Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

At Random: Lame Duck

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?


Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, speaks at a season ending press conference.

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.


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.

Fire Chiarelli.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Oilers_1978

    BLH has a rumor..oilers shopping Drai…

    i hate the idea…

    the perception of Drai can’t play away from McD is pure BS..

    with all due respect to mcD he always have drai or nuge on his wings…

    and everyone expect drai to produce 100 with fringe wingers…

  • bwar

    I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a fanbase as desperate to get rid of someone as the Oilers fanbase is right now with Chiarelli. The fact that’s he’s remained as long as he has just goes to show the level of incompetence in the Oilers management and ownership. I have a hard time picturing a owner that is okay with the direction this organization is going. It’s becoming clear that Katz would rather hang out with all the old Oilers greats than he would see a new chapter of greatness written in Edmonton.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Hi Robin, I was wondering if one of the ON writers could write an article on Chia failings/deals or whatever you want to call them.

    I would be quite curious about all his dealings and how each one managed to sewer our team, and get us closer to Cap Hell, if you could include the player traded away, and how they are doing on their new team

    Frankly it is a little mind boggling how a GM can take a team on the precipice of real hope (winning the lotto) to where we are today


  • Rufio Barcoli

    So if the Oilers fire Chiarelli: Draisailt will stop committing turnovers, Nurse will stop playing with an intensity of a wet fart and stop shooting wristers from the blue line on the PP?
    I assume if Chiarelli is fired then the Oilers will stopping getting injured as well?
    Is fair to assume that with Chiarelli fired Talbot’s attitude and performance will become professional as well?

  • Rufio Barcoli

    There is absolutely no reason for Oilers to fire Chiarelli.
    The insiders and experts that are calling for him to be fired are just clueless and ignorant.
    Realistically they really don’t know what the Oilers and Chiarelli’s plan is. They, as is tradition, like to speak on things that don’t exist and use behindsight to further their irrelevant point.

  • The Immortal

    Apparently you didn’t see Burke on HNIC when he empathically said don’t move JP, 30 other teams wanted him, and to wait on him, he’s 21 ffs…and yet our management and media seem to think its acceptable.

  • Drinking my Oilers problems away...

    This is what happens when you let a guy like Katz buy a team for $200 M just so he can hang out with Gretzky here and there. Idiot could have saved himself a lot of money by paying $15,000 to go to Wayne’s fantasy camp.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here, it’s been nothing but garbage since he’s taken possession of this team (save for one year) the one good thing that’s come from being garbage this long is landing McDavid and of course we are wasting him.

    Next to Katz being a terrible owner, Bobby Nicks needs to be fired ASAP. Why this guy got credit at all for team Canada’s success is beyond me. What exactly has he done for this team? Put his name on a gross, over priced burger? Let Chia drive a team into the ground? Be an arrogant human being to fans on national tv?

    This team sucks

    • Oiler Al

      Drink… totally agree it has to start with trurfing Bobby Burger.The guy who acts and looks like an aged “Howddy Doody” was a gate opener for National teams and not a builder.
      The team needed building .Top guys are running a burger stand and the other guy raking in royalties from the 99 lounge.

  • Flyingdutchmen

    Sooo done with this inept management group…….wish people would stay away from Ice District vs Detriot as a small statement. I love the Oilers, but this current team/managment has made me put my $$$ and energy elsewhere. I do still keep tabs on them, cant be bothered to invest my time on such unmotivated hockey. Blaaaaa

  • Oiler Al

    Curious Question: Forever there have/are insinuations or theories about Chairelli being the puppet or real GM of the team.Isthe ivory abyss that shelterted that savy sportswriters like Robin, atheson,Gregor etc ., would not have the inside track to how the Oilers really operate when the shades are pulled down?

    If its ..Katz-Nicholson-Lowe- Chairille, then there maybe 4 guys making the call.In all fairness what do the first two guys know about building an NHL team.My reference is hockey calls and not monetary?

