Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Doing nothing would have been better than following Chiarelli’s plan

Peter Chiarelli has come and gone. Peter Chiarelli has done his damage. Peter Chiarelli has left this organization in a very difficult position.

What if Peter Chiarelli never existed? What if Bob Nicholson came out in 2015 and said the following:

“We are not going to hire a General Manager and we are not going to make any trades. Instead, we are simply going to resign all of our own players to contracts and simply draft the best player available on Bob McKenzie’s Draft List at TSN.”

I’ve decided to take a look at what this roster would look like if Chiarelli never existed and nobody made a change to this roster over the past three years, eight months and 29 days. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.

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  1. All players who were UNDER OILERS CONTROL will have remained under Oilers control. For this exercise, I will give all the players what their current cap hit is today.
  2. For all draft picks in the first two rounds I went with the BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE on Bob McKenzie’s final draft list.


Dec 13, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) look on during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports


Leon Draisaitl (8.5) – Connor McDavid (12.5) – Jordan Eberle (6)


Taylor Hall (6) – Matthew Barzal (0.863) – Jesse Puljujarvi (.925)


Benoit Pouliot (4) – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (6) – Kristian Vesalainen (.894)


Anton Slepyshev (.808) – Jujhar Khaira (.675) – Tyler Pitlick (1)

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Nail Yakupov (.875)


Eberle: After a frustrating playoff appearance Eberle was shipped to the Islanders for Ryan Strome. You know the rest.

Hall: The biggest piece that Chiarelli moved out should have brought back more of a return than Larsson and his $6,000,000 cap hit looks like a steal in this non-Chiarelli lineup.

Barzal: We have been told the Oilers weren’t going to draft Barzal but by sticking to my criteria he was the best player available with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft. I know a number of people point out players like Sebastien Aho who they could have taken in the second round but by my best player available standards, they would have landed Paul Bittner.

Was Holloway the Right Pick?

Pouliot: He would have been in the final year of his $4,000,000 contract. He scored 13 goals with the Sabres last season and is currently a free agent.

Vesalainen: This big Finn would have been the best player selected with the Yamamoto pick. He started the year in North America with eight points in eight AHL contests and one point in five NHL games. Now he’s developing overseas with Jokerit.

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Slepyshev: He has 11 goals in the KHL so far this season and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were on your 4th line in the NHL. He scored three playoff goals in 2017.

Pitlick: Pitlick managed to finally stay healthy last season and scored 14 goals in 80 games with the Stars. He has six in 43 games with Dallas this season. He left the Oilers as a group 6 UFA. He very much could have been controlled by Chiarelli.

Yakupov: He has 16 goals in 36 games with St. Petersburg this season. I’m using $875,00 as his salary because that was his final cap hit in the NHL but even if it was in the $3,000,000 range the Oilers could still fit him in.


Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) skates with the puck during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oscar Klefbom (4.167) – Justin Schultz (5.5)
Darnell Nurse (3.2) – Noah Dobson (.925)
Martin Marincin (.800) – Brandon Davidson (.65)

Libor Hajek (.72)


Schultz: Chiarelli retained half of his salary and traded him to Pittsburgh where he would win a Stanley Cup the following season.

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Dobson: According to McKenzie’s rankings Dobson was actually the best player available at 10th overall this season. There may not be a lot separating Dobson and Bouchard when it’s all said and done.

Marincin: He’s now 26-years old and has actually played 9 games for the Leafs this season so he’d pretty much fit in just fine on the Oilers blueline.

Edmonton Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie cut from SHL team

Davidson: Now in the American Hockey League for the Blackhawks. I’m not sure where his game is at right now but I can confirm he’s an absolute beauty.

Hajek: Who the hell is this, right? Well he was the best player available on the McKenzie list when the Oilers drafted Tyler Benson. He was actually drafted by the Lightning and is a rookie in the AHL this season.


Dec 9, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Laurent Brossoit (.650)

Ben Scrivens (lol) – Seriously, I’m not even sure what else they would have done here. I’m not sure if Skinner or Wells would have been the best player available at their draft position because I just didn’t feel like doing that deep of dive.



So that’s what the Oilers would look like if they didn’t have a GM and just drafted off a list for the past four years. How much better is it than what Chiarelli has left them with right now?

The forward group is absolutely insane, the blue line leaves something to be desired but that’s how I’d describe the current group of defensemen anyway.

Brossoit between the pipes, basically by himself, would need to play as well with the Oilers as he is in Winnipeg this season.

What would be more attractive to the next general manager — the team Chiarelli has left behind or the group of players I’ve laid out above? Remember, the group above is coming in at a cap hit of $66,397,000 which means a new GM would have over $15,000,000 in cap space for upgrades this off-season, and that doesn’t take into account Pouliot’s $4,000,000 finally coming off the books.

