downs we’ve seen this season, we’re not taking podcast interviews for good reasons.
I won’t lie to you, this podcast appearance isn’t at all flattering for the Oilers and Seravalli doesn’t hold back when giving his opinion on how he thinks things are going. If you’re of the opinion that this is all guesswork by the eastern media then you’ll probably just want to skip to the fight in comments section.
When asked about Peter Chiarelli’s record as Edmonton’s GM, Seravalli started by throwing some gas right down Broadway.
I mean, it’s certainly not great but abysmal seems a little aggressive. Sure, the Pacific Division is terrible as a whole and the Oilers have fallen a little bit behind, but everyone sucking all at once is actually working out nicely for us this year. That’s a good thing, right? Right? *waits for high five*
Things aren’t so bad, Frank, come on now.
“To think of where they were and where they have gotten to, and now they have gone in the opposite direction while having Connor McDavid.”
Shhhhh don’t say these things out loud — Connor might hear you. I’m already worried enough about what he must think about the people that employ him as it is and I don’t need you piling on, alright? Unfortunately, what’s done is done and unless we can somehow figure out how to build a time machine then all we can do is sit and watch the wreckage.
“I don’t know if you could make all these mistakes again if you tried to be this bad.”
You’re making Chiarelli’s failures look like a bad thing. The way I see it, if you’re going to be the worst at something then you really need to shoot your shot at trying to be the worst GM of all time, ya know? No one remembers the second-worst, is all I’m saying. It’s either he’s shooting for worst or that he’s a double agent. Those are the only two outcomes that make sense to me.
“There’s no chance that Oiler fans are placing their trust in Peter Chiarelli to be the guy to be conducting the surgery this summer based on his recent transaction history.”
Personally, I wouldn’t trust Chiarelli to get two pizzas in a 2-for-1 special, let alone go through another trade deadline and draft, but the fans don’t really get a say in the matter. Remember, this is the organization that tiered their fanbase publicly and throws a banner ceremony at us anytime things go badly.
“His portfolio in Edmonton is abysmal.”
Yeah, but only if you include all of the bad trades and signings. What else?
“The way that he left the Boston Bruins in salary cap jail, inheriting the Oilers knowing he was going to get Connor McDavid.”
Is now the time to remind everyone that the Oilers had to give up a second round pick when they hired Chiarelli? No? It’s never the time to remind people of that? That’s my bad.
“This team is in a worse spot than when he took over — both cap wise and asset wise. It’s incredible.”
Incredible isn’t the word I’d use but I understand that you’re not a big swearing guy when you’re working. Let’s move on from Chiarelli, yeah?
“It’s a failure of epic proportions to trade away the family jewels that this team suffered so long to acquire.”
Listen, as it turns out, I’m missing Ryan Strome more than I thought I would after he was traded, I’ll admit that to you here and now, but I’d hardly call him the family jewels. Pshhh.
“How different would this team look with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in their lineup? You talk about lack of skill and lack of depth, I mean those two guys are a big part of it.”
Ohhhhh those guys. Yeah, they’d be good considering the lack of goal scoring but I’m not supposed to talk about them anymore.
“Let’s go back to the Reinhart trade before that.”
Do we have to? I already posted the link to his trade history — what more do you want from me? Now it just feels like you’re just rubbing it in. What are you, a Flames fan or something?
“I mean from day one it hasn’t been a good run for Peter Chiarelli. Go down the list.”
Stop talking about the list, Frank, I told you I’m only posting it once. Ok, twice.
“The war for Oilers fans is to have someone else calling shots.”
Ah yes, it’s a war we know well and one that has been going on in one form or another for more than a decade. To be honest, it’s kind of our thing. To freedom!
Obviously, the latest big news item around these parts came when the Oilers announced that Todd McLellan was gone and that Ken Hitchcock would be coming out of retirement to replace him (sorry, Chris Wideman). When asked about the Hitchcock hiring, Seravalli answered with purpose.
“Ken Hitchcock is here to make the playoffs and save Peter Chiarelli’s job.”
I’m actually worried about exactly that. Even if the Oilers make the playoffs I still think he should be let go, but that’s a conversation that I don’t have the energy for right now. This interview has already been exhausting.
“(Hitchcock) is a master of telling you exactly what you want to hear.”
He’s the master of disguise. What’s your point?
“He’s almost 67 years old and no one is teaching this old dog new tricks. He’s not all of a sudden going to treat Jesse Puljujarvi differently than he has a lot of the other players. I know he’s said (Puljujarvi is) his prize project.”
I don’t know, man. Hitch moved Puljujarvi up to the top six last night and it’s the first time he’s really been able to finish a game there. McLellan would see him make one mistake and that was it. At least Hitchcock is giving the kid a chance to play in a spot he was drafted to be in.
“To me, it’s just a small sample size, but game one, how many minutes did Puljujarvi play in the Oilers loss at the Kings? The situation we saw him in wasn’t all that different than under Todd McLellan.”
Yes, you’re right in that Puljujarvi played less than 10 minutes against the Kings, but that was only the one game. He doubled his ice time last night, playing 14:33 which is a couple of minutes more than his season average. I’ll forgive you, though, since this podcast came out before last night’s game.
