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GDB Game Notes: Chiarelli has done the Impossible

On April 18th, 2015 the Edmonton Oilers organization won the 2015 draft lottery and, most importantly, the opportunity to draft Connor McDavid first overall.

Six days later Peter Chiarelli was hired and named President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. When he took the job Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and McDavid (essentially) were part of the team.

Fast forward three years and eight months, and the Oilers best players are arguably the aforementioned five players. Chiarelli had no input in their spot on the roster, but he has built the rest of it, and the supporting cast isn’t close to good enough. He’s done what I thought was impossible; Have the most dynamic player in the NHL, but downgrade the skill around him.

Take away the five players he had no say in, and Jujhar Khaira, who was drafted in 2012, and compare the roster then to the one today.

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1. 2015 forwards: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov, Derek Roy, Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon, Rob Klinkhammer, Luke Gadzic, Anton Lander Tyler Pitlick, and Jesse Joensuu.

Defence: Justin Schultz, Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Nikita Nikitin, Martin Marincin and Keith Aulie.

Goaltending: Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth

**Jeff Petry and David Perron were traded during the season and weren’t on the end-of-year roster.

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2, Here is the 2018 roster. Forwards: Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi, Alex Chiasson, Tobias Rieder, Kyle Brodziak, Ty Rattie, Zack Kassian, Ryan Spooner and Kailer Yamamoto.

Defence: Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Andrej Sekera, Matt Benning, Kevin Gravel, Alex Petrovic, Brandon Manning and Caleb Jones.

Goaltending: Mikko Koskinen and Cam Talbot

3. So what areas has he improved? He downgraded the forward skill and the worst part is Hall and Lucic make the same money. Hall won the Hart Trophy last season scoring 93 points and has 37 points in 33 games this season. Lucic has 42 points in his last 120 games, and in his last 81 games he has a whopping two goals. And please spare me any mention that Hall wasn’t good in Edmonton. He was top-ten in scoring twice.

4. On December 31st, 2015 the Oilers depth forwards (I excluded the top three scorers, Hall, Eberle and RNH) had  a combined 39 goals and 94 points. The current Oilers depth forwards (excluding McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH) have 40 goals and 86 points. And in fact this morning they only have 33 goals 75 points because Caggiula is no longer on the team. Chiarelli hasn’t been able to surround his best players with any productive forward depth in three and a half years.

5. The defence and goaltending is better, but in 2015 the Oilers allowed 3.37 goals/game and this season they have allowed 3.11 goals/game. The Oilers blueline, excluding Nurse and Klefbom, has $20.5 million in cap space between Larsson, Sekera, Russell, Manning, Petrovic, Benning and Gravel. He has now stockpiled a boatload of defencemen and none of the depth guys provide offence in an era where puck movement is a must from the backend.

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6. I will say under his watch the Oilers drafting has improved. It isn’t great, but at least the Oilers have some prospects in the American League. However, despite that, his scouting staff and he decided at the 2015 entry draft that Griffin Reinhart would help them. They liked him so much that they gave up the 16th and 33rd picks to get him. Their scouts believed he was better than all of the picks available at #16 which included Matt Barzal (16th), Kyle Connor (17th), Thomas Chabot (18th), Evgeny Svechnikov (19th) Joel Ericksson Ek (20th), Colin White (21st), Ilya Samsonov (22nd), Brock Boeser (23rd) and Travis Konecny. Even if they didn’t’ take Barzal, then one of Connor, Chabot, White, Boeser and Konecny would have been much more impactful to the current roster. Hell, even Ericksson Ek, Svechnikov and Samsonov would be developing. To be that wrong on Reinhart is embarrassing, especially when he wasn’t even a top pairing defenceman in the AHL at the time of the trade.

