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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Enough

Long-suffering fans of the Edmonton Oilers are screaming at the top of their lungs in frustration again after watching the Oilers continue to stagger toward the New Year with a fifth straight loss, this time by a flattering 7-4 score against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place. I wonder, does owner Daryl Katz hear you?

People in the mainstream media, often depicted as being too soft on the team and its management with all the failure we’ve seen since the 2006 Stanley Cup final, are taking some roundhouse swings too. Likewise, the growing numbers of bloggers, who have never been shy about criticizing team brass, are demanding that something be done as the Oilers slide out of playoff contention. I wonder, does Katz hear them?

More important than that, I wonder if Katz cares about what is being written and said about his team, about all the criticism being directed at GM Peter Chiarelli, who is in his fourth season calling the shots and has built a team results tell us isn’t any better than the one he inherited? Does Katz care enough to do something about it? It seems not.

I found myself wondering yesterday in the wake of the loss to San Jose: might that change if Connor McDavid privately walked into Katz’s office and suggested that either things have to improve, and right now, or he’d prefer to play elsewhere instead of wasting the prime of his career spinning his wheels with an organization that can’t seem to get it right? Would that get Katz’s attention? I bet it would. Will it ever come to that? I hope not.

AT THE TOP

I’m not talking about staging some public firefight between ownership/management and players like we’ve seen in recent days with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in Dallas. That’s business best kept behind closed doors within the organization, in my opinion. That’s not the road any successful team goes down regardless of how valid the sentiment might be. If you use that bullet, you’ve got nothing left to put in the chamber if it misses the mark.

I’m talking about a private and honest meeting of the minds involving McDavid, now toiling in his fourth season with the Oilers, and Katz. Include Bob Nicholson if you’d like, although he’s under fire by virtue of his hiring and public backing, to this point, of Chiarelli, who tweaked the roster today by sending out a draft pick and Chris Wideman for Alex Petrovic.

I don’t know what McDavid thinks about the job Chiarelli has done building the edition of the Oilers he sees around him. I don’t know that McDavid feels like he’s spinning his wheels. I’ve never asked him about it privately or in a scrum situation. I’m not around the team enough anymore to ask that question, not that he’d tell me or anybody else toting a notepad or packing a microphone. I’m no insider. And that’s fine.

Is what seem obvious to you and me – Chiarelli has bled talent in his biggest trades, been hit-and-miss at best in other acquisitions and assembled a team without enough scoring and defensive depth – obvious to McDavid? After all, it’s McDavid, along with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has to play out of this world to give the Oilers a chance to win. I think Chiarelli has failed miserably. I think his failure cost coach Todd McLellan his job. I like the move to bring Petrovic in, but I have no confidence Chiarelli will make all the changes this roster needs to be good enough under Ken Hitchcock.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If Hitchcock, the third-winningest coach in NHL history behind only Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville, can’t get this team into the playoffs, nobody can. If Hitchcock, now 9-7-2 after these five straight losses, fails on the heels of McLellan despite having the best player on the planet in McDavid, I’m not looking at the coaches. I’m looking at the player personnel, the roster Chiarelli has assembled.

Hitchcock has been playing the wheels off McDavid and Draisaitl while trying to get by without Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell, but there isn’t enough secondary scoring or depth on the blueline to make it work. The Oilers have allowed 25 goals during the losing streak. The team looked utterly defeated in every way against San Jose. With the Winnipeg Jets coming in Monday, the Oilers haven’t been close to good enough. Hitchcock doesn’t have the horses, and has said as much, without coming right out and saying it, in every post-game availability during the losing streak.

Chiarelli was gifted the Golden Ticket in the form of getting McDavid in the 2015 draft lottery. His only job was to build a contending team around him. By any measure, he has failed to do it. Four years along, is there any other reasonable conclusion? I think not, but what I think doesn’t matter even a little bit to Katz and the hockey-ops people making decisions about what happens next with the Oilers.

