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The Way I See It

Call me naïve, but I still think the Edmonton Oilers are going to make the playoffs. The thing is, though, that if they manage to do it, it’ll be in spite of GM Peter Chiarelli, not because of him. If that’s not being caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, I don’t know what is.

On one hand, it’s obvious the Oilers, fresh from taking a 7-2 spanking from the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to drop to 20-20-3 after 43 games, don’t have a good enough roster to be a serious contender even if they do make the playoffs. The shortcomings we know – the Oilers are thin on scoring on the wings and they have a blueline group lacking enough quality top-four D-men, a situation glaringly apparent during the absence of Oscar Klefbom.

On the other hand, I don’t trust Chiarelli to make the moves the Oilers need to address their shortcomings because he’s the man responsible for those shortcomings. This is the roster Chiarelli built, and it’s not as good as the one he inherited four years ago. His most recent moves have done little to inspire confidence or markedly improve the team, which somehow is just two points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

So, what are the options? Do you let Chiarelli, who has painted himself into a cap space corner and thought it was a good idea to trade Drake Caggiula and pick up an extra year of salary to get Brandon Manning, carry on? Do you fire Chiarelli now and bring in somebody else to call the shots? Who might that be, and is it even a reasonable option with the trade deadline approaching? If there’s any truth to the rumor Edmonton’s first-round draft pick next June is in play, I don’t want Chiarelli doing that deal.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

We’ve kicked around all of Chiarelli’s good, bad and in-between acquisitions plenty here. Without going over all of them again in detail, overall, it’s been a fail with a capital F. It’s Chiarelli’s latest moves, with the team hanging on the fringes of playoff contention under Ken Hitchcock, that constitutes the last straw for me, and you likely feel the same. Let’s put that aside for a moment, as we aren’t hockey-ops people.

While Hitchcock has made use of Alex Petrovic, who was injured last night in San Jose, in his third pairing, he’s put Manning in the press box as a healthy scratch for three straight games. Chiarelli had to trade away Caggiula, who could at least contribute a little bit offensively despite his flaws, for a guy to sit in the cheap seats and eat popcorn? Even with Petrovic out, I bet it’s Matt Benning and not Manning who comes in against Florida tomorrow.

Then, there’s Ryan Spooner, who started out as Jordan Eberle and then became Ryan Strome and cap space (that went unused) before Chiarelli brought him in from the New York Rangers Nov. 16. In 21 games with the Oilers, Spooner has scored 2-1-3 and averaged 9:52 in ice time. Against the Sharks, he played 7:25. Hitchcock has cut his ice time in three straight games. He hasn’t been any kind of difference-maker with a team that’s desperate for scoring.

Yet, here we are. Despite all Chiarelli’s missteps, injuries to Klefbom and Kris Russell (I’m not even counting the ongoing absence of Andrej Sekera because he hasn’t been a factor in two seasons), lack of scoring and huge swings in consistency, the Oilers are today just two points out of the wildcard. They have six of their next seven games at home. Klefbom is expected back by the end of the month. Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If it was up to me, I’d relieve Chiarelli of his duties right now because I have no confidence in his ability to make the right moves. It makes no sense to keep him in the big chair if you don’t trust him to do the job. Recognizing mid-season isn’t the optimal situation in which to make a change at GM, I’d look at promoting assistant GM Keith Gretzky on an interim basis.

Moving Gretzky into the job internally would be about the most seamless move you could make leading into the deadline. He could hit the ground running. Re-evaluate the position at the end of the season. Of course, it’s not up to me, or you. It’s up to owner Daryl Katz and Bob Nicholson.

Like I said off the top, I think Hitchcock is capable of coaxing this roster, as flawed as it is, into the playoffs in spite of Chiarelli, but that’s setting the bar too low when the Oilers have missed the post-season in 11 of the last 12 years. There’s no good reason it has to be done that way.

Fire Chiarelli. Do it now.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

    • nijames

      are you serious???? MacTavish is one of the idiots pulling the strings in this organization. Get rid of all of them including all the Gretzky’s and get some good people in here to run this Connor McDavid team

      • VvV

        Keith Gretzky has done some very good things with the draft since being hired, he has done nothing wrong, and Wayne as moral support job or whatever isn’t hurting anyone. Also you have no proof Lowe and MacTavish are doing anything behind the scenes, and Infact both of them have very good records as coaches and GMs (that’s a fact) if they were Infact pulling the strings then don’t you think Tambelini would step up and say that was the case when he was the GM, then maybe he’d be able to land another job… Nope cause it’s not true.

  • BringitbacklikeSlats

    Robin,
    I usually find your comments almost completely practical and level headed. I question the stance on
    Keith Gretzky. I’m not so sure his drafting record warrants a promotion of any kind. I’m not convinced Yamamoto was a good pick nor Jesse P for that matter. Seth Jones was made by the old regime.
    Rewarding mediocrity or arguably poor performance is the cancer that permeates the organization. Wholesale change is needed unfortunately. Only this time I hope it’s for real (Aka Kevin Lowe, MacT, Howson dismissed)

    • mikel

      the closest scenario to his possible trade is when eric lindros refused to report to the nordiques at his draft…the resulting take from trading him to philly allowed the future avalanche team to win their first 2 cups…

      it may be the only way this team can dig itself out of the pit it has found itself in…

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I would take Kevin Lowe over Chiarelli. Kevin Lowe got us guys like Pronger, Roloson, Samsonov, Spacek, Hejda and Visnovsky without giving up much value. He actually didn’t make too many bad trades after looking at his trade history.