7. Under Chiarelli’s watch the Oilers still can’t help themselves from rushing young forwards. Jesse Puljujarvi hasn’t been NHL ready since he arrived in Edmonton, but Chiarelli and his management team want him to “develop” in the NHL. Newsflash: the NHL isn’t a developmental league. You let players develop more in junior, Europe or the AHL and when they come to the NHL they will show you they are ready. Puljujarvi is now 20 and in his third pro season. He has scored 16 goals in 120 NHL games and has 15 goals and 37 points in 53 AHL games. He’s never been allowed to develop his offensive game, which is what you drafted him for at fourth overall in 2016, and in the short stints in the AHL he never dominated. This isn’t a knock on him, because learning the North American game when you are only 18 and 19 is very difficult, but under Chiarelli’s watch the Oilers stubbornly believe he can develop in the NHL. He hasn’t, and he sure as hell won’t be developing any offensive confidence when he scores one goal every nine games like he has this season.

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8. Now Chiarelli and his staff believe adding another 20-year-old in Kailer Yamamoto is the way to go. He isn’t physically ready for the NHL. He thinks the game very well, but he isn’t physically ready. He had four goals and eight points in eleven AHL games before being recalled. No other team in the NHL has two 20-year-old forwards on their roster who have combined for 17 goals in 142 NHL games. These are supposed to be offensive players, and Chiarelli believes having them produce like fourth line players will help them grow. Wake up. This is not how winning teams develop players. Yamamoto will not be any better than Ryan Spooner today, and if they don’t let him develop properly and maintain his offensive confidence, he might never end up being better. They could have recalled 25-year-old Joseph Gambardella instead of Yamamoto last week, if they needed a body on the roster. He is 200 pounds. He leads their AHL team in scoring. I’m not sold he will be an NHL player long-term, but today I bet he could be just as impactful as Yamamoto in the NHL. And most importantly Yamamoto would be playing a lot, scoring a lot and gaining confidence in the minors, so when next year’s training camp comes around the Oilers might actually have a young forward who could give them some complementary scoring. The Oilers could have recalled Gambardella and not traded Caggiula, instead they trade Caggiula and then recall Gambardella.

9. The problem with the Oilers is they continually fail to realize you don’t win with all young players. It is a man’s league. Yes, there are some elite skilled young players in the league, but the elite ones produce right away and the Oilers have two in McDavid and Draisaitl. Winning teams don’t rely on having all young players in key roles. Washington and Pittsburgh have won the last three Stanley Cups. Did they have any major key contributors who were on entry level deals? Tampa Bay has Brayden Point, who is 22, but look at the rest of their top forwards — they are all veterans. Their young forwards— Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph — are 21, and both played in the AHL for a season and are in bottom six roles. Where is Edmonton going to get another top-six forward for next season? If they believe Puljujarvi or Yamamoto will be that guy, they are taking another major risk. They thought one of them would be ready this year and neither is close. And they are doing nothing to help their offensive development. In fact they are hindering it. It’s embarrassing how this organization doesn’t see this, yet other teams do.

10. Yesterday Chiarelli traded away Caggiula for Brandon Manning. Manning has a $2.25 mill cap hit for next year while Caggiula makes $1.5 million. Caggiula is far from a perfect player, but he has seven goals this season and over the past 1.5 years he has 20 goals, fourth most among Oilers forwards behind McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH. Caggiula is also physical. He needs to improve in his own zone, but good coaches can improve that.

Most coaches can’t teach offensive instincts or finish, and the Oilers just traded one of the few complementary forwards they had who could actually produce some goals. Chiarelli and new head coach Ken Hitchcock still believe size is a major factor in winning. This is 2019, size only helps if the player with it has the same amount of skill as the smaller player. The Caggiula/Manning trade just reaffirmed to me Chiarelli has no direction for this team. Why acquire Manning, another left shot D when you have Klefbom, Nurse, Russell, Sekera, Gravel and Jones? What was the effing point? He isn’t any better than Gravel and Gravel costs 1/3 the price. Gravel has been on for 12 GF and 12 GA at 5×5 in 296 minutes. Manning has played 358 5×5 minutes and is has been on for 9 GF-26 GA. He is -17 at 5×5, makes three times as much and some people actually think he is an upgrade on Gravel. Oh my.

