I have to tell you, time away was liberating. Stepping away from Twitter and writing about the Edmonton Oilers for a week was the best thing I could have done. Let’s be honest, everything about this team has been toxic. The product is bad, the fans are pissed and the mainstream media is following suit. It’s ugly right now.
I was part of that problem. I couldn’t shake the negative feelings about this team, and quite frankly the enjoyment was ripped away. It’s important to remember why we love this team, for enjoyment and a break from real life. When the hockey team’s results start to bleed into everything else, that is when you need to take a step back. I’m very glad I did.
Of course, while I was gone the Oilers finally fired President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli. In a long overdue move, the club finally killed off the ancient thought process of ‘heavy hockey’ and moved out a man that set this organization back years.
Chiarelli’s moves have been well documented by media, bloggers and fans alike. I’m not going to sit here and breakdown every single one of Chiarelli’s moves, but he crushed Edmonton’s potential. The club has absolutely nothing to show for the 16th and 33rd overall picks in 2015, and next to nothing to show for Jordan Eberle.
Taylor Hall was dealt for a solid number three defender in Adam Larsson, but he hasn’t played well consistently since his first season with the club. Of course, 2017-18 is a throwaway year because of the tragedy Larsson faced, but this season has been alarming for those who believe that the Swede is a part of the core group moving forward.
In fact, since joining the team in 2015, I can only think of a handful of trades that Chiarelli won. He fleeced the Anaheim Ducks in the deal that brought Patrick Maroon to Edmonton, and I’d suggest he won the Cam Talbot trade with the Rangers and the Anders Nilsson deal with Chicago. In terms of prospect deals, you can give Chiarelli a win in the Cooper Marody trade but that’s about it.
Four trades. Four. That is the amount Chiarelli won as the Czar of Hockey Operations in Edmonton. That’s an amazingly poor record that looks even worse when you combine it with albatross free agent contracts like the one given to Milan Lucic.
The time had come for Chiarelli to go, and everyone knew it around the NHL except for a certain portion of Oiler fans who dug their heels in so deep that it made Hiroo Onoda cringe.
The Edmonton Oilers did the right thing firing Peter Chiarelli. He was only hurting the NHL roster, not helping it, and deserved the fate that met him. In the end, it could also benefit Pete. He never had time to reflect on his mistakes in Boston, which he repeated tenfold in Edmonton. Now? Chiarelli will get a chance to learn, and possibly make good on these lessons somewhere down the line.
Thank You, Next:
With Chiarelli gone, Keith Gretzky is taking over for the time being. I’m very pleased that this is in fact the reality of the situation. I’m happy it isn’t Craig MacTavish running the show as interim GM, mainly because his term was a disaster as well.
Gretzky, in my mind, is a legit candidate for the job for a variety of reasons. He’s a solid drafter, knows the organization well, and has an obvious connection to the ‘Old Boys Club’ and Bob Nicholson. He wouldn’t be on my list for the big chair, but you better believe he’s going to at least get a look.
I’m hoping the Oilers go in a totally different direction as their past. Enough with the big and heavy mantra, the game has absolutely gone away from that. It’s about speed, skill and puck possession. The Oilers are way behind in all of those areas.
I want to see the Oilers bring in a variety of opinions. I want more advanced stats and studies done on things like sleep schedules and travel. I want the eye test used as well. You can’t build a hockey team ignoring the numbers, but you also can’t build it simply on a spreadsheet. You need all of the information available to you. The Oilers have ignored too much of it for too long. It’s time to move to 2019.
My ideal situation? Mike Gillis gets the nod as President of Hockey Operations. He’s a veteran executive that walks the exact line I described above, and would also scratch the itch of the ‘hockey men’ club.
As GM? Maple Leafs’ AGM Laurence Gilman is my pick. He’s got a track record of working with Gillis, has worked in multiple pressure cookers before (Vancouver, currently Toronto) and has seen how a modern front office works under Kyle Dubas.
Other candidates I have time for? Ron Hextall, Kelly McCrimmon, Mike Futa, Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald.
All-Star weekend is behind us, so that means we are fully into trade deadline season. The Oilers are going to be active, because even after firing Chiarelli the mandate is still to make the playoffs. They’ll be adding pieces between now and the end of February.
I’ll be ramping up the deadline coverage by hard matching the Oilers and some of the obvious sellers in the coming days, but for the time being I’d keep an eye on the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers as potential trade partners.
In addition to that, we’ll be looking at potential GM candidates and diving in-depth on each of them. This decision, while interesting, also will set the tone for the next five years and perhaps longer.