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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

  • Alberta Ice

    Oilers make the last playoff position. Sweep the first round against the Flames. Go on to win the Stanley Cup. Chiarelli is crowned as GM of the year. And the Oiler fans live happily ever after. Hey, one can dream can’t they?

  • BobbyCanuck

    Not Chia’s fault, he is doing just what he thinks he should, the real blame lies higher up the Org, the POHO and the OBC has to go for any significant cultural change, which may happen as this summer.
    The 3 yr lease term on the luxury boxes are up for renewal, but given the misplaced loyalty towards the Oilers from the Edmonton Monied Class, I believe the barn will sell out all boxes, and all season tickets.

    Firing Chia will cost $5million for breaking the contract

  • oilredemption

    Lol. Brownlee you are delusional if you think this team is making the playoffs. I do agree with you that Chia needs the boot but this team is going nowhere fast. I would start trading assets right now and see what value you get from them.

    Talbot for a 2nd
    Benning for a 3rd
    Chiasson for 2nd and with a handshake to come back in the summer
    Manning for a conditional 6th round and eat half his salary
    Spooner for the same.

    Now you have 3 2nds, extra 3rd. Deal for a winger with term but wait until the draft when our new gm is annointed.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • Spydyr

    I said this a few months back:

    I would fire everyone from Nicholson down to Hitchcock, with the exception of Kieth Gretzky, who I would name interim GM.

    I would then hire the best corporate headhunting company in the World and then task them with finding the best hockey executive available in the entire World.Give them a few months. I would then higher that person and let him build his own team from POHO down to Joey.

  • slats-west

    Can Hitch do both jobs? Probably not.
    Then Keith Gretzky interim is possible. Hire a Consultant over him ? Sutter? Burke? Not good options but cheap options so Gretzky doesn’t go Chia 2.0

    But Reuben i agree we are 2 PTs back and it’s possible. The biggest problem right now is in net with a fragile team and Dmen as Hitch pointed out their confidence is low and can’t a couple of goals down. They just can’t. Not now. Could we deal for Crawford? Or perhaps Dallas’ goaltender? But who does those deals? Chia? No WAY and

    ….the longer you wait on his firing the less time you have to make the deal.

  • Stickhandler

    It’s amazing the respect and reverence being shown the oil on all the comment sections and write ups from hockey folk around North America. BAHAHA!!! KIDDING.

    • HeavyChevy

      Chia should have been fired a while ago and waiting any longer is foolish. Just when you thought Chia had reached rock bottom in mismanagement along came the Manning deal. What is the trade deadline, seven weeks away?? If there is a shred of sanity left in the offices above Chia, someone in one of them cannot allow Chia to get bent over by another GM. Not sure if KGretzky is the man either. Not sure how much influence/responsibility he’s had in these awful deals and cap mismanagement. Unfortunately it won’t be easy or quick for the next GM to clean this up .

  • Datsyukian

    Might it be that the Manning trade brought a rift into the Oilers’ dressing room, which in part explains even wilder team mood swings that we’ve been observing lately? I can’t help thinking that even though McDavid publicly welcomed Manning to the team, other players might still not have forgiven him for what he had done to Connor, so there was a toxic atmosphere created in the room with this stupid move. This would also explain why Hitchcock has decided to put Manning in the press box (in addition to his crappy play). I would not be surprised if a group of veteran players went to Hitchcock and asked that Manning not play.

    • corky

      I think you’re reaching a bit here. If that trade derailed the dressing room, this team is seriously soft. I think the players do the playing and leave the business to the suits. Not sure an old coach like Hitchcock would fill out a roster with the players influence. If thats the case why have coaches? Why not the players run things?

  • JimmyV1965

    I agree with much of what you said here. I would say our defence is much better than it was when Chia arrived. Of course, the price he paid for that improvement has basically sewered the team. Chia absolutely needs to go, but his successor will inherit a much better farm system as well.