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11. Chiarelli added salary for next year for D-man who has been a healthy scratch 14 times on a team below them in the standings and Chicago has surrendered 27 more goals. Is he much better/different from the defenders they have on the roster today? Manning makes $2.25 million this year and next year. Kevin Gravel makes $700,000. Caleb Jones makes $720,000. Is Manning any better? If you wanted to trade Caggiula, fine, but it makes zero sense to do it when the return is a more expensive D-man, who doesn’t add offence and isn’t a stellar defensively. How does this make the Oilers better? It doesn’t.

12.And remember the Oilers have no scoring depth. Since the start of last season Caggiula has the 4th most goals, 20, on the Oilers behind RNH, Draisaitl and McDavid. Yes, he has warts in his game, but if you think trading him to add salary for another LD who brings no offence and has no numbers suggesting he will help defensively is utterly laughable. With Chiasson out of the lineup and Caggiula traded, the fourth most goals among Oilers forwards is now three from Kyle Brodziak and Puljujarvi. The Oilers had added a defensive RD earlier in the day in Alex Petrovic, who has better analytics than Manning, so the Manning trade made even less sense for me. I want to make it clear I have nothing against the player. He didn’t ask to be traded for Caggiula. And it doesn’t mean Caggiula was someone they couldn’t have moved. It is the simple truth here is another trade where the GM downgraded in talent.

13. Chiarelli did a good job filling out the Boston Bruins roster between 2006-2014. He helped build them into a Stanley Cup winner, but that was in Boston and the game is different today. His track record in Edmonton speaks for itself. The Oilers have made the playoffs once, but that looks like the outlier, as they missed the other two years and currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference. The trades he’s made in-season this year have made zero positive impact.

14. Chiarelli has the most dynamic player in the NHL. He didn’t need to add big names to the roster he inherited, he just needed to revamp it, but he hasn’t come close to making the rest of the roster any better than the one his predecessor, Craig MacTavish, built. The sad part for Oilersnation is I don’t see a quick fix coming. Unless McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH manage to carry the team on their back for 40 games, and play at an even higher level than they currently are, this team isn’t making the playoffs and they simply don’t have the depth to compete if they do make the postseason.

This isn’t the players’ fault. The GM’s job is to build the roster and make the team competitive. The results are proof Chiarelli has failed.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/31/2018 – 8:00 am MST


  • Oilerz4life

    This is why Chiarelli needs to be handed his walking papers before he goes full throttle at the trade deadline. The Oilers need to go into damage control and seperate themselves from Chiarelli ASAP. The question is not if but when the Oilers should fire Chiarelli.

    • Alfonso

      Here’s Blackhawks writer Scott Powers take on Manning:

      “Not many people expected the Blackhawks to be able to trade Brandon Manning.

      There were so many factors working against them. First off, Manning had proven ineffective under two different head coaches this season. It wasn’t a fluke he was on the ice for nine goals for and 26 against in 5-on-5 play and had become a consistent healthy scratch this year. The second factor was his contract. He had this season plus another with a cap hit of $2.25 million.

      Manning was deemed untradeable by a lot of people around the league. The assumption was it would cost the Blackhawks a valuable asset or two if someone agreed to take on Manning.”

    • TruthHurts98

      Well written and researched too. I’m done as an Oiler fan until the management is removed and replaced with competent personnel. Now I will just sit back and enjoy watching real teams play and laugh as the Oilers lose the 6th straight tonight.

