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.


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.


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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • elliotsmom

    #firechiarelli. As the late great Johnny Cash once sang, “I hear that train a comin’ “, I’ll be on that train all day long waiting to see Chia get punted. What he has done to the Oilers roster is indefensible. I can’t even imagine what the morale is like in the dressing room. And here we had expectations for a much improved club, effort and results to start the season. The fans and media have been upset and unsatisfied. Everyone has been vocal.There is no doubt that Katz and company are aware of the outrage. When the Oilers continue to employ Chia, after totally failing the team time after time, and each move he makes is worse than the last, it just goes to show us that we the fans, are being completely disrespected and disregarded. I will always support the Oilers and remain a diehard, but after continuous frustration and failure, I am beyond pissed with freedom Chia has to make his insane moves. #firechiarelli

  • BasementDweller

    Wasn’t there word that Keith Gretzky was the architect of the Manning – Caggiula trade? Or was it the Petrovic trade? I don’t know.

    Either way, if he was that involved to that degree in either one of these do you really want him making the next big move? I think the answer is a big ‘No’, let him stick to his strength – drafting.

    I’m not saying don’t fire Pete, he’s terrible and needs to go, but let’s be careful with the classic Oiler move of shuffling deck chairs and making people (ie. GMs – MacT, Coaches – Eakins, Players – Schultz) punch above their weight class….. I think we’ve definitely proved that it doesn’t work.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Look we can talk about firing Chiarelli all the live long day, and while it is warranted, what do you reasonably expect the new guy to do right off the bat? The new guy is already gonna have a tough time as it is.

  • 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.

  • Schmidt Head

    The question isn’t whether to trust Chiarelli with any more trades/signings, it’s whether to trust the people who thought it was a good idea to hire him initially, then keep him despite all his blunders, to replace him with anyone better.

    Remember, the people who make the big decisions on this team are the same ones who’ve kept Lowe and MacTavish on in responsible positions. How is any fan supposed to trust in any decision they make?

    They fire Chiarelli now, replace him with K Gretzky in the interim and they’re likely to announce in the summer, with great fanfare, the “triumphant” return of Lowe as GM and MacTavish as coach.

  • Gravis82

    The oilers are not making the playoffs. We have see this year after year after year since McDavid has been here. Its as clear as day. The are not competitive when he is off the ice.

    When Drai is on his own line and we put everyone we can stacked into the top 6, top 2 lines are find but bottom two bleed chances. That is 1/3 of the game where we are losing.

    You cannot win like that. Good teams a least break even over the course of the season with the their 3rd and 4th lines.

    The difference between winning and losing is so small that a really good 4th line and 3rd line can make a world of difference vs. a really bad one. You need to find 2nd line player for your 3rd line somehow, and 3rd line players for the 4th line somehow. Players that are paid below their conribution.

    The only way to get that is by….DRAFTING THEM and controlling their contract until free agency

  • Bills Bills

    Said it before, I will say it again, before the end of 2019, Keith Gretzky will be the Oilers GM.

    I just don’t believe that Bob had the balls to do it before the end of the season. The Manning trade is maddening.

    For a team to give up one of the few depth scorers they have for a over paid pylon is just dumb.

    • Serious Gord

      If that indeed happens and nothing is done with the fok and fog then if I were mcdavid I would demand off of this clown car.

      And RNH isn’t going to be sticking around when his contract is up.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      In hindsight, that was a trade upper management wanted to make, and the Bruins were still a very good team after the trade was made. Heck the only reason Boston missed the playoffs was because of Ottawa and the Hamburglar going supernova

  • Dapper Dan

    I remember a time when Mike Milbury was the GM you wanted to trade with. You could get a great asset for nothing or at the very least win a deal and make you fan base happy. Right now that GM is Peter Chiarelli and the other teams have and can take advantage of him. We need to stop the bleeding and have a plan in place to stop giving away assets!!!

  • Kr55

    Too much focus on Chia IMO. The main culprits are still the old boys club. We said the same about Tambo that we’re saying about Chia. We thought getting rid of Tambo was going to let the team take a step forward. All it got us was MacT downgrading things and killing the value of our assets, then we get Chia who does the same. Fire Chia and we likely end up with another doofus that is friendly with the OBC and the disaster continues.

    You can’t trust any of the people currently making decisions in this org to hire the right people. It’s that simple.

    • Gravis82

      tambellini would have won a cup by now by simply listening to who bob mackenzie said to draft, making no trades, and signing players to slightly above market value contract, not signing a single free agent and making the farm team play the best prospects

    • VvV

      Well Heine Tambo hasn’t come out and said he had no say then so he can get another job, Chia won’t either once he’s fine, cause it’s not true.. or wait another conspiracy theory that Katz is paying him to stay quiet? Also you realize that both McTavish And Lowe had winning records in management with the team… Why would they suddenly be so bad when pulling strings… Cause it’s simply not true

      • Kr55

        Because the old boys have got old and lazy and the game has far passed them by. Other organizations have become smarter while we stayed the same, and possibly got dumber. Lowe himself admitted in an interview during the 16/17 season that he was too fixated on forward talent during the Hall rebuild (he said he felt we kept losing to Dallas because they had Modano and Hull), and didn’t pay attention to the need on D. These guys are consistently behind the curve now and that isn’t going to change. Top to bottom this org needs a revamp.

  • Total Points

    The way I see it.

    Conner McDavid needs to look after himself, certainly the Oilers aren’t.

    Conner needs to go to Katz to encourage him to get rid of all of the OBC. If he doesnt want to and Katz wants to continue as is, Conner need to wish Katz well and ask for a trade.

    If Katz agrees with Conner this is the only way I can see the Oilers suceeding, if not at least Conner wont have his future in ruins.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    Stauffer said he heard Talbot was on Florida’s radar. I wonder if a guy like Dadonov would be available. He’d be a nice addition on the wing but Chiarelli would probably ask for a rubber rat in return.

  • Still Hate the Flames

    It could have been so much different and it kills me. Thank god for Connor. The average fan would not have done worse than the Harvard man. For real.