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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


    • Hockeytalkguy

      @ Soft dump…….EXACTLY, where were all the media types midway through last season? They are calling for Chias head now? Hey, you don’t get a ticket to the buffet line if you talk badly about the Oilers brain trust.

  • 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.

  • CalOil

    The more I read blogs out of Edmonton the less I think the authors understands hockey in the NHL.
    The best way to be consistently good is;
    3-6 draft picks turn in to really good players on and off the ice, signed long term.
    Have a farm system deliver your draft picks on cheap contracts that can contribute in the top half of the line up.

    Have a top 10 goalie.

    Have the cap grow so the long term contracts get cheaper.

    Chiarelli got one of the four puzzle pieces handed to him.

  • Steveland Cleamer

    So we can therefore be happy (as per Bobby Nick’s) that when the Oil miss the playoffs (yet again), we will finally have the new GM we’re all calling for?
    Who will it be though? That’s the new question….

    • Gaz

      Got to figure it’ll be someone that Bobby Nicks likes eating Bobby Nicks burgers with already:

      Keith Gretzky
      MacTavish (victory lap)
      Gretzky (sure, why not)
      Coffey (he feels underappreciated in his role as the consultant for d-men)
      Howson (he already has some free Oilers swag so it is an easy promo)

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        @Gaz

        You guys need Hextall. He has the patience of a glacier and answers to no one but Hextall, two traits that got him fired from Philly. Philly ownership has always been an impatient mess. Remember the Weber contract? Vinnie Lecavalier? Hextall tried to stop making moves like that. I think he’d be good in Edmonton.

      • Gaz

        The point of my comment, is essentially that the new hire will likely not inspire much more confidence than the current GM, because it’ll just be the current Keystone Cops swapping titles. This thing is the same turd that keeps getting polished, over and over.

  • Serious Gord

    I think we can agree that chia is going nowhere until the end of the season unless the team completely collapses during the next two weeks.

    But hypothetically, what would one do if you could fire him today?

    Appoint someone from within the org as temp GM? Lowe? Mact? That would be fun.

    Who is on the market this time of year for a permanent hire? And is it wise to hire a permanent when there are so few options.

    Regardless, firing chia now will make little difference (unless it is to prevent him from making more deals).

      • Serious Gord

        No way Burke joins this circus. Looks to me like he’s being groomed to replace cherry and has nil interest in getting back into the biz.

        But can you imagine meetings between he and Lowe?

    • Gaz

      This is a tricky spot, for sure. Taking away his ability to make trades isn’t hard, and can be handled internally without humiliating the guy.

      If they don’t do something mid-season, then they set up a scramble going into the draft. You’ll be quick to jump on the organization if that happens, so my honest question is: what do you suggest?

      You’re very quick to play monday morning QB, but why don’t you start expressing a view on solutions?

      • ed from edmonton

        There is no doubt that if the Oil were to go through Jan with the current D they would fall into contention for the Hughes pick. Even if Russel comes back soon, that helps but still a shaky group. I think that getting another LHD says the OIl have serious questions if Sekera will be able to play at an NHL level again.

    • OilFanChewy

      NO MORE old boys club, If you’re gonna replace Chiarelli, find someone with some semblance of hockey sense.

      Maybe a current commentator, like say Brian Burke, I mean look what he did south of Edmonton.

      While Chiarelli is famous for now trading Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, he’s becoming famous for being dumbest GM ever

  • Butters

    Although he is ultimately responsible, I don’t think the GR trade was Chiarelli’s idea. I suspect that was a Plan B cooked up in advance of the draft, if they couldn’t get Dougie Hamilton. A massive and costly blunder, but I pin that one on the Oilers organization as a whole and not all on Chiarelli specifically. I see failure not only at the management level, but pro and amateur scouting as well, the former being the worst of the two.

    • Jason Gregor

      No to Sekera and Klefbom. Russell is very close. So you think Manning in lineup is better than Gravel and Caggiula for one or two games? Okay, I don’t and the numbers back up my point. Manning wasn’t playing in Chicago. He is -17 at 5×5. Gravel is even. If you think Manning is that much better, all the power to you. I disagree.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        Plus minus is a dead stat, based on Manning’s career numbers he does have NHL upside. Not sure why everyone is focusing on one season, but it seems like some are determined to hate this. Good article over all, it’s not all roses in Oiler nation but this season he was on a bad blackhawks on their bottom pairing and posted a career worst. For intellectual honesty as a journalist you could at least note this

    • Wadentheshade

      Reactive trades pal. If he had built proper depth like most organizations he wouldn’t have to be scrambling like this. Every team has to deal with injuries. Proper depth and development helps mitigate moves like yesterday.

      • Hakuna Mcdavid

        I mean, maybe? He’s been here 3 years, not sure what you want for depth but to build it you typically ship out something or sign free agents. He did both, and didn’t give up much. He waited too long though, that’s for sure

  • 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.”

  • Mahaloeh

    The foundation of a hockey club is goaltending. When the Oil acquired Talbot & then had the 16/17 season things looked pretty rosy between the pipes. He signed a reasonable contract but hasn’t lived up to that 16/17 season & this has been the biggest problem for the Oil. Koskinen has been a good signing to date, we’ll see how everything plays out. Chiasson has been an excellent PTO contract signing. I’m happy Chia’s made some moves to try help the Oilers get to the playoffs. It would be hard for any team to replace 3 top 4 dmen on their roster. Let’s see how things play out before crying the sky is falling, we’re still over .500!

    • Connor McDevin

      Umm…they are not over .500. Just ask our pal Nation Dan. Poor guy has been running kilometers in cold ass winter in shorts because they are below .500

  • ed from edmonton

    Getting Manning is curious. I suspect that this may be motivated by Sekera not progressing well. At least one Oil watcher has stated he doesn’t think Sekera, at least until now, skating has returned to NHL caliber. This is in contrast with others for have stated they thought Sekera might be back on the upcoming road trip. Hitch stated Sekera won’t be playing before Februrary so he think Sekera has a way to go. The Oil may be thinking Sekera will LTIRed.

    This move also suggests that Hitch is not as much as a Cags fan as TMac.

    • camdog

      Good tid bit. That makes more sense. No salary cap issues if Sekera is skating like a beer leaguer. Problem is we all thought this was a possibility going into season. My problem with Manning is simply I don’t think he’s an NHL d-man either.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Spoils

    Chiarelli is almost certainly getting canned this summer. But, what moves are left for a new GM to make?

    one FA splash (if the cap goes up and some sage moves are made to manage our existing contracts)
    move the 2019 and 2020 top picks??
    shuffle some pick/prospect/mid/bottom players for chemistry or a chiasson/maroon surprise

    seriously, how do you dig out of this?

    hint: fire Chiarelli, keep powder dry, draft and develop, and 3-5 years from now, win a cup.

    • CMG30

      Yes, this mess can’t be cleaned up this year but the first step is getting a guy in place who has the ability to actually get it done. Chirelli is not that guy. I’ve known this since he tried to defend the boneheaded Hall trade by claiming that you can get better by losing trades.

      Sure improvement is hard mid season bit Step 1 is to stop the bleeding. It’s been clear Chirelli has no plan for a while now. His spur of the moment decision to fire the last coach and now his string of trades yesterday just crystallize that fact.

    • ed from edmonton

      This might be one of the few rational posts this morning.

      The Oil don’t have enough cap room to do much in FA, unless Sekera end up on LTIR, which I think is a distinct possibility.
      For the Oil tom improve in the next 2 years converting a pick into a player is likely needed.

      PS we have been waiting for the 3-5 year horizon for at least 12 years.