What would matter, what would carry real sway in bringing about the decisions that seem obvious from where I sit, is Katz knowing what McDavid, his most valuable employee, sees and thinks about the team he plays for – even without the “or else” component. It shouldn’t have to come to that, but it might.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

    • Alfonso

      A fan on the other site posted this …

      Over the past 14 years (including this season), the Oilers have only won 40.4% of their games. This ranks as the second worst 14 year span winning percentage in the history of professional sports (the worst was the 1927-1940 Philadelphia Athletics of the MLB, who came close to the Oilers with a 40.2% winning percentage).

      If the Oilers lose their next 4 games, they will overtake the Philly Athletics as being the worst team in pro sports over any 14 year span.

  • Long time fan

    When Chia took over he only needed to fill a few holes. Get a goalie, and build the defence. We had Drai, and McDavid, for centre, and great wingers. Where are the holes now. Still defence, all the wings, and any kind of a third line, depending on how the coach can distribute the centres. We have by far a worse team than what was inherited by Chia. Between The Hall and Eberle trade we have not grown and developed, but just got worse under the cap. If the head office wants to ignore it by giving Chia a pass last summer, and firing TM then they have made it very clear that they have no intention of getting this team to the playoffs. I don’t want to be cheering for Calgary come playoff time because this organization can’t figure that. I have been a fan since WHA days and it is so disappointing to watch this team implode every year.

  • RJ

    At what point do people stop going to games and stop buying merchandise? If you look at other markets that have had brutal management, it’s taken fans making a stand before anything gets done.

    • corky

      For every person that walks away from a ticket, another steps into that place. As for merch, release a new color scheme and the fans will flock to it. In the states there are more choices for entertainment. Not so much here. Fans are too loyal to a fault here. Its a blessing and a curse.

      • Chris_Cruise

        Unfortunately fans in North America aren’t unified like they are in say Europe. With soccer for example, disenfranchised fans unite with a message.

        Sometimes they won’t show up for the beginning of the match so that the team and management can see what an empty and quiet stadium feels like.

        Sometimes they’ll show up but turn their backs on the field and look the other way in protest.

        They band together to send a message. Hockey fans just don’t unify like that unfortunately. Would be nice if they did because now is the time.

  • Soccer Steve

    Remember Connor’s face when the golden ticket showed the Oilers logo? The kid breathes everything hockey. He wasn’t terrified of playing in the city of Edmonton or missing out on Toronto. He was terrified of the awful organization.

  • Mr.Snrub

    Chia will be rightfully fired in the spring if not sooner and Bobby Nicks will split as well to go head up the IIHF.

    Then what? God Emperor Lowe will take over and hire another Tambellini type crony to serve as his proxy GM and the copper & blue will continue to sink deeper and deeper into the toilet.

    If you think things are bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet folks.

  • Derzie

    All that matters. ALL, that matters…a purge of ex-Oilers and anybody they’ve hired. Chia & Nicholson are shiny distraction-puppets. Don’t fall for it. My inner Flames fan wants you to buy tickets to every game and keep Chia forever but, oh the humanity. This sports tragedy transcends simple rivalries.

    Decade 2 of this mess and there are 2, and only 2 outcomes:

    – They let Chia decimate the team until only Top 10 draft picks remain. Then they sell them & the team to the highest bidder.

    – Or, the ex-Oilers hit the bricks. All of them. They are single-handedly undoing accomplishments and soiling any chance at repeating them.

    Don’t take their crap. Don’t fall for the distractions. Keep your ticket/jersey money and spent every bit of time working to run the ex-Oilers in charge out of town on a rail. Pitchforks & torches if necessary.

  • Anton CP

    This is the fallout after a quick fix done poorly. Most of the contenders are improving gradually throughout seasons but the Oilers have always tried to speed up the process and then it ended up hurting the team every single time.

    For teams with solid performances that they are running by giving young talents more chances to play and hold veterans accountable of their performances but the Oilers are doing exact opposite on many seasons. The Oilers managements have never prepared of having a downturn season instead of going into every season believing that they always have a chance because well…fans demand it.

    Is the Oilers still have the second highest ticket price in the league? Well, as long as that fans are still paying the ridiculous price of tickets and consessions that Katz really will not be doing anything remotely to be a owner that cares about fans.

  • hockeyartist

    two days ago i posted on here that there should be a trade moratorium imposed on PC until hes fired at the end of season……Apparently Oiler Brass never got my memo.