  • Derian Hatcher

    A few years ago I worked for a really incompetent boss. Not only was he terrible at his job, he kept hiring incompetents like himself. In fact, one new hire had no problem telling me that her dad owned a car dealership and gave our boss a smokin deal on a new truck. The core of the organization were really frustrated, as we were good at what we did, and it was painful to constantly cover for some of these bungling colleagues.

    After 18 months, I started thinking about a change as it was painful to go to a workplace that, previously, had been a great place to be, with many, many people wanting to get their foot in the door and work there. I started talking to my closest friends at work, who were equally unhappy, and we were all thinking the same thing – that things were not going to change and did we want to spend the rest of our work days in this environment? I was very unhappy, as every day at work was groundhog day, despite the solid effort of the core group of us, the incompetents, including management, prevented us from getting any traction at all.

    I asked myself many times if I wanted to stay there and remain frustrated and unhappy. Long story short – too late ? – but when 2 transfers became available, myself and another colleague were told that we were the successful candidates to be moved to different locales. At that point things got a bit tense as those who did not get transferred were bitter and even more unhappy (couldn’t blame them), and until I was transferred, it was quite edgy at work.

    Today, I work for a fantastic, forward thinking boss with great vision. The core of the organization gets things done, and most importantly I enjoy my job again.

    I would hazard a guess that most people who are good at what they do, or more specifically when speaking about he-who-shall-not-be-named, the best in the world at what they do, would, at some point, have enough of those who are hired because their dad owns a car dealership, and request to move to an organization with competence and vision. IF this were to happen, who could really blame him?

    As Robin stated – the answer is obvious to everyone but those with their heads in the sand. It’s beyond embarrassing.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    A team meeting called for this morning was one of the better news items I’ve heard associated in a little while. Those two games on the weekend are all on the players – they came out flat, played flat, ended flat. Four points were wasted and, even though it might have been difficult to squeeze one out of that Calgary game, there was little indication of any willingness to try. That’s on the on-ice personnel and nobody else.

    Yes, you can argue that Chiarelli should have acquired better players who don’t require mid-season lashes with a verbal whip, or press-box time, or remedial Hockey 101 sessions with Hitch. Fair enough. I’ll agree with on that. Fire Chia. Fire the OBC. Fire everyone on the hockey operations side, if you want. I’m with you.

    But any NHL player will tell you – heck, any professional player will tell you – that accountability is on the player and only the player. They are accountable to themselves, their teammates and their coaches through their pre-game preparation, their practice habits, and the effort they put in. Save for the Big Four or Five this year, we haven’t had nearly enough accountability.

    I hope at least some of that was covered in the team meeting today.

    • Florescent Oil Orange

      Yes the players have responsibility. But when in the last 10 to 15 years have the oilers had anything close to a full nhl line up. Since sheldon souray we have not had a number one defenceman until recently. All the high draft picks we got while not having an nhl defence have been squandered with poor picks or poor deals. Our defense is promising we have what resembles a top4 and more prospects in the pipeline.

      But our forwards are a disaster outside of the big 3 it is a wreck a bunch of 3rd and 4th liners many who are overpaid.

      The goaltending well, who is to say what we have? What goaltender could cover up all the shortcomings this roster has? Maybe we need to bring hasek Roy and fuhr out of retirement cujo Balfour? Still doubt they could get it.done

    • Derzie

      Teams with exemplary leadership have a chain of leaders.The Oilers leadership void is total & complete. From the distracted owner, the locked in the past Gretz-gang, the buddies surrounding them, and naming a young teenager captain of a team in the most challenging of circumstances. Being great at one thing does not make you great at another. It’s the core principle in play with the Oilers. They have success at one thing and think it translates to another. It doesn’t. Running a team in the best hockey league in the world is hard. Leading the best players in the world is hard. Winning is hard. It’s why almost every player leaves Edmonton and does better. They are as bad as one can possibly be at asset management. Having watched the monumental about-face by replacing GG with Peters, i can attest that GG will fit right in with that leadership group. Absolutely zero clue on how to get the most out of a group of players.