“So some of it is window dressing that Oilers fans are hearing exactly what Ken Hitchcock is saying is what they want to hear.”
Can I be honest for a second? I’ve actually been thinking that Ken Hitchcock could be the master of disguise. It’s not that I don’t believe what he’s saying, in fact, quite the opposite. I think Hitchcock is so smooth with the press that the guy would be able to sell us absolutely anything if he wanted to. If he tells me that he can whip Jesse Puljujarvi into shape then I’m hoping he can actually do it.
“I need to see it to believe it first before I believe that this is anything but a grab to make the playoffs with Connor McDavid.”
Scraping into the playoffs with Connor McDavid on the roster is unacceptable, in my opinion. This is year four — they should be close to challenging by now, but instead, we’re relying on the shittiness of others to help us get back into the dance. That said, I’m going to be patient and wait to see how the Hitchcock era varies over what we saw with Todd McLellan. I don’t care if we get one-goal trap wins as long as they’re wins.
Speaking of Todd McLellan, Seravalli gave his opinion on what went down with his firing.
“I see (McLellan’s firing) as a self-preservation firing. I don’t care who you put behind the bench, they’re not a miracle worker.”
You never know when JC will come back. Could be any day now.
“The issue with this Oilers team is roster construction. There have been so many band-aid fixes to some pretty clear and obvious issues.”
PULJUJARVI AND BOUCHARD
To me, the most interesting part of the podcast came when Seravalli gave his take on two important Oilers prospects and how they’ve been handled so far. When asked about Jesse Puljujarvi’s season, Seravalli believes there was a clear disconnect between coach and GM.
“When you get down to the bottom of it, Todd McLellan was coaching like his job was on the line and it’s clear that it was. I think the problem for the Oilers is that if Todd McLellan was really coaching with a five-year view, thinking he was going to be behind this bench for a long time, he probably would have handled it differently.”
To be fair, there were plenty of decisions and choices that Todd McLellan made over the past couple of seasons that did not help his case. The power play sucked, the penalty kill too, and it’s not like he did a whole lot to change it. Let’s not pretend that he should shoulder no blame for what’s happened, but the problem is that you can only do so much with the cards that you’re given. What I’m saying is that you can’t paint a house with a tin full of Pringles.
“We all know he didn’t have the affordability to do so given that Peter Chiarelli was breathing down his neck.”
Coach always takes the bullet first. That’s life in the NHL, unfortunately. Todd McLellan made some mistakes but the guy that built the team gets the free pass. Not all that surprising really. But the real bombshell came when Seravalli starting talking about Evan Bouchard and the complete gap in philosophy between McLellan and Chiarelli.
“My understanding is that the Oilers brass and Chiarelli wanted to get a longer look at Bouchard. They were willing to keep him beyond the 10 games because they really liked what he brought (to the back end).”
Why the hell would they do that? It doesn’t make any sense from an asset management perspective. There’s an expansion draft coming up for Gord’s sake.
“I think (Chiarelli) was interested in seeing in what he looked at the half-way point of the season, as you get closer to that magical 40-game mark that is way more important to teams than burning the first year on the (entry-level contract).”
*checks notes* Oh right, this is the exact same thing they did with Draisaitl and Puljujarvi. Right, right, right. Now, this is almost making me remember when Rishaug mentioned something about the organization stopping their search for a defenceman after Bouchard fell to their laps at the draft. It’s all coming back to me, Frank.
“To me, there was some friction there and when Todd McLellan sat Bouchard for four straight games he left him with little choice but to send him to London for everything to do with his development and a long term view.”
If this is true then Todd McLellan gave Oilers fans a bigger gift that we might ever know. If he actually forced Chiarelli to send Bouchard back to London by not playing him and falling for his plan to waste a year of his team control then I would honestly like to extend to him my deepest thanks. That’s crazy.
Isn’t it always fun when Frank Seravalli jumps on the radio or a podcast and ends up talking about the Oilers? No, I didn’t think so. The problem is that Frank is the kind of guy that says what’s on his mind and doesn’t pull punches when he does. I know some people around dismiss him as an eastern media guy running his mouth but I tend to think there’s more to it than that. He’s not a Leafs guy like some of you like to say when he’s critical (he’s actually from Philly) and he’s not someone, at least in my estimation, that makes this kind of stuff up either.
While I’m skeptical about some of the stuff he said, Hitchcock’s unwillingness to play a guy like Puljujarvi after only seeing one game specifically, he does paint an overall picture of a team that’s being run by guys that aren’t anywhere close to being on the same page.
For me, I don’t know what to do with this information other than to be even more concerned about what’s going on with the Oilers. Some of the items covered, specifically about McLellan and Chiarelli not being on the same page, seemed pretty obvious to anyone watching the games, but the Bouchard is a real problem, if true. While we’ll never know the source of Seravalli’s info and whether or not it’s completely accurate (I sent him an interview request earlier this afternoon so we’ll see if I can get him), but it certainly raises some concerns about a franchise that appears to be far behind where it should be. All I know for sure is that winning cures everything and if the Oilers can pile a few Ws up then all of this chatter will go away.
What do you guys think?