The NHL is back in action tonight, but the Oilers still have two more days before returning to face the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place on Thursday night. So, with the extra time off, I figured I’d jump back into the Peter Chiarelli debate. The reason this time? I’ve seen a lot of #FakeNews being tossed around on Twitter.
Look, we are all frustrated by what has happened this season, but I feel that we have all gotten away from being the smart, talkative fanbase I remember when I first signed up for the social media service back in 2009. Now, people just see who can yell the loudest and twist facts to fit a narrative. There is no debate anymore, and that’s quite sad to me.
So, this morning, we are going to look at the good of Peter Chiarelli’s first two and a half seasons as Oilers GM. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the bad. Thursday? We’ll wrap it all up and give a grade. By the way…..Yes, folks, there have been good AND bad things if you can believe it.
Peter Chiarelli took over in May of 2015, promptly hiring Todd McLellan to be his first head coach. Soon after that, he added Connor McDavid and off we were with the Chiarelli era. I won’t be crediting him for picking McDavid, mainly because that was the most obvious selection since Sidney Crosby and was a forgone conclusion before he took the job.
Here’s the list of good decisions by the current GM, in my humble opinion.
– Hiring Todd McLellan as head coach. It hasn’t been pretty this season, but Todd is a fine veteran coach and a guy who I think has helped many Oilers since taking over. He’s also been the team’s first stable bench boss since Craig MacTavish in the 2000’s. Sure, there are better coaches out there, but Todd is certainly a damn good option on his own.
– Acquiring Zack Kassian was a low-risk deal that Edmonton won easily. Ben Scrivens is playing in the KHL, while Kassian is a fine bottom-six forward.
– Acquiring Patrick Maroon was even better. The Oilers stole the forward from the Ducks for Martin Gernat, now out of the Ducks system, and a 4th round pick. If that wasn’t enough, the Ducks are even paying some of Maroon’s salary this season. This is my favorite Chiarelli deal by a mile, just a stroke of genius.
– The free agent signings of Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu on July 1, 2015 were big wins. Sekera is arguably Edmonton’s most complete defender and is a bonafide top-four guy who has replaced Jeff Petry quite nicely. Letestu is struggling this season, but he gave the Oil two really solid years, including a sensation 2016-17, on a cheap deal.
– Acquiring Cam Talbot for picks was another solid trade by Chiarelli. Talbot has been the main goalie for Edmonton since coming on board, and although he has struggled at times this season he has emerged as a top-ten option in this league since the trade. Excellent work by Chiarelli and his management team here.
– Some people would call this a loss, but the deal that sent Martin Marincin to Toronto while getting Eric Gryba to Edmonton from Ottawa was also a win. Gryba was solid for two years for the Oilers, while Marincin has proven he simply isn’t an NHL defender in the time since. I support advanced stats and think they are a great tool, but this was a rare case where they were misleading on a player. Edmonton got the better defender in this deal.
– Kris Russell’s one-year deal in October 2016 was astute work and paid off in a big way that season.
– Acquiring David Desharnais was a good move as well, one that worked out. There was some luck involved here, Davidson didn’t fit in Montreal and the Habs waived him, but it’s still a win. Desharnais was fine for the Oilers and scored the biggest goal of the spring last year. That alone was worth it to me.
– I’ll even credit Chiarelli for snagging Davidson on waivers earlier this season. That was a nice win that helped the Oilers while Sekera was still on the mend.
– Chiarelli and his scouting staff have done a great job at the draft. When the team has had picks to use, they have hit on them more often than not. Since taking over, the Oilers have added Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyler Benson, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Aapeli Rasanen, Graham McPhee, Filip Berglund, Dmitri Samorukov and Stuart Skinner, among others, to the system via the draft. That’s an impressive group with good arrows.
– By extension the amateur scouting department has uncovered Nick Ellis, Drake Caggiula, Shane Starrett and Ryan Mantha as free agents to add to the system. All of those players have good arrows, meaning Edmonton is finding at least one per year under Chiarelli. That’s a damn good way to procure players.
Peter Chiarelli has his weaknesses, but as you see above he has his strengths too. Chiarelli has done a good-to-great job at the draft table and assembling an amateur scouting department. He’s also done very well in smaller deals that are low-risk but high reward. The Jussi Jokinen for Mike Cammalleri deal can fall into this category as well.
Chiarelli struck gold in finding Talbot (starting G), Sekera (Top-four D) and Maroon (top-six F) for almost nothing in terms of assets. That’s pretty slick work and strengthens just about any roster in the NHL. His work finding depth forwards has actually been quite good too.
While the defense still needs a little work, we’d be remiss to not give him some credit for a much improved group since he took over. Adam Larsson, who isn’t on this list because of cost, is another important piece that Chiarelli brought on board.
As you can see here, Chiarelli has done a number of good things as GM in Edmonton, and has put his stamp on this team in several areas. Some of those stamps have come front and center and were a major reason for this club’s return to the playoffs in 2017. They are also key players this season, underachieving in many areas.
Back tomorrow with the bad marks on this report card.