So, in conclusion, the Oilers would have been better off having no general manager for the past four years than Peter Chiarelli. Is that a bad thing?

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

    • 50 Flex

      That wasn’t the point of this article. It wasn’t to compare if MacT would do better than Chia. It’s comparing Chia to nothing. He should have been better than nothing. And he wasn’t.

    • Serious Gord

      And any GM who takes the position without a guarantee that he can clean out those people is not a GM worth having. (I think it’s pretty clear that Chia was not allowed to get rid of them)

  • Spydyr

    I do not have my finger on the pulse of the up and coming GM’s but my choice would be Mark Hunter but in Nicholson’s position and let him clean house and allow him to bring in his own people.

    • Odanada

      Nicholson won’t clean house.
      He’ll drink wine with the OBC and they’ll regale one another with glorious tales of hills conquered and championships won, convincing themselves that they have that magic mojo that will surely return them to the winner’s circle once again.

  • wiseguy

    Without Talbot, and Larsson on d the playoffs in 2017 would not have happened. The do nothing lineup would’ve continued the trend of Tambi and MacT where patience would’ve been preached and we would be at 13 years and counting of no playoffs. The softer lineup without Kassian / Lucic would’ve been blamed for injuries to Hall / Nuge / Ebs. Fans would be frustrated and upset. The new incoming GM would be tasked to improve the defence and goaltending. There’s this guy who built a Stanley Cup champion in Boston that is now unemployed, but knew how to build tough, competitive teams that had good defensemen and goaltending. The OBC would come up with Chiarelli as their man in 2019. He would then take 3.5 years to downgrade and destroy the team. The year is now 2023…

    Did you like that alternative time line any better?

    • 50 Flex

      Dude, this article isn’t actually suggesting Chia should have done nothing. It’s just pointing out how amazingly bad Chiarelli was that nothing would have done better than him.

    • CityofWhat

      I would rather not have made the playoffs in 16/17 and have Hall, Eberle, 2015 16 and 32 picks.
      I didn’t like Chiarelli from the beginning, I knew Hall was gonna be gone soon as he was hired, I don’t care what people think of Hall for me he could play and was a star. I think everyone knows you build around your core players not trade them away. In a league where few if not any star players would prefer a warmer climate and less media stress Hall for one wanted to be here. The Chia hiring was welcomed by vast majority of fans and organization because he had previous experience, won a cup and wasn’t a hire from outside the OBC and people loved it because the previous GM’s didn’t know how to build a team that’s where they lost sight thinking this guy won a cup and on and on and not looking at what a horrible GM he was in Boston. He inherited most of the players in Boston and made bad trade after bad trade and ran the team into a cap hell so Boston was smart enough to realize it but Edmonton was dumb enough to fall in the trap.

      • wiseguy

        I agree that the Chia hiring was bad. However, if we had done nothing as the article suggests, the same guy – Nicholson – would today be in charge of hiring a GM and there’s a pretty good chance that after 3 years of failure, he would’ve made the same bad choice and the results would be just as or more disastrous.

  • The Off Ice

    I think the Oilers problems run deeper than Chiarelli. The tentacles of the 80’s, and an owner enamored with the boys of the 80’s, are culpable as well.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I don’t understand how people think the “do nothing” roster is so far ahead of this one. Hall, Jultz, and the picks are fine, I get it… But Marincin and Davidson? No goalie? Eberle, Poo, Yak, and Slep? Dobson playing immediately? Jesse on the 2nd line? I still only see two good lines (great if you move RNH up) a mostly garbage bottom 6 and a sub-par D.

    Make no mistake, Chiarelli performed poorly,

  • Leaky37

    I like it, good work. Now if our Hitch would just settle down a bit set some lines and let the guys play we might start to make some head way. It appears as though we didn’t really have a coach when Chia was hired. Todd Nelson was an interm and he finished out the 2014/2015 season. Chia’s first job was to hire a coach and that was Todd Mclellan. Is he still our coach for your exercise?

    • Gravis82

      He cant, there is not enough good players. He has to adjust his lines game by game based on the strategy needed for the next opponent. If we had more good players we could keep everything the same and just roll with it.

  • They have to get rid of Lowe, Gretzky, McTavish and the rest of the Oilers old boys network of advisers as they are useless. I laughed when I heard Nicholson say that they value Lowes leadership, to what another lottery pick. This team needs to hire some hockey men and don’t have those old fools constantly looking over their shoulder. Send those 80’s Oilers stars to the old timer box to shake hands and tell stories of the good old days and stay out of hockey operations.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Look, I can play this game too.

