April 12th, 2018. The NHL playoffs are just starting, but Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are already done. The club had just concluded a disastrous season that saw them fall from Stanley Cup hopeful to bottom-ten team. A broken fanbase hoped for change, but it never did come. The Oilers switched up assistant coaches but kept Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli in their respective positions.
On that April afternoon, Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson took the podium at Rogers Place to give his President of Hockey Operations and General Manager a vote of confidence, announcing he would be back for the 2018-19 season.
Among the big quotes from Edmonton’s CEO was that Chiarelli had a plan to get this team back into the playoffs in the spring of 2019.
“A lot of it you don’t see, like what he’s done with the scouting component of this organization. Yes, we had a down year. I talked to Peter. He has a plan to get us back in the playoffs next year. We’ll unveil that plan once we go through this evaluation.”
It is fair for Oilers fans to ask, what was the plan? We never heard about it again from Nicholson or Chiarelli, which goes against his quote about unveiling it once they got through the evaluations. Instead, the Oilers did nothing all summer but add a few assistant coaches.
There was no message sending trade, no help via free agency, no kind of roster adjustment whatsoever. The Oilers essentially took the same roster that failed a season ago and expected them to return to 2016-17 form.
As we sit here 23 games into the season, the Oilers are on an identical 78 point pace. What’s the definition of insanity?
After the Philadelphia Flyers fired a better GM in Ron Hextall yesterday, it is fair to ask why Peter Chiarelli is still employed by the Oilers. He’s done nothing but sit on his hands the last two summers, and I’d argue the team is in worse shape than the day he took over as GM in April of 2015.
Nicholson kept Chiarelli because he swore there was a plan in place to get the Oilers back into the playoffs this season. They aren’t going to come close to making the dance at this current pace.
Was Chiarelli’s plan to fire two assistant coaches, move another to the AHL and call it a day? It certainly seems like that was the case. Other than those moves, Edmonton essentially stood pat this summer.
They added Mikko Koskinen to handle the backup job, and he’s been solid to start, but I don’t think anyone thought he’d be the starter by default before November came around. The other additions? Tobias Rieder was okay before getting hurt, while Kyle Brodziak and Kevin Gravel are both end of the roster players that simply do not push the needle.
My best guess at ‘the plan’? Chiarelli felt the Oilers really missed Matt Hendricks and his leadership a season ago, and thought adding a veteran like Brodziak would help the team in a major way. Turns out that narrative was, predictably, BS. The Oilers are the same exact team with or without a #GoodInTheRoom fourth liner. Weird, huh?
Based off of movement, there is no way Chiarelli executed his ‘plan’ this summer unless it was my above mentioned guess. And if that was in fact it? He should have been laughed out of the room and fired on the spot when bringing it up.
Some want to give Chiarelli the benefit of the doubt and say that his plan was to draft and develop. Look, drafting well and developing young players is key to success in the NHL. You simply cannot win in this league without affordable young talent on the books, and some of it is coming down the pipeline for this team. I agree with the sentiment that the club needs to draft well and develop, that should go without saying.
HOWEVER, don’t you dare sell this fanbase on the fact that your ‘plan’ to return to the playoffs this April is drafting and developing. This is a loyal fanbase, but it is NOT a stupid one and many won’t be fooled by that. It’s year four of Connor McDavid, developing and giving up on winning games simply is not acceptable, it isn’t 2011 in Edmonton anymore. That’s not a viable plan to get back into the playoffs this spring.
Bottom line is, we were either lied to about the ‘plan’ or the Oilers failed miserably in executing it over the summer. Based on their lack of moves and the current state of the roster, I would say those are the only two logical answers. In either case, it is inexcusable and the GM should be relieved of his duties immediately.
People are, rightfully so, starting to wonder if Mr. Katz even cares about winning. I mean, he’s got the shiny new arena and is making boatloads of money. That said, this product is a sad excuse when you have the best player in the world on your roster.
The ‘plan’ to get Edmonton back to the playoffs? It never took off, and the club is on pace for an identical season in the standings. Sorry Pete, you’re the price we have to pay.