    • Alfonso

      Tambi was actually one of their better G.M.’s of late … have a boo for yourself … he G.M.’d an Oiler team that had a better Pts % than the 2017-18 version of the hapless Oilers … K-Lowe & Mac-T were better one season … speaks volumes that …

      2006-07′ … .433 Pts % … Mac-T … K-Lowe … Rank Sixth worst
      2007-08′ … .537 Pts % … Mac-T … K-Lowe … Rank Eleventh worst
      2008-09′ … .518 Pts % … Mac-T … Tambi … Rank Tenth worst
      2009-10′ … .378 Pts % … Quinn … Tambi … Rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd worst
      2010-11′ … .378 Pts % … Renney … Tambi … Rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd worst
      2011-12′ … .451 Pts % … Renney … Tambi … Rank Seventh worst
      2012-13′ … .469 Pts % … Krueger … Tambi … Rank Eighth worst
      2013-14′ … .409 Pts % … Eakins … Mac-T … Rank Fourth worst
      2014-15′ … .378 Pts % … Eakins/Nelson … Mac-T … Rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd worst
      2015-16′ … .427 Pts % … McLellan … Chiarelli … Rank Fifth worst
      2016-17′ … .628 Pts % … McLellan … Chiarelli … Rank Twelfth worst
      2017-18′ … .476 Pts % … McLellan … Chiarelli … Rank Ninth worst

      • Beer

        Whoah! You might have something there. A culture of entitlement. Picture this, a room full of guy’s telling each other how awesome they are. When theyr’e “not”.

  • Beut

    Thank you Jason for spelling out how terrible Chiarelli has been. Others have also done so before. I’ve now read articles from sea to shining sea from multiple media outlets about the abysmal job that Chiarelli has done and yet nothing is ever changes in Oilers HO. We are a laughing stock. It’s stupifying and Nicholson continues to talk nonsense about how there are good sides to the job Chiarelli has done. It’s so sad to watch and live through. Is it really too much to ask for management to be good at their job? The fans and the players deserve better. It’s like Katz has his head in the sand. How else could he tolerate this kind of incompetence. I’ve cared about this team for more than 40 years, but now it’s just too comical to take seriously anymore. I hope that one day they wake up from their collective coma and clean house and then I can dare to dream again. I just hope it’s before McDavid is long gone.

  • camdog

    Blogs out of Chicago praising Bowman for being to trade Manning. Many in NHL thought he would be untraceable, without picks going the other way, given the contract.

    • SlovakOiler

      Spot on. Sell outs for this freakshow.
      The whole “braintrust” should be put in a clown car and fired in the orbit.
      How can our GM be still employed after trading for a untradeble 8th defender with our 4th attacker AND a 3rd round pick??? Embarrassing beyond any level.

    • winteriscoming

      Why would you go and pay to watch that horse shxt hockey, this organization is a complete shxt show stopped watching after the last game and my New year’s resolution is to not watch them in 2019 starting tonight

    • Yakubag10

      I have been at least wearing my Oilers branded bag, but even that is getting to be too much. At this point, in considering going generic brown paper, how can I support the team in its current state.

  • Yakubag10

    Disagree completely. Chia has identified that McDavid is the key to this team. How do you further develop the best player in the league? That’s right, surround him with mediocrity, play him for 30 minutes a game, and put him in a position where he needs to improve enough to carry the team on his back.

    Once McDavid gets to the level we needed him at, Chia will strike and provide the complimentary players needed to bring us to the cup. Checkmate.

  • Boba The Fett

    Gregor, this article hits the nail on the head 100%. Last night was the 1st time I truly felt 100% dejected with this team/mgmt. For years I have been trying to see the positives/reasoning behind the moves that have been made but after yesterday it just isnt possible anymore.
    The unbelievable ineptitude of our GM and the incredible ignorance of upper mgmt to see the blatant issues is astonishing.

    But Gregor I would like to add one more problem to the overwhelming dumpster fire. Since acquiring Chia we have gone from being recognized as one of the loudest barns in the league to being widely recognized as one of the quietest. No matter how bad the team was the rink was always loud and energetic. Now the organization has put more emphasis it seems on sponsored giveaways and pointless contests all the while sucking every bit of energy out of the rink. It is embarrassing being a season seat holder and inviting guests to witness our sham of a product/production.