    Compare it to Chia where a potato would have been a better choice as GM.

      • ifiwasgm

        No, they traded away all the picks that were NHL players. Look around the league at how many decent players were drafted by Edm but there is no patience here for players to develop.
        And alot of the pressure comes from the fans who expect draft pick to be instant players. See Poolparty, Yamo, Bouchard…
        Seems everyone one doesn’t want these players to have any development.
        Bring em in, when they aren’t ready, ship them out!

        • camdog

          NHL isn’t a develemental league. All 3 rushed to NHL because big league team had no options. If the Oilers want to continue to develop kids on the NHL roster doesn’t matter if they move to the desert, they’ll still be bad.

    • You cant be serious, all of them could not get out of here quick enough except for Lubo, because he was under contract, and I am sure he was happy when he was traded away from this mess. Then refused to pay Rollie, so we got the past expiry date Khabibulin who was older and got more than Rollie was asking for. Not one of these idiots you hold in high regard has ever been offered a position by any other team, because no other team is so badly mismanaged. Oilers is the only place they can get a paycheque.

  • Ted

    There is no one in there right mind who would want to inherit the GM job it’s a disaster! Keith Gretzky maybe, but he has had his fingers on some of these moves so go down with the ship you built! This is no easy fix! At least another five year rebuild is my guess! That’s probably another five years of missing the playoffs.

    • camdog

      PC thinks trades are hard when he first came to Edmonton. I can’t imagine it’s any easier now that he’s been branded as damaged goods. No GM’s want to lose a trade, never mind to this guy.

  • tkfisher

    Sad truth, the Oilers would have been better off having either a Google Home speaker or Alexa running the organization for the past four years. Both are more useful, cost less than $99. We could have saved the second round pick, and would still have our team in tact today. Literally, signing not a single free agent and drafting using a hockey news magazine subscription would have put us in a better position today.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Don’t wait for me at the bike racks to beat me up for this …………but if ever Katz was to grow a pair and sack Chia and the OBC and back up the brinks truck for Stevie Y ……would Yzerman ever consider coming here to fix this mess ? Prob not hey?

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Listen to episode #91 of Spittin Chicklets with Sheldon Souray and tell me the management above that GM is fit to shape this team’s culture. It was a shop of horrors.

      Really, it was embarrassing.

      • Oilerup!

        Team is a joke….. the only way to fix this is “shock and awe”
        Let them play for the year, freeze trades, TIL new GM is here…. and if that takes another year so be it.
        And as soon as the team plays its last game, next morning out come the guns. …… everybody gets it, gone!
        If he ( Katz) doesn’t do it, they will never attract top hockey minds becuz those people don’t want to be associated with laughing stock upper management that all have Katz’ ear!
        It’s a joke….. blow it up, (mngmt)
        And reload….. nothing changes TIL they do it !

  • 2centz

    The Oilers are built like a Craig MacTavish team,and he would probably get a lot out of this group, if he were coaching. But after over ten years of the same narrative, that is exactly the problem here. MacTavish’s philosophy was finish 8th and make the playoffs, then see what happens. As Hitch said, that’s not the mentality of a winning organization.

    Spooner and Manning contracts combined add up to more than Mike Hoffman is making this year and next I believe. Having Hoffman would’ve sure made those San Jose games interesting, eh Karlsson

    The Oilers have 3 stars (who Chiarelli inherited) and the rest are 4th line and 3rd pairing “character” guys. The same template exists under Chiarelli that has been here for years, and that’s why the Oilers need to clean house.

    Hiring a different coach and GM while retaining the rest of the hockey ops staff, is the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a turd. No GM can fix this mess with the same old still being employed.

  • Bucknuck

    This is my first comment in months. The comment “Fire Chiarelli. Do it now.” was so compelling that I had to jump in and say “YES”.

    My apathy with respect to all things Oilers has been growing for months, and the root cause is because i no longer have confidence in the man in the GM chair. The man hasn’t won a trade in more than a year. He has to go.

  • CMG30

    Yes! Fire Chirelli! Limp into the playoffs or not, this team needs a competent GM going forward. I have no issues with Keith being given the job on a temporary basis while a hunt is being conducted for the right person. That being said, I also have very little faith that the ‘entrenched interests’ who find themselves in the ‘advising’ capacity within this organization will sign off on a GM fit for the modern NHL. They’re far more likely to ensure that we get another GM who prefers size over skill and grit over hockey IQ, face punching vs. skating ability and so on.

    Moral of the story is that we need more than just Chirelli gone. We need the barnacles lining the halls management gone too.

  • Ben918

    The Oilers could make the playoffs. McDavid will finish strong regardless of what the rest of the team does. Draisaitl and Nuge can help. Still it is ridiculous that we are talking about this at all. So many years of talking about how terrible Chia is and nothing has been done about it. Blame has to go up the ranks. Bob Nicholson, 65 should be retired. Yes he had a glorified job with Hockey Canada that a trained chimp could do but he should accountable for keeping Chia. Also Katz should just part ways as owner. There are a few people looking for NHL franchise’s and he can sell for a good profit (Steinbrenner for one was looking at the Jets just this year and the Oilers are a better franchise when looking at the numbers). I am sorry but Katz doesn’t seem to know he owns a hockey team.