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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

  • GK1980

    That Manning for Cags trade was one of the most ridiculous, useless idiotic things I have ever seen. What good did it do Edmonton? What purpose did it serve? What is really going on in Chia’s mind if anything? Absolutely stunned, he is stunned.

    • Dr

      The only thing I can think of to justify that trade is that he is planning on moving some Dmen when Klefbom gets back. So, Benning and Manning + for a winger or a better Dman. That’s the only way I can make sense of it. I’ve defended him many times because, even though his gambles haven’t paid off (they’ve failed, actually), I could somewhat understand his rationale. I can’t defend him anymore. I can’t understand the rationale of constantly trading for less. He would be a terrible stock trader.

      • The Whispererer

        That doesn’t help it make sense. Manning’s negative trade value would obliterate any positive trade value Benning might have. Fans in Chicago were dancing in the streets when the Hawks were able to unload the Manning contract without throwing in a valuable asset, much like Oiler fans would be doing if the Oilers could dump the Lucic contract.

    • Ratt McNuge

      Agreed. Cagguila was one of the few bottom six guys who was potting a few goals here and there, and he was traded away for nothing. The ONLY good move Chia has made was signing his son, but I think he just got lucky with that one. Fire him.

    • Seriously. Are you telling me there weren’t any other 7th defensemen available from any of the other 30 teams? Nobody would even know Brandon Manning if he didn’t injure McDavid, not even Chiarelli. How badly did he want him that he gave up cap space, one of our top forwards(*cough we’re lacking depth there), and risked bad blood with our franchise player all so he could sit in the pressbox? You’d have to think that stupid of a move was on purpose. MAYBE i’d make that move if Brandon Manning was a potential 20-30 goal winger….

      • Dr

        Seriously.
        I am not saying, at all, that it was a good move, or even a neutral move. I was just speculating what his rationale was.
        Regardless of his rationale, it was a puzzling and bad move.

      • QuitForRealThisTime

        Maybe this is the payback for hurting McD, trade him into the organisation and stick in in the the pressbox for one and a half seasons. That should end his NHL career that is already hanging by a thread.

  • SmyttysMulletsRevenge

    Chia should have went after last season. Chiarelli should have went with Todd. Chiarelli should have went after 6 losses in a row. He should be gone again today.

    Completely inept.

  • Truth

    Chia should have been fired years ago after the Hall and Reinhart debacles. It was obvious he was clueless then, even more so now. Every minute he remains the GM of the Oilers is a minute lost in the effort to make the Oilers better. Plus there’s the risk of Chiarelli making another trade while he’s still in charge, which everyone in the league knows he’ll lose. Get it over with immediately.

  • Fakebobnick

    Chia: Hey Ron. Remember last year when we chatted and I wanted Manning?
    Hextall: Yes. But then you didn’t because your coaches told you not to?
    Chia: Well, I fired them and now want to do the deal
    Hextall: Um, if you haven’t heard I was fired and besides Manning plays for the Hawks now.
    Chia: Oh really….damn. Really had my heart set on it still
    Hextall: Just give Stan a shout. I’m sure he would love to hear from you. I’ll even give him a heads up to expect your call.
    Chia: Awesome really appreciate that Ron

    Hextall texts to Bowman: Hey Stan, you are going to owe me for this one.
    Bowman: What do you mean?
    Hextall: You will know 😉

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Chia needs to go NOW…. not later. Every trade Chia is making is digging the Oilers into the financial abyss trade Caguuil and Garrison for Manning and Manning is no better than Garrison and Chia adds 500k to the cap and Manning is here for at least another year!!

    The Oilers are getting saddled with players Chia is trading for that we are not going to be able to move, the Oilers are going to be stuck with them, and that is not going to help the team, how do we move players that no one else wanted in the first place with term and money no one is going to want to take on? The only way that can be done is retaining a lot of salary or your having to give them a pick or a prospect out of the system or your packing them up with a better roster player and it;s going to screw the Oilers.

    Chia is making a mess out of things with every trade he does and I am serious. All of Chia’s trades have cost the Oil something whether it is goals lost, money added to the cap or taking on more term contracts for a player then what went the other way. If this was the cold war I would say Chia was a double agent and sabotaging things from within, cause how else do explain the stupidity of Chia’s moves?? About the Only moves that have worked for Chia is his PTO signings.

    This year is shaping up to be like last with Chia sitting on his hands and making bad trades, not firing TM when he had the chance and keeping people in positions when they should have gone long ago ( The Oilers goalie coaches )

    If by some miracle we make the playoffs we wont make it out of the first round unless Connor carries the whole damn team because we arent deep enough nor are the Oilers good enough to go far.

    The fact that Chia is still here baffles me to no end, like are the media and the fans, and every other NHL team the only ones that can see how bad continuing to employ Chia as Oilers GM is???

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    Drake was a popular guy in the room; it showed on the video vignette of the players sightseeing in Sweden. There is zero chance Manning is, no matter what is said publicly. Chia really crapped the bed on that one.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      Cag was vehemently despised my many people on this site. Go back to the article where he was signed. Regardless still a ridiculously bad trade.

  • 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.

  • Ratt McNuge

    The Oilers are not making the playoffs. The blueline is in tatters because of injury and Chia made some trades that haven’t helped at all. Agree they need to fire him immediately. Other GMs have been let go for less. A thourough house-cleaning is needed too. Trouble is, Daryl Katz has had more than 10 years as an owner to build a contender, and other than one decent year, he has failed miserably. He’s a terrible owner. Too bad he can’t be fired too. Sigh.

  • President & General Manager

    Peter has a plan to get us back in the playoffs. Bob expects this team to be in the playoffs this year. If we fail to make the playoffs, Peter will be put through an evaluation process.

  • Goaltender Interference

    The single good move I can think of Chiarelli making was the Maroon trade.

    I’m not as hard on him about Hall – Larsson as most but even I’ll concede it should have been Larsson+ coming back.

    Every other deal, trade or signing he’s made have been atrocious. Way too many to get into. Either too much term, too much salary, too little received in trade, too many NMCs things or combinations of all the above. The points he gets for making the moves are vastly out-weighed by the points taken off for how dumb the moves have been.

    The Manning trade is really the last straw. That was the equivalent of dousing the locker room in gasoline and then smoking carelessly.

    Get rid of him before the trade deadline. He’s only going to do a lot more damage if he’s still making the calls at that point.

    Brownlee, you’re right on track with your article.

  • 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)