To borrow a page from Captain Obvious, there’s absolutely no doubt the Edmonton Oilers aren’t good enough to be anything more than fringe playoff contenders this season unless they make personnel changes. It’s just as obvious, at least from where I sit, GM Pete Chiarelli isn’t the man to make those changes. That’s not a new take from me or anybody else paying attention.
That’s what makes the all-star break and bye week after the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday the best possible in-season time to make a change for both the short-term and long-term benefit of the team. The Oilers don’t need a desperation move, mortgaging the future, just to sneak in for one round of post-season – I have no confidence that Chiarelli can pull that off, let alone map-out what this team should look like beyond that.
The latest bits of evidence added to a towering pile of it that points to Chiarelli’s utter failure as GM here just landed with a thud in back-to-back games – a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames and Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers weren’t close against the Flames, who have rebuilt quicker and better, or the Hurricanes, who outclassed them to the point of embarrassment in the first 11 minutes before coasting to the win.
The loss dropped the Oilers to 23-23-3 for 49 points, three points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Oilers would be out of contention already if the other teams in wildcard contention could put together a decent streak, as I suspect they eventually will. As it stands, the Oilers are on the outside looking in, needing every possible point just to stay close. The bar has to be set higher than that, no?
EITHER WAY . . .
I understand the need to win now. With the last dozen years fans around here have endured, winning matters. The people who pay the bills deserve another chance to show up for a playoff game. Success is important to the players as well. Nobody, no matter how much they are paid, plays to lose. So, yes, maybe making a move or two for the short term, makes some sense – be it moving a draft pick or a young player, maybe somebody like Jesse Puljujarvi.
I don’t trust Chiarelli to make a short-term move. First, he’s dealing from a position of weakness (as any GM would be in this position), and it’s a position of weakness he created. Second, Puljujarvi’s value is about as low as it could possibly be right now. I’m not sure the best GM in the business – Chiarelli is not that – could command a reasonable return right now. Somebody will happily throw Chiarelli an anchor, but he’s not going to get many offers that make sense. Would he even recognize one?
The Oilers placed Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie on waivers this morning, but that’s not going to move the needle in what remains of this season – unless it’s a precursor to a significantly bigger move. Again, I don’t trust Chiarelli, who has now turned Jordan Eberle into Ryan Strome into waiver fodder in Spooner, to make that move.
As for the long term, how can anybody look at Chiarelli’s overall record of acquisitions and feel confident he even has a vision that makes sense, let alone the ability to make it happen? Not me, and I’m guessing not you either. And, if Oilers’ management is operating under some sort of unspoken committee format, where Chiarelli is limited to what he can do without approval from above (as opposed to consultation) – as many believe is the case – then he’s a lame duck and the wrong guy for the job.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So, here we are. There’s one game before the break and the Oilers are on pace for 82 points this season, which won’t get them into the playoffs. They’re playing the wheels off Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse. Too many players are playing too high in the line-up and getting more minutes than they can reasonably be expected to handle. Adam Larsson is in the ditch. The return of Oscar Klefbom is just around the corner, but that won’t mitigate all the issues. That won’t make this team more than a fringe contender for a playoff spot.
The Oilers, who called a team meeting for this morning, have 10 days off after the game against the Red Wings. They won’t make everything right in those 10 days, but they can make a move to stop getting it wrong at almost every turn. Anybody who hasn’t seen enough isn’t paying attention. I’m not willing to leave what’s next, here and now and down the road, to Chiarelli. We can only hope those who call the shots feel the same way.