    The biggest problem is that with it being so damned difficult to obtain season seats my undying loyalty to this club prevents me from letting them lapse.

    Somehow change is needed otherwise we may as well relocate to Cleveland and be called the Browns because they really were the only other pro team managed worse than us.

  • The future never comes

    It’s a grim situation when you currently only have 3 forwards that can score (4 when Chiasson is healthy). Pulju and Yamo should be in the AHL all season to develop properly, but this is the Oilers they have no patience and ruin prospects. This organization is truly comical, it’s always been laughable, but now with McD on the team the organization is under a spotlight they cannot run from. Surprise, the entire hockey world is laughing at your organization and ripping into you head to toe. Can Katz sell this team please, he is the head clown employeeing all his idols that are ruining their legacy each day at a time. You ever notice when the Oilers are winning they continually pan to Gretzky and Lowe on camera, and when they lose the good ol boys are no where to be seen. Add a couple more ex Oilers or their buddies to the payroll, maybe that will push you over the top.

  • Oilers70

    Everyone missing the big picture.

    THE PROBLEM IS KATZ. All he has done since owning the team with his collective friends and fools, is mismanage the team. Of all pro stops the worst record.

    Culture can’t be fixed, it is a symptom of bad leadership and KATZ is the disease.

    It has taken me 15 years of hope, but this is my last year as a ticket holder.

    Conner will not win a cup in Edmonton (my bold prediction), will either demand a trade, or not sign here when he contract is done.

    This is a long term problem, the only solution is a complete firing of ALL the hockey operations and get new young blood and thoughts. But, there is no leadership in KATZ.

  • Drinking my Oilers problems away...

    Gee, I wonder if anyone of the Oilers media fella’s will actually ever challenge Chiarelli about this disaster of a team build in person rather than write about them and say “look at me! I’m angry toooooooo youuuuuu guysssssss”

      • Drinking my Oilers problems away...

        Who cares at this point, not like anybody has been doing their jobs the past 10 years. It would get people talking about a team that’s royally f’d up and now they can’t handle people calling them out to their face so now they got to pout and take someone’s pass away.

        Boo hoo…

        I guarantee you none of the bad stuff about these trades will be brought up. First question will be “How do you see Manning fitting in?” Instead of “You got rid of Hall for supposedly being a cancer in the dressing room but decided to bring in a guy who admitted to injurying McDavid on purpose and then asked Connor for his permission to bring him aboard, why?”

    • The future never comes

      What does Nicholson know, he built a winning team Canada roster? I could have built the same roster with all of the talent available. Truly not hard.

  • hagar

    I hope pc has one of those nasty firings, and he comes out to save face by admitting the old boys still pull the strings.
    The more likely scenario though is he gets a promotion, or sideways moves to another position and keeps his mouth shut.
    Not like anyone will hire him, pretty sure Klow and the loser gang can pay him enough of their buddies money to keep him quiet.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I wish Katz watched the sport news channels, then he could see what a laughjing stock we have become with the manning trade, the fact that Chia is till employed tells you just how much Katz cares about this team,.

      Chia’s presser was nothing but damage control

  • Kr55

    Fire the whole management group into the sun. There is no way they didn’t have a hand in getting Reinhart, Lucic and trading Hall. They leaked to media that Hall was bad for team culture before Chia got here. MacT was obsessed with Lucic and offered Clarkson more than the leafs did. And we all know this orgs love of ex-Oil Kings, every guy around Chia were cheering on getting Reinhart.

    This management group is full of morons far too comfortable in their jobs. They all need to go.

  • Butters

    The Oilers have a long history of being unable to identify and procure quality defense. This trend pre-dates Chiarelli; Belov, Nikitin and others Acquiring a player like Manning is par for the course, overpaid and terrible.

    We will get Chairelli’s head on a pike and we will feel good about it, but how much will really change?