Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

WWYDW(FE): Giving Pistol Pete the Keys

The trade deadline is on the horizon and the Oilers are thoroughly in the mix for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Given what we know about the organization’s overwhelming desire to ensure a playoff appearance, the Oilers would have to put together a monumental collapse over the next 15 games prior to the deadline in order for the team to become sellers.

The team has a burning need for help up front as only four players on the team are scoring goals. They could also use some help on the blueline, particularly in the realm of defencemen who can move the puck and drive offence. Complicating matters, though, is a tight cap situation that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room.

Peter Chiarelli has guided this organization to a difficult place. In the fourth year of his tenure (and Connor McDavid’s career), the Oilers are nowhere near Stanley Cup contention and are grinding hard just to make it into the dance. The team is devoid of depth, still lacking top defenders, and is bogged down by bad contracts. Chiarelli, while fair at drafting and finding diamonds in the rough like Alex Chiasson and Mikko Koskinen, has routinely spilled value from the team in virtually all of the deals he’s made.

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We’ve beaten The Trade Is One For One and The Trade Is One For One Pt. 2 to death already. But most recently, he’s put together a head-scratching series of moves, downgrading from the underwhelming-but-effective Ryan Strome to the watches-from-the-pressbox Ryan Spooner. He then dealt Drake Caggiula, one of the team’s few wingers who can put the puck in the net, for Brandon Manning, a carbon copy of Eric Gryba, a player he bought out during the off-season.

These moves — the death by a thousand cuts — are perfectly emblematic of Chiarelli’s time guiding the ship in Edmonton. These types of moves are why the Oilers aren’t a contender four years into McDavid’s career. These types of moves are why the team is leaning so hard on just a handful of players. These types of moves are why an injury to one defenceman can sewer the team’s blueline.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Do you give Chiarelli the keys to the ship leading up to the trade deadline? Does he deserve a chance to push his team into the playoffs? Or has he done enough damage at this point that him making any more moves is a genuine risk to the long-term outlook of the organization? 

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With Edmonton’s 10-day break set to begin after next Tuesday’s game at home against the Red Wings, the organization will have time to step back and think about their short- and long-term strategy. Like I said earlier, only some kind of massive implosion would result in the Oilers selling rather than buying at the deadline. From a business perspective, it’s critical for the team to make the playoffs and to give season ticket holders a reason to renew their pricey investments.

The Oilers have multiple former general managers floating around their offices — Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson, and Kevin Lowe — and while firing Chiarelli and bringing in either of the three would be hilarious, all with an interim tag would be less likely to make a panic move than a general manager trying to save his job. Hey, maybe K. Lowe can rekindle his 2006 deadline magic!

On the surface, it might seem like the right thing to do to allow Chiarelli to see out his plan, at the very least, until the end of this season. But, as the Spooner and Manning deals indicate, there’s a lot of potential damage to be done to the long-term health of the team if Chiarelli handles this deadline poorly. In acquiring those two aforementioned players, Chiarelli has added $5.45 million against the 2019-20 salary cap for two guys who are rotating in and out of the press box.

One thing we’ve praised Chiarelli for is his ability to tinker the roster and find good under-the-radar acquisitions. Alex Chiasson and Mikko Koskinen are examples of this, as was Patrick Maroon. The last time the Oilers were in a position to buy at the deadline, he flipped Brandon Davidson for David Desharnais, which was a solid move. In Boston, he did enough at the deadline in 2011 to lift the Bruins to a Stanley Cup, giving up Blake Wheeler, a first, and two second-round picks for Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle, and Chris Kelly. He also acquired Jaromir Jagr as a rental in 2013, helping the Bruins to the Cup Final.

What say you, Nation? Do you want Pistol Pete behind the wheel for the deadline? Or is it best to cut ties before any more damage can be done? 

  • hockeyartist

    If Chiarelli did absolutely nothing and just sat their collecting a paycheck the top 6 would look something like this.
    McDavid Draisaitl Pujujarvi
    Hall Barzal RNH
    Speed baby speed
    What a shame
    I suspect PC is taking direction from above otherwise he would have already been fired before he does more damage.

    • Die Hard Oiler Fan

      Obviously the “forensic audit” of this past summer failed to determine who is responsible for depleting what was once a very deep pool of young talent. Some audit ! The fan base can all figure it out. Fire Chia now before there’s any further damage. By the way, fire Bobby N. too for not dealing with the GM issue at the end of last year.

  • JasonY

    There are many issues with Chiarelli. Aside from giving value in his 1 for 1s, he still has little regards for cap space or cap management as an asset. This becomes detrimental and fatal to any organization. It burned him in Boston and ultimately was one of the biggest reasons that cost him his job there. He has proven again that he has yet to learn this lesson. Last year we saw unused cap space after the Eberle deal and wasn’t able to take advantage of McDavid’s last year of his rookie contract. Instead, he wasted it away without signing significant help the wing or D, ultimately leading to the big disappointment last year. This year, he has now foolishly loaded up on the cap yet with as stated $5M sitting in the press box on any given night! He now complains that trades for wingers are hard to trade for, but it was only last season where he said they were easily expendable and easy to obtain. I’d be terrified with what he has in store for this season’s trade deadline.

    • JasonY

      As well, when Klefbom and Sekera coming comes back, he will be sending one of those millionaire AHLers down to the minors at full price. If he does trade any of them, it will be not at the value that he had paid them for just a few months earlier. All the GMs around the league know he’s yet again at a position of weakness as he will have to rid at least one or two Dman from the pro roster and will practically have to get rid of them for pennies on the dollar. What a disastrous mess, while fighting for a playoff spot! Given this mess, I don’t think he will be able to make a significant trade at the deadline. But he has proven me wrong in the past doing significantly retarded moves.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Well all the other GMs around the league owe Chiarelli a favour for making them all look good. Is there a way somehow to cash that in?

    Otherwise, no. Give Chia Pete a Playschool phone, tell him it’s a direct line to Garth Snow, and keep him away from the keys.