Finally, after the most disappointing season in Edmonton Oilers history, General Manager Peter Chiarelli faced the media on Wednesday afternoon. Chiarelli did not give a statement, but answered questions from the assembled media for about 25 minutes.
For many, myself included, it was a very underwhelming showing by the club’s leader. Accountability was mostly absent, and it seems like the club is convinced that this was more of a down year with bad luck than anything. That could be a very dangerous assumption and could hurt the club if they are wrong.
Most of the answers were expected and in reality, not too much was said that deserves a second look. That said, there were a few things that Chiarelli said that caught my mind, for better or worse.
On The Offense:
“I think we have wingers. I think our scoring was adequate this year so I’ll disagree with that.”
If Chiarelli wants to argue that they have the players but had a bad year, I’d disagree but could understand that. This statement I simply don’t agree with, however. The club had the worst group of wingers statistically in the NHL this season. In fact, their top line right winger to end the season was signed for AHL depth last summer…..Yikes.
If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goes to wing full-time, that’s a great option to have. I also think Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira and Pontus Aberg are fine bottom-six options. Other than that? Milan Lucic was a disaster this season and Jesse Puljujarvi was very inconsistent.
The Oilers, as currently constructed, don’t have the wingers, and they’ll need to add at least two this summer to compete next year.
As for the scoring being adequate on the season, I’d also disagree. The Oilers were 18th in the NHL with a goals-per-game average of 2.8. That’s a below average group.
At least here Chiarelli admits the club lost a few veterans via his doing. That said, by not putting a little blame on wingers, it gives the impression that adding to the position won’t be a priority this off-season. That would be a huge mistake. More on that later, however.
“We’ve got some young forwards that will challenge that have some speed. From the broader perspective, we have to look at team speed a little bit. Think and execute more quickly and you’ll become faster. We weren’t a slow team last year.”
I think counting on any of the forwards in the system would be a mistake. I believe that Kailer Yamamoto should be ready for next season, but that isn’t guaranteed by any means. The smart move would be to add veteran cover to not force a young player into a position he will fail in, like the Oilers did this year.
Kirill Maksimov and Ostap Safin both should be in juniors next season, while Tyler Benson needs some AHL development time before being ready for the show. Ditto Cooper Marody.
The To-Do List:
Remember earlier, when it seemed like Chiarelli was content with his winger group? Well, later on in the presser he admitted that adding a winger actually is on the to-do list for the summer.
“We could do a better job finding a winger or two and it’s certainly on the to-do list but I think our wingers… are obviously not good enough as a whole. But I don’t think you should just pin it on the wingers.”
I mentioned it above and mentioned it in my summer shopping list for Chia, but adding a winger absolutely has to be on the list of things to get done. One is a must, but ideally I’d add two to the group this summer.
A top-six option that can score and play with Leon Draisaitl and a bottom-six player who can score a bit and PK would be awfully nice.
“I know we have contracted goalies for next year, but it’s closer to the top of the list of things to look at and it’s something we’ll have to look at closely.”
This is a must, and another item on my shopping list. Bottom line is, the Oilers need a backup who can play 20-25 games next year and Al Montoya isn’t that guy. Adding a backup will be an important item for Chiarelli and the Oil.
“Is that a need (RHD defender)? Yes. That doesn’t mean that we have to rule out a left-shot puck moving defenceman. We have to fill a gap.”
The Oilers need to address the lack of offense on the blueline, I agree with Chiarelli there. That said, they shouldn’t blow their brains out here because with a healthy Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera, Edmonton will improve in this area next season by default.
If the club can add a second-pairing RHD that can move the puck, think Justin Faulk or Tyson Barrie, then that would be nice. If not, there are plenty of lesser options (Chris Wideman in Ottawa) that could be had in free agency.
It’s a need, but seems to be a luxury the club can’t afford more than anything else.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. At some point, yes, I would put that pick in play.”
For me, moving the pick for anything short of a long-term option is a no-go. That said, I suspect the pressure will be on and would wager that if Edmonton falls between 9-12 in the draft order, it will be on the the move.
My confidence in Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton management group is at close to zero right now. After last summer’s indifference, this season’s disaster, and the many missteps that got us here, I feel like this team very much is in trouble.
That said, upon second listen and taking a look at a few recaps, I feel a little better.
I don’t think Chiarelli took enough blame for this season and the decisions of he and his management team. I also thought he threw the players under the bus more than usual, and feel that the coaching staff is not on safe ground whatsoever.
In fact, my biggest takeaway is that there is going to be a change on the staff, perhaps at head coach as well. It’s also apparent that adding a puck-moving defender and a backup goalie will be on the shopping list this summer, and that Edmonton’s pick could be on the move.
I’m not as sold on Chiarelli adding a winger as I am the other things mentioned, but I did find it warming a bit that he mentioned this was something on the to-do list. I’m somewhat optimistic that Edmonton will add that piece between now and training camp.
I’ll be honest, Chiarelli’s press conference didn’t exactly inspire confidence. There were some interesting tidbits, but overall I don’t feel better about things now. I want to be wrong, hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see this administration turning things around unless they do everything they claim is on the shopping list successfully.
Prove me wrong gentlemen, I’ll be rooting for you to do so.