  • Florescent Oil Orange

    So. Just asking the question. Chiarelli is the guy making the trades and needs to go, but is he making the deals with the scouting staffs input? Or is he ignoring their advice?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I said long ago Chia is a front man and other are pulling the trade strings, I think KLowe and MacT have way more say in what goes on on the hockey side of thing then we are all led to believe.

    Jesse coming back to edmonton is a big maybe, if you were him would you want come back to the place where your career is gaining no traction? I see him going oversea’s to play unless he is part of a trade package.

    Sure the Oilers could trade Talbot but they will need to package him with someone to get something, Talbot alone wont get much of a return based on last season and this season and if the Oilers hang on to Talbot I dont see him signing back here, he wont want to be second banana. If the Oiler trade Talbot they going to ride with Koskinen who is having his own issues, but are his issues short coming in his game or more bad goalie coaching and bad habits via Dustin Schwartz, hire a guy with no NHL experience who had a good career in the WHL and at the UofA AA and got the job after the Oilers fired Chabot and promoted Schwartz from being the Oil Kings goalie coach to the Oilers goalie coach….dumbest move ever and it shows

    The Oilers are a ton of trades away from a competitive team and the more trades Chia does the harder it will be for the team to dig itself out of the hell it is in and Katz keeping Chia on as puppet and not firing Low and MacT along with Chia and Howson shows this organisation is too comfortable with the old boys and not willing to make and meaningful changes within the organisation o do that so the hockey operations can start to change the product on the ice, but it wont happen with the old boys calling all the shots and letting them dictate how they think it should all be done

      • Leave this cash cow? Not a chance. Name one other team that blows this badly that still has an audience worth discussing. Rogers will need to dwindle down to about 3000 per game. Unlike Arizona and a few other Bettman pets, that kind of attendance results in franchises moving. If they started from scratch (LVGK), they could not do a worse job.

  • Sven

    Admittedly I’m a Flames fan-

    but I moved to Calgary from Boston – and a large part of being a Red Sox , Bruins and Patriots fan was hating on the Yankees, Habs and Giants respectively

    but it’s getting hard to hate on the Oilers

    how does anyone in the front office still have a job?

    Four number one picks overall and only the presence of Connor McDavid- drafted as a reflection of perpetual incompetence – keeps the team from skating at an AHL level

    I hope Chiarelli signs a new long term deal-

    but it’s getting embarrassing

  • Towers-of-dub

    No need to wait until the offseason. You can’t leave someone in charge for half a season if you know you’re going to fire him anyway. Time to move on.
    But, I’d be curious to see what people were saying about Chiarelli when he was hired.

  • IRONman

    Sh@t hit the fan today. Jones his a helluva good prospect. Kelfbom has huge impact on the pp. he can hold the line. I believe Parayko would be an ideal fit, but would you trade Nurse or Larsson? Seattle f@ck up this season coz can only protect 7 forwards 3 defence and 1 goal. Extend Hitchcock and Koskinen. Fix the D. I still believe in McDavid and a Good GM can turn this team in to a Cup

  • Rama Lama

    I think it’s safe to say that after every trade PC has made most fans have a typical response…….that being a eye roll followed by a one word “who”?

    I believe that just about every fan could have made better deals than PC……..there is not one trade where we got the better of the other team. With a track record like this it’s no wonder fans are wondering exactly who is in charge……..hello Bob?

    I say we move to a referendum type situation until the Oilers finally hire someone with brains………put every trade to the fans and we will finally start seeing some positive results.

    I suspect Connor is counting his days and is starting to wonder how all these hall of famers can’t seem to recognize talent.

    • Randomfan

      Nothing. All this hoopla for absolutely nothing. Watch em lose again tomorrow and they come out and repeat the same stuff how we need to play better and whoever doesnt believe in this team needs to leave etc etc. Book it.