    If we didn’t have Marc-Andre Bergeron, we would’ve won the cup in ‘06, if the whole Pronger situation happened, we wouldn’t be in this mess, and if Darryl Katz wasn’t owner, maybe we would’ve better off!

    • Iron Mike Tython

      Ya there was an infographic on Instagram from bardown. No need for this article, bardown covered it in an easily digestible post.
      Either bardown didnt credit Nielsen or Nielsen gave no credit to Bardown. Either way ssomeones gotta show some integrity and give credit where credit is due.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I always thought that the Oilers would have been better off using EA Sports to make the decisions on trades & let Chis make the phone call. He would have been better off using that software as a consultant… Something to think about for Nicholson…

  • Gravis82

    This is insane. How many people have been saying this since his first year. Every single media person, including you, held out going for the jugular until it was clear he was on the way out. Doing that before his firing was a sure thing would jeopardize your access. This is a problem. How do you propose to held the next GM accountable early in his tenure if we cannot trust our reporting to ask the tough questions because they are afraid of not getting invited to the party anymore?

    If you ever interview anyone, be ruthless in your questions. If they dont come back, we know who the problem is.

    Gregor always talks about being unbiased. That right here is the only bias that matters, not what team you cheer for.

  • McDude

    I’ve read a lot of these posts lately, and sorry, just not a fan of them. There are so many variables that cannot be accounted for in an exercise like this that it makes it meaningless. Unless you can turn back time and make different choices, it’s pointless.

    • Gravis82

      Incorrect. Every move was a bad one. Literally every one. Sure all of them could have worked out, but what is the realistic chance that they were going to? Low.

      Everything in the last 4 years was more likely to not work out than work out. And here we are

      • McDude

        We can argue about what moves worked or didn’t, what percentage did or didn’t, and what should have been done instead until we’re blue in the face. For the record, I don’t disagree that Chiarelli’s time here was largely a dumpster fire other than the possible exception of the drafting and procurement of future assets. That was not the point of my comment. My point was that these what-if scenarios are stupid and useless and assume the team is in a vacuum. The real world doesn’t work that way.

        • Gravis82

          What if scenarios are the only way we can assess anything. The ‘what would have happened had we done something different’, question. We never know, but we can come close, and that is how decisions are made. Its full of errors, but its what we have to do because we don’t have the luxury of an alternate reality. Well, maybe we do. I feel we are sometimes as fans of this team

          • McDude

            Then we’ll agree to disagree. What-if scenarios are fine, but I find no benefit in imagining a scenario where a GM comes in and does nothing as it’s unrealistic. If you do then more power to you. I find articles that talk about the future, who they could hire to replace Chiarelli, and scenarios which discuss some possible ways to move forward much more interesting and informative.

  • Towers-of-dub

    I think Edmonton is the kind of city where a marginal NHL player can make $3MM/yr, be treated like a star, spend his nights out on the town being a star, and end up being ineffective at work the next day. A hockey player is a big deal in Edmonton, but not so much a lot of other places. My belief it that a lot of players on the oilers put more of their energy into being stars off teh ice than on it.

  • Soccer Steve

    The mismanagement of the contracts would’ve been avoided had we just let a spreadsheet do it.
    Caggiula would’ve been paid less without term.
    No way we sign McDavid before Leon and probably save ourselves ~1 million in the process. Not saying Leon ain’t worth the money but we would’ve saved something.
    There’s others but whatever. He’s gone. I sure hope the media keeps looking for more heads. Especially after Bob lied through his teeth today about the OBC.

  • CMG30

    I just saw the Nicholson presser and I have to say that this club just does not get it.

    Nicholson seems to think that this is a better roster than the one Chirelli inherited. Instead he keeps pointing at ‘character’ when everyone and their dog can see the holes that pepper this lineup.

    His comments about the OBC are dreadfully out of touch. They are the ones to decided to hire Chirelli because they liked his ‘heavy’ philosophy and they’re the ones that Chirelli leaned on as the ‘brain trust’. Now they’re the ones who’re going to be selecting his replacement.

    About the only thing he got right was the developmental talk and keeping the youth down in the AHL.

    • KootenayDan

      Get informed and check out his contract. It is bonus laden and it would be nearly impossible to trade him. The team can’t even buy him out even if it wanted to. We have to get used to the fact he is here to stay no matter what his contribution is. I like Looch the players play braver with him on the team so what that he’s overpaid good for him nothing that can be done about it now.

      • Reinman

        That is crap. We have enough guys that can and will throw em that Looch is not really adding much anywhere on the ice. I mean not for $6 million, at $2-3 million, he might be a welcome addition.